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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.