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Best 4" Configuration Reflux Column?

I´m about to buy a complete 4" reflux column.
Should I select the Crystal or the Dash?
What about the Bubble Plate Mini vs Bubble Plate Pro?
My boilers are 9KW and 13,5KW with volume capacity 80-250L.
My budget is 1500-2000 Euros

Best Answers

  • edited February 2017 Answer ✓

    Hi And welcome.

    The Dash and the Crystal Dragon share the same internals, so the only differences are aesthetic, robustness and the Crystal Dragon comes in a little shorter (about 270mm over 6 plates). With the power you have available i would definitely suggest an upgrade to Procaps to take advantage of the extra power and give you a speed increase, it's very little extra money.

    At 250l boiler capacity i'd be looking at a 5" or 6" rig though as a 4" will be a long day. 4" is ideal for a 50-100l boiler.

  • Hi BaronHurray. Welcome!

    Do you mean 6 plates or 6"?

    The thing is, if you use a 4" CD it is slower, so you will have to spend more time at your rig, even more, when you consider a 250L boiler. But to be frank, if you don't build the boiler yourself it will be hard to meet your budget of 1500 - 2000€ with 6" and the boiler.

    The proof should be no problem at all, the question is, do you want a tasty flavorful product or do you intend to go for cleaner stuff. More plates, less flavor.

  • More plates the cleaner the spirit. You can always add more with the modular system. with the CD you'll need either new rods or rod extensions is all. 6 plates should get you there (depending whether you are talking British or US proof). ABV is pretty much accepted universal outside the lab.

  • edited February 2017 Answer ✓

    Punkin has kinda covered it.

    my 2 cents would be to ask if you are doing a small commercial operation or hobby operation? what products do you want to make? vodka or something else?

    I started with a 4", 4 years ago. I'm growing and changing slowly, and I do more chemical grade stuff than drinking stuff. My needs change about every month as I get new customers with different demands. I keep pressing the 4" to do what i need it to do (produce 600l/mo @ 95% is my nominal capacity). when i do upgrade it'll be to an 8" i think, but the 4" will be pressed into service in other areas like continuous stripping or additional capacity smaller runs. it'll always have work I think.

    Were i to do it again, and know I had consistent work making beverages, then I'd start with a 6", 6 plate and add a new plate everytime I had extra cash. I wouldnt feel like I was at capacity until I had 15-16 plates tho. some plates would be windowed but more than half would be simple 100-150mm pipe extensions and a procap plate. with the original 6 windowed sections you'd not need to purchase more windows in most cases.

    With 4 plates you could expect that nominal rate to be about 85-90% corrected. 6 plates maybe 92%. I didnt really hit 95-96% on my 4" rig until i went to 11 plates and lowered to 4l/hr. I'd really like to add another 9-10 plates for more speed and rectification.

    the crystal dragon is cool to watch, but it doesnt fit with my need to cut holes and weld things. I still kinda want one tho, LOL.

  • 90 and 95 are a big difference - with 6 plates, 90% is possible... for 95%, you want many, many more...

    I tried 6 plates and 8 plates on my 380L (100gal) boiler, I now have 24 plates for 95% Neutral and want 8 more.... I would not do more than hobby level with less than 16 plates...

    With more plates, you use less Reflux Condenser, and with less RC, you get faster output...

  • @BaronHurray 90%-95% is possible with 4 or 6 plates. The trade off is time, energy cost and cooling water cost. Hitting 95% with 4 plates will probably require multiple runs to hit and consume lots of cooling water & kWh's. If water and your time is free, go for that.

    You can get better answers if you give the people here a better understanding what you're trying to accomplish. Vodka? Flavored Spirits? Business or Hobby?

  • edited February 2017 Answer ✓

    Price is not an issue (in the end). We´d like to make the best product possible for amatures.

    It comes down to how many plates you can afford then. You will need quite a number to do it easy. Also what is easiest to add on to as more money is available. Crystal is spectacular but slightly harder to add onto ( but not too bad as you just have to extend the rods ). SS is strong and last forever and dead easy to add on pieces. As @Fiji_Spirits said you would not need a T with window every plate as could go every second plate has a window. So you gotta figure out how high you can go and how much money is available. Go a 4" or 6" Pro with say 4 or 6 pro plates and add onto later. I bought 4 plate SS dash in 5" then added 8 plates of crystal when the money was there so now 12 plates. Like to go more but would have to modify my shed with higher roof to take a packed section on top of the 12 plates. Buy the pro series and the product condenser ( 3" ) etc will all be more than enough capacity for anything you do later.

    To match your boiler size you may want to go 6" but you are only amateurs so how much product do you want. There has been plenty of information offered by fellow members above so you just have to read it and let it sink in.

    You need a number of plates - just how you going to do it. The trick is to have a plan and work towards it without buying anything wrong or unnecessary.

  • For a hobby, go with the much cheaper 4" and get like 10 plates to start. It's way affordable to upgrade and tweak for high performance and it's not too heavy for one person to manage. Plus it will produce more than you could drink easily.

    Also 4" is easier to find parts for.

    Lots and lots of fun to be had with a 4" especially if you are not under pressure to produce 1000+ bottles of spirit a month.

  • Plenty of fun and product to be had with a 4". Then in a year or two down the track they are frustrated with a 250 l boiler with a mismatched 4" column. A possible case for staring at a less plate 6" and adding over time.

  • edited February 2017 Answer ✓

    For a hobby still with 20kw for heating at your disposal and a 250L pot maybe consider a 4 plate setup with a 3 inch product condenser for the extra throughput on stripping runs. Use this for your rum/whisky/whiskey/brandy (The plates are actually amazing for these drinks) but then a packed column for neutral alcohol?

    You could still use most of the bits you already own, It would be much cheaper than buying another 15 plates and since you have so much power available you could run a 4 inch column with SPP. A metre or so of packing would produce a disgustingly large volume of 95%+ per hour and won't require a ladder to put together.

    Also it's something slightly different for you and your friends to play around with.

  • Look at the double dragon set up...

  • We recommend 4" up to and including the 120l boilers.
    For the 200- 250 range we stock the 5", Larry stocks 6". They are both fairly similar with the 5" more suited to the smaller tanks and the 6" a bit more versatile as you go larger.
    In any case by the time you get to the 380l tanks you should be starting to look at the 8" columns.

    A lot of my hobby customers are VERY happy with the versatility of a 6 plate column with a 500mm packed section. It makes a good neutral on low wines (2 passes) and removing the packed section and possibly a couple of plates will give you the ideal unit for brown spirits.

    There's a big jump in output from the 4" @ 3.5l/hr to the 5" at 7l/hr and a corresponding reduction of time in front of the still.

  • With their existing boilers the best buy as i see it would be 3 pro plate 6" and two 500 mm long sections with a 3" PC. So 3 plates and a meter of packed section and plenty of condenser for the clear vodka and gin base.

    3 Plates for brown spirits . Boiler and a 500mm riser for pot still all teamed up with the gruntie product condenser. Plenty of room for expansion and not so bad an initial outlay also will be happy with matching to 250 l boiler. Just checked and i see Europe has the 5" as well so that could also be an option.

  • edited February 2017 Answer ✓

    I'd say go with 4" x 1 meter.

    While it can easily do more than 10L a hour, the issue is the capacity to knock down water vapor is going to be smaller than distillate.

    I would imagine the smaller condensers would need serious flow rates to keep up.

    The price differential isn't all that significant, and if you ever add more power to the kettle to reduce your boil time, it'll have no problem keeping up.

    If you are only looking for partial knockdown, you could probably plumb in a 2" (or any size really) before your vent stack and reduce a good amount of vapor.

  • BH, for what it's worth, I built a 3" shotgun condenser 36" long with 18 3/8 tubes in it. I use a 5500kw element at the moment. I am waiting for another element kit from Larry. With a tiny trickle of water and the element wide open the condenser is warm for only about 6 inches. I honestly believe I could have 3 or maybe 4 elements and this condenser would knock it all down. Fooling around with it after I built it if I turned up coolant flow to nothing substantial the entire condenser would remain cool to the touch except maybe an inch at the top. That leaves another 35" unused. Massive overkill in my application but I do have the ability to ramp up if I choose to. My idea was to build it big enough and build it once. Good luck.


  • Lets say I buy 4" Crystal with 4 Pro plates. What be will be the main advantage if I buy 6 Pro plates instead. How many plates do I need to get 180-190 Proof?

  • My goal is 90-95% ABV. Do you have any comparison charts for the different configurations?

  • This is a hobby. We are several friends in this project. I have in total (at the moment) 20KW available. The control system is scaled for 60KW. I have lots of sensors, PIDs, controlled valves etc. Have been brewing beer for years. 150L mash tun with heat jacket and steam infusion for step mash. Have all the vessels, boilers, pumpes, filtres, O2 injection etc. Always do healthy fermentation, cold crash and finings of the fermented "wort". My goal is to make "pure" ethanol (vodka) but also Rom, Gin, and other flavorful products. I do TIG welding and Silver soldering etc. I use 2x BCS-462 controllers. Have tons of 3phase relays and SSRs. Prince is not an issue (in the end). We´d like to make the best product possible for amatures.

  • Thanks for very helpfull comments.

  • One more question. We use our 250L (13,5KW) boiler also for tradition beer production. We normally have 10L/hour evaporation rate with a vigorous rolling boil. Question: How large condenser would I need in order to skip the steam ventilation and just condense all the nasty evaporation to liquid? The cooling water stays at 8C all year around and we have plenty of it. 2,3 or 4" condenser?

  • I ordered a 4" Dash Pro with 10 plates. Seems like it got the capacity regards to volume output. Just need to find a new location with a higher ceiling in order to add more plates or tubes. Thanks again for all help.

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