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How many Plates for Vodka?



  • edited January 2015

    I'm also wondering what the best approach is to prolong crystal dragon gasket life - maybe just a hot water rinse and do a citric once a week or as needed between product types.

  • don't use it with wash, only use it with low wines, LOL...

  • This might be a bit extreme but Chase Distillery in the UK ferment potatoes. These go through a pot still first and then through a 42 plate bubble cap column.

    How many do you actually need? I suppose it depends on your product.

    Now if you had for example 20 plates available I can see why you might wish to run with less (perhaps 3 to 6) for some flavoured product.

    However, would you ever go mid way? I just can't see why you would run 12 if you had 20 available. If you were going for vodka wouldn't you just use everything you had available?

    Am I missing something or is there a justifiable reason for not using all your available plates?

  • @Myles said: I just can't see why you would run 12 if you had 20 available


  • I did a little vodka run yesterday with my packed Baby Dragon and pulled 94+ to 95+% through the run. Low wines was cheap sorghum booze available locally for cheap.
    None of the product collected tasted great, or I should say "clean"?
    So this morning I went to clean out the little boiler and it stank, really stank. The alco measured zero but I didn't get a temp and it was quite cold, so probably a percent or two.
    Cleaned out the little boiler and added all the fores, heads, hearts, everything that was collected yesterday and diluted it down to about 35% and ran it again.
    HUGE improvement. Sweet, clean booze.
    I returned almost every bit of alcohol to the boiler and it seems the stank was in the water of the first run and somehow carried over to the first run.

    I'm reminded now of what the Great Minime said about a strip and then at least twice through a packed column to get truly soft neutral hearts.

  • Basically what I do as well Lloyd. Strip and 2 x spirit runs collecting the hearts of the first spirit run and rerunning and again collecting just the hearts.

    I find I can still rectify the the remaining feints with a feints only run.

  • But that's the thing, I didn't rerun just the hearts, I reran All of the collected distillate. I just 'got away' from the "water" of the first spirit run and reran the Total distillate with fresh water to great success.

    I'm starting to think that two strips on the same wash and then a spirit run is optimal to get away from the wash water (for lack of a better term) vs a strip and two spirit runs on the same wash.

    Two broad strokes and one final stroke vs one broad stroke and one or two final strokes?

    For those just tuning in, this ain't for full bodied flavored spirits, its for clean and very soft neutral.
    Minime said that the number of actual distillations that separated the final product from the yeast the better. I mistook his meaning to rerun only the hearts but I see now that was wrong.
    The better, more productive, method it seems is to move the alcohols (all of them) away from the yeast and the wash water more than once before final rectification.

    Sage words from a distilling legend that is only now starting to sink into my little brain.

  • I remember reading those words from Minime about doing a "double distillation". At the time I wondered how practical that could be; (given my situation of using a 3" VM).

    But now, with the collection speed of Ace Of Hearts and other SD tools, it seems like it can be practical after all.

    Sage words indeed from a distilling legend.

    Two broad strokes and one final stroke = The recalled wisdom of another.

    (sorry if that sounds too sycophantic ~ but good advise ought to have attention brought to it)

  • It does make sense because a lot of the flavoured components that you wish to get rid of are soluble in water. By diluting and re-running you wash these out of the spirit.

    At the moment I make my vodka on the pot still by diluting and re-running. I like to leave a bit of flavour in so don't make cuts on my first 2 runs either. I just wash the volatiles with fresh water and start making cuts on the 3rd time through the pot. A 4th run with diluted hearts only normally gets me close to where I want. Depends on the fermentation.

    Chase aren't too specific but they do mention in one of their reports distilling 4 times in the pot still and twice in the column. What they don't say though is how many runs they do, so this could be a play on words.

  • Add some bicarb into the wash prior to the last distillation to absorb other smells and misc crap from the wash...

    I guess you could add coarse carbon to the strip and then rack or drain it off the carbon and run it in a couple days to a week... would have to remove some of the other crap prior to final distillation..

    Is an idea anyways...

  • It does make sense, particularly when an all feints run yields a great neutral as well. To someone smarter than I I'm sure they would have said why do the cuts? I'll try this on my next run.

  • @Lloyd said: I did a little vodka run yesterday with my packed Baby Dragon and pulled 94+ to 95+% through the run. Low wines was cheap sorghum booze available locally for cheap.

    How many plates Lloyd?

  • edited October 2015

    He doesnt post here anymore mate. There are other users here that may answer your question though.

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

  • The number of plates required is subjective @bodhammer; it all comes down to how much reflux you are prepared to run in order to get the neutral at ~95+% ABV output.

    The more HETP or physical plates you actually have the less reflux you need to run.

    A better question to ask is what output rate of 95%+ ABV do you want/need? From there you can design the still, taking into consideration limiting factors such as height, power, versatility and budget.

    Here's a very rough guide I threw together a while back:
    (The table is a mock-up for a generic packed column neutral rig.)


    As as a very rough guide, just look at the kW and that is the same in L/h output you may see, again as a very rough guide.
    Basically you power determines your rate and your total height determines purity however they are interdependent.

    General rules for neutral:
    Packed column height should be 20-30 column diameters (for me it should be 3m to 4.5m, I only have 0.5m of packing plus 5 plates)
    Vapour speed should be 12-18 inches per second.

    Most people lack the height to be able to build these as a single column and often lack the skill to build them as multiple column so the compromise is to reduce the throughput rate by a combination of reducing power and or increasing the reflux ratio using a condenser.

    Now, since like most I lack the available height to run my 6" VM at those output speeds I'm forced to run at reduced power/additional reflux to achieve the 95%+ output. The result is I only achieve about half the suggested throughput rate (4-6L/h). Which I suggest would be the case for most if not all of you as well.



    347 x 265 - 6K
  • @bodhammer I belive hebwas using 4 plates and a packed section above.

    For vodka, that question has been discussed on this thread. Read from the beggining.

    I have read somewhere that it takes something like 32 plates, but many have shown that it can be done with a lot less, 16 seems to be a sweet number and it is what I use, but it also depends on your wash.

    I hve had great results with 2 passes on 10 plates, but prefer single pass with 16.

    More than one way to skin thatvcat, just have to see what works best for you.

  • Interesting timing... fired up the 8" 24-plate CD Monday, I could have the parrot reading a bit above azeo (PC water and product) at 74 degrees from 0-20l/min+. Again, I could not get the parrot to drop lower than this specific point anywhere in the range... all plates active and 99% of the flow re directors directed properly. When I broke out the high dollar 1/10th degree thermometer, the high dollar 189-200 proof hydrometer, and the temperature correction tables, true proof was 189.5@60F... scratching my head as to how to get higher... somehow water is coming up or azeo is getting drained too fast through the column... maybe downcomer extensions to reduce smearing in the column?

    could it draw moisture out of the air that quick?

    details - 380L, filled with 30% low wines, heated with 27.5kw, 16.5kw to load plates, tried running at both 16.5 and 11kw (5500w would not load all plates properly)

  • Thanks for the responses. I'm getting a 4 plate baby dragon section for my equipment so this will be my first foray into plates. My question was on what to expect? I'm working from a keg with 3" column and delph and 2" shotgun (see the show us your dragon thread). I'm just trying to get calibrated on expectations. I also did see Lloyd's video.

  • @bodhammer said: How many plates Lloyd?


  • If anyone else has the good thermometers and hydrometers, show us a pic of your product... here is 24 plates making 190.5 uncorrected, 189.5 corrected


  • edited October 2015

    @CothermanDistilling - Guessing you covered your bases with regards to lab technique here.

    Rinsed cylinder with spirit, rinsed hydrometer with spirit, no rogue water droplets, no bubbles stuck to the hydro, given a minute for temps to stabilize, taking the reading and temp reading at the same exact time, etc etc. You have calibrations on your thermo? What about calibrations on the hydro? Just shy of a 193 on the big hydro (I don't have your corrections to work backwards)?

    Granted, given your tools, that doesn't look to be inside the realm of error though. Your talking temps off by a couple degrees, hydro off by a couple of proof.

    I realize this is probably not helpful.

  • I will put a paper clip on top of they hydro for you so i can get to 193 @grim ;-)

    Seriously, the cylinder was used 4-5 times in a row off the parrot when raising RC temps a few degrees and increasing flow rate of product, no air bubbles or drops on the hydro, the cal sheet is damn near zero at 190 for that hydro(less than one tenth if I remember right) and the thermometer is maybe 2/10ths off (not a big enough deal).

    I think the aeration during filling the cylinder from the parrot may have helped it absorb moisture from the air, it would not take much, we are in sticky FL..

  • edited October 2015

    Wouldn't suprise me. Dustin experienced differences in the same batch from one day to the next.

    Still so humid down here.

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • No paper clips, they'll cost you more tax dollars.

  • @Smaug said: Wouldn't suprise me. Dustin experienced differences in the same batch from one day to the next.

    Still so humid down here.

    thanks so much, was questioning my sanity

  • Try the same experiment the next day and see if you can get that .5% after it has settled i think.

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

  • What do you guys call az?
    My tables have it at over 97 ABV
    In my testing with the eparrot I was only getting to 96 when running +95% RR on a 2 m packed column.

  • Maybe run your condensers overnight with the still drained and empty. Check for puddles in the morning? I could imagine a tiny pinhole leak causing a headache...

  • @CothermanDistilling said: 190.5 uncorrected, 189.5 corrected

    74F? Isn't that 187.1 ish?

  • @jbierling said: 74F? Isn't that 187.1 ish?

    I think I put up the wrong picture and annotated it, you are correct...

    I think it was 192.5 on the one I should have posted the pic of, I did so many samples, and did not follow my own advice of taking good notes...

  • @FloridaCracker said: :))

    Sorry, I had been away for a while and missed the drama.

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