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BUILDING A HOME DISTILATION APPARATUS

Note, you may be looking for a .pdf file, which claims to have design plans for some world class still. Well, this still is ANYTHING other than world class. It is old, and a poor design. Please look to other places for PROPER running stills. Here are some places to look: http://www.homedistiller.org/forum/viewforum.php?f=16 (pot still design forum) http://www.homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=19711 (designs thread) http://www.homedistiller.org/equip/designs (Still designs, many of them). http://wiki.homedistiller.org/Boka_Reflux_Still_-_How_To_Build and the discussion thread: http://www.homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=20250 NOTE, all information on www.homedistiller.org or the www.homedistiller.org/forum forums is free, and there are wonderful still plans there. They are MUCH better than the plans in this highly outdated document you were looking for.
BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S A Step by Step Gui de Building a Hom e Distillation App ar atus BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 1 Foreword The pages that follow contain a step by step gui de to buil ding a rel ati vel y sophistic ated still. It is directed at anyone who may want to know more about the subj ect, for hobbyists , ti nkers, pur e water enthusias ts, sur vi vors, and perhaps amateur wine and beer makers. The still i nvol ved in the chapters that follow is a unique distill ation apparatus . At the ti me of this writing, there is onl y one li ke it. D esigni ng and buil ding this apparatus is the onl y s ubjec t of this manual and you will fi nd that it confi nes its elf to thos e areas. It does not enter into the domai ns of fermentation, reci pes for making mas h, beer, wine or any other s pirits. T hese ar eas ar e c overed i n detail i n other r eadil y available books and numerous web sites . My i ntent is to rel eas e this doc ument into the public domai n in s uch a manner that anyone may freel y copy, modify, or dis tribute its c ontents. Experi ence has s hown that i deas exc hang ed in this way c an be r efined into muc h better produc ts when any number of authors get invol ved and make their own contri butions. However, the l egal s ystem bei ng what it is, s ever al iss ues c an turn up in doing this: 1. Any fr ee doc ument containi ng patentabl e i nformati on such as this is threatened c onstantl y by s ec ond party patents . I want to avoi d the danger that r e-dis tributors of this free doc ument will indi viduall y obtai n patent licenses, i n effect maki ng the doc ument and its contents proprietar y. To pr event this, I ve tried to make it clear that any patent arising fr om this document must be lic ens ed for ever yone's free use or not licens ed at all. 2. Also, for each contri buting author's pr otecti on and mine, I want to make cer tai n that ever yone unders tands that there is no warranty for the c ontents of this document. If the document is modified by someone else and pass ed on, its reci pients mus t know that what they have is not the original, so that any pr obl ems i ntroduced by others will not refl ect on the original authors' reputati on. BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 2 To avoi d thes e problems I ve c opyrighted the document but basic all y gi ven anyone that wants to us e, modify, or further dis tribute it, with or wi thout fee, a licens e to do that. The lic ense is in Appendi x A, and must be i ncluded, without change, in any copies, modi fications or distributi ons . You are not r equired to ac cept this Lic ense, si nc e you have not signed it. However, nothing else grants you per missi on to modify or distri bute the doc ument or its derivati ve wor ks. Law prohibi ts these actions if you do not acc ept this Lic ens e. Therefor e, by modifyi ng or distributi ng the Document (or any wor k bas ed on the Doc ument) , you indicate your acc eptanc e of this Lic ense to do so, and all its ter ms and c onditi ons for c opyi ng, distributi ng or modifyi ng the Document or wor ks based on it. So to put all thes e l egal iss ues into pr actic e, as you s houl d do if you distribute it, her e are the discl aimers: Buil ding a H ome Di stillati on Appar atus. Copyright (C) J anuar y, 1999 Small Still Engineeri ng, LLC This doc ument is free; you c an redistribute i t and/or modify it under the ter ms of the Lic ens e Agreement contained in Appendi x 1. This doc ument is distri buted i n the hope that it will be useful, but WITH OUT ANY WARR ANTY; without even the i mpli ed warr anty of MERCHANT ABILITY or F ITNESS FOR A PARTICU LAR PUR POSE. BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 3 Tabl e of C ontents FOREW ORD .................................................................................................................... ........ 1 INTRODUCTION.................... ................................................................................................ 1 W HERE TO ST ART?............................................................................................................... 3 W HAT KIND OF STILL?........................................................................................................ 5 CONSTRUCT ION.................................................................................................................. 10 BUILDING THE COND ENSER ............................................................................................ 13 BUILDING THE REFLU X C OLUMN .................................................................................. 19 HEATIN G CON SID ER ATIONS............................................................................................ 25 PUTTIN G IT ALL T OGETHER ............................................................................................ 27 APPENDIC ES............................................................. ............................................................. 2 LICEN SE AGR EEM ENT......................................................................................................... 3 HOW TO APPLY THE LIC ENSE AGREEMENT ................................................................. 8 MAT ERIAL L IST ..................................................................................................................... 9 TOOL S................................................................................................................................... 10 INDEX........................................................................................................................ ............ 11 BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 1 Intr oducti on o your e inter ested in buildi ng a still. In the US ( and many other countri es) I guess you know that doi ng that is j ust not the politic all y correct thing to do. Even if you ar e just a c urious person and simpl y want to know whats invol ved, you probabl y feel s ome rel uctance about disc ussi ng the s ubj ect outside of your own trus ted circles. The reas on you feel this way, mos t li kel y, is bec aus e a l ot of laws have been pas sed over ti me that s everel y r estrict the ways that you may refine products contai ning ethyl alc ohol. Most U S r esidents are als o q uite familiar with the moons hine fol kl ore, highpower ed cars running s hine over mountain bac k r oads , and dodging the feder al revenue agents . So muc h s o that many may feel that they are doi ng so mething impr oper, or maybe even cri minal by r eading this . Ever yone should foll ow his or her own consci ence in thes e matters. Personall y, I believe that some of thes e l aws are so poorly thought out and i mpl emented that they border on being ridic ulous . A c ase in point. In the U S, the government allows an indi vi dual to produce wi ne or beer for pers onal cons umption by using a fer mentation proc ess to produc e an alcoholic beverag e. The fermentation process however, produc es a wi ne or beer contai ning chemic als that ar e actuall y poisonous for human cons umption. Neverthel ess , the government s eems to thi nk it is perfec tl y OK for an indi vi dual to fer ment and drink the stuff, reg ardless of the i mpuriti es it may c ontai n. Chapter 1 About Attitudes and R egulation S BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 2 Unbelievabl y, the U S gover nment als o makes it ill egal for an indi vidual to remove the pois ons fr om the alcohol in the wi ne or beer by dis tillati on. In other words, it is illegal for an i ndi vi dual to refi ne a legal beverage in their own home and, i n the proc ess , pr oduc e another perfectl y legal beverage for their own c onsumpti on! Figur e that one out. Without muc h r eflection, it is eas y to s ee that such laws ar e fl awed and without foundation in logic, jus tice, or the common good. Fortunatel y, it is not illegal to expr ess thes e opi nions. T hat fr eedom als o extends to writing about suc h thi ngs as alcohol dis tillati on (legal or not), and the use and manufacture of eq uipment to effec t this proc ess in the home. So, as long as your consci ence all ows, at least in the U S, you are not doing anythi ng wrong by reading this i nfor mati on. T here is als o nothi ng illegal about buil ding a s till. Having s ai d that, r ec ogniz e that the onl y purpos e of this doc ument is to educ ate and i nform thos e of you who are i nteres ted i n this subjec t. It is not to be cons trued in any fas hion as an enc ouragement to break the law. If you beli eve the law is inc orrec t, pleas e take the time to contact your representati ves i n gover nment, c ast your vote at the polls , write newsl etters to the medi a, and i n g eneral, tr y to make the c hanges in a legal and democratic manner . And while i t is hoped that the still will al ways be us ed for legiti mate pur pos es , if you deci de to distill ethyl alc ohol then never forget that you ar e dealing with the law, and to twist an old barb: If you cant pay th e bill th en don t u se the still Enoug h s aid. Its ti me to g et on with mor e prac tical thi ngs. BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 3 Wher e T o Star t? t doesn t take long after making the decisi on to buil d a s till to rec ogniz e that there ar e a lot of thi ngs to be consi der ed. A visit to the librar y, and some readi ng about the distillati on pr oc ess is a good pl ace to start. However li vi ng in a s mall rur al town without a signific ant libr ar y c an make things mor e di ffic ult. Its even wors e if the neares t big uni versity is about 100 miles away. If you fi nd yoursel f in a si milar c onditi on you should consider s tarti ng with the Internet. Initial searc hes will turn up thous ands of hits on the s ubj ects of moons hini ng, distillati on, s tills, s pirits, whis key, refl ux r ati o, uni t operations etc.. Unfortunatel y, there isnt a whole lot of reall y g ood i nformati on about buildi ng a first class pers onal s till out ther e. Sur e, there ar e l ots of commercial distillers, beer and wine equi pment suppliers, disc ussi on groups , moons hini ng stories, book sell ers, disc ussi on groups, and lots of chemistr y i nfor mati on on the web, but onl y a c oupl e of q uality publications on amateur dis tillati on and still constr ucti on. T her e are some good ones though. One of the first, and best, refer enc e that I found was from a cor por ati on in Sweden r un by Gert Str and. It was the Home Distillation H andbook, translated fr om Swedish to English and written under the ps eudonym of Ol a Norrman. It is available on line, for s mall fee i n PDF for mat fr om //http:/par tyman.s a. Partyman is a first cl ass provi der of liquor es senc es, fer mentation, and fi ne Ger man i nstr umentati on eq uipment useful in alc oholic bever age meas urements. Chapter 2 Inform ation Sour ces I BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 4 Ola N orrmans book takes you step by step through ever y proc edure invol ved in the pr oc ess of pr oducing a variety of spirit drinks, i ncluding g uidance in the construc tion of an appropriate still. Another good source can be found i n Dr. John Stones book M aking Gin and Vodka. It c an be ordered on http://www.gin- vodka.com. Dr. Stone concentr ates on pr oduci ng pure alc ohol s pirits ( Vodka and Gin), but the book discusses in detail the c ons truc tion of a multi-stage distill ation apparatus , much like a sc aled down commercial facilit y might us e. It is ver y c ompl ete i n des cribing ever y phas e of producing and r efi ning alcohol, and provi des many first hand insights i nto this proc ess . For the mor e tec hnic all y i nclined, the web sur fer s houl d r ead M.T . T hams Intr oducti on to Distill ation tutori al at: http://lori en.ncl .ac .uk/ming/distil/distil0.htm. For those of you who si mpl y want a still, and not all the wor k of doing it yours elf, you will enjoy the Still Life at http://s tillife.com, and R ay T oms Moons hine Supplies at http://moons hi ne.co.nz / . The Uni versity at Akr on offers an excell ent slide presentati on of dis tillati on theor y at: http://ull.c hemis tr y.uakr on.edu/c hemsep/distillation/ For the engineeri ng students among us, you might fi nd Andrew Slol eys distillati on and petrol eum refi ning homepag e a good start. You will find it at: http://aslol ey.home.mi nds pring.com And fi nally, for the bes t about the art, scienc e, and fol klore about distilling chec kout Bourbon Str eet Bayou: http://www.geociti es.com/Bour bonStreet/Bayou/2588/distill.htm These sites and books will give you a good starting bac kground for thos e things you are about to undertake. Cer tai nl y there are many others that may be even more appropriate. But for the most part, they pr ovide an exc ellent foundation for c onstr ucti ng a high quality apparatus that will deli ver q uality spirits i n a s afe manner. And s o, ar med with this infor mati on, and a bit of common sens e, we can begi n the tas k by addressi ng the mos t i mportant questi on. BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 5 What Ki nd of Still? ot s tills wer e the earliest ki nd of s tills. T hey si mpl y had a pot to boil the fer mented mash in, and an output tube that pass ed through something cool er (air or water etc.) whic h c ondens ed the vapors c oming from the pot. The copper pot stills li ke the ones s hown are r eputed to have been i n us e for over 500 years to make s ome of the fi nes t Iris h Whis key in the world. While the pot still is enor mousl y i neffici ent, it is uniquel y simple and easil y adapted for home distillati on of ever ything fr om ess enc es to whis key and moons hine. From the Irish Whis key Trail Littl e has reall y c hanged i n the design of the pot stills over the las t 2000 years . You won t fi nd muc h differ enc e between the moons hine s till shown bel ow and the alembic pots used years i n Eg ypti an ti mes to make perfumes. Chapter 3 Pot Stills P BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 6 The pr obl em with pot s tills is that they dont do a good j ob at s eparating out exactl y what you want to distill as output. T hey ar e us uall y us ed to s eparate compounds whose boiling poi nts di ffer by about 100 C . When beer is distilled, lots of things c ome out, s ome good, s ome bad. And becaus e there are no fine controls on this ki nd of s till, the output c ontains a lot of i mpurities. Never theles s, after each dis tillati on, you al ways g et a better output product from that whic h you started wi th. So each ti me you redistill the output i n a pot still, it will c ome out a bit purer, but you l os e a littl e eac h time you r edis till. To make it really pure, you have to distill it s o many ti mes that youll end up with al mos t no output. Along thos e li nes , If you ar e distilling fer mented s ugars with a pot s till, unl ess you re- distill the output s everal times , you can g et a massi ve hangover if you drink whatever comes out. Hangovers are caus ed by the i mpurities in the alcohol. In s hort, you ve been pois oned (but jus t a littl e bit)! Bec ause of this li mitati on, it takes a l ot longer to produce a reas onabl y pure finished product using pot s tills. I m told the finest Irish distill eries still use pot stills to make their whis key. T hey take great pride i n the fact that they tri ple distill the whis key. T he demand for this product was so great, that they built hug e pot stills, some holdi ng over 30,000 i mperial g allons of beer. So, whil e it is tempting to take the eas y way out and build a simpl e pot still, i t reall y wouldnt meet our g oal of pr oduci ng the ver y pures t s pirits, i n the most effici ent manner. T o do that you ve got to thi nk about a r efl ux s till. BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 7 The pot still was the onl y dis tillati on method known for almos t 2000 years. But that all chang ed with the introduction of the refl ux tower the late 19th c entury. That inventi on revolutionized the producti on of many valuable petrol eum and c hemic al products that we commonl y us e today. Basic all y, the r efl ux s till is a str ucture that all ows the distillate vapors from a boiler to rise up a c olumn to the top wher e the vapors are condens ed. T he condens ed liquid is then all owed to r un bac k down through the rising vapors to a poi nt wher e the temper atures bec ome hot enoug h that it boils agai n. T his proc ess is c alled r efluxi ng. As this c ycle conti nues , the mi xture i nsi de the tower is effecti vel y re- distilled. In the proc ess , the c omponents of the mi xture separ ate i nto discrete l ayers within the col umn bas ed on their boiling points . Indus trial distillations are carried out i n hug e towers, wher e the refluxi ng is continued until the mi xture to is c ompletel y separ ated into l ayers. At that poi nt the different c omponents c an be simultaneousl y dr awn off the l ayers within the tower al most as fast as the mi xtur e c an be i ntr oduc ed into the c ol umn. T his method is call ed conti nuous distillation. While c ontinuous dis tillati on methods provi de the vol ume output demanded by the petr oleum i ndus try, the prac tice i s not well suited to our interests. We just want to s epar ate on occ asi on, a si ngle c ompound from a liqui d mi xture with a small sc ale still. T hats c alled batc h distillati on. Fortunatel y, the r eflux c olumn c an be us ed with either batc h or conti nuous distillati on operations, and it c an be scal ed up or down to meet either industrial or home distillati on needs. How this s cali ng is done dir ectl y affec ts how we build our home s till. So to do it right, we need to understand what is going on in the pr oc ess. The best pl ac e to s tart on that is to l ook into what happens when you boil somethi ng in a refl ux c ol umn. Reflux Stills BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 8 Ther e is a l ot of termi nolog y s urroundi ng the art of making Beer, Wi ne and Spirits. We ar e not goi ng to g et i nto most of thes e ter ms becaus e they are not central to the constr ucti on of a still. But to keep thi ngs s traight in this manual, well be tal king about Spirits as a produc t that is made by boiling Beer and condensing the vapors (distill ation). Beer, i n that c ontext, is the result of fer menti ng Mas h, and Mash is si mpl y a mi xture contai ning s ugar. Fermented mas h ( beer) is typic all y made up of ethyl alcohol and a lot of other things that most fol ks dont want in the dis tillate. If you ar e goi ng to use the still to process a batch of s pirits then you firs t heat the beer enoug h to boil off most of the mor e volatile c omponents (heads) , befor e you c ollect the spirits . Whats reall y goi ng on i n the still when you boil the beer looks s omething li ke this: The cool est part of the tower is at the top, and the warmest neares t the heat sourc e at the bottom. The beer components that have boiling poi nts over 100 C will mostl y remain in the boiler. For that matter, you wont let the temper ature i n the column get over 80 C. This will keep most of the undesirables (c alled tails) out of the distillati on output and in the boiler. You would als o thr ow away all of the dis tillate that comes out befor e the temper ature r eaches 78 C. This part is c alled the heads, whic h c ontai ns methyl alcohol (a pois on), and s ome other non- desir abl e c ongeners suc h as Ethyl Ac etate. So the i mpor tant thi ng to r emember about this pr oc ess is that the mash you s tart with might be simple (sug ar, water, yeast), but after fer mentati on, the beer contai ns all the ingredi ents s hown above, and more. Boiling Beer BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 9 Its also important to rec ogniz e that some of thes e c ompounds (e.g. methyl alcohol, 2-Propanol) have boiling points q uite clos e to the ethyl alc ohol you might be tr ying to distill out. T hat means you will have to be car eful about controlling the c olumn temperatures to make s ure that you c ollect onl y pure spirits. All thes e thi ngs c onsi dered then, the refl ux still is by far the best c hoice. It will allow you produce a muc h better s pirit than the pot stills . Admittedl y, thi s kind of still takes a bit more thought at the design stage, but reall y thats what were tal king about now. So now its ti me to go a little deeper into the issues that will come up in ac tuall y buil ding a s mall-scal e reflux dis tillati on appar atus. BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 10 Cons truc tion n this s ec tion we are g oing to mi x how the s till is built wi th why its bei ng built that way. And while this may be an annoyanc e to thos e who just want to g et s omethi ng wor king, it might als o provi de enoug h bac kground to allow anyone to make fi ne adjustments to the design to better s uit their needs . Even better, this extr a i nformati on might prevent some c olossal hang overs. Sel ecti ng the right materials for our home distillati on appar atus is ver y important. Stainless s teel is i deal becaus e it cleans easil y, looks nic e, and has great resistanc e to the effects of boiling c orrosi ve liqui ds. On the other hand, s tai nles s steel is ver y diffic ult for the homebuilder to wor k with. T his is especiall y true without s peci al tools. T here are few ready made fitti ngs availabl e for joi ning the parts, it is ver y expensi ve, and i t is diffic ult to fi nd a supplier willing to deal i n small quantities with this material. However, ready made stainl ess utensils may be easil y adapted for use in the still. The boiler is a good example. Various sourc es have sugges ted that a g ood boiler c an be easil y cons tructed by c onverti ng used r estaur ant pots, stai nless steel was h pails, bakers doug h pans, used s oda and beer kegs, ol d s wi mming pool filters and a few other suc h things i nto a boil er. T hese items are all good c andidates for the purpose, but converti ng them into a boiler for a reflux col umn is not al ways eas y. Someti mes they req uire c onsiderabl e modific ati on and s pecialized wel ding i n or der to provi de pr oper c onnecti ons to the c olumn and a way to dis ass emble for cleani ng. You s houl d gi ve consi der abl e thoug ht to what fabric ation will be requir ed before you make your s elec tion of boilers. It is ver y i mportant that you be able to easil y separate the boiler and col umn s ecti ons for cleaning. C onstr ucti on is a lot easi er if the boiling vess el has a tightl y fitti ng, removabl e top. Chapter 4 I Components & Mat erials The Bo iler BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 11 You also need to make sur e that you have enough room in the vessel to hol d the batches you i ntend to dis till, tha t it is s uffici entl y dur abl e to wi ths tand the boiling and c harging pr ocesses , and that it will not taint the dis tillate with any obj ecti onable metallic fl avors or impurities . The vessel that I found best for this pur pose is a us ed stainl ess steel mil k can. It is readil y avail abl e, holds about 10 gallons, has a removabl e top, nic e handles , and it shi nes like a sil ver chalice. You c an actuall y grow to l ove the art in this vess el. It s eems natural that a stainl ess steel boiler s houl d have a stai nless steel top end. It woul d not onl y look nic e but it woul d also be eas y to clean, rustproof, and extremel y dur abl e. Unfortunatel y, dair y or medical grade stai nless tubi ng and fittings are not eas y to find and the parts ar e horr endousl y expensi ve. A s mall stainl ess coupling costs as much as $36.00. Reg ardl ess of thes e c os ts, you will fi nd mos t of the suppliers will not want to deal with you on s uc h s mall orders. The automoti ve s uppl y s tor es have stainl ess s teel T 409 automoti ve exhaus t pipe. And while i t is l ess expe nsi ve ( about $10.00/F oot), it takes a lot of polis hing to make it l ook good, and becaus e there are no s tandar d fittings available, this ki nd of tubing needs extensi ve MIG weldi ng to fabric ate it. Glass is also nic e, but i t is also ver y c ostl y, ver y fr agile, and r equires expensi ve custom glas sbl owing s er vic es to complete the fabrication. The Top End BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 12 So what all this actuall y c omes down to is if you want to buil d this at home, plai n old copper tubing is the best choic e. Its eas y to cut, braz e, and sil ver solder. T here are an endl ess number of s tandar d fittings available at plumbing suppl y distri butors, a wide variety of tubing sizes , it is quite i nexpensi ve (around $2.00-$3.00/ft.) and it really looks beauti ful when polished. Some even s ay it gives c har acter to the fl avor of the s pirits too. OK, its decided. We ar e goi ng to buil d a hybri d s till wi th a stainl ess s teel boil er, and a c opper tubing top end. The top end is c ompos ed of the reflux c olumn, the c ooling tubes , and the condenser ass embl y. At times i n this manual well opti mistic all y c all the top end ass embl y a tower. Cons truc tion s tarts with the c ondens er ass embl y first. BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 13 Buil ding T he Condens er xc ept for thos e in the el ectr onic busi nes s, ever yone knows what a condenser is . Its a devic e that cools down whatever vapors that fl ow through it to the point where the vapors c ondens e i nto a liquid. T hat liquid is what the rest of the s till is all about. In the s till we ar e buil ding, i t is also the heart of the cooling s ystem. Condens ers c an be designed in many ways , but for a lot of r eas ons, as youll s ee in the next paragraphs, a jac keted c ore condens er is partic ularl y well s uited for this s till. With jac keted c ondensers , a circ ulati ng and c ooli ng water suppl y runs between the jac ket and the c ore. T his c ondens es the liqui ds c ontained in the hot vapors c omi ng from the col umn and goi ng thr oug h the c ore. Heres a s ketch of what the insi des of the c ondenser l ook li ke: Simple as it might s eem, there are a lot of c onsiderations behi nd maki ng a pr oper condenser for the ki nd of c olumn we want to build. Most l ow c apaci ty distillation devic es us e a s mall c apacity c ondens er. This is bec aus e they are designed for onl y one purpose: to drop the temper ature of the distillati on vapor to the point where the liquid s epar ates out of the vapor. T hat usuall y does not require a great deal of cooling. Pot s tills s ometi mes j ust us e a coil of tubing that c ools the vapor by j ust exposing it to the s urrounding air temper ature. Chapter 5 E BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 14 But keep i n min d we are buildi ng a refl ux still. T hat is a more sophistic ated desig n. In the course of its operati on, the reflux still produc es a muc h higher quality of dis tillate than the pot stills bec ause it effec ti vel y re-dis tills the mi xture many ti mes befor e it is dr awn off from the s till. T hat of c ourse, requir es muc h more c ooling and muc h better temperatur e c ontrol than the si mpl er pot stills. So, to acc ommodate these needs, we ve designed this still with a muc h larg er cooli ng c apacity inc orporated i nto the c ondens er. We ve done that bec aus e we need not onl y the c ooling req uired to c ondense the distill ate vapors, but als o to carefull y r egul ate and c ontrol the temper atures insi de the refl ux tower. To properl y utiliz e the extr a c ooli ng capacity, we ve made the water s uppl y and drai n lines from copper pi pe and run these c ooli ng lines through the r efl ux column as part of the nor mal c ooli ng circul ati on. T he pri mar y purpos e of thes e lines is to c ontrol the amount of re-di stillati on (refl ux) that occ urs i nside of the column. BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 15 In the s ketch shown bel ow you c an see that the i nput c ooli ng water is circul ated first through the bottom of the c olumn, then thr ough the condens er, and finall y bac k through the top of the col umn ag ain. The rather large sur fac e area of the copper j ac ket of this c ondens er acts as a radi ator . It dis sipates the heat conducted both by the lower i nput cooling pipe and the heat abs orbed from the col umn vapors by the wat er as it pass es thr ough the c olumn on its way to the condens er. Those ar e the reas ons why the big, j ac keted c ondens er we are g oing to build for this j ob is better. Its also happens to be easi er to fabricate and mor e effici ent than thos e c ondensers whic h us e a c oiled tube contained within the dis tillate output pi pe. The first step i n building the c ondenser is to fabricate the c ore assembl y. BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 16 Heres a drawi ng of what we want to make first. Its the condens er c ore. Its made fr om onl y three piec es: To make the cor e you begin by s oldering together a 1 X 1 r educi ng coupling to a 23 length of 1 pipe. Be s ure to clean the fittings and pi pe with s andpaper or a stiff wire brush so it s hines . T hen brus h on s ome flux to both piec es, and use lead-free s older. When you heat the joi nt enough with a torc h, the s ol der will be s uc ked up i nto the joi nt. While the s older is s till runny looki ng and s hiny, wipe the j oint with a clean rag. Makes a nic e fi nis h on the j oint. T hen sol der a 1 X reduci ng coupling on the other end i n the s ame way. When you get done, itll look like this : The Cond en ser Cor e BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 17 The next step is to build a j ac ket that fits cl osel y ar ound the c ore. That will allow a thi n, fas t moving, layer of water with a lot of s urface ar ea to circulate around the cor e, and quic kl y absor b the heat. In tur n, it als o allows the condens ation r ate (both i nternal and external) to r eac t as quickl y as pos sible to c hanges in the water flow. Sinc e the c olumn output is made of 1 pi ping, we have to r educ e this down to 1 pipi ng for the c ore ( above), and then make the j ac ket out of 1 pipe. That will leave a s pac e surroundi ng the cor e for the water to circ ulate. T o do this, we have to do some s trange thi ngs to the end caps of the j ac ket, so that it will matc h the underlyi ng c ore pl umbi ng. Heres whats i nvol ved: One c ap has a 1 1/8 hol e drilled in the end, the other c ap, a 5/8 hol e. The hardest part is to c ut the right siz e hol es i n the c aps s o they will fit nicel y with the cor e. The Cond en ser Jacket BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 18 When the c aps are done, you have to c ut two ni ppl es of 1 pi pe eac h 2 long, and a piec e 23 l ong for the main j ac ket. When you ass embl e the jac ket, the reduci ng tee outl ets should be 18 on center. T his is not a critic al length, but l ater on you will s ee that it is important to i ns ure that the cooling tube holes in the refl ux col umn matc h this di mensi on. The mor e i mportant dimension is the overall j ac ket length. When the core is pl ac ed insi de the assembl y, it s houl d fit s nugl y at both the top and bottom c aps. You can adj ust the length of either one of the ni ppl e fittings ( befor e you s older them) to make any fine adj ustments. Now you c an complete the ass embl y by putti ng the cor e ass embl y through the holes in the j ac ket end c aps , making s ure the Tees are center ed al ong the l ength, and s oldering all the joi nts. The cor e and jac ket s houl d look like this jus t befor e putting them together. BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 19 Buil ding the R eflux Col umn he refl ux c ol umn is the tube that r uns str aight up from the top of the boil er. T he col umn is made from 2 c opper tubi ng, is about three feet l ong, and has a ther mometer mounted in the top cap. It is pac ked with R asc hig ring s ( des cribed l ater) to provi de a large area condensati on s urface insi de the col umn, and it has two c ooli ng tubes that pas s water through the vapors that rise thr oug h the c olumn fr om the boil er. It also has a T ee c onnector at the top to acc ommodate an el bow connec tion to the c ondenser, and a scr een at the bottom to keep the pac ki ng from falling out. The col umn head s ection consists of a c ap, a thermometer , a 3 long ni ppl e, and a 2 x 2 x 1 tee. It also incl udes a connec tion to the condens er ass embl y with two 1 1/2 x ni ppl es, and a 1 x 1 elbow. A dr awing of the ass embl y is s hown below: Chapter 6 T The Co lumn H ead BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 20 The cap is drilled i n the c enter wi th a 3/8 hole to fit a r ubber grommet and the thermometer stem. N ot all s tems have the s ame di ameter , s o you shoul d make sur e the hol e fi ts your ther mometer. The c ap is not soldered to the col umn. T his is to all ow the c olumn and pac king to be bac k fl us hed and cl eaned out by si mpl y taking off the c ap and hosi ng down the c olumn. The col umn body is made of a 3 foot s ecti on of 2 c opper pi pe. It attac hes to the 2 X 2 X 1 Column H ead Tee on the top, and to the boil er (or flange) on the bottom end. Two 5/8 holes are drilled on the center-line of the pi pe, thr ough both sides of the c enter sec tion of the c ol umn. T he two hol es s houl d be about 18 1/2 O.C., but more i mportantl y, they should match the upper and lower c ooling tubes comi ng fr om the c ondens er. You shoul d us e a drill guide (or drill pr ess) to i ns ure that the holes ar e squarel y in the center of the tube, and on the same line al ong its length. When the hol es have been drilled, clean up the top end and sol der the Tee fitti ng, nipple, and the mi ddl e s ecti on together. T hen i nstall the 1 nippl es and elbow to the tee connec tion. D o not s ol der thes e yet. They must be left free for fi nal fitti ng of the c ondens er ass embl y. The Co lumn B ody BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P A R A T U S 21 Line up the two 1 X 1 X tees on the c ondens er with the c ooli ng tube hol es i n the column body, and i nstall two 7 lengths of tubi ng through the c olumn and i nto the c ondenser tees. You shoul d have a tower ass embl y now that l ooks li ke this. Make sur e ever ything fits OK and aligns well. When youre s atisfi ed, remove the c ooli ng tubes and condens er. Cl ean up and s older the 1 elbow and nipples to the c olumn tee. Fi nally, re-i nstall the c ooling pi pes to the c ondens er to ass ure its alignment, and s ol der the r emai ning j oints. The next tas k is to install the mounting fl ange or c oupling to the bottom of the c ol umn, and cover it with a s creen. T her e are a number of ways to do this, and in many cas es , it will depend on what kind of boiler you have sel ected. Attac hing the c olumn is muc h easier if the boiler has a removabl e top, but no matter how you decide to do it, make sur e that you c an easil y detach the tower from the boiler for clean up. The col umn s hould extend about an inc h or two below the boiler c over s o that brass screening c an be us ed to c over the end. T he scr een keeps the tower pac ki ng (Raschig Ri ngs) from falling into the boiler. A s tai nless steel hos e clamp secur es the scr een to the bottom of the col umn. The To wer A ssemb ly Mounting the Tower BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 22 A typic al attac hment under these conditions is s hown below. If your boiler does nt have a removabl e top then you will not be able to use this method of ass embling the c olumn to the boil er. The easi est alternati ve i n that c as e is to have a s hor t nipple of 2 copper tubing MIG welded to the top of the boil er. T his will allow a union to be attached near the bottom of the c olumn and allow the col umn to be removed at that point. You will also have to i nstall the scr eening at the bottom of the col umn in a different way so that the c olumn piec es can be attached at the uni on joi nt. One approac h is to sol der a s mall mounting str ap to the inside of the c ol umn, and attac h a perforated s heet metal dis k to the str ap with a s mall sheet metal scr ew. BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 23 Bec ause the boiler I s elec ted has a removabl e top, there was no need to bolt and unbolt the c olumn to clean it. You may do this though, to avoi d MIG weldi ng. I brought the cover and col umn down to a fri end with a M IG welder. He cut the 2 1/8 hole in the cover, and wel ded the c opper c olumn to the stainless s teel cap. It reall y l ooks pretty. I bought him a case of beer. BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 24 To wrap the c onstr ucti on phase up, the col umn has to be pac ked with s omething for the vapors to condense on as they pass up the tower from the boil er. T her e are a l ot of things you c an use to pac k the tower . Recommendati ons range from marbl es, glass beads, copper or stai nless scrubbing pads , to broken automoti ve s afety glass and others. Pac ki ng is a poor word to use for this materi al. It i mplies a dens e filler. What we reall y want i nside the c olumn is something that wont pac k, burn, melt, dissol ve, or r eleas e i mpuriti es or pois ons into the vapor in the col umn. We als o want that material to have as large a sur fac e area as possi ble, and at the s ame time offer as little r esistance to the gas flow as possi ble. It s hould be eas y to clean, and above all, it s houl d not s ettl e or pac k down i n the c olumn. And while that is a pretty tall order, there is a pr oduc t that s atis fies all thes e requirements. T he produc t is call ed R asc hig Ring s . T hey ar e ti ny ( about diameter) hollow c ylinders made of glaz ed c eramic material. They ar e perfect for this ki nd of tower. T hey l ook li ke this . From Partyman SA In any event, fill the tower with your pac ki ng to jus t above the top c ooli ng tube. Put the c over cap on, and attac h the c ooling hos e c oupli ngs with stai nless hos e clamps . At this point the real c onstruc tion is over. Your s till is c ompl ete exc ept for a few finis hing details , li ke heating and cooling is sues. Well c over that next. Column Packing BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 25 Heating C onsi derati ons ow that the c onstruction of the still is c omplete, the las t remaini ng considerati on for operation is the heat s ourc e. Initi ally you will have to decide whe ther to us e elec tric or g as to provi de the heat source to the boil er. Elec tric immersion heaters ar e readily avail abl e for hot water heaters in either 1500 or 3000 watt siz es. But regulati ng the heat deliver ed to the boiler from thes e devic es requir es a ver y expensi ve voltag e c ontroll er. T he elec tric heaters als o r equire a separate 120/240 volt s ource to operate, and res pond ver y sl owl y to c ontrol s that woul d r egulate the boiler temper atures . T hey als o have to be mounted i nside the boiler (a mes s y thi ng to clean) and the wires run to the outside (a hard thing to seal fr om leaks) . For s afetys sake all elec trical wor k s houl d be done i n acc ordance with the buildi ng and electrical codes, and is bes t handl ed by a licens ed el ectrici an. External electric hot pl ates avoi d the i nternal mounting probl ems, but they are les s effici ent, and in the U S, g enerall y limited to about 1600 watts on a 110 volt hous e circuit. T hat is inadequate for l arger boil er sizes. On the plus si de, el ectric heating is better s uited for indoor us e. It is cleaner, safer (if wired i n acc ordanc e wi th el ectric al c odes), needs no venting, and pr ovides less ris k of alcohol fires or explosions. Chapter 7 N Electric H eating BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 26 Bottled LP gas , on the other hand, avoi ds many of the boil er fabric ati on and cleaning problems as soci ated with elec tric heat. Adj usti ng the heat l evel wi th Gas c ontrols is much mor e fl exi ble. The heat c an easil y be adjusted to any setting from off to maxi mum, unli ke the typic al Low, Medium, High settings on elec trical s wi tches . A gas heat s ource will als o reac t much mor e quickl y to c ontrol chang es than el ectric, and is capable of pr oduci ng far mor e heat than elec trical hous ehold circui ts c an s uppl y. Gas als o makes the entire apparatus muc h more portable. That portability gives you the fr eedom to move the whol e s etup out to the garag e, barn, utility s hed, dec k, bac kyard, or even the deep woods. That way you dont have to s mell up the bas ement or garag e (and t he hous e) with the odors from whatever you might dis till in the boil er. A s mall 15,000 BTU cas t iron outdoor c ooki ng bur ner can be bought for under $15.00 that does an excell ent job. It will bring 7 g allons of col d (4 C.) water to boil in less than an h our. The downside is that gas heat, i n a c onfined s pace and without proper ventilati on, will deplete the oxyg en in the air. It c an also pr oduc e danger ous car bon monoxi de if the bur ner is not adjus ted properly. Lastl y, gas heat is muc h mor e li kel y to s tart alcohol and c ombusti ble fires if great car e is not taken. LP Gas H eating BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 27 Putting It All T ogether A word of cauti on is nec ess ar y before you make the first trial run. Dis tillati on may invol ve the use of high heat, elec trical c onnecti ons, open fl ames, boiling liquids , and per haps explosi ve g as mi xtur es. All of thes e c an caus e serious pers onal i njur y, fir es or even explosi ons if you do not take pr ec auti ons and give a lot of thought to thes e things . If, even after thes e warni ngs, you decide proc eed wi th the distill ation of highl y flammable s ubs tanc es s uc h as alc ohol, r emember that it is aki n to boiling a pot of gasoline on top of your gas stove at home. The test of the appar atus s houl d be a trial r un i n whic h a gallon or two of water is distilled. The tes t will verify that the j oints dont l eak that there is s uffici ent heat input to do the j ob, and enough c ooling c ontrol to contr ol the dis tillati on. It will also all ow you to c hec k the distillati on rates and the war m up ti me. To s tart the r un, mount the boiler on top of the heat source, and fill it with a gall on of tap water. T hen connec t the c ooli ng hos es on the col umn to the water s uppl y and drai n, and attac h the c ol umn to the boiler. Do not all ow the c ooli ng water to circulate thr oug h the appar atus at this ti me. Turn on the heat to its highest setting and ins ert the thermometer in the top of the column. The bul b s houl d be s eated to the l evel of the upper col umn tee connec tion (where the vapors fl ow to the c ondenser). In a s hort ti me ( about 15 minutes) the water should be boiling to the point wher e vapor and liqui d c an be seen exiting the c ondenser, and the ther mometer i ndicates that the boili ng point temperatur e ( 100 C..) has been reac hed i n the c olumn. N ote how long it took to boil s o you can es timate the ti me for l arger amounts. Turn the heat down to a r olling boil, and slowl y open the cooling water circul ati on val ve jus t enough to stop any vapor from exiti ng the c ondens er. T he distillate that runs from the condens er should be warm to the touch. T his represents the maxi mum effec ti ve rate that the still c an deli ver under thes e circumstanc es. Chapter 8 Shakedown BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 28 At that point meas ure the ti me needed to c ollec t exac tl y 250 ml of dis tillate. This shoul d take about 7 or 8 minutes. When thats done, slowl y open the circ ulation val ve until the distill ate stops running altog ether. Let the s ystem c ontinue i n that s tate ( no output) for about 15 minutes to verify its ability to operate under total reflux c onditions . When you ve verifi ed this poi nt, its ti me to shut the s ystem down. You s hould al ways follow a sequenc e in thes e oper ations in order to avoid impl odi ng the boiler and c ol umn. The shutdown sequenc e is: First r emove the thermometer c ap from the top of the col umn (us e gloves, it may be hot, and avoid burni ng yours elf with the vapors coming out). Next turn off the heat. Finall y s hut off the cooling water circ ulati on. This is i mpor tant, bec ause if you ar e using pl astic tubing to coll ect the distill ate from the c ondens er, i t c oul d get ki nked or obstructed i n s ome way. T hat would seal off the apparatus fr om the air. If this happened while it was c ooling down, a vac uum would be for med wi thi n the still as the vapors insi de c ondens e, and the air press ure outsi de c oul d cr us h the unit. When the unit has r eached room temper ature, dis connec t the c ooli ng hos es, bac kfl us h the c olumn with water then r emove the top end from the boiler for cl eani ng. Now that we know how to run the s till, it might be a g ood i dea to give s ome more thought of how to opti mize the distill ation. BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 29 Whenever you tr y to maxi miz e the purity of the distillate i n the l eas t amount of ti me, you have to deal with the amount of r efl uxing needed. In oper ation, we all ow onl y a s mall part of the distillate output to be withdr awn in a unit of ti me. T he remainder is re-c ycled bac k i nto the col umn. T his controls the amount of refluxi ng. T he pr oportion of dis tillate r etur ned to the column vers us that whic h is withdrawn is call ed the R efl ux R ati o. In theor y, the more r eflux c ycl es that ar e allowed to take plac e the pur er the output will be. In other words, high reflux r ati os produce mor e refined produc ts. In prac tice though, you will find that as you i ncreas e the reflux ratio more and more, it produces les s and l ess i mprovement in the p urity of the output. You soon r each the point wher e the whol e operati on bec omes c ounter producti ve in ter ms of the time and heating c os ts to produce the dis tillate. Its also important to rec ogniz e that no matter how many r efl ux c ycles ar e applied to the proces s, you will never be able to get a c ompl etel y pur e distillate. Under the circ umstanc es then, your goal in operati ng the still s houl d be to produc e a purer product than what you can buy c ommerci all y, and at the same time produce the product at the least cost. All this then comes down to the big questi on: What is the bes t reflux rati o to us e i n my s till, and how do I reg ulate i t? . The s ystem we are buildi ng c ontrols the r eflux ratio by r egul ating the c ooling fl ow inside the c olumn. We c alc ulate the r efl ux r atio by meas uring the maxi mum distillati on rate at a given heat level without c ooli ng, and then regul ate the c ooli ng to provi de an appr opriate fraction of that rate. Suppos e, for ins tanc e, you c an dis till 1 liter/hour at a gi ven heat s etting without any c ooli ng, and you want a refl ux r ati o of 3 to 1. Then you si mpl y adjust the cooli ng fl ow ( without changi ng the heat) to the poi nt where onl y 250 ml of output i s dis tilled in one hour. T hat means for eac h 1000 ml of distillate pas sed i n a unit of ti me, 250ml is withdr awn, and 750 ml is refl uxed. T hat gives a refl ux r ati o of 3:1. Column T uning BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 30 Coming bac k to the key q ues tion Whats the best refl ux r ati o to us e? It depends on the c olumn desig n, whats bei ng dis tilled, an assess ment of the output purity, and an evaluati on of the c osts invol ved i n producing that purity. It will take s ome experimentation on your part to g et exactl y what you want. If you want to distill ethyl alc ohol for i nstance, your best bet would be to start with a reflux ratio of 3:1 wi th this still. Commercial oper ations , I ve been told, use rati os r angi ng from 1.8:1 to 5:1 for dis tilling this pr oduc t. Under nor mal c onditi ons then, and using this r atio, you s hould be able to produc e a crystal clear, totall y odorl ess, 190 proof s pirit fr om a 20% beer i n a about 6 hours of dis tillati on. In any event, you have c omplete c ontrol over the refluxi ng with this s till, and the onl y limitati on you will fac e is the desired degree of refinement. That is muc h more than c an be s aid for most s mall sc ale stills. BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 31 Well its done. We ve started at scratc h, l ear ned a little along the way, maybe got i nvol ved enough to actuall y build the still, and maybe even went further. For me, its been a l ot of fun, a great experi enc e, and a c ontinuing adventure. For those of you who have travel ed the entire c ours e, I hope you ar e pleas ed wi th the results. M ore than that, I hope you get invol ved enough to i mpr ove on this basic apparatus and let others know about it so that they too, may profit fr om your experienc es. Who knows, with enoug h inter est from thos e of you r eading this , per haps some of the mor e i nsensi ble laws of the land c an be c hanged. And if they can be c hanged simpl y bec ause you get i nvol ved, then you will have made a great contri bution by giving everyone a bit mor e fr eedom to purs ue those inter ests that do no har m to their neighbors. In any c as e, with the apparatus you have jus t c onstructed, you will be abl e to isolate, and per haps enjoy, many of the refined compounds deri ved from your distillati on appar atus. That, for many, is r ewar d enough. . . The L ast Word s BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 2 Appendices LICEN SE AGR EEM ENT 2 HOW TO APPLY THE LIC ENSE AGREEMENT 6 MAT ERIAL L IST 7 TOOL S 8 INDEX 9 BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 3 Licens e agreement TERMS AND C ONDIT ION S F OR COPYING, DISTRIBUTION AND MODIFIC ATION OF TH E DOCUM ENT: BUILD ING A H OME DISTILLATION APPAR ATUS Section 1. This Licens e applies to wor k which contains a notice pl aced by the copyright hol der sayi ng it may be distributed under the ter ms of this Agreement. The "Document", below, refers to any wor k, and a " wor k bas ed on the D oc ument" means either the D oc ument or any deri vati ve wor k under copyright law: that is to s ay, a wor k c ontai ning the D ocument or a porti on of it, ei ther verbati m or with modi ficati ons and/or tr anslated into another l ang uag e. (H erei nafter , translati on is i ncluded wi thout li mitation i n the ter m " modific ati on" .) Eac h licens ee is addr ess ed as " you". Ac ti vities other than copyi ng, distributi on and modific ati on ar e not c overed by this Lic ense; they ar e outside i ts sc ope.. Section 2. You may c opy and distri bute ver batim c opi es of the D oc ument's contents as you recei ve it, in any medium, pr ovi ded that you c onspic uousl y and appropriatel y publish on each c opy an appr opriate copyright notic e and discl ai mer of warranty; keep i ntact all the notices that r efer to this Licens e and to the abs enc e of any warranty; and give any other r eci pients of the Doc ument a c opy of this Lic ens e along with the Document. You may c harge a fee for t he physic al act of tr ans ferring a copy, and you may at your opti on offer warranty pr otecti on in exc hang e for a fee. You may modi fy your copy or c opies of the Document or any portion of it, thus Appendi x 1 BU IL D I N GA H OM ED I ST I LL A T I O N A P P AR A T U S 4 for ming a wor k bas ed on the D oc ument, and c opy and distri bute such modific ati ons or wor k under the ter ms of Secti on 1 above, provi ded that you also meet all of thes e c onditi ons: You must caus e the modifi ed files to c arr y promi nent notic es s tating tha