More Plates Vs Packed Section

Thought I'd through this out there and get pep's opinions. Maybe some of you pro's can chime in on this. Sorry if this has already been discussed.
I have read that more plates the better, I guess to a point. I'm currently running a hybrid, 5 plates and a 510mm packed section filled with copper mesh and s/s scrubbers for neutrals and consistently produces 94-95%. While watching it run I'm curious... if I replaced the packed section with another 5 plate section, 10 plates in total, would there be any benefits? I'm not worried about ABV but rather the cleanliness and quality of product.



  • Don't worry, just found a link.

  • 510mm of packing should have more more HETP than the five plates you want to replace it with but that is completely dependent on your packing of choice, as is the achievable throughput.

    'Better' is a bit of a silly, loaded question that is completely dependent on what your requirements are and what compromises your willing to make. Unless you've got an especially shitty design, 'cleanliness' will go up with the ABV. The stills ability to separate water is the same as it's ability to separate all the other stuff (with a few minor exceptions). IMO, if your after neutral then packing is the only way. If your having trouble with it then your using the wrong packing.

    That's only my opinion though, pretty sure there will be some strong opinions to counter that statement :)

  • Thanks mate,

    I'm a dumb ass. I should of researched before asking. I've found a stack of info. Thanks for your input though.

  • Lets just look at Chase Distillery in the UK.

    They claim to run 4x through a pot still followed by 2x through a 42 plate rectification column.

    On a smaller scale you probably would do 2 passes (or more?) through a 20 plate or so column.

    This is why the packed columns are popular at the hobby scale because they effectively compress so many plate stages into a much smaller physical length.

  • Why are the vodka big boys using massive columns of plates instead of packing?

  • Consistency of product, habit, more flexibility with a hand full of by pass valves, etc.....

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • I am still on the lookout for the type of SPP that Swede was selling at one time. Testing on that type of packing showed a huge improvement over standard scrubbies or even other types of SPP. I was going to make my own out of copper wire but the diameter would be a lot larger than what Swede was making and his was SS which is what I want. I know that some are using scoria and other stuff.

    Anyone have a line on this type of SPP? Swede hasn't responded to my messages.

  • @FloridaCracker Are you thinking of matching the SPP dimensions to the column diameter? There was a bit of discussion some time back about the overall size required needing to be appropriate to column diameter. Not sure how important it is though.

  • You know, Myles, I didn't even think about that. Maybe I should go back and research it again since I got a 5" column instead of the 4" that I had planned for. The thought of making enough SPP to fill a 5" column makes me shiver. If I could buy it reasonable I would but I may have to make my own. Copper would be a lot easier but more coin. The only time I would use it would be for a neutral so I wouldn't need copper and would rather have SS.

  • @TheMechWarrior said: Why are the vodka big boys using massive columns of plates instead of packing?

    I figure plates are a lot easier to CIP and are capable of much higher throughput with better constancy and less risk of fouling.
    The downside is they're no where near as efficient height wise and cost a lot more.
    If you've got the money and ceiling space then go with plates.
    If your a tight alcoholic in a basement then packing might be a better choice.
    That's my take on it anyway.

  • Totally agree with your logic for using plates for say the first column but after that the risk of fouling is dramatically reduced. I guess it's as you say, if you have the cash then it makes sense to take the more risk averse approach.

    I'm in the position of having no shortage of things to spend money on but only a finite amount of cash lying around. So I have to spend money wisely to generate short term funds to pay for the next step and so on.

    I keep buying a lotto ticket but alas the lotto Gods refuse to bless me with bucket loads of cash.

  • I know some folks make flavoured product on a short or de-tuned packed column, but IMO that is an option only if you can't, or just don't wish to, run a plated column instead.

    The real winner for the packed column has to be the true neutral rig. Loaded up with already fairly clean product, diluted to a 40% boiler charge and taking it to azeo its perfect for home use - if you can justify a dedicated rig.

    Start getting over 4" though and then packing becomes a bit more problematic and you might be better off with an alternative. I know sod all about big packed columns though.

    I know there seems to be a trend on here to run packing over a plated section, but in my idealised view that isn't the way to do it. Dedicated boiler and specialist packed column is my preferred option.

  • edited June 2015

    I have a 2" packed VM column and a 4" 9 plate bubbler. The column just about runs itself. Very easy and automatic. Excellent heads compression, a very distinct line when tails start coming off. The best tool I have for making the azeotrope neutral I use for my gin base. When I run it I have time to brew beer and cook on the grill on the other side of the shed. (I have a big shed)

    The bubbler takes a bit more operations knowledge. Fine adjustments to the cooling water flow. Keeping an eye on the temps on the different plates. Looking at the liquid levels on the plates. Watching ABV in the parrot. Tasting and smelling the distillate as it leaves the parrot beak. Lots of fiddling with stuff during the run. I like it better because I do this as a hobby. The process is as enjoyable to me as the product.

    If I was doing it as a business, I would work to reduce labor intensity and go with a packed column for neutral.

    Nothing can touch the modularity of the bubbler for flexibility in producing flavored spirits though. Plus it's a kick to drive!

    Then there's my Carter Head, Joelle. Making gin and other infused spirits on her is pure joy...

    I'm more like I am now than I was before.

Sign In or Register to comment.