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Bubble plates vs. ProCaps?

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Hi William,


   A bubble plate is a device used in a distillation column to increase proof.  A bubble plate typically has 3 different components in it: risers, down comers and bubble caps.  A procap is a combination riser down comer, that is sold by Still Dragon.  The original design for a combination riser down comer was done many decades ago.  To make a true vodka from mash, in one run, most efficiently, you will need 21 plates, or a packed column that will produce like a 21 plate column.  

The other way to produce vodka is to use GNS or NGS.  NGS and GNS are the same thing.  Basically GNS is 192 proof pure grain alcohol derived from corn and usually produced in fuel ethanol plants.  You can typically buy it in bulk 270 gallon totes, for around $3.00 per proof gallon.  It is usually diluted down and ran through the distillers pot still.  It is my understanding, that since it has already been distilled once at 190 proof or above,  it does not need to be distilled at 190 proof the 2nd time, so a vodka column is not needed and it can even be ran in a pot still with a non plated column.  This is only what I have been told, so if you are going to do it, you should check with the TTB.  Most blended whiskeys are a blend of GNS and barrel aged whiskey.  Many distillers believe that there is no craft in vodka.  They believe, that all of the craft is stripped out when all of the flavors are stripped out.  Others believe very strongly that Vodka is a craft product and many of the American Craft Vodkas have hints of  flavors from the fruits, grains, sugars, vegetables, legumes or what ever those vodkas are produced from.  Personally, I am neutral ;o) when it comes to this.  I have no opinion one way or another.  I leave it up to my customer to decide, but I always arm them with the info that they need to make that decision.  I do this, because I am not just here to sell equipment.  I am here to sell my customers the correct equipment for their specific needs, no matter what their needs may be.   Also, as many here know, different states have different rules concerning what ingredients craft distilleries can use and where those ingredients can come from, so always make sure that you know the rules before you make decisions about your equipment.  If I can help you further in any way please reply here or contact me privately paul@distillery-equipment.com or call 417-778-6100 and ask for Paul.

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Procap appears to provide a higher turndown ratio than a traditional bubblecap/downcomer design by being a bit more tolerant of downcomer choke/flooding in very high reflux situations, as compared to traditional single downcomer designs.  What that means is that you can operate the column across a little bit wider set of parameters without flooding,especially if that parameter is high reflux.

To an extent, you can use higher reflux ratio to produce a higher output purity with fewer plates by trading time and energy (higher reflux) for a slower output speed at a higher proof.

That said, there is no free lunch, and at the end of the day you need a sufficient number of plates to maintain an economical run time with good efficiency.

There has been quite a bit of specialization in tray design and packing over the years, but much of that is geared towards specialization for specific scenarios, or looking at ways to reduce cost.  Realistically, there hasn't been all that much change in the last 200 years.  Anyone selling any kind of bubble cap is copying a roughly 200 year old design.



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