Russian Spiral Prismatic Packing
I’ve heard many things about spiral prismatic packing (SPP). It has a very mystical aura around it, and probably much misinformation swarming around it as well. This post is about the unboxing and cleaning of the SPP. In a future post, we’ll discuss what it’s like running a still with SPP.
I ended up buying my SPP here on ebay. As per the manufacturer’s recommendation, I bought 3 liters of 3x3x0.2 mm SPP for my 1.3 meters tall, 2″ diameter reflux column. I ended up having about 650 ml of SPP left over. He recommended the smaller packing as he said that my column is a little short and I needed the extra purity, which comes at the cost of running the packing slower. The smaller the packing, the more HETP, but smaller packing is more susceptible to flooding at lower power settings. Everything is a trade-off, the bigger packing would produce more product per hour but the purity would drop somewhat. The ideal solution would be to use oversized SPP with an extra tall column and you would get high production and high purity. I distill in an apartment, so I’m limited to how high my column can be. Check out the specks on the Genio 50 liter still, it has a 60.3 mm wide column and pumps out an impressive 2.5 liter per hour at 95%+ ABV using SPP.
Most of us use scrubbies as still packing, SPP is significantly more heavy than scrubbies and the column is harder to breathe through when packed with SPP. Heavier packing means more thermal mass resulting in a more stable temperature gradient in the column.
For cleaning, I boiled the SPP in a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water. I put everything in a big old stock pot and boiled it for about 15 minutes. It really stunk up the apartment so do that outside if you can. I poured off the top layer of water that had oil floating on it. I took paper towels and wiped down the sides of the stock pot to get off the grit that collected on the side wall. I then rinsed with cold water multiple times until I couldn’t smell vinegar any longer. I drained out the water, put the included stainless steel stoppers the SPP manufacturer supplied (they are just stainless steel scrubbies with a thicker gauge wire), poured the SPP into the reflux column, and topped it off with the second stopper the manufacturer provided. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
Below is information about SPP provided my the manufacturer. Here is a link to my spirit run using SPP blog post.
Alcohol will be cleaner with 3x3x0.2 packing
the purity of the alcohol with 3x3x0.2 packing – 96,4-96,6%
the purity of the alcohol with 3,5×3,5×0.24 packing – 96,2-96,4%
The performance of the column will be more with the 3,5×3,5×0.24
Performance for your column:
with 3x3x0.2 – ≈1,7 liters per hour
with 3,5×3,5×0.24 – ≈2 liters per hour
– User termosfera from ebay.
The size of SPP 3x3x0.2 mm provides cleaning of 1 TP for every 2.5 cm of moonshine pipe.
The size of SPP 3,5×3,5×0,24 mm provides cleaning of 1 TP for every 3 cm of moonshine pipe.
Grahame · September 12, 2020 at 9:21 PM
Hi Joey, So! hopefully enough time has past for you to form an opinion, I have a 4″ 4 plate bubbler for whisky etc with a 500mm packed column extension on top for neutrals, and a 2″ x 2mtr boka packed column only for neutrals.
I currently use scrubbies for packing, the 4″ is fairly quick but a bit dirty, and the 2″ is clean but a bit slow.
Any thoughts about whether or not prismatics are worth the expense, and what sizes do you think are correct, the links above are showing 4.5 x 4.5, a bit bigger than what you were using.
Joey Joe Joe Jr · September 15, 2020 at 10:21 AM
I have updated the links. It appears that the seller no longer makes that size of SPP. I have updated the link to the same SPP that I have from a different seller.
Is it worth it? I dunno. Each person will need to make that assessment themselves. It is a large investment compared to scrubbies. I am in the process of building temp probes into my column and will be testing different packings to see how they perform. I have data logging into a SQL database and will be able to report on the findings. I have SPP, SS scrubbies, and also have lava rocks which are something that keeps coming up on the forums as reflux still packing.
I can tell you that I won’t be going back to scrubbies. I am moving to a 3″ reflux column and after I’m done my 2″ column packing experiments I will decide on how I”m going to pack the 3″ column.
If you are interested in SPP start reaching out to the suppliers on eBay. They will have lots of experience with different stills and packing sizes. The general rule is the bigger the packing the faster you can run but you need a taller column. The smaller the packing the slower you have to run but you get a cleaner product on a shorter column. I’ve read stories of people using large SPP with lots of power and getting good results. I suppose the problem is that there isn’t a lot of public research available on this topic, hopefully, we can help fill that gap a little.
Cheers and let me know if I can help in any other way.
Joey Joe Joe Jr.