Yet Another 4” Pot Still Build

Pot still design and discussion

Yet Another 4” Pot Still Build

Postby spamisnotham » Sun Sep 02, 2018 11:08 am

I have been reading and thinking about home distilling for the last year. In the last two months I have been collecting copper and components to build a pot still. I still need to purchase heating elements and a voltage controller. However I am close to assemble.

I have I used standard 4” plumbing fittings. Using a stainless flanges and tri clover clamps. I have designed the major components to be replaceable. Also I wanted something that I could break down and store easily.

The Lyne arm has a 45 degree copper elbow fitting on one end and a 90 degree copper elbow fitting on the other. This allows me two have horizontal common Lyne arm and a inclined lighter Lyne arm. By rotating the Lyne arm 180.

The one issue with having an adjustable Lyne arm is that the height / position of the Lyne arm changes. I will need to make some kind of means to hold up the still and to stop it from possible toppling.

The shotgun condenser is 4” as well and while it is over kill I like the look and I had the 4” copper tube. It will feature 9 half inch barrels.

I am using a 58 litre keg fermenter with a 4” flang this will make installing the heating elements a breeze as well as cleaning. I plan to be doing 45 litre all grain batches as I have a beer background.

For heating I will be using two 2500v low density stainless elements as I can run them on domestic 10 amp circuits.

Question - how low should I locate the heating elements. Each element is 32mm diameter. I am thinking to put one at 75mm from the bottom and the second 150mm from the bottom. With each element perpendicular to the other. Does that sound good?

I have a pro distiller friends who will tig weld the still for me and I have an electrical engineer who will do the wiring for the elements and controller.

Question - I have read that a pot still cannot be controlled by temperature but rather by the flow of the stream. If so is their any value if having thermowells installed into the boiler and Lyne arm / condenser? I have two copper thermowells to suit a digital thermometer that I can install into the the column and into the condenser.

I plan to purchase 12 500ml mason jars this will be more then capable of holding any product from a run for doing my cuts.

Here is a photo I will update as I make progress

3AF784E9-1487-46B5-BB56-41D25737229A.jpeg
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Re: Yet Another 4” Pot Still Build

Postby spamisnotham » Sun Sep 02, 2018 11:33 am

Question - I have concerns about running the still indoors- I have a garage I plan to run the still with doors and windows open and then have a large fan blowing air out the door that way I hope to prevent any possibility of vapour building up and possible causing a disaster. Am I being paranoid?
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Re: Yet Another 4” Pot Still Build

Postby spamisnotham » Sun Sep 02, 2018 11:55 am

The still is just over 2 meters of 4” copper.
The shotgun condenser is 500mm long.

To support the Lyne arm I am thinking of hanging a chain from the ceiling and looping it under the Lyne arm. I feel the need to do something to support the still. Because as the boiler reduces in volume the still will become increasingly lopsided and prone to toppling. I also am concerned that the weight of an unsupported condenser will strain the joints.

While telescopic legs attached to the condenser would be ideal solution - it would be costly to manufacturer and it would make storage more difficult / cumbersome.
Last edited by spamisnotham on Sun Sep 02, 2018 12:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Yet Another 4” Pot Still Build

Postby Nathan02 » Sun Sep 02, 2018 11:55 am

Cap it and fill with water and test for leaks :handgestures-thumbupleft:
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Re: Yet Another 4” Pot Still Build

Postby spamisnotham » Sun Sep 02, 2018 12:11 pm

Once welded I plan to do a vinegar cleaning run and then we should be able to test for leaks at that time. But alcohol is corrosive to the copper and the joints in time can degrade and leak. My friend recently had his industrial still condenser break down after only two years of 24/7 use. We are talking monster thick copper.
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Re: Yet Another 4” Pot Still Build

Postby Nathan02 » Sun Sep 02, 2018 12:21 pm

Would want to be running a hell of a lot of hooch through for that to happen mate. Obviously practice good safety and have a ventilated running area. But if your joinder are tested and sound you wont have a drama
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Re: Yet Another 4” Pot Still Build

Postby spamisnotham » Sun Sep 02, 2018 1:28 pm

My other thought with a modular setup is if a remove the column and then I add install several BUBBLETEES so I could possibly use it as a reflux still? Or at the very least making lighter distillate. Or am I missing something?
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Re: Yet Another 4” Pot Still Build

Postby TasSpirits » Mon Sep 03, 2018 3:58 pm

spamisnotham wrote:My other thought with a modular setup is if a remove the column and then I add install several BUBBLETEES so I could possibly use it as a reflux still? Or at the very least making lighter distillate. Or am I missing something?


Make it modular :handgestures-thumbupleft: you will still need a RC for reflux, plan for a eventual bubbler, makes life a lot easier.
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Re: Yet Another 4” Pot Still Build

Postby spamisnotham » Mon Sep 03, 2018 6:02 pm

Electric element placement is my next concern. I had a look at the keg. Because the keg is not a continuous flat on its outside surface the lowest point were I could drill a 32mm hole to insert the element is 110mm from the floor.

970DF742-5321-4CA4-B446-12CB7ED369A7.jpeg


Now if I add 16mm to the top of 110mm then the top of the bottom element would be 126mm from the bottom.

This raises the question how much space should there be between two electrical elements?

The next place we’re I could drill a 32mm hole for the top element would be 150mn from the floor. 150mm - 16mm would make the bottom of the top element at 134mm.

DAC12F14-9113-4D20-9503-48CC30CEBC7E.jpeg


That means that the top of the bottom element sits at 126mm and the bottom of the top element would be at 134mm. A mere 8mm gap.

To increase the gap I would need to move the top element to the 220mm mark. Due to the bumps in the keg.

Should I just jump to the 220mm mark for the top element?

My concern is that as the wash reduces the top element will no longer be submerged in the wash and I risk burning it out.

Also do I need an element guard?

https://www.5stardistilling.com.au/prod ... ent-guard/
Thoughts, ideas, experience?
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Last edited by spamisnotham on Mon Sep 03, 2018 6:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Yet Another 4” Pot Still Build

Postby woodduck » Mon Sep 03, 2018 9:05 pm

Not sure on measurements but here's what I did

viewtopic.php?f=36&t=6709&start=100#p121963

I could try measuring it for you but that would mean lifting the 6" off it which is a 12 person job :laughing-rolling: bloody thing is heavy!

Mine are reasonably close to each other and I haven't had any problems as such. I would avoid putting the top one above the next ring, too high I recon.
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Re: Yet Another 4” Pot Still Build

Postby db1979 » Mon Sep 03, 2018 9:27 pm

8mm should be fine seeing as the distance between loops in a looped element is about that distance anyway. Of greatest importance will be getting the sockets welded on straight and not angled towards each other. You simply don't want them getting in each other's way cause you won't get the second one in. Also it's possible to have sockets welded on so that they run parallel to each other. Then they can be at the same height. Besides, you've gotta be doing a pretty low volume run to worry about the top element if it's 150 mm from the bottom. Give it another 10 mm if you're worried.
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Re: Yet Another 4” Pot Still Build

Postby db1979 » Mon Sep 03, 2018 9:27 pm

Yes you need an element guard.
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Re: Yet Another 4” Pot Still Build

Postby db1979 » Mon Sep 03, 2018 9:34 pm

Just realised you were talking about the element base being 8mm away from each other. Sorry. That'd be too close, but there's no reason why the elements have to be directly in line with each other. Stagger them.
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Re: Yet Another 4” Pot Still Build

Postby PeterC » Mon Sep 03, 2018 9:44 pm

Hi, When I got my first keg boiler I put in a 2000W element as low as I could. I put a second one in to speed up heating and placed it slightly higher like you suggest but off-set the entry by 90 degrees. It worked fine and I turned it off before it hit boil. I kept the existing 2" ferrule on the keg, bought a 2" riser, elbows and product condenser for the pot. All this worked fine. A thermometer in a thermowell was very useful to monitor what was happening as you cannot see inside. As the temperature went up when it hit 70 degrees I would kill the top element and reduce power to the other and collect foreshots slowly at around 76 -77C. After that I would increase power to get the flow rate I wanted. The temperature would be at about 78C and then start to climb as the alcohol in the boiler reduced. At 96C the alcohol was less than 20% and I stopped collecting tails. So temperature monitoring was very helpful.

I eventually got a different boiler. The first one was difficult to clean, I had to take the still off and turn almost upside down to hose it out. I also couldn't easily get a second run happening as I could not get rid of the hot boiler contents and put a second batch in very quickly. So I ended up turning the next boiler upside down (like many here have), adding legs, using the 2" fitting as a drain, adding 4" still port and 4" fill/viewing port on top plus 2x2" ferrule side entries for elements.

Here is a photo of the 50L boiler before I added the legs and an 80L boiler I am working on. I am currently working on making some insulation for these. That's my thoughts, hope it is of some help. Legs splayed out on your boiler will also help with the off centre weight of your rig.

For collection jars I got a whole lot of 330ml soda water bottles that I use for 300ml cuts.
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Re: Yet Another 4” Pot Still Build

Postby spamisnotham » Tue Sep 04, 2018 9:36 am

Okay - I should have restated that the elements will be perpendicular to each other i.e. at 90º degrees to each other. Not inline directly on top of each other.
If so will an 8mm gap suffice?
Since they will only be at 8mm for a small section were they overlap.

db1979 wrote:Yes you need an element guard.

But why, what do they guard against?

The idea of a draining hole at the bottom sounds like a good idea.

I see that many people add a viewing portal at the top of your boilers, why? Would it not just fog up as the vapour rises?
Last edited by spamisnotham on Tue Sep 04, 2018 9:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Yet Another 4” Pot Still Build

Postby Doubleuj » Tue Sep 04, 2018 10:23 am

element guards hide away the electric wires, without guards the connections are out in the open and you could get zapped..
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Re: Yet Another 4” Pot Still Build

Postby bluc » Tue Sep 04, 2018 11:18 am

alcohol vapour doesn't fog the glass, as tails start you will get water droplets forming on the glass view port :handgestures-thumbupleft:
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Re: Yet Another 4” Pot Still Build

Postby db1979 » Tue Sep 04, 2018 11:53 am

spamisnotham wrote:Okay - I should have restated that the elements will be perpendicular to each other i.e. at 90º degrees to each other. Not inline directly on top of each other.
If so will an 8mm gap suffice?
Since they will only be at 8mm for a small section were they overlap.


Then my first comment still applies.

db1979 wrote:8mm should be fine seeing as the distance between loops in a looped element is about that distance anyway.
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Re: Yet Another 4” Pot Still Build

Postby spamisnotham » Tue Sep 04, 2018 12:18 pm

Cheers for the info - so I will purchase two elements guards with my elements and a few port.

Distilling ecommerce is strange - in every other online store they will say this is A and it does XYZ for this reason. In distilling it’s this a is A. Why, what of how is never explained.
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Re: Yet Another 4” Pot Still Build

Postby woodduck » Tue Sep 04, 2018 3:49 pm

This whole forum is a why and how. There are thousands of pages of why and how? If we make it that easy it will end up like the youtube vids on how to run a T500, bloody dangerous. As you read you learn stuff you didn't think you'd need to know but glad you read it and learned it. Distilling is a game of patience, take your time and you will get a way better understanding of the process :handgestures-thumbupleft:
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