AlcoEngine Pot Still

Pot still design and discussion

Re: AlcoEngine Pot Still

Postby bluc » Fri Mar 16, 2018 10:45 pm

Personally would soft solder around the cooling lines. :-B
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Re: AlcoEngine Pot Still

Postby Mattq71 » Fri Mar 16, 2018 11:01 pm

bluc wrote:Personally would soft solder around the cooling lines. :-B


I will give it a shot sometime soon, but the gap is fairly large (maybe 2mm) between the coolant pipes and condenser base.
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Re: AlcoEngine Pot Still

Postby bluc » Fri Mar 16, 2018 11:19 pm

I am not sure I would be comfortable running it... would be interested to hear chosen wash and volume collected.
I think cooling water failing and vapour pouring out is a given for any still, i would be more worried about the coil not knocking everything down and vapour escaping. Hope your not a smoker.. :-B have you tried running flat out with just water?
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Re: AlcoEngine Pot Still

Postby bluc » Fri Mar 16, 2018 11:32 pm

Sux having a new toy and have what appears to be everyone pick on it. It aint like that and we just want you to be safe. Afterall we are not building lego.. Ethanol vapour aint something to play with..
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Re: AlcoEngine Pot Still

Postby Mattq71 » Fri Mar 16, 2018 11:33 pm

My review of the AlcoEngine Pot Still.

Disclaimer: This review is from a relative novice. I have probably done only about 5 runs of a T500 and bought this was seen as a cheap entry into pot stills. The $150 cost of the unit was considered as disposable cash so if the unit ended up being crap then it wasn't a big deal for me.

Setup:
- AlcoEngine Pot Still
- Boiler from a T500.
- Voltage regulator
- 400L of recirculating water via 2 x 200L food grade drums rated to 80degC.
- Pedestal fan kept on at all times (and garage door partly open) to keep any vapour that escaped moving.

Pros:
1. Very cheap ($150 plus delivery).
2. I personally prefer copper over stainless steel for stills.
3. First running's of spirit was around 80% and I stopped the run at around 25% (after around 2 hours).

Cons:
1. The cooling water enters the condenser at the top rather than the bottom. I use food grade hoses for my supply and return water and the hot return hose kinked severely half way through the run blocking my water flow. I was forced to reduce power right down until I sorted out the flow. Ended up using gaffa tape wrapped around the first 200mm and this provided some strength and support to the hose. I also raised/supported the remainder of the hose to the return water drum in order to remove some weight.

2. Because of the small diameter of copper cooling water pipe that enters the condenser the water flow was/is quite slow (approx. 500mL per minute). This did not pose a problem during the cleaning run but I was concerned that I had a relatively low maximum flow rate. I would have liked a much faster flow rate to help keep the condenser cooler.

3. The spirit output pipe is way to short and needed to be extended significantly to clear the boiler below.

4. There are holes in the body of the condenser where the cooling pipes enter. Whilst this didn't pose a problem during the run it was always a concern. As the gap is around 2mm I am unsure on how easy the will be to solder up.

5. No instructions are provided in the box. The instructions had to be downloaded from the website. They are generally quite poor in quality and as an example make reference to a photo (when no photo or image was shown).

6. When I did a hot water rinse (before use) a lot of gunk/flux came out of the unit.

Recommendations:
1. I am glad that I ran this with a voltage regulator. I used it regularly to control the boil and flow, especially as I was nervous about vapour escaping.
2. Do not use normal garden type hoses. Make sure that you have thicker than normal hoses or you support your hoses adequately.
3. Make sure that you clean before use. I did the following: 1. Hot water rinse, 2. 24 hour citric acid bath, 3. Cleaning run.

Moving forward I am going to use the still for a stripping run (probably tomorrow) and then weigh up my options moving forward. Currently I am considering the following:
i. Soldering up the holes and continue to use as is.
ii. Cutting up the unit and using parts (excluding the condenser) as the start of a pelican style pot still.
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Re: AlcoEngine Pot Still

Postby Mattq71 » Fri Mar 16, 2018 11:39 pm

bluc wrote:I am not sure I would be comfortable running it... would be interested to hear chosen wash and volume collected.
I think cooling water failing and vapour pouring out is a given for any still, i would be more worried about the coil not knocking everything down and vapour escaping. Hope your not a smoker.. :-B have you tried running flat out with just water?


The wash was a cleaning run of approx. 3L of 90% spirit mixed with 10L of water. The original spirit was a Turbo wash.
I am a non-smoker :)
The spirit collected (will remain a future cleaning spirit) was approx. 4.5 to 5L of spirit between 80% down to 30% in the last bottle.
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Re: AlcoEngine Pot Still

Postby Mattq71 » Fri Mar 16, 2018 11:50 pm

bluc wrote:Sux having a new toy and have what appears to be everyone pick on it. It aint like that and we just want you to be safe. Afterall we are not building lego.. Ethanol vapour aint something to play with..


I am cool with the comments. It was/is cheap and I bought it knowing that I didn't care that much about the money (basically $150 for a toy to play with). I also thought that if I didn't like it I could cut it up for parts.

I am an engineer in real life and enjoy trying new/different things just for the fun of it. Am hoping to at some stage have at least one of every type of still but I need to get my soldering skills up to scratch first. Also, I am an all-grain brewer and you don't want to know how many brewing toys I have (i.e. two fridges dedicated to brewing alone).

With respect to safety, I keep my garage well ventilated, have a fire extinguisher between me and my exit and never leave the still whilst in use (even have a toilet in my garage).
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Re: AlcoEngine Pot Still

Postby The Stig » Sat Mar 17, 2018 12:01 am

Mattq71 wrote:I keep my garage well ventilated, have a fire extinguisher between me and my exit and never leave the still whilst in use (even have a toilet in my garage).

Thank God for that ^:)^
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Re: AlcoEngine Pot Still

Postby Professor Green » Sat Mar 17, 2018 9:21 am

Mattq71 wrote:Am hoping to at some stage have at least one of every type of still but I need to get my soldering skills up to scratch first.


No need for that mate, just make a single modular one that you can reconfigure as required. :handgestures-thumbupleft:

Cheers,
Prof. Green.
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Re: AlcoEngine Pot Still

Postby Mattq71 » Sat Mar 17, 2018 9:52 am

Can you recommend a particular build or thread?
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Re: AlcoEngine Pot Still

Postby The Stig » Sat Mar 17, 2018 10:00 am

Mattq71 wrote:Can you recommend a particular build or thread?

Heres a starting point http://www.5stardistilling.net/modular-stills/
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Re: AlcoEngine Pot Still

Postby woodduck » Sat Mar 17, 2018 10:06 am

This one in particular as it can be added to to build a bubbler. Fully modular just buy the T sections and plates as you can afford them and in no time you will have a rig that will do whatever you want and last a lifetime. Also with this pot you will be able to run alot faster and harder than the tea pot one you've got plus the added assurance that Mac will help you out if you have any problems :handgestures-thumbupleft:

http://www.5stardistilling.net/4-modular-pot-still/
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Re: AlcoEngine Pot Still

Postby Mattq71 » Sat Mar 17, 2018 10:09 am

Have trawled through that site and many/most items state “sorry, that item is not available”.

Example:
http://www.5stardistilling.net/4-modular-pot-still/

Also concerned about the lack of copper in the stills.
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Re: AlcoEngine Pot Still

Postby Mattq71 » Sat Mar 17, 2018 10:11 am

woodduck wrote:This one in particular as it can be added to to build a bubbler. Fully modular just buy the T sections and plates as you can afford them and in no time you will have a rig that will do whatever you want and last a lifetime. Also with this pot you will be able to run alot faster and harder than the tea pot one you've got plus the added assurance that Mac will help you out if you have any problems :handgestures-thumbupleft:

http://www.5stardistilling.net/4-modular-pot-still/


Great minds think alike as that was the still I was considering but the site states that they are not available.
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Re: AlcoEngine Pot Still

Postby woodduck » Sat Mar 17, 2018 10:22 am

Send them an email or give them a call. Their site isn't always up to date and they might have one sitting there. If i remember right mac sells them with a peice of copper mesh to put in the vapor path for the sulfur removal. Make no mistakes Mac is a pro at stills and he wouldn't sell anything thats not up to scratch, you can be 100% garunteed that his gear is upto spec and you wont have any problems :handgestures-thumbupleft:
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Re: AlcoEngine Pot Still

Postby Mattq71 » Sat Mar 17, 2018 11:07 am

Thx. Sent them an sms to the mobile number on their website.
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Re: AlcoEngine Pot Still

Postby woodduck » Sat Mar 17, 2018 1:11 pm

Hey Matt, I've been thinking about this pot of yours and I have to say it doesn't excite me much at all BUT if you are careful and run it right it should be safe enough to use. It's good to see you are doing the right things by ensuring you have plenty of ventilation and not leaving the still unattended. I'm sure you can see our concerns and we are only trying to ensure everyone is safe when running their stills. Unfortunately too many of these types of stills are sold without proper saftey information and instructions and some are down right dangerous.

So in saying that these are my suggestions,

The holes are a bit of a worry but when we think about it bokas have holes in the top and as long as you don't run it too hard the vapor should never get to them. You have a power controller which is great because you can run it nice and steady. When running it the output end of the pot still should be cold to touch. I think for safteys sake half the coil length should remain cold just to make sure no vapor gets out.

As for the kinking lines, are the tubes soft enough to get a bend in them? If you try just don't kink the copper or it will starve your coil for water and cause problems. Or you could go get some brass elbows so the hoses are horizontal at least.

If you are going to do some mods I would make the output tube bigger like 3/8 or 1/2" you can extend it while your doing it to get it further away from the boiler. A larger take off will ensure it doesn't get blocked by something somehow, maybe a puke, shouldn't happen but better to be safe than sorry. Keep an eye on the takeoff and if it stops for some reason shut the still down quick smart and check it out.

You seem like a smart bloke and I'm sure your not going to do anything silly so keep safety at front of mind and keep us posted on how ya go :handgestures-thumbupleft:
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Re: AlcoEngine Pot Still

Postby DeAlchemist » Tue Jan 01, 2019 9:46 am

Hi Matt, I've just got the same still - 'unwelcome advertiser' AlcoEngine Pot Still - haven't used it yet. I also had to buy a lid with a 47mm hole to fit to my electric boiler. After reading this thread, I will get a voltage controller before I use it. I will also rinse i with hot water, soak in citric acid for 24 hrs and then do a cleaning run. So thanks for all the advice.

But - I'm concerned about your intention to solder the gaps where the cooling lines enter the body. To me, it looks like those holes are definitely meant to be there.

I've also got and I have been using the 'unwelcome advertiser' reflux column still (which is just a Boka reflux) and it also has the same gaps/holes around the cooling line. I had the same thought as you - that can't be right, looks dodgy, I should seal it up. Nope. Both of these types of stills need to be open to the atmosphere, the cooling system prevents any vapour from escaping - that's the whole point of what a still does. Still not advisable to smoke around a still but that's just standard operating procedure.

The instructions for building a Boka reflux here: https://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=36050 says this about those holes:


Re: Boka Reflux Still - How To Build

Postby Husker » Sat Feb 02, 2013 8:56 am

Sealed/capped
The condenser needs to sit inside the top of the column in order to condense the rising vapors into distillate that can be collected. Many builders use a cap to hold the condenser perfectly in the center of the column, or to better distribute the weight of coolant lines coming to the condenser. If you use a cap it is critical to ensure that it has enough vent holes that so the column cannot build pressure. If the condenser is of adequate size and temperature it will condense all of the vapors and no cap or seal is needed at the top of the column. viewtopic.php?f=17&t=15762 If you do not vent the top of the column, there may not be adequate outlet for the pressure inside the column which would eventually lead to catastrophic failure of the column and/or rapid release of vaporized ethanol near a heat source, both of which can cause serious injury or death. The Boka can run perfectly fine without any cap or lid above a suitable condenser, and accordingly many disillers leave the still open at the top.



and


Re: Boka Reflux Still - How To Build

Postby Husker » Sat Feb 02, 2013 9:43 am
Safety considerations

A Boka is a very simple still to use, and when used correctly, is very safe. Proper precaution, common sense, and general disilling safety should be used at all times. All stills used to distill spirits by their very nature will contain or be on a heat source, and be full of flammable vapors. Never leave your still unattended and ensure that you have proper fire retardants nearby (ie, a fire extinguisher or ready water supply.) Improper use of a still can result in serious injury or death.

Vented top
If your condenser is working correctly, there should not be any vapor leaving the still. Check your still for leaks at the beginning and during each run using a mirror or flashlight. There is absolutely no need to seal the top of the still and doing so can cause incredibly dangerous build-up of pressure. This high pressure can cause your still to explode which could kill you, and then the released flammable vapor would ignite and explode and kill you again. Make sure your Boka is open above the condenser or has a proper pressure release valve that cannot fail.

--------------------------

I reckon the same applies to the 'unwelcome advertiser' pot still.

So, may I ask: did you ever seal up those holes?

Thanks

DD
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Re: AlcoEngine Pot Still

Postby Wobblyboot » Wed Jan 02, 2019 6:23 pm

Some of the worst advice I’ve seen on a forum. It doesn’t look like a good still but looks to me that the gaps are intentional for safety. I’d be hoping that he didn’t solder up any gaps :scared-eek:
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Re: AlcoEngine Pot Still

Postby southern45 » Wed Jan 02, 2019 6:30 pm

The gaps ARE for safety. The Pure Distilling Reflux column has gaps at the top too. The cooling water condenses any product before it can escape, but it's a safety feature! If you leave the output tap closed for too long, flammable vapour will emerge out the top or your product will condense there and drip down your cooling hoses! Imagine if it were sealed and the pressure built up. Neither of those are a good situation.
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