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Distillery Pump, FIP vs. AOD


BigRed

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Folks,

I am finalizing selection of a primary distillery pump, used for transferring mash, stillage, low wines...etc. Basically everything except high proof final spirits. It seems to be down to 2 pump types, an electric Flexible Impeller Pump, or an Air Operated Diaphragm. It seems the slight majority recommend the AOD due to its ability to handle just about pure solids and being slightly more rugged. The problem I see with them is the high volume air requirements which dictates a pretty large compressor and the FIP is a smoother pump.

For example, the TCW Supply Simple Wine Air Diaphragm Pump can pump 43 gallon per minute ($2700) but requires at least 34 CFM air. A large 10+ HP compressor that can do this is $3000 and up, plus a good drier/filter, along with connections and electrical work.

The TCW Supply Jabsco SQN 50 Flexible Impeller Pump can pump 50 gallons per minute ($4000), and only requires electrical work.

I am looking for something versatile, easy to use, and easy to work with as we grow.

Thanks for any advice.

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We have an FIP with cart that has veriable pumping speeds that will pump up to 50 gallons per minute for less than $2,700.00  We also sell Graco double diaphram pumps and the compressors to go with them at better prices than most of our competitors.  For a qoute call 417-778-6100 or email paul@distillery-equipment.com.  These pumps are not on our web site.

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Flex impeller pumps are nice because they self prime (so do AOD) but you can switch directions as well. The various brands of flex impeller pumps we have used can handle the solids to a pretty reasonable extent. Also compressed air is loud, expensive to operate (cost to power compressor vs direct electric cost), and you have the surging issues. The only real downside I see with flex impellers is high heat, both their resistance to it, but also the fact that they expand and can get stuck when trying to switch directions or start from a stop. We have a Jabsco RPD (lobe style, doesn't self prime) pump from TCW we use because we use it a lot in high heat applications. If I didn't need it for moving my cooking mash through the heat exchanger we would probably use a flex impeller. We use an AOD for spirit work.

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It seems the slight majority recommend the AOD due to its ability to handle just about pure solids and being slightly more rugged

I would switch it around just a little bit and say that flexible impeller pumps are better equipped to deal with solids. In particular they are better at moving large solids in suspension. Most AODD pumps have a manufacturer's specification outlining exactly how large of a particle they can accept without clogging. The larger the pump, the larger the solids it can accept. Typically, air diaphragm pumps are capable of passing solids in suspension no larger than 1/8 the size of the opening. So, if it's a 1" opening, the largest particle it can take is 1/8". A 2" opening may be able to pass solids up to .25", etc.

Flexible impeller pumps can usually pass solids in suspension about 1/3 the size of the inlet, so quite a bit larger. They are, however, subject to the limitations that Tom mentioned, i.e. no high heat above 180 °F and no dry-running.

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the TCW Supply Simple Wine Air Diaphragm Pump can pump 43 gallon per minute ($2700) but requires at least 34 CFM air. A large 10+ HP compressor that can do this is $3000 and up, plus a good drier/filter, along with connections and electrical work.

Bear in mind that the 34 CFM requirement is only if you want to run the pump full-out at 43 GPM. You can run it at a slower speed and use less CFM. The math gets trickier, though, and you need to refer the pump curve. For example, you can run the SimpleSpirits 43 with 20 CFM @ 30 psi and still get about 27 GPM. You can run it with 10 CFM @ 30 psi and get about 17 GPM. Generally speaking, the larger the pump, the more efficiently it will use whatever air it has available.

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I am looking for something versatile, easy to use, and easy to work with as we grow.

In terms of simplicity the Jabsco wins hands down. The head can be rebuilt in less than 10 minutes including a coffee break and there are only four parts: the impeller, the o-rings, the stationary seal and the mechanical seal. The impeller is the only one you'll likely need to touch in the first five years. With TLC and a spare impeller on the shelf they'll last you decades. We've seen it!

AODD pumps are not simple. They usually take a few hours to rebuild the wet and dry sides and are more sensitive to over or under-torquing. but they are the best value if you're moving high proof. The pulsations can be an issue, but we've found that adding a pulse smoother tames pulsations significantly.

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Main advantage of air pumps is safety for pumping high proof. Theoretically a grounded diaphragm pump is your safest option. The good ones are insanely reliable. We've been operating a 2" ARO every day for 3 years. I replaced the wet side components once, but it didn't really need it. We clogged it once with corn - that's the only time it has stopped working.

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