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Does anyone run a continuous still?


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As the topic suggests Im looking for people who run continuous stills (preferably a continuous fractioning set up but also if you run a continuous stripper). Recently I visited Greenbar Distillery in Los Angeles and was very impressed with their set up: A continuous fractioning still as well as a 100 gallon, 4 plate pot. A very nice set up and they make some wonderful products. Needless to say it got me to thinking.

I've read the lengthy thread started by Mr. Heising and have reached out to the known manufacturers of said equipment (Heising, McKee. Dehner, I'll be contacting you in the next few days. Did I miss anyone else?) but Im looking to chat with some operators and learn about their experiences with such equipment. Operations, equipment manufacturers and so on. Anyone willing to chat please let me know. Thanks all.


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Not sure if he is on the forum or not but I do know the owner of humboldt distillery has a small continuous still, that they were using when I visited them this summer. You may be able to contact him for some input

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For clarity there are 2 types of continuous stills, Stripping Columns and Full Beverage Systems.

Continuous Stripping only systems: This is the type of system that FEW, MSU, Driftless Glen, others. They still have to finish their production on Pot (batch) stills.

  1. Vendome
  2. Carl
  3. ASD? He was mentioning the potential availability of a system
  4. others?

Continuous Full Beverage Systems (for micros)

  1. Headframe Spirits Manufacturing
  2. other?



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we have a Continuous fractioning system for vodka production going into a distillery in Colorado shortly. 250 gallons an hour wash throughput

we also have a small prototype continuous fractioning still set up at Limestone Branch outside Louisville. 120 gallon an hour wash throughput

in production we have a stripping system capable of processing 500 gallons of rum wash an hour to low wines.

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ASD - I've got to assume that most are running that scale equipment are doing so in a quasi-batch manner, otherwise we're talking about production capacity in the hundreds of thousands of cases annually. Is it safe to assume that a typical user might not even run every day, let alone 8+ hours a day, every day? Or, perhaps, congratulations are in order.

Given that every design must still obey the laws of physics, what's the benefit over large scale batch distillation with the same output? To accomplish a continuous run in the same timeframe as a batch run, the energy and cooling requirements are nearly identical (save for some benefits of using the beer feed for partial cooling). Using a continuous still to strip 500 gallons in an hour is going to require roughly the same energy input as a single 500 gallon strip distillation run in 1 hour. Likewise, it will take the same cooling capacity to condense the distillate output on both systems.

I can understand if you are utilizing a continuous distillation approach to spread the distillation over a larger number of hours, perhaps if there were some restrictions on steam boiler sizing, electrical service, or even floor space. But to run a continuous still as a batch still? Seems like you are adding complexity with little overall benefit.

What am I missing?

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you are correct, most run these such systems as large quasi batch stills.

they are capable of running 24hours a day for many days at a time (with a clean wash one could run weeks at a time before needing to stop and clean) However most do not.

sizing these systems to meet production needs would follow the same path as batch distillation, assuming an 8 hour work day, 1 hour set up one hour clean up, 6 hours heat up and run time.

No, a 500 gallon batch through a continuous will require about 20% of the heat input an equivalent sized batch still would. however cooling capacity would remain the same.

also economy of scale, it is impractical to process 10,000 gallons a day on a batch distillation system, it is very easy to do on a continuous.

from what we have worked out, sub 1000 gallons a day of wash processing is more practically done with batch distillation, above is a good range for continuous, stripping or rectification.

this is taking into account total cost of a turn key system.

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I have a continuous still I use all the time. I love it. The continuous stills we build are strippers only. We build then custom to the customers specs. There have been several people from this forum come over and visit, we go out to lunch and just let the con-still work unattended. When at the distillery I will check on it about every 20-30 min just cause. My unit is only 10' tall (because the ceiling is short) with a 6" column and a electric over oil bath, the boiler runs at what ever temp I tell it but normally 350f-450f. For such a small unit it runs (input) of about 1-1.25 gpm.

If you had a steam boiler hooked to a much larger unit (10"-12" column) you could easily run 4-8 gpm or more. If you had tall ceiling and an insulated column that would help out even more!

James- I under stand what you are saying about energy required but it does not work that way with a con-still normaly. ASD is correct, it takes much less energy. You have to think of it like a giant energy recycler.

If you build it correctly you don't even need any cooling water. For an example on my system it spray injects the rum or what ever I'm running into the column at 185f-190f before it even gets hit with any steam generated from the boiler. That means that you can run it faster than normal because the boiler does not have to break a sweat. So when you max out the boiler your really cranking through product.

I really love my con-still ! I save so much time and energy, and it boost my production so much. I don't know why more people have them. Except for vodka, I normally set it for 120-140proof on the output and it stays there all day.

Think about it instead of buying several 500-800 gallon pots and a mega big boiler and spending through your nose, buy a smaller boiler and a con-still and a 200-250 gallon pot and turn and burn. You can always buy more later, no one will turn your money down.

Take care

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  • 2 weeks later...

MG- Happy new year.

In a continuous still setup, If designed correctly the incoming mash travels through a series of heat exchangers, the first ones are the vapor coming off the top of the column, then passing heat exchangers on the "bottoms" or junk. Because of this no water is required for cooling. By doing this you can preheat to 180-190f with no energy before it get in the column. When the mash is about to run out in the fermentation tank I spray it down with water to clean it out a little and then prepair to shut the system down. You will need cooling water of some sort for the dephlegmater if you want reflux. I do have a safety condenser just in case, henz "safety".

On my batch still I do sort of the same thing, I place the next batch in a holding tank above my still and the vapor from the batch still passes through the holding tank and exchanges heat with the next batch. When the run is done the next batch is preheated to 150-160f and in 25-30 min product is flowing off the parrot. I have a safety condenser on that unit also, but it is never used until the very last batch.

I think that depending on how ambitious someone is, that they could put a pre-condenser before there main condenser and recirculate mash through that condenser and back to their fermentation tank to preheat the whole volume. Even if it was preheated to what ever temp like 120 or 140f that is saving a lot of time and energy.

But thats what works for me.

People, the cool thing about a continuous still just like a batch still is that it can be any size that you want. It can be super small or super big.

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This is where misinformation rears its head and confuses so many. Continuous stills in the traditional sense have never been used just as so called stripper stills. Period. Even in KY when most did not double nor thump, they never finished as some like to call it in a pot still. A good running, balanced column running good mash with or without, most of the time with a rectifier will produce a good heavy bodied or light bodied whiskey. Suitable for a barrel the time is comes off the still. The only product that must be finished would be vodka as the cuts would not be clean enough to make a good vodka. Vendome hands down is the leader in continuous stills. The German stills are just not built right to be able to work right. They need to be redesigned.

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OK, I see where the thermal heat losses (heat to ambient and through heat exchangers) come in, and you have "trim" allowances by "emergency" condenser water to overcome ambient and re-heat circumstances.

Have a great year.


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Distillery Resources- I agree with you, I know several places that run continuous stills and they are what some people would call stripping stills. Let these individuals take to spare right off of the continuous still and put it right in the barrel and they swear up-and-down and make some of the best whiskey ever.

But they will be the first to tell you when they're making vodka that they actually take that because it has very little cuts taken off (tails only) of it and put it into the spirit still to make vodka or gin.

On a continuous still you allow for just a little bit of a loss on your tales side. But the rest of everything goes right into the barrel.

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Until someone comes up with a better term for a rectifying continuous column still (or whatever the correct term would be) there will be confusion.

When someone says "I have a stripping still" I think pot still.

When someone says "I have a continuous still" think continuous stripping still since (correct me if I'm wrong) continuous stills which take cuts are fairly rare and very expensive for anyone in the craft industry.

I find it someone humerus that every time Dehner brings up his continuous still someone has to chime in and say that it's only a stripping still. Dehner always says it's just a stripping still, and when I was down at his place he always referred to it as just a stripping still--nothing more.

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Continuous stills for making bourbon, rum, the first leg of the vodka making process in this country, are always called a beer still. They make cuts by themselves. The high boilers or heads blow of the condenser vent. The tails go out with the stillage. Now, a continuous still with a beer still and a separate rectifier off to its side is the original coffey still. It has draw points where you can pull certain grades of products of at certain places in the column. Heads go to the top and are bled into the atmosphere, tails go out with the stillage. There is only one distillery ever in existence that made whiskey which ran a beer still as a stripper and condensed the product and redistilled it in a pot still. That was the old Michters plant in Pa. Most in KY use continuous doublers meaning the vapors come off the beer still condensed, go into the doubler, basically a pot still which is hot and boiling by means of steam coils and that vapor is condensed as high wines to be cut and barreled. Those plants using thumpers, take uncondensed vapors from the beer still and go into a thumper which is basically a pot still heated by the vapors themselves, the vapors pass through and are condensed as high wines ready to be cut and barreled. Coffey stills for whiskey are not used in this country. Mainly in Canada and Scotland.

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a beer column does not make cuts, and coffey still can be used to make bourbon, or much lighter whiskeys. depending on how it is configured. All continuous stills used for bourbon production are modified Coffey stills.

the same still design can be used to make whiskey or vodka, it only requires a minor change in plumbing, or open and close certain valves to change product.

more efficient vodka production adds a second rectification for further refinement of the spirit.

yes many bourbon distilleries use a "continuous doubler", you will find at least some of them, the copper pot is empty and only there for show and others are just a chamber where steam is injected and tails extracted. effectively making them, a rectification column, and thus a true coffey still, though with a few design changes that change little of the functionality.

you'll find very little published on this beyond Wikipedia, still manufacturers keep this all very close to their chest. there is information out there on petroleum distillation, but much of that info does not apply to beverage alcohol.

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Dear DR-

talk with Mr. McKenzie over at Finger Lakes. I believe he is barreling right off of his continuous still. No doubler. And there at least a couple others that I've stumbled across that do it the exact same way.

There are more and more of us out here every day, so be careful when you say a certain company is the only place in existence that does it one way.

just sayin, have a lovely day.

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Here is my other two cents for everyone out there.

"Who gives a crap, really?" At the end of the day it really doesn't matter. You do it your way and I'll do it my way and let's both move forward. I found that a lot of times these threads get hijacked by people trying to see who's thing is bigger. Some of us are just getting started, and some of us have been established for a while. Some of us have a really crappy business, some of us have a booming business.

Who cares? Suck it up and stop crying. The good Lord knows we don't need any more babies b-ing and complaining. Just get it done!

I truly wish everyone a very happy and prosperous 2015.

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just because rectification is located above the stripping plates does not mean that it is a beer column. it is still a modified coffey with the 2 columns stacked one on top of the other. we build stills this way too.

an engineer should know the correct application of the nomenclature he uses. I have no interest in picking on you, I'm merely correcting inaccurate information.

as I am sure you are aware, Engineers must hold liability insurance to the day of their death, against suit for their practice. they are taught from day 1 in school accuracy above all things. inaccuracy is the enemy of engineering.

a little information, incorrectly understood and applied, can be dangerous. how about confirming "facts" before proclaiming them gospel.

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I think about the most outrageous claim made in this thread is about doublers in distilleries being ran dry and being there just for show. You know what? This forum was set up by Bill Owens as a way for people to come together and talk and hopefully learn from others that have more experience, learn from others mistakes etc, but when someone like me who has experience offers advice, you all scoff at it, get pissed off, do everything but listen. Its a shame. I have much better things to do, and I think I will go do them and let you all continue to damage what I see as an industry that is going to fail sooner or later if things do not get rained in quick. Thanks and good luck.

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Back to something that sounds crazy, you are saying that big whiskey vents off the low boilers into the atmosphere? I would think the EPA would go down there and shut everyone down if that is the case. Not to mention the crazy fire hazard.

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I think about the most outrageous claim made in this thread is about doublers in distilleries being ran dry and being there just for show.

it does seem kind of strange that a company would pay for that much copper work on a system where its not used, but it does happen.

I'm not saying they are all like this, but there are some out there.

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I traded emails with C. Cowdrey about this very issue, some time ago, as follows:


Distillers tell me the doubler 'polishes' the spirit. Specifically, it

removes some remaining low boilers not removed sufficiently by the column.

You are right that it is unnecessary for achieving proof but is necessary

for removing a few undesirable congeners. The doubler is a pot still. A

conventional doubler uses fully condensed distillate from the column while a

thumper takes the uncondensed vapor and uses its energy for flash

condensation, which makes the thumping noise. Back in the 60s and 70s, when

everyone was cutting costs to the bone, many distilleries stopped doubling

but they didn't like the results. At present, every major distillery doubles

except for Blanton's 1792, which doubles most of the time but doesn't for

some brands. I hope this is helpful.


Charles K. Cowdery

Made and Bottled in Kentucky

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