Spirit Run #1

Published by Joey Joe Joe Jr on

Note Taking

The detailed notes for these spirit runs come from a spreadsheet I made that calculates theoretical percent complete (TPC), the reflux ratio, the running total volume collected, when to set an alarm based on your collection rate and jar size, and other things. I will write a post specifically about the spreadsheet and share it with ya’ll if you are interested. Here is a link to download the spreadsheet.

Equipment

This run is a little special because I’m running with brand new packing that I’ve never used before. Spiral prismatic packing (SPP) has a lot of discussion around it on the online forums. Besides the SPP, the equipment I have is a 2″ copper reflux column that is about 4.25 feet high, which is attached to a modified keg as a boiler, powered by electric elements on a power controller.

Stripping Runs

I did three spirit runs over three days, the first two runs I used low wines. They were 6 gallons each @ 35%ABV, I watered them down to about 10 gallons each for the spirit runs. I heard that adding water is a good thing and that it can actually act as a filter removing undesirables. Added water also helps keep my electric elements submerged which keeps them from being destroyed. The third run was the heads and tails from the first two runs. I know lots of distillers don’t redistill heads, but I’ve had good luck so far doing things this way. The third run always comes out clean with a good yield.

Tasting

Me and Miss Joey Joe Joe Jr taste using Ketel One vodka as the tasting control. We usually break the kept vodka into two categories 1) mixing vodka and 2) martini vodka. You’ll see discarded/kept on some of the notes, this is an indication of what was either discarded into the feints collection or kept for drinking.

First Run

I played with the power settings for hours, trying to find out exactly where the column would flood. I would turn up the power until the still column sounded like a rolling boiling pot of water and then would turn it down. I kept testing until I thought I was close to, but not actually, flooding the column. SPP apparently like to be flooded a little bit, that’s where you get the lowerest HETP, resulting in the highest number of theoretical plates possible. Some distillers have added a sight glass to the top of the still so they can see and control the flooding. I’ll be doing the same on the automated still that I’ll be building in the future. I didn’t take the best notes on the first day, but here is what I have. I finally settled on ~1,000 watts of power for the entire run.

Summary Notes First Run

  • 6 gallons of low wines at 35% ABV.
  • 7.95 liters of Absolute Alcohol diluted to ~10 gallons
  • 4.37 liters yielded of Absolute Alcohol
  • 55% yield. Not bad.

Second Run

I used old low wines I had laying around for this run. I had added soda ash to it months ago, and the color had changed to a pale green which was a little unsettling. I would usually throw something like this out but, the low wines actually smelled fine so I thought I would run it and see what happened. Spoiler alert, the resulting spirit was fine but resulted in a lower yield of quality spirits. I kept the power at ~1,124 watts for this entire run. I tried to push the speed a little during this run to see what happened.

Summary Notes Second Run

  • 6 gallons of low wines at 35% ABV.
  • 7.95 liters of Absolute Alcohol diluted to ~10 gallons
  • 3.00 liters yielded of Absolute Alcohol
  • 38% yield. Pretty terrible yield, but garbage low wines in… garbage spirit out…

Detailed Notes Second Run

  • 07:00 AM – full power
  • 07:52 AM – realize 208 volt element is not full power. Put it to full power.
  • 08:10 AM – up to temp, power setting 120 v ~1125 watts (no flooding), letting equalize. Vapor temp bouncing around 78.5 to 78.3 C.
  • 08:30 AM – Took 0 RR sample. 142.5ml/min
  • 09:20 AM – jar 1 – 120 volt, 78.5 C, 5ml/min, RR = 27.5, TPC 1%, Collected: 100ml – discarded
  • 09:51 AM – jar 2 – 120 volt, 78.6 C, 9ml/min, RR = 14.9, TPC 3%, Collected: 230ml – discarded
  • 10:48 AM – jar 3 – 120 volt, 78.5 C, 9ml/min, RR = 14.9, TPC 9%, Collected: 680ml – discarded
  • 11:49 AM – jar 4 – 120 volt, 78.5 C, 9ml/min, RR = 14.9, TPC 16%, Collected: 1130ml – discarded
  • 12:45 PM – jar 5 – 120 volt, 78.6 C, 9ml/min, RR = 14.9, TPC 22%, Collected: 1580ml – discarded
  • 01:21 PM – jar 6 – 120 volt, 78.6 C, 9ml/min, RR = 14.9, TPC 26%, Collected: 1880ml- discarded
  • 02:19 PM – jar 7 – 120 volt, 78.5 C, 9ml/min, RR = 14.9, TPC 32%, Collected: 2330ml- discarded
  • 03:16 PM – jar 8 – 120 volt, 78.6 C, 9ml/min, RR = 14.9, TPC 39%, Collected: 2780ml – kept
  • 03:32 PM – jar 9 – 120 volt, 78.6 C, 37ml/min, RR = 2.9, TPC 43%, Collected: 3130ml – kept, 96.1% ABV temp corrected, my cheap hydrometer must be a bit off as this is higher than azeotrope – short test to see what 2220ml/hour tastes like, ran it like this for about 10 mins, is 10 mins to short to test still performance? – Letting still equalize for a bit afterward.
  • 04:12 PM – Got side tracked. Forgot about distilling.
  • 04:20 PM – Took 0 RR sample. 153ml/min. Therefore, the still is now producing more liquid than at the begining of the run. That doesn’t sound right, liquid production should decrease over time if there is no change in power. Letting equalize again.
  • 04:57 PM – jar 10 – 120 volt, 78.5 C, 23ml/min, RR = 5.7, TPC 45%, Collected: 3230ml- discarded
  • 05:14 PM – jar 11 – 120 volt, 78.6 C, 23ml/min, RR = 5.7, TPC 51%, Collected: 3680ml- discarded
  • 05:36 PM – jar 12 – 120 volt, 78.6 C, 23-25ml/min, RR = 5.1, TPC 57%, Collected: 4130ml – A grade – kept NOTE: transition to new speed jar, mix of speeds in this jar
  • 05:57 PM – jar 13 – 120 volt, 78.6 C, 25ml/min, RR = 5.1, TPC 64%, Collected: 4580ml – kept, 95.8% ABV temp corrected
  • 06:21 PM – jar 14 – 120 volt, 78.6 C, 28.5ml/min, RR = 4.4, TPC 70%, Collected: 5030ml – A grade – kept NOTE: transition to new speed jar, mix of speeds in this jar
  • 06:35 PM – jar 15 – 120 volt, 78.6 C, 28.5ml/min, RR = 4.4, TPC 76%, Collected: 5480ml – kept
  • 06:52 PM – jar 16 – 120 volt, 78.6 C, 28.5ml/min, RR = 4.4, TPC 82%, Collected: 5930ml – kept, 95.8% ABV temp corrected
  • 06:56 PM – closed take off. Will collect slower now, close to end of the run.
  • 07:00 PM – vapor temp at 78.5
  • 07:35 PM – jar 17 – 120 volt, 78.6 C, 10ml/min, RR = 14.3, TPC 89%, Collected: 6380ml- discarded NOTE: transition to new speed jar, mix of speeds in this jar
  • 08:21 PM – jar 18 – 120 volt, 78.6 C, 10ml/min, RR = 14.3, TPC 95%, Collected: 6830ml- discarded
  • 09:01 PM – jar 19 – 120 volt, 78.6 C, 10ml/min, RR = 14.3, TPC 101%, Collected: 7280ml- discarded
  • 09:?? PM – jar 20 – 120 volt, 98.6 C, 10ml/min, RR = 14.3, TPC 101%, Collected: 7500ml – discarded

Third Run

This run is comprised of the discarded jars from the first and second runs minus the foreshots, which get poured down the drain. Again, I know that many distillers don’t redistill heads but I have had good experiences redistilling them along with the tails. I really tried to push the still and packing further during this run. The power setting was ~1220 watts the entire run.

Summary Notes Third Run

8.52 liters of Absolute Alcohol diluted to ~10 gallons.
5.5 liters yielded of Absolute Alcohol.
65% yield. Pretty fantastic.

Detailed Notes Third Run

07:16 AM – Full power
??:?? AM – up to temp – temp alarm went off, forgot to record time.
08:10 AM – 120 volts, 0 RR, ~150ml/min
08:15 AM – 125 volts ~1220 watts, 0 RR, ~156ml/min, staying with this power b/c no flooding. Letting equalize for a bit. Took 200ml of samples during this stage.
09:11 AM – jar 1 – 125 volt, 78.5 C, 5.5ml/min, RR = 27.4, TPC 3%, Collected: 200ml – discarded
10:09 AM – jar 2 – 125 volt, 78.5 C, 7ml/min, RR = 21.3, TPC 8%, Collected: 600ml – discarded
11:20 AM – jar 3 – 125 volt, 78.5 C, 7ml/min, RR = 21.3, TPC 14%, Collected: 1050ml – kept
12:35 PM – jar 4 – 125 volt, 78.5 C, 9.5ml/min, RR = 15.5, TPC 19%, Collected: 1500ml – kept
01:25 PM – jar 5 – 125 volt, 78.5 C, 9.5ml/min, RR = 15.5, TPC 25%, Collected: 1900ml – kept
01:54 PM – jar 6 – 125 volt, 78.5 C, 27.5ml/min, RR = 4.7, TPC 28%, Collected: 2125ml – kept
02:14 PM – jar 7 – 125 volt, 78.4 C, 27.5ml/min, RR = 4.7, TPC 33%, Collected: 2575ml – kept
02:32 PM – jar 8 – 125 volt, 78.4 C, 27.5ml/min, RR = 4.7, TPC 39%, Collected: 3025ml – kept
02:51 PM – jar 9 – 125 volt, 78.5 C, 27.5ml/min (1,650ml/hour), RR = 4.7, TPC 45%, Collected: 3475ml, 95.9 % ABV temp corrected – kept
03:11 PM – 125 volts ~1220 watts, 0 RR, ~159ml/min, collection at 0 RR up slightly again. Maybe the still continues to heat up after I take the inital RR 0 reading? Letting still equalize for a bit (need to make a phone call).
03:58 PM – jar 10 – 125 volt, 78.5 C, 33.5ml/min, RR = 3.7, TPC 52%, Collected: 3995ml – kept – NOTE: this jar has a mix of speeds as I increase the take off slowly. Bled a little into the sample jar before I started take off.
04:09 PM – jar 11 – 125 volt, 78.4 C, 33.5ml/min, RR = 3.7, TPC 58%, Collected: 4445ml – discarded
04:24 PM – jar 12 – 125 volt, 78.4 C, 33.5ml/min (2,010ml/hour), RR = 3.7, TPC 63%, Collected: 4895ml, – discarded 95.4 % ABV temp corrected
04:39 PM – jar 13 – 125 volt, 78.4 C, 46.5ml/min, RR = 2.4, TPC 69%, Collected: 5345ml – discarded – NOTE: this jar has a mix of speeds as I increase the take off slowly. Bled a little into the sample jar before I started take off.
04:50 PM – jar 14 – 125 volt, 78.4 C, 46.5ml/min (2,790ml/hour), RR = 2.4, TPC 75%, Collected: 5795ml, 95.4 % ABV temp corrected
05:00 PM – jar 14 – 125 volt, 78.5 C, TPC 81%, Collected: 6245ml, Stopped collecting at 46.5ml/min – discarded (2,790ml/hour) Note: about 80 percent of the way through the run, will slow take off to try and squeeze out the last of the hearts.
05:03 PM – jar 15 – 125 volt, 78.5 C, 17ml/min, RR = 8.3, TPC 81%, Collected: 6245ml – kept
05:43 PM – jar 16 – 125 volt, 78.5 C, 17ml/min, RR = 8.3, TPC 87%, Collected: 6695ml – kept
06:10 PM – jar 17 – 125 volt, 78.4 C, 17ml/min, RR = 8.3, TPC 93%, Collected: 7145ml – kept
06:39 PM – jar 18 – 125 volt, 78.5 C, 17ml/min, RR = 8.3, TPC 99%, Collected: 7595ml, 96.5 % ABV temp corrected – kept
07:10 PM – jar 19 – 125 volt, 78.4 C, 17ml/min, RR = 8.3, TPC 104%, Collected: 8045ml – kept
07:41 PM – jar 20 – 125 volt, 78.4 C, 17ml/min, RR = 8.3, TPC 110%, Collected: 8495ml – kept
08:12 PM – jar 21 – 125 volt, 78.4 C, 17ml/min, RR = 8.3, TPC 116%, Collected: 8945ml – discarded
NOTE: Looks like I may have underestimated the volumn in the feints corny keg. Currently at 116% TPC. – discarded
08:51 PM – definitly into tails. It’s smelled gross for a while. Not recording data any longer. – discarded
08:52 PM – 98 C vapor temp reached. Cutting power. – discarded

Conclusion

My conclusion is that my column packed with SPP can handle ~1,200 watts (maybe even 1,300 watts) of power at a takeoff rate of 28 ml/min or ~1,700 ml/hr with a reflux ratio of ~4.6. If I take the product off any quicker than that the quality of the spirit goes down. My experimentally derived takeoff rate just so happens to be exactly the same takeoff rate that the packing manufacturer said I would get before I purchased from him.

For column 2″ 1.3 meters:

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

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.

– User termosfera from ebay.

Given the information from the SPP manufacturer, I find it amazing that a 0.5 mm diameter increase in SPP could theoretically provide an 18% increase in production rate (but of course you would need a taller column to reach the same ABV as with the smaller SPP). It goes to show why iStill and Genio ship their stills with oversized SPP. If you are interested in buying SPP please use this affiliate link. You’d be helping out the Open Source Distilling project.


Joey Joe Joe Jr

I was born on a pirate ship off the coast of Peru where I was given a traditional Aztec upbringing, during which I excelled in the arts of sciences. At age seven my parents accidentally murdered each other in a freak fencing accident. Heartbroken I joined the tribe of Omaha, where I trained under the legendary Vin Diesel. At age eighteen, after a failed Fear Factor audition, I set out for a berry plantation roughly four kilometers south of Albuquerque. I currently reside at Ram Ranch which really rocks!

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