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OK folks, there is a lot of "facts" circulating in various forums regarding the appropriate use of plated columns, so I am hoping that there is enough experience here with real life use to set some practical expectations.
1 to 4 plates. I have always held the belief that this set up is ideal for flavoured products. Grappa, Rum, etc. in fact I have one in the workshop partly built just for this purpose.
Now some folks even say that less than 6 plates is a waste of time. That is not my opinion.
5 plates and more. This is Vodka / Neutral territory.
But and it is a big BUT, this does not really factor in boiler charges or vapour speeds. It assumes that you are going for a fast production rate from fermented wash.
So for the folks that have tried the 2,3,4 & 5 plated options - what does real life say. Can you get close to neutral at low speed with 4 plates? Can you push out keg strength rum at a decent speed with 2 or 3 plates?
For me the 4 plate or less is a fancy pot still, but that is because I would use it as if it were a pot still. Other folks might use it in the same way as they would use a bigger plated column, for a neutral product.
So where do the boundaries lie? Are there any boundaries at all or can you produce azeotrope slowly on a short column if you really wanted to. Not sure WHY you would want to, but if you didn't have another option I suppose you might. I have tried the SPP filed column, and for me it does 1 job and 1 job only. I am expecting the short plated column to be far more versatile.
Have you tried to see what you can and can't do with the short column? Let us know.