Element Height - Newbie Question!

Hi guys (and girls),

I'm a newbie to the wonderful world of distilling and enjoying every moment of the steep learning curve. I'm going to have numerous questions for the forumites in the near future - just hoping that I don't make a pest of myself in the process!

My hybrid artisanal set-up is as follows: 200L pot ,gooseneck cap, 6" sus column with 4 copper bubble plates, gin basket, 3" condenser column, parrot spout. I have put in the two elements and connected to the home-made charge controllers. Did my first ever stripping run and it worked perfectly. Phew!

It would appear that the element placement height is very well worked out by the designers. As soon as I smelt that we were hitting the tails I peered into the boiler and saw that the elements were only just covered, so the timing was perfect I guess (or just lucky - I dunno).

The question is this: are the elements placed at this specific height in the boiler for a reason? Why not place the elements (offset too would be better) as low as possible as in a kettle? When I initially switched on the boiler warmed up quite quickly, but the base of the boiler remained stone cold for a long time indicating a thermocline. Eventually it all boiled fine.

If I wanted to do a smaller batch in a 200L boiler it would be problematic because of the placement of the elements.

Can one get step-down elements to lower the element? Would you advise closing the element ports and machining new ones lower down? Or just leave as is? A bit confused...........


  • edited April 2016

    If you did a stripping run of 200 liters and made it to the bottom of the kettle, you did something wrong. What was the percentage on the hydrometer/parrot at that point?

    Or did you strip a volume significantly less than 200 liters? This seems much more likely.

    Traditionally, on a spirit run, if you are concerned about liquid height, fill the kettle with water, until you cover the elements, then add your stripped spirit. You could do this on a lower volume strip as well.

    Is this a Stilldragon kettle? If so, the port position is fine.

  • Thanks for the feedback grim. Correct in your assumption - the volume was significantly less than 200L - roughly 75L if memory serves me correct. It's not a StillDragon unfortunately. I only heard about SD this past weekend when I was on a distilling course and it came up in conversation. Wish I'd found out about SD from the start. I appreciate the advice.

  • edited April 2016

    Yeah, unfortunately the easiest way is to fill the kettle with enough water to cover the elements, then add your strip/spirit on top of that. This way, you can be sure you won't run to the point at which you risk burning them out.

    The thermocline is not an issue once you get to a strong rolling boil. Moving the elements won't really increase the heating speed any. However, an agitator would, but probably not an option if your kettle is already built. You could potentially, use a pump to keep the liquid moving during startup, but this may be a bit messy, and you wouldn't want to do it on a spirit run as it's somewhat dangerous.

    You are paying a penalty in output proof by doing this, as you are further diluting the still charge.

    You might find that if you aren't hitting your expected target proofs because of the additional dilution, you will need to ferment a larger still charge.

    Big stills mean that trial/test recipes are going to get pretty expensive.

  • It takes 70l to cover the elements on an SD 200l kettle and the ports are as low on the radius as they can be. If you need to do small charges you need a smaller kettle. Maybe a milk can?

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

  • Yep, I hear you both. Test runs will and are getting expensive. One solution would be to get a smaller kettle as you suggest @punkin.

    If you take a look at the pic of my kettle then you'll see that surely I can modify it and place the ports lower down. Or is there a reason that the elements are not placed as low down as possible?


    800 x 600 - 58K
  • Just poor design by the looks of it.

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

  • edited April 2016


    600 x 800 - 63K
  • Displacement? Throw in a sack full of stainless ball bearings, stones, marbles?

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