To clean or not to clean ?

Perforated & bubble cap plated columns

To clean or not to clean ?

Postby Philw » Thu Apr 28, 2022 2:55 pm

So I have had a 4 inch bubble column for around a year or so now. I distil roughly every 4 weeks and get about 15 litres of 37% (it gets to around 94-95% but i water it down obviously lol).
In the past year I have NEVER washed out the column or taken it apart once, I have rinsed out the boiler every run but that's it.

My theory is this , I make a sugar wash that is definitely clean as it would result in off tastes if bacteria where in it , I then brew to roughly 95% and sanitise the entire still in doing so and then leave still in one complete sanitised state before I next use it.

I am about to add a packed column section and see people constantly warning to clean and dry the packing after each use so the question I ask is why ?
I know through thorough reading that a fair few of the forum members never take their stills apart (so I assume don't clean them either ) but i have not yet found any one post clarify this clearly. I do realise others wash there stills thoroughly even in the dishwasher

I truly love the work you guys do here ... I just don't have too much to add to the knowledge here and my mum said if you cant add to a conversation shut the hell up would ya ! :))
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Re: To clean or not to clean ?

Postby The Stig » Thu Apr 28, 2022 5:51 pm

I pull mine down once a year and clean everything properly, meaning citric acid for the copper components and a good scrub with soapy water for the stainless then a really good rinse with fresh water.
After all that I let everything completely dry before reassembly
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Re: To clean or not to clean ?

Postby Philw » Thu Apr 28, 2022 5:57 pm

excellent ... you where one of the people I saw didn't pull theirs down in another comment but didnt want to name names :)
Is that with packing as well ?
Also thanks for the quick reply :)
Last edited by Philw on Thu Apr 28, 2022 5:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: To clean or not to clean ?

Postby The Stig » Thu Apr 28, 2022 6:16 pm

No problem , yes packing included.
But, my packing doesn’t get a whole lot of use . Most of my runs are no packing .
If I was running packing all the time I would probably pull that out at least and clean if every 5 runs or so but that would depend on what wash’s and how it’s run
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Re: To clean or not to clean ?

Postby RuddyCrazy » Thu Apr 28, 2022 6:17 pm

My plate tree aint come apart for a few years now and a couple of times I have put the 4" SS boiler filler cap on one end and put a weak citric acid solution in then give it a good shake every few days.

When i need more battery water I just put about 30 litres of water in the boiler and fire it up in pot still mode and let the steam and hot water give it a good clean, with my SS packing I just boil it with a bit of vinegar then boil it again with fresh water and they are good as new.
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Re: To clean or not to clean ?

Postby Philw » Thu Apr 28, 2022 6:37 pm

:text-thankyoublue:
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Re: To clean or not to clean ?

Postby B-Man » Thu Apr 28, 2022 7:21 pm

I only cleaned mine once in 2 years as I was having a few issues but worked out it was nothing to do with the still cleanliness and was a wash issue.
it only took 1 run to look as bad as it did before the clean.
if it isn't broke don't fix it. Is my motto. I was still getting great alcohol out.
My packing gets cleaned whenever it gets removed if im running for more flavour so normally once every 5-10 runs.
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Re: To clean or not to clean ?

Postby Philw » Fri Apr 29, 2022 3:21 pm

Excellent I don't feel such a social pariah any more :)
I can play with the other kids with out fearing they discover my dark secret ;)
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Re: To clean or not to clean ?

Postby RuddyCrazy » Fri Apr 29, 2022 6:39 pm

As I put the drain on my keg boiler on the side it doesn't fully drain the keg so I just use my Vax to suck out the last of the wash then I just 1/2 fill the boiler with rainwater then leave a bit of water under the tap. :handgestures-thumbupleft:

So basically my still no shows the humidity in the shed :laughing-rolling: just like now as it's raining all four plates are fogged up showing there is moisture in the air. Now on a hot sunny all plates are clear as we do get a dry heat here quite often.

So to me with my still if the seal is working why break the seal and the same with my site glass's why risk another broken glass :angry-banghead: Now each member will have their own setup and some may do the same where others just want to be anal :laughing-rolling: about cleaning :laughing-rolling: when in reality once the fores and heads go thru the still is already clean and ready to go.

Each to their own

Cheers Bryan
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Re: To clean or not to clean ?

Postby The Stig » Fri Apr 29, 2022 10:04 pm

I have clients that pull their bubbler down after every run.
Each to their own :handgestures-thumbupleft:
Last edited by The Stig on Fri Apr 29, 2022 10:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: To clean or not to clean ?

Postby Sam. » Sat Apr 30, 2022 12:28 am

The more frequent you use it the less often you need to clean it ;-)
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Re: To clean or not to clean ?

Postby Wellsy » Sat Apr 30, 2022 6:37 am

My 4 inch 5 star bubbler stays mostly assembled and has not been washed in a year, it gets a work out most weekends. I do pull sections apart simply because I can’t lift the bloody thing if it is complete. I did notice some greyish,turned out to be black grunge in the RC and gave the tubes a clean with a rag as I thought it was mold. It wasn’t mould my guess it was a simple build up of oils from the tails, I run my washes to get as much alcohol out as possible, then all feints go back into the next run. Heat plus high abv equals sterilisation for me. Boilers and fermenter get a good rinse or soapy wash depending what has been in there. Each to their own though :)
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Re: To clean or not to clean ?

Postby Wraith71 » Fri May 13, 2022 6:12 pm

well im a bit of a Mr Sheen ...So before and after .. When I put a mash on.. I take the time to go over and give everything a good clean... If you have days to wait then a few hrs to clean really isnt a problem,,
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Re: To clean or not to clean ?

Postby BigRig » Fri May 13, 2022 6:29 pm

The Stig wrote:I pull mine down once a year and clean everything properly, meaning citric acid for the copper components and a good scrub with soapy water for the stainless then a really good rinse with fresh water.
After all that I let everything completely dry before reassembly


I do this. I worked out i dont need to run the still all year round so i decommission for the cooler months. Why not clean at the same time.

When i ran the 2" boka, different story. It ran all year roung and never got washed.
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Re: To clean or not to clean ?

Postby The Stig » Fri May 13, 2022 10:14 pm

Wraith71 wrote:well im a bit of a Mr Sheen ...So before and after .. When I put a mash on.. I take the time to go over and give everything a good clean... If you have days to wait then a few hrs to clean really isnt a problem,,

Do you actually use Mr Sheen ??
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Re: To clean or not to clean ?

Postby Wraith71 » Fri Jun 10, 2022 8:09 pm

The Stig wrote:
Wraith71 wrote:well im a bit of a Mr Sheen ...So before and after .. When I put a mash on.. I take the time to go over and give everything a good clean... If you have days to wait then a few hrs to clean really isnt a problem,,

Do you actually use Mr Sheen ??


:laughing-rolling: Nahhh Stig .. good ole vinegar / water soak and good wipe after ..
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Re: To clean or not to clean ?

Postby Bob9863 » Fri Jun 10, 2022 8:55 pm

In my big boiler I put 6lt of double strength vinegar, 2 cups of salt and 20lt of water and give it a run, it cleans up great after an hour of that.
I do that every 6 or so runs.
I run plain water through it after every couple of runs and that seems to be enough. I still break it down a couple of times a year but that's easy to do with this triclover system.

But on my smaller 25-50lt onse I'd do 2lt of vinegar and 25lt of water, a bit more in the 5t one but that once a month kept it good, I'd do water after every run in them however. But I do mostly brandy and rum and that can get messy.

If I just ran plates I'd do a cleaning run after every few runs, a dirty still can really destroy a run so better safe then sorry.
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Re: To clean or not to clean ?

Postby The Stig » Fri Jun 10, 2022 8:56 pm

Thank jeebus for that :laughing-rolling:
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Re: To clean or not to clean ?

Postby RC Al » Sat Jun 11, 2022 8:14 am

So would i be correct in saying most of you dont run much rye? I find it worse than rum, a couple of successive runs has my caps turning near black.

I clean but don't "mr sheen" it, just a quick once over with a soft scourer, no set schedule, just as I feel its needed. Usually when its turned black or bright green
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Re: To clean or not to clean ?

Postby Bob9863 » Sat Jun 11, 2022 10:51 am

I run a bit of rye, I've got an all grain rye on the go ATM. Every bourbon I make has at least 15% rye in it and yes it turn your copper some interesting colours.
The hardest bit I fine is cleaning out the tubes on the shotgun condenser, that can take some scrubbing as you can't really see down them.
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