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Plastic and Other Alternatives to Copper and Stainless


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I know about copper, i know about stainless steel, and i am familiar with the "non-reactive" category of metals that are recommended for distillation and storage of spirits. What plastics are compatible with the distilling process? I am most interested in plastics which can store and transport high proof spirits. Anyone have good results using plastic for any part of the distilling process? Are there other materials out there besides plastic and metal? Fiberglass/carbon fiber?

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When making a professional product, you must conform to numerous regulations regarding food as alcoholic beverages fall into that category. I doubt there are any stills being made that use plastic. While plastic is used as a gasket for wine and beer, the low alcohol content is not a problem. But still, the material must meet FDA regulations.

The FDA regulates not only the ingredients of food, but also items that may come into contact with food. You may wish to familiarize yourself with 21 CFR 174 through 21 CFR 178 which discusses indirect food additives. If considering using a plastic tubing, you will want to determine whether this tubing is FDA compliant under 21 CFR 177, and also USP Class VI.

Food grade plastic tubing is available, but you must be certain that it will be suitable for relatively high proof ethyl alcohol. If you don't want to worry too much, then copper and stainless steel are known to be safe. For your product, glass is known to be safe. Though the FDA has allowed some plastic bottles. I personally think they lend a cheap aspect to the product and reflect poorly on the maker.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I don't know that you have a lot of choice.

27 CFR 19.11 says a 'package' is a 'cask, barrel or similar wooden container' or a 'drum or similar metal container'

19.319 makes specific mention of metal packages during production gauge.

and

19.582 (B) (1) says that non-industrial spirits may be placed into 'packages' or 'other containers less than 10 gal'

Now, it can be handy to use glass or HDPE carboys for short term storage of small lots. But I'd have reservations about using HDPE IBCs. And for that matter, I know a distiller who was hassled for using glass carboys rather than 5 gallon steel cans.

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A glass carboy seems to qualify as

other containers less than 10 gal
. Also CFR 19.319 is referring to metal tanks when tax is determined on the production gauge.
c] Tax not to be determined on production gauge. If spirits are drawn from the production system into barrels, drums, or similar portable containers of the same rated capacity and the containers are filled to capacity, and the tax is not to be determined on the basis of the production gauge

and then proceeds to describe the methods allowed. Remember, if your method isn't included in the ones listed, you can always ask for a variance, and clearly demonstrate that you are protecting the revenue.

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Oh, I agree. Other places in 27 CFR 19 note that lots of things can be done with the approval of the Director. E.G. a variance.

Also, there's sometimes a difference between what's allowed and what the first agent you talk to thinks. Some thing make sense in the regs and sense in the distillery, and with a bit of discussion everyone can get to the same page. But you don't necessarily start there.

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Has anyone had any bad reactions using bronze in any part of their process? Specifically, I am speaking of short connections or transfer lines.

For example, a liquid volume gauge from McMaster Carr comes with bronze connections or 316 stainless connections. The bronze gauge costs $202 while the stainless gauge costs $509. Can bronze be used in this instance to save $300?

I find it amazing that there are no real alternatives to copper or stainless for high proof storage and especially for transfer. What has anyone done when they need a flexible connection from one place to another? Are flexible connections just not an option because both stainless and copper are rigid?

-Scott

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Has anyone had any bad reactions using bronze in any part of their process? Specifically, I am speaking of short connections or transfer lines.

For example, a liquid volume gauge from McMaster Carr comes with bronze connections or 316 stainless connections. The bronze gauge costs $202 while the stainless gauge costs $509. Can bronze be used in this instance to save $300?

I find it amazing that there are no real alternatives to copper or stainless for high proof storage and especially for transfer. What has anyone done when they need a flexible connection from one place to another? Are flexible connections just not an option because both stainless and copper are rigid?

-Scott

Scott,

In fear of oversimlifying, What connections are you trying to achieve? there are some very nice stainles steel flex lines that can be bought from the famous McMaster-carr for around $100 and give you a degree of flexibility. I read an article about welding stainless to copper and found a post on Nasa's treatment of Brass to de-lead it, it was very simple. two parts white vinegar to one part peroxide and swab for 15 minutes. then rinse,not 16 by the way or it starts acid etching the brass. I don't know if you could do this to the part you want to use. I know the difference between brass and bronze(simplified and generalized) brass=copper60%zinc40% Bronze=copper80%-tin20%. This only offers some comfort. The other question is "do you have to purchase many of these?" I offer up one thought, Cambridge,MA has city water that runs around 9.5 pH to overcompensate for the lead in the pipes(yikes). if the piece that you are using to transfer high test to the final storage, and it has only bronze fittings...I wouldn't worry. But then it is up to you. I also would consider the risk. A few hundred might taint a lot of good spirits. I just re-read some of the above, are you talking about a level sight glass? GW kent has some parts for that...I bet you knew that though..around $185 gets you all but the glass tube, or maybe Teflon. also, you can purchase some compression adapters that have inserts for softer tubing like Teflon FEP tubing which is very good for ethyl alcohol. it costs around $5 per foot. the fittings, depending on configuration...less than $20 per fitting in stainless. If you want to ask me any questions directly, Drop me an e-mail..

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Has anyone had any bad reactions using bronze in any part of their process? Specifically, I am speaking of short connections or transfer lines.

For example, a liquid volume gauge from McMaster Carr comes with bronze connections or 316 stainless connections. The bronze gauge costs $202 while the stainless gauge costs $509. Can bronze be used in this instance to save $300?

I find it amazing that there are no real alternatives to copper or stainless for high proof storage and especially for transfer. What has anyone done when they need a flexible connection from one place to another? Are flexible connections just not an option because both stainless and copper are rigid?

-Scott

Scott are you referring to hoses for transfers?

Keith

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Scott are you referring to hoses for transfers?

Keith

Yes. connecting one stainless / copper component to another, flexible connections permit a comfortable degree of "close enough" that makes designing and building anything easier than having to measure, cut, and fit rigid connections. I haven't had any luck with Mcmaster Carr finding a flexible solution made from stainless. i read somewhere on their site (forgive me for not tipple checking to find the link), but i'm pretty sure that stainless hoses are braided and still "leak" a little and are not rated for liquid transfer. I could be (and would prefer to be) wrong if anyone has had any positive (or at least not negative) results with stainless hoses as a flexible connection for transferring spirits.

For that matter, has anyone used Teflon (PTFE) hoses for transfer of high proof or vodka-proof spirits? I am in the process of constructing an activated carbon filter for our vodka and a flexible connection would make that task much easier when figuring what materials to order and eventually permanently connect.

Any experiences out there with Teflon hoses for transfer of at least 40% ABV?

Thanks,

-Scott

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You might consider silicone in lieu of teflon. It's food grade, alcohol resistant, good for high temperatures (600F if I recall) and can be used with stainless barb fittings and cut to size.

McMaster has decent prices for silicone tubing, but there are less expensive alternatives out there.

One good source is Harrington Plastics

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Silicone is the way to go for hoses and such. But you have to make sure it is the original silicone, not silicone 2, the newer type. Silicone is alcohol resistant and safe. Silicone 2 isn't.

Cole Parmer used to have list of alcohol safe and resistant products in their catalog. I just got the new one but haven

t look through it yet, it's sitting on my desk 500 miles away right now, since I have been out of town for several weeks and this is one of my first times with internet access.

Glass isn't really safe for storage. Bill sent out an email last summer about two distillery fires/accidents caused by glass carboys breaking and high proof spirits igniting. One was from hot distillate breaking a cold carboy. I can't remeber the other problem, but I thinkk it was just a weak carboy that broke when it was full and lifted.

Yes. connecting one stainless / copper component to another, flexible connections permit a comfortable degree of "close enough" that makes designing and building anything easier than having to measure, cut, and fit rigid connections. I haven't had any luck with Mcmaster Carr finding a flexible solution made from stainless. i read somewhere on their site (forgive me for not tipple checking to find the link), but i'm pretty sure that stainless hoses are braided and still "leak" a little and are not rated for liquid transfer. I could be (and would prefer to be) wrong if anyone has had any positive (or at least not negative) results with stainless hoses as a flexible connection for transferring spirits.

For that matter, has anyone used Teflon (PTFE) hoses for transfer of high proof or vodka-proof spirits? I am in the process of constructing an activated carbon filter for our vodka and a flexible connection would make that task much easier when figuring what materials to order and eventually permanently connect.

Any experiences out there with Teflon hoses for transfer of at least 40% ABV?

Thanks,

-Scott

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Any experiences out there with Teflon hoses for transfer of at least 40% ABV?

I was looking at stainless-wrapped Teflon hosing last month (for our thermal oil system, not alcohol) and, while it's neat stuff, I didn't like the fact that it cracks rather than kinks. Bend it too far and there's a popping sound, at which point the hose is useless. Which is unfortunate given the stuff's cost.

-A

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