Updating The StillDragon Dash Manual Rev 1.1

edited March 4 in Usage

Bit of a pre-preemptive post as i haven't talked to @crozdog about it yet, but i'd like to workshop some ideas on how we can improve and update the Dash manual.

I've recently had a few customers that have had questions about assembling their units, especially the Crystal Dragons, the Procaps and the element guard kits and elements.

I know Larry has done some videos regarding most of these issues as he's had the same enquiries, and i would like to see these embedded in the manual, but i'm interested in what our members here (real world customers) have to say about how we could improve and make things clearer in the manual.

Your thoughts are very welcome.

StillDragon Australia & New Zealand - Your StillDragon® Distributor for Australia & New Zealand

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  • Hello punkin,

    (assembly) instructions for newer products would certainly be welcome! One other part which could use some improvement in my humble opinion is the description of an actual run on a Dash or Crystal Dragon: flooding of plates, fogging, that sort of thing. The current text seems to miss some vital details.

  • Agree with @squeakyclean re assembly instructions and running also a better understanding and use of temperatures around the rig. Mind you i am doing alright but understand the need as i didnt even know where to fit the plates on my crystal when it arrived.

  • edited April 14

    As a new forum member looking across all the slightly different StillDragon websites, reading the beginners guide, and progressively ploughing through the 50 pages of threads, I’m still (excuse the pun) unable to understand enough to see where this can take me.

    The fundamental items of hard to find information for me are:

    1. How to design / configure a still using the StillDragon components. Crash and Burn without this, I can go no further.
    2. What are the benefits of a StillDragon

    Number 2 above should really be the starting point - why is StillDragon better than a plug and play setup (such as the infamous T500). Or, if easier to explain, why is a plug and play bad, and how is that fixed with StillDragon. Most plug and play owners have little idea how it works, where it could be improved, and why you would want to change. But they can faintly sniff out from the odd forum posts that there may be significant advantages to be had with StillDragon. A lot of the people who take the considerable time needed to browse the information across the StillDragon sites will probably already own a plug and play system, but are worried they are missing out on something better that they could have for a similar KWh / time / effort cost.

    I believe It would be immensely valuable to write up a “How and Why to Migrate from a Plug and Play Still to StillDragon” section for the manual.

    The main blocker for a section like this at first sight appears to be how to get around the exploding complexity of the different options available. This is a product that can do anything distilling for everybody. But maybe one or more home reference rigs could be defined AND explained as detailed examples, so that an amateur hobbyist can get a full understanding of how each component works, how each component fits with the other components, and most importantly gain confidence they understand why it’s worth the effort.

    Looking at the forum posts, in general nothing can be answered before there is a definition of where you want to be. Otherwise there are way too many options to consider and the dependent variables become too complex. So on the basis that cutting down the variables is the first step, a tried and tested way to do this is by defining what you want to end up with. A definition of what the configuration needs to achieve. The second step is work out how to get there.

    For step one, in this proposed “migration section” of the manual, the definition of where you want to be is encouragingly simple - it’s to be able to do at least what you can buy off the shelf, plug and play - but a LITTLE bit better.

    Here is a starter of 8 things you have already off the shelf:

    1. A boiler that plugs into the normal household plug-socket ring main, has covered element(s) and is safe to use. Most people don’t have an engineer or friendly electrician to help build their still. The reference rig may be that you use an existing existing T500 boiler, if you have one?
    2. Easy connection to household water supply and drainage with reliable flow control. E.g. use a T500 water flow controller?
    3. Capacity for at least 25L of input wash. Why do the StillDragon boilers start at 50L is this an advantage or not?
    4. Ability to do a “quick” stripping run.
    5. Ability to perform as a pot still.
    6. Ability to perform as a reflux still producing ethanol at around 93% with an input of wash around 14% ABV, completing in 5hrs.
    7. Not be a replica of the London Shard, needing unpractical headroom in the average domestic house.
    8. Explanation of what does what in the configuration, why it was chosen, and why it is better than "off the shelf".

    The next iteration could go into options by component type. This is without doubt where it starts to spiral out of control, but some options are very obvious e.g.

    Boiler - Improvements on the T500 boiler: GrainFather type setup where there are 2 elements for faster boil then maintaining the temp for the completion of the run or completing end to end much quicker. Is the GrainFather a viable upgrade, so you can use it for beer also? Maybe move over to a 30A cooker mains circuit in the house to get … what benefits.. etc.

    Condenser - Average setup for all uses, or specific tuned configurations for stripping, pot condensing or reflux condensing. Consider number of plates needed, plate diameter, level of reflux etc.

    Convenience and Quality Control - anything that makes it easier to measure, tweak and control the run. What temps, flows, smells etc. to measure where, why to measure them, and what to do when, based on measurements. If you cannot measure it you cannot not manage it, so a list of what needs managing is a good structure for this section.

    I’m more than happy to co-ordinate the production of this section for the next manual as I’m obviously needing something like this myself. Is anyone interested in giving any part of the above a go?

  • @flidget where abouts are you located? Im based in Melbourne (Australia) and would be happy to do a run through with you if your local. If not im sure someone else on here would be happy too if they are closer.

    Alternatively I have a whole heap of ujssm to run next weekend so If I remember will do a video from start to finish on how I setup and run brown spirits (whisky, rum, bourbon) on a plated column.

    I found most of your questions have been answered already in the orginal manual. Granted plumbing water lines can take some creative thinking and in regards to wiring I wired my boiler up in 2014 and got the work sparky to check it was safe (also my partners pa is an electrical engineer and he rechecked it recently) getting a boiler wired up by a sparky should be roughly an hours labour. Alternatively perhaps your local supplier could arrange for the boiler to come prewired (not sure the legal side of that however)

    If your worried about getting a sparky to wire it up because of its use, I normally tell them its a 50L kettle for heating strike water for when I mash beer. That followed by a couple of homebrewed beers for them to take home normally gives me a discount and no more questions :p

    Granted I did electrocute myself when I put my first power controller together but that wasnt due to my element wiring. Alot of people have put theres together without issue though.

    I have a T500 boiler that I got for BIAB and small spirit runs (gin) however due to how flimsy it is I havent used it for spirits yet and tbh would only be usefull for a small 2" setup. Concealed elements dont make it any safer.

    In beer brewing alot of people use Braumeisters and 40L hot water urns to mash in both have un-concealed elements.

    For water I used adaptors from my 12mm hose (from Stilldragon) to normal garden hose I run one to my outside tap and one to the outside drain. I have a needle valve on the water flow into the RC and control reflux that way. I can tell how much reflux I have by the heat of the RC, the out put of liquid out of my parrot and the amount of bubble action on my plates. Once I have set the speed I am collecting at I dont change it until the end when I get into tails when I will cut water off to the RC and run in pot mode.

    My 50L boiler I can run with 12L it takes 10L to cover the element, 50l is a stronger base for a larger still and most people will run 40L or 30L at a time this allows for any foaming. Most fermentors are 30L so makes it nice and easy. Also having 3L + of potential output makes it easier to make cuts. The T500 instructions say to toss the first 150ml and then collect the rest, you can also do that with any still setup but I wouldnt sugguest it.

    A quick stripping run is setup your colum without an RC, with or without plates(I normally run plates as I like the copper contact) and the PC hooked up, run full power and then collect everything down to about 20%

    The above setup is a potstill mode add reflux and its a colum setup so nice and easy

    Potstill mode you normally do multiple strips as outlined above and then a spirit run with those strips put together with some mash into your boiler at 20-40% you can run flat out and seperate into multiple jars for cuts or reduce the power used depending on your personal tastes and what your making.

    Running with reflux I can load the boiler with 30L at 10% setup my colum and have it heated up in about an hour I generally allow 30-60mins of reflux and then take off at 2.5Lph so can have about 3L at 93-95% and some lower proof stripped tails in 4hours. Can have the boiler drained into a bucket or via a hose on my drain valve and empty with the still cool enough to pack down (with gloves) within another hour.

    A 6plate with packed section is just under 2.4m if your creative with your setup and it will give a better product then the t500 and better output, you could go to a VM setup to reduce height if need be or stack your colum on the bench in two seperate stacks to make it wider, not many do this as its less simple but I probably have the gear to setup and take a pic for you to see.

    Alot of running a still is by feel and expirence, there is guides on how to do it but its more of an art then a science. Everyone has different tastes so doing it one way to get the flavour you like may not be the way someone else does it. Stilldragon and other brands modular gear gives so much ablity to run different products and in less time.

    Brown spirits 4plates single pass with tight cuts Vodka 1 strip and then 1-2 passes over 6plates and a packed section depending on taste Gin add a basket in pot still mode.

    I have dual 2400w elements in my boiler and run them off two seperate circuits in my house. If i had 30amp id run one 4800w element

    The grainfather is two flimsy to use with a still and isnt sealed to allow for it

    Around measuring things we would need to do a whole new post :p all this is based on a 4" setup and I can talk to different sized RCs in more detail of you need as I have 2

    Generally its full water flow into the rc to start and then back off till you get the output of product you want. Generally start slow with a few drips a 2nd to take off fores and compress heads then increase output to 2.5lph (pencil sized stream) until tsils come in the cut water off. This is the same with any sized RC

    Most of the above is in the orginal manual and any thread on how to run a plated colum ;)

    I could go on, hope ive answered most of your questions and happy to clarify further

    Sorry if this answer is all over the place

  • @Clickeral Thanks for the offer as that would be the business. Unfortunately I don't live in Australia. I do have family living in the Brisbane area and they love living in Australia, much better than UK living. Lots of very invaluable information in your reply. A worked example or video from your upcoming run would be a massive help for myself and others like me, wanting to move up a few notches.

    Personally, I looked to the StillDragon manual for information on how to put together the components, how they should be sized, and why it was worth doing. However, I hit a brick wall in that you cannot order a carburettor if you don't know enough about your particular engine, all you can do is copy another engine and hope it works for you. That's not a problem with the manual, I now realise. But I'm glad I got stuck in, or I would be nowhere, dazed and confused.

    I cannot believe it's only a few weeks since I started looking at SD. It's been quite a journey since that point. I've subsequently joined another 2 forums and read Zymurgy Bob's book on pot stilling. I'm waiting for The Compleat Distiller to arrive as I believe that covers reflux columns, amongst other key topics - ujssm and creating the right wash will be the next hurdle. There doesn't seem to be much info on using a Dephlegmator from the point of view of someone who is used to just a product condenser. Is it LM, is it VM? Anyway, as you say the information is out there in fragments. I've found this forum the most useful.

    Seeing / reading an end to end run in detail is quite rare. I've only seen it once in Zymurgy Bob's book. Pity he didn't have a CD or Dash back when he wrote it. :( My fingers are double crossed you can find the time to record your upcoming run on a real SD setup. Plus thanks again for the above post, every time I read it, I get something new out of it.

  • edited May 1

    LM mate. But to confuse things can be operated as a PM.

    StillDragon Australia & New Zealand - Your StillDragon® Distributor for Australia & New Zealand

  • @flidget checkout the SD YouTube Channel

    Also there are a few other vids up there of various people running their columns including this one of Cooperville running his dash 2 (mentioned in the manual):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKYK8JUAwUE

    Glad u have found the manual useful. to revisit your analogy, forget about the engine & the carburettor. I say that as you don't need to know how a carburettor works inorder to drive a car.

    It's more a question of what is it you want to do? drive to the church every christmas vs every sunday or be the first to the front pew every morning to say your prayers and be at the pub when it opens? or do you want to go four wheel driving? do you live in a place with narrow streets with little parking? do you need a people mover because you have a lot of kids?

    SD produce a range of kit and configurations to suit all. From basic small pot stills all the way to large commercial setups. The beauty of their range is it's extensible, scalable and interchangeable so you can start out with a basic pot still then add a few components as you go (can afford) / interest level & knowledge expands without having to ditch your investment to date.

    To go back to your first question, you need to answer some to define your needs and wants eg what do I want to make? how often will I do it? how much product do I want to make each time? how much time can I set aside to do it? how much money can I afford? How much space do I have to work in, store kit for fermenters? How much power do I have available?

    Once you have these answers I suggest you have a chat with your local distributor who will be able to guide you to various configurations to suit.

  • Excellent answer Croz and show you have a true understanding of what we are trying to give back to the community that sponsored us all.

    StillDragon Australia & New Zealand - Your StillDragon® Distributor for Australia & New Zealand

  • cheers @punkin. While there is no 1 size fits all, it must be remembered that there is always many ways to get to the same place. Everyone needs to work out where they are going and how they want to get there

    damn I'm full of analogies today…. lol

  • @Clickeral. Still digesting your post above. If I feedback the different configs you mentioned could you give it a quick check to make sure I have correctly picked up everything you mentioned?

    1. Potstill config for Stripping runs. 6 plates (for the copper), No packed section, no RC. Run flat-out max heat until down to 30%.
    2. Reflux config for Vodka: 6 plates, 510 Packed Section, RC. 2 Passes starting with pre-stripped low wines from the Potstill config.
    3. Reflux config for Brown Spirit: 4 Plates, No packed section, RC. 1 Pass starting with pre-stripped low wines from the Potstill config.
  • @flidget # 1 & 3 are the same. simply turn off the RC water in # 1

    For brown spirits, in # 3, no need to strip, a single run on 4 plates (or less) will give you great product

  • @crozdog said: @flidget # 1 & 3 are the same. simply turn off the RC water in # 1

    For brown spirits, in # 3, no need to strip, a single run on 4 plates (or less) will give you great product

    Crozdog is on the money, ill use extra plates when I strip (no reflux) as I need the height and extra copper never hurts but you dont need it :)

    I know a few people who will do stripping in potstill mode and then a spirit run on 4plates but I find a single pass with 4plates is fine for me :)

  • @crozdog @Clickeral many thanks, I think I'm getting there finally. Thank goodness people around here have a heap of patience alongside willingness to share expertise.

    @punkin said: LM mate. But to confuse things can be operated as a PM.

    What's PM? - That's quite a difficult term to search for.

  • Power Management. If you were to leave the reflux condensor at a constant rate you can control the offtake speed by varying the power level.

    StillDragon Australia & New Zealand - Your StillDragon® Distributor for Australia & New Zealand

  • @punkin said: Power Management. If you were to leave the reflux condensor at a constant rate you can control the offtake speed by varying the power level.

    Thanks.

  • Are you supposed to somehow defy the laws of physics and get a 4" Crystal Dragon Special Gasket and bubble plate into the bottom inside end of the CD Sight Tower? It's more than a bit tight. If yes, any advice on technique? At the inside top of your CD column, do you use one of the gaskets included with the Sight Tower assembly, or some other one, purchased separately?

  • I don't think they fit in sight towers. We designed and had made special flanges. to fit special gaskets that hold the plates.

    StillDragon Australia & New Zealand - Your StillDragon® Distributor for Australia & New Zealand

  • LOL. they don't. How should it look at the bottom and top of a CD tower i.e after you separate the sight tower, and what gaskets are used? A lot of images seem to show a bubble plate sitting in the bottom SS section of the sight tower.

  • The sight tower and the Crystal Dragon towers are two completely different setups mate.

    StillDragon Australia & New Zealand - Your StillDragon® Distributor for Australia & New Zealand

  • 4" Sight Tower Model ST4. Was supplied in the Europe 4" Crystal Dragon™ Pro Model CD4-BP3-PRO. Maybe I'm confused, wouldn't be the first time. :(

  • Ok, maybe take it via email with SD Eu?

    StillDragon Australia & New Zealand - Your StillDragon® Distributor for Australia & New Zealand

  • Yep, will have to. I'll add it to the missing washers email. Still, would be good to have something documented with images for the CD tower in the next version of the manual. Maybe most of the regular forum members have the Dash column.

  • @punkin said: LM mate. But to confuse things can be operated as a PM.

    Just going back over my early posts, with new eyes. My Dephlegmator question was way too vague, so thanks everybody for being kind and trying to get me on the straight and narrow, But, I better just check...

    In the common configuration of a CD tower (plates only, or plates and packing, or packing only) in reflux operation, the Dephlegmator is providing a CM - Cooling Management reflux design, where the Dephlegmator is A?

    image

    I don't get how you would be able to setup a LM reflux with just the SD components, unless it's something to do with the plates I've not yet grasped, or a component I've not yet seen for B?

    image

    This is the VM Vapour Management design?

    Link to kimbodious VM Still

    image

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