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Doing some initial test runs and getting used to my new 400 liter electric baine-marie still. I have the heating elements covered with water and using the steam to heat. I have a 5psi pressure relief valve on it and it does get to pop-off point while heating. What is the typical pressure when running this way? Should I be releasing any pressure or let it do its thing?
Also, upon initial firing of the elements I get a few thumps. Is this normal? Should I so a slower start and not have all 4 elements cranked up?
Ok. I will have a go at this answer. I have a 330l BM still with 3 x 9kw elements. I normally only run them at about 70% though. You should have the water a couple of inches over your elements. Popping sounds are normal which is the water boiling on hitting the elements. As for pressure, the internal pressure will get up to 0.7bar. Or between 0.7 to 0.9bar. 5 psi is only about .4 bar so thats not enough. I have a pressure vacuum releif valve thats is 1 bar plus and minus .1 bar. With the releif valve you have your going to spend a long time waiting for your runs to happen. So what happens with these boilers is the temp and pressure build up ans as the run starts the pressure gradually goes down. Which makes sense as the energy in the system is being taken out by the distillate passing over. @richard is the Uber engineer here. I am just a construction guy making a lot of booze. @richard is my south african Boetie.
I didnt answer the question dont start slow. Get a new pressure releif valave and crank it as hard as your electrical system can handle. Distilling commercially is all about production and cycle times. At 40 % power for a 400l still that will take about 10 hours to do a stripping run apart from the heat up time. At 80 % its five hours to run and 90mins to heat up. When i am putting 20kw into my BM still i can get 90min heatup times and 3 hour strips. Depending on the abv of the wash so i can strip 1000l in 12 hours if i have to. At half power its two days of work. At full power you should de better depending on the power of your elements.
:)>- In honesty my knowledge of BM operation is zero. I only work with direct heat vessels. But that said, I am not a fan of BM purely because it does not have precise heat control as is the case with direct heating.
Do you have a drawing that illustrates the wall thickness? Is the kettle rated for low pressure steam? How many watts are you able to throw at the kettle? Pressure can range depending on heat input.
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My wall thicknesses are 3mm on both the outer and inner wall of the vapor chamber. Only once have I heard a thumping sound. It might be the inner wall moving a bit. Are you doing your tests with the vapor chamber full. On my big boiler which is 1300l we ran it up to 1.5 bar. the inner wall and outer wall are both 3mm.
As for heat control when I punch it on my bain marie the temperature comes down after about 10-15 seconds. So you can actually control for temperature pretty well. It takes longer to get up to temperature than direct heating, but the flavor profile is better in my opinion.
So I have to disgree with @richard on this but we disagree on almost everything. He is still my mate though.
Do not rely on the PRV working to operate safely.
As @CothermanDistilling notes, every BM using water should have a thermostatic valve installed.