Brewzilla as a still

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JoeJoe_13

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Hi All looking for some help here
I currently brew beer but want to start into distilling spirits I currently do 5 gallon batches but I’ve looked into scaling up to 10 gallon. I came across the brewzilla 65 L and thought it would answer both of my needs. Has anyone used this to distill? I have 220 V in my garage so I would be going with that model. I know the heads for them are pretty limited so I was going to just buy a lid and then build my own column to thumper to warm set up. Any first-hand knowledge or information would be greatly appreciated. Thank you folks
 

doug293cz

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If the Still Spirits hardware fits, this gives you the basics. They have a copper alembic dome & condenser, as well as a packed column. With just these two, you can make whiskey, rum, brandy, vodka, gin, etc.

Brew on :mug:
 

Vopiscus

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I've played around with the kegland pot still with the copper alembic dome and it yielded some tasty results. The only issue I had was that it's impossible to keep consistent temps and it requires you constantly playing with the temp on the brewzilla. If you do go that route I'd recommend getting a thermometer with a long thermocouple probe sensor instead of the meat thermometer they package with it and setting up a chiller in an icebucket that connects to the cooling quick disconnects.
 

doug293cz

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I've played around with the kegland pot still with the copper alembic dome and it yielded some tasty results. The only issue I had was that it's impossible to keep consistent temps and it requires you constantly playing with the temp on the brewzilla. If you do go that route I'd recommend getting a thermometer with a long thermocouple probe sensor instead of the meat thermometer they package with it and setting up a chiller in an icebucket that connects to the cooling quick disconnects.
Why are you trying to control the temp of a pot still? The only thing you can actually control is the boil vigor and output rate of the still, by adjusting the input power. The temp will be fixed by the composition of the wash in the boiler, and there is nothing you can do to change that (except reduce power below that required for a boil, and cut the still output to essentially zero.)

With a column still you can adjust the temp at specific heights in the column by adjusting power input and/or cooling water flow.

Brew on :mug:
 

Vopiscus

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Why are you trying to control the temp of a pot still?
I prefer doing single distillations for maximum flavor and am pretty particular about the cuts. I probably didn't word it properly, but I meant it's difficult to keep the still consistently at 91C without it ramping up to 96C in less than a minute. Then when the heating element cuts out it having it quickly plummet below 80C, taking a few more minutes for it to ramp up again. Certainly requires some jockeying with the robobrew and cooling water flow. I have a 400L boiler that's more precise just by the larger volume, but it's pretty convenient doing smaller experimental washes.

Still cutting my teeth with distilling, but column stills and all the different configurations possible sure look like some good fun.
 

doug293cz

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I prefer doing single distillations for maximum flavor and am pretty particular about the cuts. I probably didn't word it properly, but I meant it's difficult to keep the still consistently at 91C without it ramping up to 96C in less than a minute. Then when the heating element cuts out it having it quickly plummet below 80C, taking a few more minutes for it to ramp up again. Certainly requires some jockeying with the robobrew and cooling water flow. I have a 400L boiler that's more precise just by the larger volume, but it's pretty convenient doing smaller experimental washes.

Still cutting my teeth with distilling, but column stills and all the different configurations possible sure look like some good fun.
Are you familiar with phase diagrams? Below is the liquid-vapor phase diagram for water and ethanol. The only way to have the wash boil at 91°C is for it to be ~14%ABV, and at that temperature the vapor will have a composition of about 61% ethanol. If the boiler temp goes up to 96°C, it's because the wash composition is only 5%ABV, and the vapor composition will be about 37% ethanol. If you try and reduce the temp to 91°C, the wash will stop boiling, and vaporization will almost completely stop, cutting off still output.

If you want to control the temp at the still head, you need a column in order to maintain a temp gradient, and have some reflux in the column. You can't heat the boiler above boiling temp, and if you try to maintain it below boiling temp, it will not boil and vaporization will be almost non-existent.

Water Ethanol phase diagram.jpg


Brew on :mug:
 

Vopiscus

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If you want to control the temp at the still head, you need a column in order to maintain a temp gradient, and have some reflux in the column. You can't heat the boiler above boiling temp, and if you try to maintain it below boiling temp, it will not boil and vaporization will be almost non-existent.

View attachment 777404
Ah, that makes sense. Thanks for the graph. Still new and haven't been able to find detailed distilling books as easily as the ones on brewing science. Which column design would you say allows you to preserve more of the wash's flavor?
 
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doug293cz

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Ah, that makes sense. Thanks for the graph. Still new and haven't been able to find detailed distilling books as easily as the ones on brewing science. Which column design would you say allows you to preserve more of the wash's flavor?
Normally, if you want to preserve flavors from the wash, you would use a pot still. A column strips out most of the non-ethanol components of the wash. I'm not enough of an expert on still types to know if there is some kind of a cross between a pot and a column that would maintain flavors from the wash.

When using a pot still it is common to do stripping runs of the wash first to concentrate the ethanol, and leave most of the water and "junk" behind. Stripping runs would be continued up to condenser input temps of 98° - 99°C. You keep everything except a couple ounces of "foreshots" (which will contain any methanol from the wash.) You then combine the output of all of the stripping runs into a spirit run where you collect a sequence of small volume "cuts". You then taste the cuts to determine what are the "heads", "hearts" and "tails." It's a good idea to dilute the taste samples to about 80 proof for tasting. The hearts are the good stuff, and the heads and tails contain the off flavor components. It's a matter of taste and experience to determine what to save as hearts, and how much if any of the heads and tails cuts to blend in with the hearts. Heads and tails can be saved and included in future stripping runs, or run thru a column distillation.

Brew on :mug:
 
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