Safety in home distilling

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Safety in home distilling

Postby woodduck » Sat May 19, 2018 9:39 am

Home distilling can be a dangerous hobby if your not careful so here are some guidelines to make sure what you do is safe. No one wants to see a fellow stiller have an accident and loose a house or worse.

These tips are not here to scare you, just make you aware of the risks.

• The spirit we produce out of our stills at high percentages (above 40%) is extremely flammable and can burn with a clear invisible flame so keep flames and sparks away from your still and alcohol at all times. Make sure if your running on gas you have your takeoff well away from the flame, bare minimum 500mm more would be better. Do not smoke, grind, weld etc or have an open type fire or gas heater in the near vicinity when distilling.

• Alcohol vapour can be explosive and can cause asphyxiation in high enough concentrations. Alcohol vapor is heavier than air so it will settle on the floor and you may not even know it's happening, this can be extremely bad if your running on gas. Ensure your cooling water is on BEFORE your element. Check all seals with a mirror every run (vapor will fog the mirror).

• Alway ensure you have adequate ventilation when running your still especially if you are running on gas. Leave a door and a window open so fresh air can move through the area. Avoid small distilling rooms if possible. The fumes could build and cause you respiratory problems. The air flow will also help if you have a vapor leak or have a misshap with cooling water etc.

•Never leave a still unattended while running, NEVER! It is extremely dangerous. Cooling water may stop. A blockage may occur. A cuts jar might overflow children/animals may be burnt by the boiler or worse they could tip the still over. Any number of things could go wrong and as we all know they never happen when we're ready for them.

• If you are keeping fores/methanol, keep it in a obvious well marked container with poison written on it. Never drink it or alow it to be drank by anyone else, it could kill you.

• When storing alcohol always have the % marked on the jar and anything over 40% should be marked as poison so people don't accidentally drink it, even 65% can cause someone trouble as it will effect you very differently than the normal drinking strength of 38-40%. It is not funny to "stitch up" a mate by feeding him/her drinks at a high %, it could end very badly and could be hard to explain at the hospital.

• Do not allow children access to your alcohol or even stilling area. They are curious and may play with something that may hurt them or may put an item in your still or boiler that could cause a problem next run.

• Always water alcohol down below 40% before running through a still. This lessens the risk of major fire/fire ball or explosion if a spill or boiler rupture (not sure why this would happen but just incase) was to occur. It also lessens the chances of running your elements dry.

• Ensure that your elements are well covered by wash/alcohol so that the elements don't run dry. Remember that the boiler level gets lower as your alcohol is taken off.

• Be careful when emptying your boiler as the dundar (whats left in the boiler after a run) will be extremely hot. The safest option is to let it cool, the smell will dissipate more if you do as well. Also be careful when using hot water when doing ferments, carrying a half filled fermenter between your legs with boiling water in it could go south very quickly.

• We recommend that all wiring for elements etc are done by a professional electrician. Please ensure that your house/shed electrical supply can handle the draw from your elements, your local electrician may be able to help with this also. Avoid using extension cords as most will not handle the current and may burn out. Water and electricity do not mix so keep them as far away from each other as possible.

• Ensure your still is stable. Do not try and put a large heavy still onto a small narrow boiler. Remember that your boiler will get lighter during a run as the alcohol is taken off. Use props if needed to support your still.

• Flour paste is NOT a good sealent irrespective of what you've seen on tv. Buy proper seals that are made of either silicon or epdm. Silicon baking sheets or natural cork are fine to use for odd size seals that can't be sourced easily. General rubber is not acceptable as it dissolves in alcohol. You can test rubbers by soaking in 90+% alcohol for at least 24 hrs if no leaching or softening occurs it should be fine to use.

• Only stainless, copper and glass are acceptable to use for still parts and alcohol storage. Plastic, brass, mild steel, galvanized steel and aluminum are not suitable as they will leach into your spirit. Remember alcohol is a solvent similar to petrol.

• While enjoying a drink is one of the main reasons we do this hobby drinking while running your still is NOT recommended as we all get a bit relaxed after a few and we need our wits about us if something were to go wrong. A quick reaction time could be the difference between a near miss and a bloody big mess. Please drink responsibly guys.

So go out and enjoy this great hobby but please be aware of the risks and make safety a priority.
Last edited by woodduck on Sat May 26, 2018 2:38 pm, edited 10 times in total.
Reason: Got it right for publishing
Posts: 2431
Joined: Mon Jun 16, 2014 5:54 pm
Location: Good old country SA
equipment: 4 plate 6" copper bubbler, 6 plate 4" glass bubbler with 500mm packed section three way thumper sitting on a 50 ltr keg boiler with 6000watts, 2" pot still and a 2" boka.

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