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Reflux Column Temperatures

I recently purchased "The Bells and Whilstles, Dash 2" And have run into a few issues when trying to use it...

I am completely new to this and so my question probably really simple and hopefully easy to fix... I am having some issues controlling the temperature at the head of the reflux column.

From what I have read in a number of books is that the foreshots should come off at 65 Degrees and then Ethanol at 78 Degrees however I just cant get these temperatures at the head of the column. Instead everything seems to come off at much lower temperatures (58-61 for foreshots & then it just wont go above around 70 Degrees).

I have tried running a high heat and high coolant flow and low heat and low coolant flow plus everything inbetween and just cant seem to get the temperatures I read about in the books.

Should I be worrying about these temperatures or should I just be worrying about the flow out of the parrot? What sort of settings do others run similar set ups on, I would be keen to know as its driving me mad not being able to control what appears to be something so simple!

Comments

  • Worry more about flow at the parrot and ABV. Fores will come out early and you'll be able to smell them easily.

  • Thanks, I am finding that the ABV is 95-96% and I’m getting better control of the flow at a lower temp setting with lower flow through the dephlegmator but the column head is hanging just below 60 Degrees.

  • When you are learning how to distill, thermometers are counterproductive. Set aside the thermometers, learn how to distill with out them, and then once you understand how it works, you can start using them again.

  • Thanks for the advise, I was thinking that would be the case.

    I have found that although the flow off the parrot is not to hard to control the ABV does start to drop away quite early in the run. Do you have any advice on how best to maintain a high ABV for the duration of the run as I had read somewhere the ABV should stay above 90% right up until the very end.

  • What Joel said^^^.

    Learn to get consistent behavior. Make your power and coolant flow adjustments very incrementally. If you are using recalculated coolant, maintaining temps can be even more challenging.

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • Do you find that your ABV remains high throughout or does it drop off?

    I am seeing pretty consistent results the issue is I do not know if they are right or not as the do differ from what I have read, I just don’t want to get into any bad habits so to speak.

    I do make adjustments incrementally and the coolant whilst reticulated is consistently cool.

  • There are several ways to run.

    With this type of cooling management (CM) system, you should get a very stable abv for the duration of the run.

    With a 4 plater for example you can collect at a rock solid 90% for the larger body of the run and as soon as you see your alcometer dip to 89 you'll know its time to pay attention to forthcoming tails.

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • Ok, good to know.

    I seem to start out with 95-96% ABV And whilst it remains quite constant for a little while it quite quickly starts to slowly trail off from there, I’m not really touching anything it just seems to drop away quite early on in the run.

    Does anyone have any practical advice on how best to establish and maintain a consistent ABV?

  • I find that my decline over the whole run is about 5% before I smell tails and shut off.

    When you say early, are you estimating your yield? Are you measuring your conversion of your wash?

  • edited December 2018

    Pushing for the highest possible abv on minimal plates and high reflux ratio and you'll see a more rapid decline in abv. A 3 to 5 plate column runs way more rock solid in the high 80s - low 90s.

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • edited December 2018

    @sam stabilize for 20 minutes (maybe less) or so at 100% reflux. Draw heads off kinda slow (broken stream). Then adjust power or coolant flow so that your stream is about the size of a tooth pic or pencil lead. Collection speed your shooting for will be right around 3 liters an hour.

    If your abv remains too high then adjust power or coolant flow minimally.

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • Btw, what spirit are you trying to render?

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • edited December 2018

    Just use the temperatures for trending. The actual temperature number values are pretty much irrelevant. Learning how your still behaves (how to "drive" your still) is the important part. Make note of the temperature numbers just because they are like mile markers on the highway. You will soon be able to use the numbers to tell where you are in your run. Pretty soon you will be at Carnegie Hall.

    A thermometer at the bottom of the column will give you an early warning when tails are starting. Comparing that to the temp reading changes at top of the column will help you understand how your column refluxes, and the volume of desirable product held within the column.

    Parrots and alcometers are valuable tools, no doubt, but the most valuable tools are your nose and tongue. Learn what all the different parts of the run smell and taste like. Ultimately that is what it's all about - good tasting product.

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

  • Thanks @Smaug, seeing as I am just starting out I am shooting for Neutral Spirit at this stage as it seems silly aiming for any else until I get that right. Ultimately I would like to make Gin and will be moving onto that once I get used to the still and the process.

    I will try what you suggest as I think I’m getting more reflux than I need as my collection rate is about half what you say.

    I will aim for a lower ABV and higher collection rate and see how I go.

    Being an engineer I find it frustrating there seems to be art than science to this than I first thought!

  • I am a process control engineer (and operator). I like stilling because it lets me express my artistic side of process control, and drink my artwork.

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

  • @Kapea said: Just use the temperatures for trending. The actual temperature number values are pretty much irrelevant. Learning how your still behaves (how to "drive" your still) is the important part. Make note of the temperature numbers just because they are like mile markers on the highway. You will soon be able to use the numbers to tell where you are in your run. Pretty soon you will be at Carnegie Hall.

    A thermometer at the bottom of the column will give you an early warning when tails are starting. Comparing that to the temp reading changes at top of the column will help you understand how your column refluxes, and the volume of desirable product held within the column.

    Parrots and alcometers are valuable tools, no doubt, but the most valuable tools are your nose and tongue. Learn what all the different parts of the run smell and taste like. Ultimately that is what it's all about - good tasting product.

    This is gold advice. I work in the construction of mining projects and I dont have a teacher where I live and have been doing everything off books and learning off forums. Ultimately its about your nose and tounge. Do some runs, make some mistakes correct mistakes do them again. And drink your product. One huge lesson I learnt was last year I did 3 great whiskey runs I was going to blend to make a multigrain. I did a fourth and it was bad but I mixed it with the other three. All I had was the equivalent of 60 litres of crap whiskey that I will have to throw out. Never mix a bad product with a good one.

  • I did a run yesterday and whilst there is some great tasting product there is more which isn’t so great. I think this is probably due to the settings during the run, whilst it’s encouraging to have some great tasting Vodka it is frustrating having so much which isn’t great... at least it can get added to the next wash and try again!

    Each run is getting better so hopefully I will crack it soon. Just got to focus on some consistency.

    Thanks for all the great advice.

  • Thank you everyone for your help and advice, I just did another run and it all worked out perfectly with the ABV and collection rate staying rock stable throughout.

  • some wise words above.

    Keep at it Sam, practice is required. Remember to keep good records so you know what you did and how to replicate it - or not depending on what happens lol

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