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Sizing a Coolant Reservoir

All the discussion on deflegm cooling automation and pumps has got me wanting to switch over to using a reservoir instead of pulling from the mains. I am running a 15.5 gal 4" rig with up to 4 plates and a 36" x 4" packed column for the occasional neutrals run, and was thinking about daisy chaining two 55 rain drums together with a sump pump in the first and hot water return to the second to provide a bit of a thermal break. What are folks' experience with reservoir size to still size, and does 100 gal sound like enough for me?

I have seen examples of people using columns packed with bio balls, radiators etc. to cool the hot water before it goes back to the system, so I may do something like that to stretch the capacity if needed. Thanks in advance



  • 100 gal of water is a grate start. If I was you I would start off with the 100 gal and a sump pump and just do a run see what happens. Keep an eye on your water temps in the drums for me thats as simple as a quick hand dip.
    If you want you could pick up a old car raidator and set up a cooling fan on it and run your return out it.
    I can run a 1000lt cube for about 6 hours be for the water starts to get to warm for my liking.

  • I have about 600 litres (157 US gallons) and i wish i had double that. Used to be just fine for long runs in my potstill and was a little inadequate for long VM runs.

    It's only when you start using two condensors that you run into trouble. There's some good radiator builds around that people are using small tanks indefinitely and maintaining a good reservoir temperature. That is in my future i think.

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

  • edited August 2014

    I have the same setup, 4" up to 5 plates + packed section, 50 lt keg boiler, 2 x 3600w elements I have 1000lt or 260 gallons, no radiator etc, submersible pump.

    It is good for at least 2 or 3 fast strips, 2 hrs each

    Can do at least 2 short spirit runs, 3 hrs each

    Can do 1 long spirit run, 5 hrs

    Can do 1 strip plus 1 spirit.

    Reckon up to 6 hours is ok, 8 perhaps, only have issues when our summer temps get above 40c or 100+F, then I need to divert hot water and replenish some colder water from the mains into the tank.

    see here


  • I had a similar 4" setup with a 55 gallon drum for the condenser water. I quickly abandoned using it for the dephleg though because I'd have to constantly be messing with the dephleg flow to account for the rising temp of the water in the drum. As for the 55 gallon drum just for the condenser, I think it got too hot half to 2/3 of the way through the run and I had to run fresh water into it. Two drums might do it, depending how you run your still, but it will be close. Worse case, you run new water when it gets too hot and add a barrel for next time.

  • There are some nice cooling tower builds about also, as an alternative way to cool the resevoir. A big water supply is nice, but not always convenient.

  • Yea, I have seen some of those @Myles, using the bio balls or some other packing medium. I may try to go this route, as the reservoirs will be in my backyard, and I would like a design that's effective and not overly bulky/ugly.

  • Hey @brewsmith if ya have kids tell them daddy is buying a swimming pool :D cooling prob solved

  • edited June 2017


    I am wanting to set up a closed loop recirculation cooling system for a Baby Dragon attached to a 50 Liter (13 Gallon) milk can with one 5500W element that will be hooked up to a controller box.

    I am thinking of using some kind of inline radiator and fan set up that I have been reading about here to help cool but wondering on what size of cooling water tank I will need.

    I plan on taking suction from the bottom of the tank where it is cool and returning the warm discharge into the top of the tank.

    Think a 55 or 100 gallon plastic tank will work for this application?

    I could also fit a 135 or 160 gallon tank in the doorway if needed.

    I just want to make sure to have plenty of cooling without having to get much larger tank than needed.


    400 x 400 - 14K
  • 55 will let you do a lot with a Baby Dragon, add that fan-radiator and you might be able to get away with a 5 gallon bucket... I use a 270 gal tote for an 8" and let it cool ambiently over a few days (I have 3)

  • We use a radiator/fan setup with a 15-gallon/57l reservoir, and it handles both condensers on a reflux still (5500W max) and a pot/stripping still condenser over a pretty strong (Cajun Classic) burner, and in most seasons in our mild climate, the reservoir water stays below 70F/21C. Trying to drive the wort chiller is iffy at best, and of course we could never get the cooling water below ambient temps.

    Although it was in the original plan, we originally ran with no mister between fan and radiator, but with the onset of warm weather I installed the one I'd built earlier. With the mister putting out way less than a liter/hour, our temperatures are much lower, looking like 8-11 degrees (F) lower in a given situation.

    That phase-change energy is almost free.

    Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller

    my book, Making Fine Spirits

  • yes, if in a dry climate, a swamp cooler works great... in a swamp, though... lets just say that around here that the added humidity might start a rainstorm....

  • Used to use misters on the intercooler of my turbocharged car. Works great at 100, err, I mean, 55.

  • edited June 2017

    I am thinking about going with at 55 Gallon tank as I can get that in my basement pretty easy and then hooking up something like this to help in the cooling.

    I do plan on running a recirculation bypass line also,  as to not dead head the pump.

    All ideas are welcome.



    612 x 800 - 88K
  • I don't have enough experience yet, but I was thinking if I run into issues I might try sticking the car rad into my beer fridge (think Kegerator).

  • from my ballpark figures of needing10-20 btu per watt of still power, that would only cool 200W of still power... so to run 2000w, you would need to run it 10x your still run time to pre-cool a suitable tank...

    since distillers rarely need to cool below ambient, a simple radiator and fan can do 90-100% of the work...

  • Thanks Mike! Sounds like I wont have any problems. My other alternative was to do all my distilling in the winter and then run a loop out in the snow! LOL

  • To pre cool your water it will be ok but to use once your water has heated up you may be severely taxing that unit. Make sure you find out the max water inlet temp it can handle. I think that cooler is more a toy and a fan and radiator will do much more as ClothermanDistilling

  • I have got a lot to learn.

    Back to the radiator & fan combo.

    Thanks for everyone's help & comments.

    Greatly appreciated!


  • Try freezing tap water in used water bottles. Drop in cooling tank for quick cool down. When they melt pop in freezer and reuse again. Keep a bunch on hand, works great.

  • I have 5m3 to cool a 200l boiler running 2×5kw elements. Which is overkill really. But the 2 x 2.5m3 water tanks for the garden system were there long before i decided i had to do my distilling at home. The pool that is going in is about 10m from garage where i am distilling. The issue i will have is the dog or the kids screwing with a heat exchanger coil in the pool. No more cooling problems though. My mate who is setting up a distillery in the south of chile has a 300m3 pool. No cooling issues for him.

  • for years we used to draw from our water system and returned back to the well , was a deep big bore well never had a problem keeping up , and it airiated the well water so win win . may be a nice fountain in your back yard using same principles as a industrial cooling tower would work . long as it didnt get to hot , people may wonder why your fountain is steaming lol .


  • The magic rule of thumb I have heard of is 5 x the reservoir volume but I would be tempted to go for double that, in the case of passive cooling. For active cool there are lots of cool inventions on other threads.

  • edited December 2017

    @hudsonbaydistiller said: for years we used to draw from our water system and returned back to the well , was a deep big bore well never had a problem keeping up , and it airiated the well water so win win ...

    If you are commercial and in the US you will want to be careful about returning water into the ground. The Feds have pretty strict regulations concerning underground injection control (UIC). A whole nother bag of compliance shit you don't want to open if you don't have to.

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

  • thats a good point @Kapea its not illegal here mainly because its the same water returning to the same spot it came from ,alot of people recirculate well water in there hydronic system as a cheep form of air conditioning . but for sure look into it before you do it to make sure its a viable process .


  • edited November 2022

    Hello everyone

    Newbie to the site but a long time stalker
    Located in Townsville QLD. (ITS HOT)

    I have a question about coolant tank sizes
    I have a still dragon stand alone 380L 8 inch 8 plate column with a gin basket and 6 x 4800w elements.

    I saw @DonMateo 's comment about 5x resoviour and @SittingDuck post about the fish tank chiller

    I have one of those chillers and it can only just manage to hold temperature on one element for the couple of minutes I ran it on a water charge in the boiler.

    Currently the fish tank chiller is cooling down 1200L of water in a 1500L vat to as cold as it can get it
    Tomorrow I'm going to try another water run with all 6 elements blasting to simulate an all out stripping run with this chiller in line on the got return to the tank to at least vebt some heat since I already have the thing.

    At this time of year Ambient temperatures are anywhere from 27 degrees Celsius (80 degrees in freedom units) to 38 degrees or more (100 freedoms).

    I have 3 other 1500L (when filled to the brim) vats I can use
    What would be recommended?

    Just go for a 2 x 1500L vat that has 2 Y pipes for inlet and outlet and ditch the chiller to save some power costs and have it all passive?

    I also have another question about the metal tabs included for the still.

    I've seen them attached to the bottom of the plates in still dragon YouTube vids
    How much more do these increase efficiency
    Am I missing out not having them on the plates?

    Haven't done any proper runs yet, just water runs....

    What sort of water flow rate would be optimal for the reflux condenser in a typical gin run/ vodka run and Brown spirit runs respectively?

    Thankyou for your time


    800 x 373 - 73K
  • edited November 2022

    Well mate. I am sitting in front of my still doing a spirit run with 13kw going into 2 x 3" 45cm long condensors. The cooling water flow is being pushed by a booster pump that is pushing 3000l per hour and its just keeping up. I think the flow rate is OK but the hoses i am using are not high temp so they are kinked and the overall cross section is not great. So i am going to have to get high temp hose. As for the water reservoir i put in 11000l and its working pretty well. Water temp will start at about 20deg c and after a 300l stripping run it will be up a couple of degrees.

    I think after duking it out with these issues the key is flow rate, reservoir size and high temp hoses at least on the return lines. My stripping still will have 6 x 9w elements and its condensor will be 8" x 1.5m high. I am going to out in 10000 l just for that one with a 4000 l per hour pump.

    BTW I am an Aussie living in Argentina. Right now its 38 C outside my distillery shed and 27 C inside. One more thing i learned is that its not a bad idea to have a separate cooling system for your fermenters and your stills. One day i tried to cool down a 800l ferment and at the same time do a 300l stripping run the cooling pump i had at the time, only half 200l/hr capacity couldn't keep up. So i had to stop the distilling. Cool the wash, then do the strip, it was a very long day. If your up north your going to have to cool your ferments all the time as i do here. Or at least for the first 24 hours.

  • I assume the 5x is a cooling reservoir 5 times the size of the still. I'd recommend 10x, more if you're running more than a couple times per week. It really comes down to your distillation frequency, ambient temp, and how fast your coolant is running.

  • @jberling I agree. 10 times for passive cooling my big still will be 1000l if i ever get it delivered.

  • @DonMateo

    The pump I have is 8000L an hour rated so I shouldn't have any problems with flow rate

    Thanks for the tip on cooling ferments and not running the still at the same time

    Running bought in neutral for vodka and gin to start with then rum and whisky later on down the line

    About to throw the switch on All 6 elements I'll let you know how it goes Thanks again mate

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