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Do you need the dephlegmator mid run for flavoured product NOT Vodka?

edited January 2014 in General

This is a split-off from the discussion Short Plated Column Reality Check:

@jbierling said: My 4 plate 8" has been averaging around 94% for the fores, dropping to 90-75% or so for the heads and 60-55% for the hearts. My method has usually been to get up to temp, then to reduce power, stabilize, and then turn off the dephlegmator and collect.

I haven't run any spirit runs yet, but I think keeping at full power and partial reflux in the dephlegmator would increase ABV over partial power and no reflux. Agree?

I have been wondering about something for some time - and this is aimed specifically at the use of the plated column for flavoured products and not the use for vodka. Also this relates to some of the double column rigs that only appear to have a dephlegmator in the final column section. (The plates in the 1st column appear to be pre-loaded with water at the start of the run.)

ONCE THE PLATES HAVE LOADED - do you actually need the dephlegmator?

Will the plates self generate enough reflux to keep themselves going over the relatively short duration run. Relatively short in this context is in comparison to the longer duration runs, at higher reflux ratios, that are used for producing vodka. I don't think you could run the column for vodka, without condensing and re-introducing some condensate as reflux.

Many bigger columns don't use dephlegmators (as such) but they do pump in reflux condensate, often pre-heated but that is a bit complex.

There was a discussion in the packed column community some time ago suggesting that packed columns don't actually need a reflux condenser at all, and would self generate reflux through heat loss in the column wall.

What is the view from the plated column operators. Are we wasting energy by putting in more cooled reflux than is actually required? Just how far can you turn down the dephlegmator after you have started producing - balanced off course by a possible reduction in your power input.

Is that the other side of the question - will your product rate be too slow if you reduce the reflux returned to the column. Remember we are not talking about producing vodka, just for the flavoured products.


  • I say think like a pot stiller for flavored spirits.

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  • @Smaug said: I say think like a pot stiller for flavored spirits.

    Explain please. Do you leave the dephlegmator running and producing reflux to cycle the plates during the run. Or do you stack the heads and then switch it off.
    Or do you leave it on a trickle flow just to stop the plates from drying out.
    Or do you use the dephlegmator instead of power control to set your product rate.

    So many options, and more I have not mentioned.

  • edited January 2014

    I found with a 500mm mesh packed copper column above two bubble balls that i didn't need to run a reflux condenser. It ran like a pot still on a spirit run from wash. I find when i run my 5 plate column with proper reflux that it runs more like a packed column on a spirit run.

    I'd say (not being a plate expert) that you need to look at it as two different ways of drawing off two different products.

    No/little reflux gets you a sliding pot still range as @jbierling has outlined. It will have some tails spread through, like a pot run and will be a coarser product. Full reflux gets you the separation and high ABV product that remains at a relatively stable, high ABV all the way till tails come. It will be a stacked product with a different flavour profile.

    The product is not the same, nor is the process.

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  • edited January 2014

    Can apply enough reflux to compress as much low boiling point alcohol as you see fit. Can also use the dephleg to hold your heart section stable so that you don't get that characteristic pot stilldrop in ABV as the run progresses....Or not.

    The long reflux period does not have to be used. 100% reflux period does not have to be used. Remember that by definition a dephlegmator is a partial condenser.

    Run the rig like a pot still with partial (o to 99%) reflux.

    Hope I said that correctly

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  • Even with the dephlem disabled its often hard to get the plate to not bubble, perhaps because of passive reflux? Maybe the dephlem would need to be drained?
    Without active reflux, though, you can't suppress the tails. But for a flavored spirit that might be a good thing, I don't know. Mostly I try to suppress the tails as much as possible but that's just me and my nasty washes.

  • edited January 2014

    Actually @Lloyd you may have just pointed out that the topic title could have been worded better. :))

    I never thought about NOT having the plates active. This is more about energy efficiency. Perhaps that is an option for flavoured products.

    Use the dephlegmator for heads and tails compression and run the hearts on passive reflux.

    This is not anything new, after all a conventional pot still uses power management DURING the run, and takes off heads, hearts, and tails, at different rates.

  • I've done rum washes in TINY - Two 6in plates, run the deflag flat out adjusting LPG to suit, take off heads very slowly for ~30 mins. then shut down deflag and collect product. down to ~60%.

    Turn deflag back on, compress tails, turn off deflag, collect left overs for next run

  • I am do it like you do ohms law, I only have one plate in my 3" and it will dry out during the pot run , normally when the product take off is the fastest. would love to try it in a larger unit. Works well for me for the most part. I pull plenty of flavor through and keep most of the bad stuff out. If I run it too fast it will get contaminated by tail alcohols. I can tell by the presence or absent of the headache after a substantial quality control sampling . I use the temp as a guide to keep me out of tails. Also I kick up the power a bit when I hit hearts to get it outta there.

  • I set up a 4 plate Crystal and I do shut the dephlegmator off mid run.


    600 x 800 - 107K
  • How much power on what charge?

  • edited January 2014

    @captainshooch said: I set up a 4 plate Crystal and I do shut the dephlegmator off mid run.

    So I'm ready to run stripped whisky (grain/sugar wash) for a spirit run, tossing up how many plates to actually use to retain flavor and manage the run correctly. Rough guess tells me 3 or 4 plates and no more should do the job.

    As above with all the advice it seems run with x amount of plates, turn off or down low RC when fores/heads drawn off POT Still method hearts, RC back on when tails arrive OR run less plates, less abv%, and run as "normal".

    Anyone wish to chime in with advice regards to a whisky wash, 50% corn, 50% wheat/barley plus sugar, multi-generations done. Started in August last year. I've got at least 3 or 4 runs to do so I could try each method, but its taken so long to get to this stage I'd hate to strip too much taste/flavor out or leave too much heads/tails and wait 6 mths to taste crap.

    I'm a virgin grain whiskey maker, neutral is easy with a bit of oak, time and essence.


  • I'd go 4 plates and run it hard and fast. About 3.4 to 4 liters per hour all the way, especially if you're going to take the time to age it. A small splash of heads can be a good thing when aging on oak but its really hard for me to tell when to say when with tails so I generally avoid them.
    I hear some tails with a fruit based wash is a good thing but not so much with grain and sugar.

  • Like Lloyd mentioned on another thread, the more the merier when it comes to information. I am lucky to have not only Deph water outflow temp but volume as well. On a normal neutral run I run 0.4 GPM and the temp is usually in the mid to upper 20's C When chasing flavours and using only 4 plates I slow the deph down to 0.1GPM and the temps rise up to mid to hi 40's C like in this pic. I never let it go up to 50C


    Deph data.JPG
    800 x 600 - 36K
  • What's your input temp?

  • So cool @captainshooch. Temp AND water flow monitoring, I'm so jealous.

  • Flow Meter it is! :-bd

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  • @cunnyfunt usally, my reservoir starts in low 20's C. I have a radiator and fan and mister set up to turn on for additional return water cooling at 23C highest I have seen it at the end of a long run is around 28C

  • edited January 2014

    A bit of feedback, just completed a run with the dephlegmator off mid run as discussed above.
    Dash 4" using 3 bubble plates only.
    Start with a keg full of stripped whiskey wash roughly 40% give or take.

    Heat up, run on 2400W-2600W approx, stabilize 30-45 minutes, adjust water to dephlegmator draw off 250mL fores real slow, swap to next jar for heads, still rings got called out for a job, so shut everything down. BUGGER and SHIT I said.

    Return 2 hours later, reheat, stabilize again, adjust water, draw off real slow heads but ABV sitting on 96%, slowly adjust water..

    jar [ 1] 96% 500mL
    jar [ 2] 96% 500mL
    jar [ 3] 95% 500mL I reckon abv too high for what I want
    jar [ 4] 93% 500mL => 2L so far
    jar [ 5] 90% 750mL dephlem water down to nothing, turned off AKA Pot mode
    jar [ 6] 86% 750mL all 3 plates still bubbling away gently
    jar [ 7] 84% 750mL
    jar [ 8] 84% 750mL => 5L so far
    jar [ 9] 84% - 80% => 12L bulk collected (assume must be into hearts)
    jar [10] 79% 750mL
    jar [11] 78% 750mL
    jar [12] 77% 750mL just spot the slightest sign of fog on bottom sight glass
    jar [13] 75% 750mL => 20L so far thinking must be tails as fog is showing?
    jar [14] 75% down to 55% collect 6L full power then shut down

    I did not turn the dephlem back on to compress tails, perhaps I should have?

    I will air it out before committing to keepers, but at this stage I cant tell too much difference between the start and finish. Did a little taste test, first few jars definitely are bit bitey and hot on the tongue, but even the tails @ 55% did not taste too bad but had a slight yeasty smell.

    I did do a video, but my Internet is running like crap, disconnecting etc so I cant upload until its sorted out.

    • How do these temps and quantities compare to similar runs?
    • Out of 45L stripped 40% ABV, what would the average hearts yield be for most?
    • Or put another way, should I collect lower into tails etc?
    • I will save all feints for perhaps a final run? I'm guessing I will have 50L once I do all my runs.
    • Do we try to get more whiskey out of these, or aim for a neutral run?

    Next run I'm planning will be 4 plates

    @Lloyd said: I'd go 4 plates and run it hard and fast. About 3.4 to 4 liters per hour all the way, especially if you're going to take the time to age it. A small splash of heads can be a good thing when aging on oak but its really hard for me to tell when to say when with tails so I generally avoid them.
    I hear some tails with a fruit based wash is a good thing but not so much with grain and sugar.



  • @fadge, fantastic posting! That level of details is exactly what everybody is looking for. Can't wait to see your video. :-bd

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  • @fadge very nice writeup. As a guide (I kinda bend it a little) I use 3% fores 18% heads 57% harts and 22% tails. Personally I think the 18% heads is too large a cut but somewhere in there lies the late heads early harts portion that has enough heads for flavor but not too many as to overpower the spirit. I have made the mistake of tossing that with too large of a fores collection. Your yield seems to be in par with this breakdown. I IMHO feel you can keep jars 3 or 4 through 12 or 13 as a good representative of the hearts. But only your nose and taste can really make that decision. I know it can be a pain but I am learning to make even smaller collections during the heads. If you started with 45L of 40% then -- you should expect to collect 18 L of product so then 57% of that would be 10.2 L of harts. I would not stop collecting at 55% but would start collecting small amounts from there on until I know for a fact that it is tails. Jars 13 and 14 might have some tails that you may not want and I am trying to stick to collecting smaller amounts in this area as well so I can tell when too much of the tails is coming through. As for the faints, I collect all the way down to 20 and save for a faints only run when I have enough and try to clean it as much as possible with generous cuts for a neutral. Looking forward to the video and let us know how it goes with 4 plates. The best judge will be your nose and taste buds but only after it has aired out, which makes it hard to make cuts while distilling and why collecting smaller amounts can help make a better cut a day or two later.

  • @fadge

    I think, and only from the science of it all. If you use your reflux during your tails, you can get a higher ABV output but also run a bit slower. Trade offs and all being what they are. So, depends on what is more important to you...

  • Holy resurrected thread Batman!

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