Insulation of Bubble Tee's

I apologise if this has been answered elsewhere but for the life of me i cant find it. Is there any advantage/disadvantage to the insulation of the bubble sections (with the exception of sight glasses obviously), my background in industry were we operate large tray distillation columns (not for ethanol) and these would always be insulated without fail. I was wondering if there was a reason at the home level we don't do it?


  • edited March 2018

    Bling trumps energy efficiency.

    In reality, the ROI on insulation is probably nonexistent when we're talking about the column itself, especially compared to the kettle/boiler.

    Also keep in mind the impact of the weather on operation of large-scale continuous distillation equipment. To some extent we're concerned about keeping the heat in, but also keeping the cold out.

  • Thanks @grim I thought it might be as simple as its too small to warrant it/still vanity, but I wasn't sure if maybe there was some other funky flavour mechanics or something going on that someone had discovered.

  • Insulation would result in less passive reflux, so the flavor impact would be less purity, lower proof, but the impact is probably tiny.

  • You loose a lot less heat through stainless than you do through copper.

    If it was a small packed copper column I would definitely recommend insulation. A bigger copper column is probably going to be in an indoor environment where the ambient conditions are stable - so it is probably less important.

    I suspect plated columns are affected less than packed columns also. A sudden draft can influence a small packed copper column if it is not insulated.

  • +1 what Myles said.

    I have a 2" x 48" copper tube - packed with stainless steel scrubbers - vapor management column. Before I insulated it, running it was like herding cats. Zero repeatability. Highly susceptible to breezes (I run it in an open shed). After applying insulation it is rock-steady and boring as mud to run; easily automated.

    My SD 4" bubble T still is pretty consistent without insulation no matter how many plates I run, 4 to 16. Lots of neat stuff to watch and keep track of. It is a whole lot more fun to drive! I never considered insulating it. Too many odd shapes to match and cover.

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

  • Cheers for the input guys, I was looking at it from an industrial aspect where there is big dollars and efficiency loss by not insulating a distillation column. But as @grim said a lot of that is to do with keeping atmospheric conditions out. I feel there may be some incremental efficiency gain from a power perspective but I think from the information you all provided it isn't worth the cost/effort of doing it.

  • edited March 2018

    Should be pretty easy (and cheap) to make little jackets for each tee out of that silver bubble insulating sheet material to test.
    Can use Velcro or your basic HVAC foil tape to secure.


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  • edited March 2018

    No need to insulate a bubblecap system,you will not have channeling effekts like on packed or maybe structured system. If the column is not high enought its even positive with some cooling as the alkohol liquid and vapours will take more space on the top plates. If you run a intermediate cooler in the middle of the column to recover some heat thats another question, but this is only practicsl for industrial columns. The only reason see is that you wish to kill the reflux and run it as a potstill. So if you can recover the heat do it. And of course If you are trying to run a very high column it might also be needed.

  • edited March 2018

    In fact take it the other way around, for example you have an insulated column with 14 plates and the top seven ones tends to owerflow. What do you do? You need the lower to input in the top seven plates. Either you take the insulation off on the bottom 7 plates or you put a cooler at plate 7.

    If all plates are ”behaving” with insulation this is not wrong in any case

  • It is interesting that the main text of "The Craft of Whisky Distilling" published by the ADI concentrates on the use of plated columns WITHOUT dephlegmator.

    Now I have not tried this but I believe you can precharge the plates with water and they will then be self sustaining. Not as efficient so you cant get vodka, but apparently you can make flavoured product this way.

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