Building 8" wide column simple pot still based on 100gal/380L kettle with 4" wide shotgun condenser

Hello everyone,

We are trying to design a classic copper pot still (close to classic copper alembic still) based on SD 100gal/380L boiler. It is stainless steel kettle, but copper kettle is more expensive for us, right now. Use case of this still is to make a 1st and 2nd run to distill flavored spirit: mostly brandy and grappa, whisky in nearest future, potentially rum and tequila). As I said, classic alembic, no plated units.

Still will be feed by 4 heating elements, 5000 - 5500 watts each, 2 heating elements will be directly connected to electrical panel (through outlets) to 240V/30A breaker, and 2 remaining heating elements will be connected through SSR based controller. These heating elements will be collected to 125A US electrical panel.

General design is (from boiler to parrot) is to have the onion head, that is 25" in diameter with 8" TC on top and bottom -> copper column or cone (I will describe it later) -> reducer to 2" with temp gauge -> 2" "U" elbow or set of 90 degrees elbows / pipe -> reducer from 2" to 4" -> 4" wide copper based shotgun condenser with maximum amounts of 1/2" pipes inside, 4 fts tall -> spirit collector / base of 4" condenser-> parrot made from 3/4" -1" pipes for better flow.

Condenser:

I saw a post of @CothermanDistilling (8" Crystal Dragon R&D...) where he described his setup with 4" wide condenser, 48" tall. The only unknown part to me would be collector unit with 4" TC on top and bottom, similar to one that is on attached pictures where I rounded it red. Just with the difference to 8" wide on the picture vs. 4" to what we need. So, we guess, that it would be easier is to have 2" to 4" copper or SS reducer -> 48" tall 4" wide copper shotgun condenser -> 4" wide copper or SS spirit collector -> 4" wide piece of empty pipe with 4" TC on both sides (SS or copper) -> standard 1/2 or 1/6 barrels SS keg with 4" TC welded on top as a massive base (no spirit or similar usage there, just big and massive SS tank solid enough to act as a base)

Column or Cone:

There is quite thoughts. Original idea (1) was to make just straight 8" wide pipe on top of the onion head, with 8" to 2" reducer with temp gauge. 24" tall. Solution is reasonably easy to implement (just 8" to 2" reducer might be a problem). Alternative idea (2) is to use a one piece cone 8" to 6", 24" tall as better emulation of classic alembic forms. Any comments of what would be better in this case?

All copper thickness should be 1.0 - 3mm for durability.

The real question if 4 x 5000/5500 watts would be enough to heat 100 gallons of wash, SS boiler, the onion head, 8" copper column/cone, 2" pipe to condenser? And would it have any benefits of using 8"-to-6" cone over 8" column?

Additionally, do you think, that having 24" tall column would be enough to provide a good contact to copper / have enough "copper" to make good flavored spirit? Or, it is better to make it taller, like 36" or even 48" ?

Based on post of @CothermanDistilling, I think that 4" wide / 48" tall shotgun condenser should be enough, plus I can obviously control cold water flow.

Any other comments, inputs, suggestions?

Thanks

image

image

condenser-collector-draw.jpg
657 x 800 - 76K
condenser-collector-img.jpg
333 x 800 - 29K

Comments

  • How much of the system are you planning on fabricating / modifying vs purchasing?

    At this small scale, I wouldn't agonize too much over how the aesthetic of the still head will affect the finished product. Any design difference compared to the big Scottish rigs is likely not detected in the finished product.

    If you don't have a tasting room space directly adjacent to view of your still, and don't need to project an old timey visual, I'd say build the thing according to your interpretation of an optimal collection height.

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • edited October 29

    Pot Shot 200l Coppertop Pot Still @ StillDragon Australia

    Did one of these in a 380l version for a customer a few months ago

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

  • edited October 29

    @punkin said:

    Pot Shot 200l Coppertop Pot Still @ StillDragon Australia

    Did one of these in a 380l version for a customer a few months ago

    Yeah that's a nice looking unit.

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • edited October 29

    Went to Dos Dragones in NSW

    image

    image.jpg
    600 x 800 - 101K

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

  • edited October 28

    Got moded? Or that a differnt pic?

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • That's the 380 on the factory floor, the earlier link is to the 200l version.

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

  • @Smaug said: How much of the system are you planning on fabricating / modifying vs purchasing?

    I already have some copper 2" pipes and elbows, so path from column head to "entering" to the condenser is covered. Kettle will from SD. Condenser base would be a modified keg, that I already have. The rest should be purchased or fabricated. I have a feeling, that 8" copper pipe is easier to find and costs cheaper than 8" to 6" cone.

    @Smaug said: At this small scale, I wouldn't agonize too much over how the aesthetic of the still head will affect the finished product. Any design difference compared to the big Scottish rigs is likely not detected in the finished product.

    I am "fighting" to get more copper in my still ;) ;) ;) as I guess, it is better for final product. Kettle allows to have as maximum as 8" wide column. With the proper heating, 8" column should be in about 1.5 times better thought-put than 6" column. I just cannot understand, if 8" pipe ended to 8" to 2" head has a better thought-put than 8" to 6" pipe ended to 6" to 2" head. If you can clarify it, it would be nice.

    @Smaug said: If you don't have a tasting room space directly adjacent to view of your still, and don't need to project an old timey visual, I'd say build the thing according to your interpretation of an optimal collection height.

    I have read, that height of pot still column is not such important for thought-put or final product, so generally speaking, head on top of kettle with some small pipe to condenser should sufficient. I have analyzed number of pot stills, plus still from above image, repeats the same rule: height of kettle is more or less equal to kettle head plus cone to condenser. My numbers are the same, kettle height is about 48", and onion helmet is 24" plus column head is 24" give us the same 48". Please correct me if I am wrong. Thanks.

  • I would not use copper on the downward path of ethanol, google ethyl carbamate... the 2" u-bend in stainless and the 2" 2" stainless long condensers from SD are inexpensive and proven.

    You want height on the pot column to have a long condenser if you desire condenser efficiency...

  • @CothermanDistilling said: You want height on the pot column to have a long condenser if you desire condenser efficiency...

    Can you suggest some numbers for column height and condenser height? Thanks

  • at least 1 meter, preferably 1.2 or so...

  • @CothermanDistilling said: at least 1 meter, preferably 1.2 or so...

    Thanks. What do you think about pipe 8" column (size of 4 - 5 fts) vs. cone from 8" to 6" (same size 4 - 5 fts)?

    Do you think, there is enough copper in the system if we have it only in "up" path (onion head, column)? I do not have a copper kettle, that is why I have a feeling, that there is not enough copper, that is why copper condenser shows up.

    Personal question. Who made a collector compartment for your 8", I guess, condenser?

    Thanks

  • What do you want the copper in your column for? And what can you mean by enough copper?

    Are you trying to correct bad fermentation practices with equipment design?

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

  • @punkin said: What do you want the copper in your column for? And what can you mean by enough copper?

    Are you trying to correct bad fermentation practices with equipment design?

    Traditional copper alembics are all copper and they are used for centuries. Even these days, 100+ years old copper stills are in use. I just wanted to emulate it in the areas, I can afford. As far as I know, yeasts release sulphur when ferments sugar to alcohol. With copper, the sulphur binds with the copper, making hydrogen-sulfide, which becomes copper sulfate. So w/o copper, sulphur stays in the final spirit. Ideally, copper pot is the king, but since, I cannot afford it, I am trying to have "equal" amount of copper all the way to the the path. I know, that my explanation is not very scientific.

    My brandy wash is just grape sugar, yeast and oxygen. My grappa wash is skins, water, cone sugar, yeast and oxygen. I do not think, I do something wrong there.

  • love that 380L copper top, its going on my list to Father Christmas...

  • Sure, my point is that yeast produces these off flavours wghen stressed. You can correct it by using copper in your still after you have run the fermentation into the ground, or you can correct it by making sure the yeast is not stressed.

    I know which i would do.

    The use of copper dates back hundreds of years because they did not have the access to the better, cheaper materials that we do today.

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

  • @Sam said: love that 380L copper top, its going on my list to Father Christmas...

    It seems, it moves the price of kettle too high :(

  • @punkin said: Sure, my point is that yeast produces these off flavors when stressed. You can correct it by using copper in your still after you have run the fermentation into the ground, or you can correct it by making sure the yeast is not stressed.

    I know which i would do.

    The use of copper dates back hundreds of years because they did not have the access to the better, cheaper materials that we do today.

    It is hard to me to argue. What I see is that demand of copper stills is still pretty high. Regarding stressing yeast, I usually put them enough to multiply (like 50 grams of EC-1118 for 55 gallons drum, that we used as fermenter), plus, I always add Fermaid K/O or DAP on 1/3 of sugar degradation.

  • In that case i don't think you'll have a problem that you need copper to rectify. i'm not saying you are wrong, merely that there's another viewpoint you may consider.

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

  • Sam
    edited October 30

    To completely misquote Duncan Bannatyne from Dragons Den in the UK...

    Copper = Vanity

    Stainless Steel = Sanity

    Sorry, just couldn't help myself.

  • Copper is a crutch for people who can't manage mashing and fermentation well.

    EC-1118 is a very low H2S/SO2 producer with adequate nutrients. It's also a fairly neutral yeast at lower temperatures.

    Your pitch is roughly 25g/hl, which is in a recommended pitch range, I wouldn't call it an under pitch.

  • I made both crappy and great product on my SD380L... luckily, you can re-distill 90% of crappy product... but I will say that going to a full copper 1000L BM-A SD still changed my game... I should have bought it day 1, but the only option then was the big expensive ones and a few folks making some small ugly ones that looked better left in the woods.. The biggest problem was that I did not trust my guessing what I needed... If you can get a copper still or at least copper top still, it is worth every penny, but worth double that is an agitator and indirect heating... if you have the slightest amount of solids in your wash or the funky things like in molasses or lautered rye wash that will burn to an element and scorch the product, and copper wont fix those mistakes...

    I bought my 380L in Jan 2014, it took only 2 years for me to understand that stripping wash 100gal a day was losing money fast.... but it took me 6 years to replace it with one that can do 2.5x the product in less time.... if you are opening a business and want the slightest chance of making money, the minimum is 1000L when you go into production, but for the first couple years you could learn and build on a 200L-500L, but get that still built the way you will want it down the road, copper dome, agitator, and steam or BM, and you will be able to use it as a spirit still, gin still, etc... a 200L will do a spirit run on the wash output of a 1000L, and 500l will work for a 2000L...

  • edited October 30

    Wish we started with a 2000l still and not a 1000l still, we'd be far more profitable 4 years later.

    Also wish we had a half a million more capital to dedicate to aged product inventory. Laying down at least 3-4 barrels a week from day 1.

    Also wish we put in a 30hp boiler, not a 15hp. Hell, even bigger, save us a ton of time being able to mash and distill simultaneously.

    Oh, and a 12x48" PC.

    And some big chillers.

    God, money makes everything so much easier.

  • Holding tanks, fancy bottling line, molasses tanker, two shipping containers of glass, and on and on........

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • @grim said: Copper is a crutch for people who can't manage mashing and fermentation well.

    Well, I've never put it quite that bluntly, but i do think that it should be the last defense rather than the entire plan.

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

  • edited October 30

    First National Bank of StillDragon would have done well to fund us all...

  • @CothermanDistilling said: I made both crappy and great product on my SD380L... luckily, you can re-distill 90% of crappy product... but I will say that going to a full copper 1000L BM-A SD still changed my game... I should have bought it day 1, but the only option then was the big expensive ones and a few folks making some small ugly ones that looked better left in the woods.. The biggest problem was that I did not trust my guessing what I needed... If you can get a copper still or at least copper top still, it is worth every penny, but worth double that is an agitator and indirect heating... if you have the slightest amount of solids in your wash or the funky things like in molasses or lautered rye wash that will burn to an element and scorch the product, and copper wont fix those mistakes...

    I bought my 380L in Jan 2014, it took only 2 years for me to understand that stripping wash 100gal a day was losing money fast.... but it took me 6 years to replace it with one that can do 2.5x the product in less time.... if you are opening a business and want the slightest chance of making money, the minimum is 1000L when you go into production, but for the first couple years you could learn and build on a 200L-500L, but get that still built the way you will want it down the road, copper dome, agitator, and steam or BM, and you will be able to use it as a spirit still, gin still, etc... a 200L will do a spirit run on the wash output of a 1000L, and 500l will work for a 2000L...

    We are experimenting of how/what we can make using near production equipment. I know, it sounds strange, that experiments are going to be done on 100g still, and not on 5 - 25 gallons still, that people usually do. Idea is to prove certain business practice and pipelines, that will give as more realistic numbers. Yes, we cannot get everything from the list of equipment that other people have commented above, but certain things will be real (smaller scale, but real). I have a feeling, that scaling from 100 gallons to 700 gallons (that is what we expecting to have a real still when we become a business) is more accurate scale than moving from 13 gallons milk can based still to 700 gallons real production still. For example, we are also looking for labeling machine, and already have a gravity based four nozzle bottle filler.

    But, obviously, we want our experiments to be cheap as in cost of the equipment and in operation expenses. We actually borrowed 100gal/380L kettle, so it cost us nothing ;) ;) ;)

    I "fight" for the copper, personally, mostly because I want the product we will do during these pre-production experiments, being high level spirit, that we can utilize even we decide to do not make a real business. Grape spirit and whisky spirit can be later used in out wine hobbies as well as just poured into a barrels for decade(s) aging.

    But, please consider to comment with the assumption, we are real business. It might help other people, plus as it is saved, it will be searchable for other people in future as well. Thanks.

  • edited October 31

    @MountainDweller said: We are experimenting of how/what we can make using near production equipment. I know, it sounds strange, that experiments are going to be done on 100g still, and not on 5 - 25 gallons still, that people usually do. Idea is to prove certain business practice and pipelines, that will give as more realistic numbers.

    This isn't strange at all, we run experiments at full production batch sizes. It is not worth the time or effort to run the equipment less efficiently. When you look at the cost of all factors involved, increasing the fermentables to full batch sizes is a marginal increase in cost. The only difference is, if we're talking about aged product, is we'll divide it into a set of smaller barrels for the initial test batch, for us that's usually 15g's. That gives us a good indication of the end result in about 18 months time. For us, this gives us enough product to get it into a trial market. In some cases we will release the product in 375ml bottles - for us is roughly 300 for a test batch.

    Not any less challenging, since bringing a product to market means 48 months, or more. We released an experimental 2 years ago around this time, which was aged 18m, an Oat Bourbon. People loved the initial test batch, we put it into production rotation. We're finally releasing the "production" version in a few weeks, which is about 28m aged. We're talking nearly 4 years. We do take the opportunity to tweak, if necessary, between the trial batches and final production.

    If you are going to do an experiment, make it worth your while to do it, and make it profitable. Our experimental releases generally sell out very, very quickly.

  • There are some great comments here. Now I feel a lot better about getting my 1000l BM boiler made up before I start. Thanks for sharing your comments guys.

Sign In or Register to comment.