Not a Time Machine – Part 3

Yesterday whilst all the still action was going on we also managed to do some work on the burner for the hot tub.

This is the finished product of about 45mins of hard core angle grinding. Wanting to cut straight through the middle of the tank meant that we also had to cut through two layers of the tank skin as apposed to just one as the manufacturer obviously decided that as well as welding the tank together they should flare the bottom section and slide the top into it.

First off however we had to remove the valve from the top (Enter spanner and hammer) and purge all the gas from the tank by filling it with water (IMPORTANT STEP FOLKS)

Now that this has been cut in half the next step will be to cut another hole in the top half for putting wood in and drill some holes in the bottom half for ventilation and for all the ash etc to fall out.

This morning at 7:15 I picked up the SS pipe for the coil from East Tamaki, (pic to come) Once this has been bent (anyone got a pipe bender?) the slots in the tank can be cut and the pipe installed.

Ive been thinking about how to join the top and bottom back together once its done. Welding seemed like a go at the start but now I think ill probably just make 3-4 steel drilled plates approx 1 inch x 4 inches and bolt them onto the side to hold the two halves together. Then if something goes wrong in the future or if changes are needed to the burner it’ll be easier to get them apart.

Since last time the hole for the outlet has also been cut in the corrugated iron. The hole for the return to the tub still has to be done though, mostly because its a real dog of a job and I want to put it off as long as possible. Same goes for the hole around the drain at the bottom of the tank which because of the corrugated sheeting is inaccessible.

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The Still

For the past almost hundred years it seems Matt, Dan, Myself and recently Reub have been working on a still for the distillation of many many things. ┬áTo give you an idea of how long this has been going on, we started before I had my driver’s licence.

All this hard work has resulted in this.

The boiler on the bottom is an old 50 odd L keg. This has had the valve at the top removed and a large hole cut in it. Onto this is bolted a stainless steel bowl to which is attached a mass of copper pipes and fittings. Cork gasket is used between the keg, the bowl and the column to seal any gaps

The column is filled with ceramic rings that you can purchase from Pet stores, apparently the proper use for these has something to do with filtering the water in fish tanks but in this context they’re designed to provide a large surface area for steam to condense on. A pipeclamp and some wire mesh at the bottom of the column stops it from all falling into the boiler.

As you can see they’re quite small, being ceramic we don’t need to worry about them melting etc.

At the top of the main column we have a special attachment point (drilled hole)

Into which we can place out Thermometer, This gives us a reading of the steam rising up the column, important because different elements of the mash that we place in the bottom boil off at different temperatures and we only want to collect that which boils within a certain range.

Continuing right to the top of the still we have out condensing coil.

Cold water is pumped through this to cool the steam and cause it to condense. From here it drops to a couple of valves which determine whether it leaves the still to be collected or is refluxed back into the main column for further purification

About three weeks ago we crushed approximately 120L of apples and managed to extract about 18L of apple juice. This was then heated, had sugar and yeast added to it and left to ferment for a couple of weeks.

Yesterday morning this was then put in the boiler and heated for about 6 hours and then a further 4 hours today. 80L of ice went into the hot tub along with about 200L of water to keep the whole thing cool. During that time we managed to extract approx 750mls of usable alcohol. It doesn’t sound like much but it should be noted that as far as we can tell it’s somewhere between 80-85% alcohol. I.E not weak.

Going on from here we plans to try and workout exactly what percentage we’ve managed to produce as well as fiddle with the temperatures and reflux settings to determine what setup works best for us and produces the best result.