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Building my first SD still

I already sent this to customer service and got some responses there but thought it would be good idea to post my questions here too.

I´m a co-founder in an aspiring micro distillery. I myself have little prior experience in distilling (others have more :) ) but I promised to find out if StillDragon products are suitable for us, maybe I learn a thing or two in the process.

What we are wanting is a still for small scale pilot and commercial use. The product range will most probably include spirits with more or less taste in them so that aiming solely to high proof is not the target now (and SD columns can be expanded anyways) but the result should still be relatively clean. We´ve been thinking of building the setup around 100l boiler so we would probably end up SD 120L boiler. What kind of column setup would you suggest? I´ve been thinking 4'' Dash is our choice of column.

Customer service replied 4'' dash is a fine choice so no more guessing about that one.

Could you describe me the advantage of ProCaps in more detail? We are most probably not throttled down with power supply so should we get them anyway? What kind of capacity 4'' column with ProCaps can achieve? How should heating element be dimensioned then? Our maximum still height is around 2,5-3 meters (we are renovating the premises so there is still a chance to affect some solutions...).

Got answered that ProCaps can increase production rate by some 20-40% depending on the case giving production rate of around 6-8L/h. So basically no reason not to get those?

We have been planning making products of grain and honey too. Most likely we are not aiming at purest vodka out there and instead make something with more flavor, probably giving the product some time to mature. However, we are not focused on making whisky or brandy (of course want to have that option too).

What kind of 4'' dash configurations have you been using, trying to find out the most suitable SD equipment. Does the dephlegmator model make difference here? Made some googling, would 3 bubble sections be good amount? Do I still need a packed section above that? What would replacing a bubble section with a torpedo do for me? Haven´t quite grasped whats the difference process-wise.

Thanks for replies :)

Comments

  • Hi @whisperious,

    It can be difficult to recommend a configuration to someone that has not yet established their own point of view. Either way, you will likely learn to run your system accordingly.

    By using forced reflux (dephlegmator) you will have more control. Or more specifically, more flexibility to get your apparatus to behave and render a product with different profiles.

    If you are trying save some money and/or ceiling height, then a packed section can help.

    A Torpedo is a fond relic left over from days when most hobbyists built much of their own systems. The quality of your finished product will not differ in a measurable way if using a Torpedo or Torpedo sections vs a tee section (s).

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • Personally I'm surprised so few people go for a potstill instead if it's flavorful product they are after. Get a 1m or longer riser pipe in the same size as the port on top of your boiler, only use a reducer if you must, then a 180 degree bend preferably in the same size, then into a product condensor again in the same size as the last step if possible. I can tell you the performance is great with my current setup (8" riser, 8" 180d bend, reducer to 4", 4" product condensor). Not just for stripruns, spirit runs as well.

  • @squeakyclean pot stills are great and you learn a lot about the art of distilling by using one, however a column like a dash or a CD can produce awesome flavoured product at the same or higher abv than a pot in only 1 run instead of having to do multiple strips and spirit runs. That's attractive to a lot of people

  • Holy confusing post.

  • @grim said: Holy confusing post.

    You refer to mine? Sorry, my non-native english combined to my mindflow-style of writing results in confusing stuff sometimes :(

    I have actually access to a 30l potstill which I intend to use to learn to ropes. At the moment we are making investment budget for our company and thus making comparison between different setups.

    It´s good to hear that dash can produce some serious flawoured spirits with such ease. I think we won ´t go very wrong with 3 bubble section dash with procaps, 50cm packed section, dephlegmator and appropriate heating/condensing setup? Packed section won´t be very expensive and if room/budget allows, we can always get more bubble sections if needed. Or will we?

  • 3-4 plates is the sweet spot for whiskies, rums, brandies, and other high-flavored spirits. That's what seems confusing to me. You seem to be interested in making vodka, and not making whisky and brandy, but the still types you are talking about, are more suited for whiskies, rums, and brandies.

    That said, I always thought 4 plates was a sweet spot. You can run it clean enough to yield an efficient single pass run of whiskey, brandy, or rum (140-160 proof). You have the flexibility to run a cleaner rum or eau de vie by stripping first (180-185 proof). There is a reason you see lots of short-column (3-4 plate) stills from various manufacturers, it's about versatility.

    Personally, I think it's a whole lot easier to learn cuts on a 3 or 4 plate still, the separations are far more distinct and clear. After running my 4 plate hundreds of times in the past 2 years, I ran a pot still run for the first time in a long time a few weeks back, it was like trying to shoot a target with a blindfold on, I forgot how blurry and smeared running a pot was. But, no free lunch, running a plated still is much harder than running a pot, so for a beginner you can't just tell them to jump into running a plated still.

  • Sure . Much harder in that there are more variables to manage.

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • I've got agree about the four plate. Extremely versatile and if you want to run it like a pot still just leave the plates out. If you want to do a vodka you will have to rerun it through your plates a few times.

  • Not surprisingly, I come down on the potstill side for flavored spirits, and I don't see the potstill as a crude tool that's only useful to the beginner. I also don't see the benefits of trying to separate the volatile components (unless, of course, you want to make vodka, and who wants to drink that?)

    The controlling equations make it perfectly clear that that every drop of any still's output contains every volatile compound originally found in the boiler, although the concentrations of each volatile compound change radically during the still run. Once you accept that, and the fact that the very best cognacs, scotches, and bourbons (while "impure" for the sake of this discussion) contain the most desirable mixtures of those volatile compounds, as obtained from simple potstills, simple "purification" of distillate loses some of its charm.

    To me, the potstill is a terribly powerful tool, when you stop fighting it. YMMV, of course.

    Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller

    my book, Making Fine Spirits

  • No doubt ZB. My favs are all pot stilled.

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • cognacs, scotches and bourbons are all aged.

    StillDragon Europe - Your StillDragon® Distributor for Europe & the surrounding area

  • @zymurgybob. I have read a lot of your posts on this and other forums and used to think potstilling was for beginners. But my last 5 runs I potstilled the lot and I am a beleiver. Your a winner mate.

  • @FloridaCracker said: I've got agree about the four plate. Extremely versatile and if you want to run it like a pot still just leave the plates out. If you want to do a vodka you will have to rerun it through your plates a few times.

    I wonder if SD made plates that could somehow be removed through the din port....

  • Quite easy to do with a manipulated plate drain for plate bypass

  • If it was 'quite easy', someone would have a working model prototyped and built and available for sale and 50% of Dash owners would have it....

  • @Sunshine said: cognacs, scotches and bourbons are all aged.

    Right. What am I missing?

    Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller

    my book, Making Fine Spirits

  • Thanks for input!

    Alright, maybe simpleness of pot stills have beguiled me (I´m an engineer, after all, and more techical it is, the better). I think, however, that the majority in our owner base are for column but I´m. I think that we should be able to produce something that is good also with relatively short maturing times, our main product won´t be 8 year-old whisky.

    So what many of you are saying that I can relatively easily get the same cuts from pot and dash column still? So basically anyone not making vodka would be foolish to invest around 50% more money in a dash column instead of a pot still? Aren´t the production rates also quite comparable?

    From what I have understood, choosing a pot isn´t that simple at all. Or it can be but results may vary greatly. Have I got it right?

    Maybe I should go study maturing spirits some more and ask around beginners section.

  • If aging and potstills is an issue, our triple-potstilled single malt Mulligan is aged for 6 months on cleaned and re-heat-treated once-used bourbon barrel oak, and has been received very well. It's similar to Jameson's, but with a more complex malt flavor, with some good specialty beer malts in the grain bill.

    Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller

    my book, Making Fine Spirits

  • For me pot stilling is both very basic and at the same time very nuanced.

    Much like golf. The goal being to simply wack the white ball, with a stick, into a small round hole in the ground. Sounds super simple. But in practice its far more complicated/artful.

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • In argument for plated stills, i could count on one hand the people i have heard from that went from pot to plated but then went back to a pot still because they thought it was better.

    I'd have fingers spare too.

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

  • I'm sure that either type requires skill to successfully put out a quality product. Back when I had no skill, I fucked up on both before I got better.

    Experience IS the best teacher.

  • I went back to pot for my whiskey, with a 15 gal keg as a chamber, and leave the plates for my vodka.... still learning every time, but like @Grim said in a different post somewhere, the magic is between 0 and 1 plates worth of reflux, so a dome/chamber/helmet is where to play... put fittings on an old keg, buy the shiny 4" copper helmet from SD, or buy a vintage book on coppersmithing and hammer away...

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