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Can you run a VM still in the following way? Do the two hour stratifying, take the foreshots off, take the heads off and then open the valve far enough to get some particular proof like say 175 or 180?
Right up until the last step you can yes.
A well designed VM column will run at aezeo all day long. To make it get abv less than that would require either running hard enough to flood and entrain or pulling some of the packing out before you start.
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Mine has a 3 inch column and 1 1/2 inch valve. I believe that gives a minimum reflux ratio of four.
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