Still Insulation

Published by Joey Joe Joe Jr on

Sure, bare copper is sexy but reflux stills work better when wearing a jacket. We all like seeing copper porn but I prefer not to go bare.

Insulating the boiler helps stop the still from heating up the room (which is sort of a big deal in a small apartment) leaving more power for faster heat-up times and giving you higher energy efficiency. I use reflective foil bubble wrap for the boiler.

Strip Run
Short Column Strip Run (Reflux Column Not Pictured). I eventually removed the still head insulation but I didn’t notice a difference afterward so I would assume the effect was small.

For the still column, insulating keeps heat from escaping the still but more importantly helps maintain equilibrium inside the reflux column. After the gradient of volatiles is established we don’t know to upset the balance. An uninsulated column has no protection from wind or temperature changes in the room. If equilibrium is disrupted, your spirit quality goes down, your collection rate goes down, or you have to stop and re-establish equilibrium. We don’t want reflux collecting on the inside of the pipe walls, we want the reflux from the condenser mingling with the packing and hot vapor from the boiler. Pick up pipe insulation from a local hardware or plumbing store. Mine had adhesion strips built-in and was super cheap. I used this in conjunction with HVAC Foil Tape to keep everything in place. I used rubber cement on some of the insulation connections, it works okay but eventually came apart.

In this video, I got a new stainless steel pipe and had this piece of insulation laying around. I support it’s barely long enough but I would recommend adding as much insulation as you can without it affecting your ability to assemble and disassemble the still. The more insulation the better.

I even added insulation to the condenser area to keep the cold in. After reviewing some notes from Odin’s iStill blog, he mentioned that we shouldn’t be insulating the still head condenser area. During my last spirit run, I removed the insulation around my condenser without any ill effects. I suppose passive reflux is only of concern on the reflux column and boiler, and passive reflux should actually help in the condenser area.

Please check out this peer-reviewed university study that shows an experiment where insulated columns performed 25% faster with no effect of separation. Meaning they ran their stills faster with insulation without negatively affecting the final product. These experiments were done on vacuum jacketed Liebig condensers, so this experiment is about adding a second layer of external insulation to an already insulated column. Although this isn’t a test on an actual home hobby style reflux still, this experiment offers some insight into the benefits of insulating a reflux column.

Below are some more links from forums/blogs.

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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