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"Amazing Still" v2.0

A fast, unsupervised, and odorless way to make alcohol
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At http://www.amazingstill.com/ you can find plans on how to make a silent still for around 50 bucks that will produce about one liter of 40-45% alcohol distiled from mash (mash can be made most simply from sugar, water, and yeast and is about 17 percent alcohol. It also contains undesired oils and alcohols that must be filtered out by carbon filtering and distilling. Vodka is the product). The concept is remarkably simple. Start off with 2 plastic buckets, one 10 liters and one 5 gallon bucket. Set the 10 liter bucket inside of the larger 5 gallon bucket, but keep the the 5 liter bucket suspended or on stands inside of the larger vessel.

The small bucket is then filled with mash and heated to 45 to 50 degreese Celsius with a common fish tank heater. The large bucket is sealed to prevent the evaporated alcohol/water mix from escaping. The gas then condenses and drips down the side of the bucket to pool in the large bucket. The resulting fluid at the bottom of the bucket is 80 to 100 proof and needs carbon filtering to remove some remaining impurities. The still is odor free as it is completely sealed and makes very good alcohol, though there's room for improvement.

The apparatus will make stronger brews when you use only the first 2 liters of condensed alcohol/water mix, instead of distilling say a whole 8 liters.

Now that the concept has been explained somewhat, here's what would make this still much better. There are two opportunities to use peltiers (peltiers are matchbook sized devices that become hot on one side and cold on the other when large currents are ran through them) inside of this device. First, use the hot side of the peltier to heat the mash in the small vessel. The advantage is that the cold side of the peltier can have a heat sink attached. The cold air produced inside of the large vessel from the peltier would speed the condensation of alcohol. The small vessel will have to be made from metal (stainless steel preferably to avoid corrosion) to conduct heat through the surface. This results in both better quality and higher alcohol concentrations.

The second benefit that a peltier offers is a way to "suck" water out of the air, without touching the alcohol. Before I continue, THIS IS A CONCEPT AND UNTESTED, though the science is rather simple. When a peltier is turned on and the hot side is cooled with a good PC heat sink and fan, the cold side will freeze water easily from ambient air. Alcohol freezes at a much cooler temperature. It is actually possible to create a still that will freeze the alcohol from the mash, though the results are usually poor as the alcohol pools inside of the frozen mash. This is because the mash pushes the alcohol in as the water freezes. For example, when freezing a fresh tray of ice cubes in a freezer the ice cubes always freeze on the outside first. Obviously the water contacting the cold air freezes first and the water inside pools because it not yet dropped in temperature. In a frozen still the alcohol in the mash doesn't freeze and becomes trapped inside much like the water that is not frozen yet in ice cubes.

Using a couple peltiers on timers you could freeze an exposed side of a peltier for 15 or 20 minutes (whatever it takes to get a layer of ice) and then briefly reverse the current to the peltier, heating the frozen layer of what should be only water very fast. The frozen layer would drip or fall off into a small container placed beneath the device, trapping the water and not the alcohol from the air. These would be used on the inside of the still with the hot heat sink on the outside of the large bucket.

The final step would be to stack 2 or 3 of these stills on top of each other for an even more pure grade of alcohol, with more water removed. You could set stills to dump once 2 or 3 liters have been accumulated in the bottom of the first still. A float attached to a switch would dump the distilled alcohol into a second still set up underneath the first.

Insulating the internal bucket will help keep the temperature down inside of the still and up in the mash. Insulating the outside of the still will help keep the gas chamber cooler. It can also be placed inside a refrigerator or outside if you live in a cold area.

The concept of using peltiers to freeze water from the air when distilling is new as far as I know. (REMEMBER! Peltiers will not remove impurities in the alcohol, just the water in the air.) Thoughts? (NOT grammar suggestions)

RXAaron, Apr 10 2008

Peltiers http://en.wikipedia...ermoelectric_effect
[RXAaron, Apr 10 2008]

Amazing Still http://www.plastics...-filer/image003.gif
[RXAaron, Apr 10 2008]

HomeDistiller http://homedistiller.org/static_menu.htm
If you're going to all that trouble, just build a decent reflux still. [gregor-e, Apr 13 2008]

Craft distilling law in Washington http://apps.leg.wa....ature/2959-S.PL.pdf
Craft distilling is now legal in Washington state. [gregor-e, Apr 13 2008]

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       A couple of problems I see: 1. I have a friend who has a still and he told me that there are several kind of alcohol that are produced by the mash. The key to not going blind is to only use the vapors coming off the mash when it has reached a specific temperature. In this way some boils off first and gets discarded and then you disconnect before you get the later gasses. 2. Just because the alcohol will not freeze on the peltier, does not mean it will not condense on the peltier and later run off when melted. So I don't think this will work as an automatic process.
MisterQED, Apr 10 2008

       You are correct, there are various types of mashes and this still is not going to do well on all types of alcohol. The freezing, however, should increase the percentage of alcohol yielded. The carbon filtering is used to remove the menthol that has not been removed from distilling. The menthol is what specifically causes blindness and is largely removed by this process as menthol evaporates at a slow rate. The few remaining materials which cause hangovers are also removed by the filtering.   

       While some alcohol will be drawn to the cold surface of the peltier, the water that is condensing will constantly push it out of the way (up to the surface). A light layer of alcohol might accumulate on the surface but not in the ice (in my yet untested opinion...).
RXAaron, Apr 10 2008

       Menthol? Degrease Celsius? And I'm going to trust you to protect my optic nerves?
GutPunchLullabies, Apr 10 2008

       In the beginning... there was a disclaimer, and besides making this to consume is illegal and must be spoken of with this in mind ;).   

       If you plan on consuming this then it is always up to you to do the research, research on the basic still and carbon filtering have been cross referenced though not cited. The alcohol can be ran through a regular still if you didn't trust it, the resulting product would be quite pure. Again, anytime you make anything from tomato's to mushrooms you should always do your own research.
RXAaron, Apr 10 2008

       Isn't it simpler just to buy decent drink?
MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 10 2008

       It is, though simplicity is not the goal of this web site.
RXAaron, Apr 10 2008

       // one 10 liters and one 5 gallon// This must be an American system.   

       Also, a few points regarding the use of Peltiers. First, don't forget that Peltiers generate net heat, apart from pumping heat. This may not be a problem, but you can get a thermal runaway where the Peltier tries harder and harder to cool, generating more and more waste heat.   

       Second, the Peltiers will need to be protected from condensation. They are basically a grid of semiconductor blocks between two conductive plates, and you don't want water to get into them.   

       Third, if you cycle the Peltiers between extremes of temperature, their lifespan is shortened (though some of the better heavy-duty ones aren't so bad). Basically, the constant expansion/contraction of one face relative to another fractures the device internally.   

       Fourth, you can't opt out of grammar suggestions on the HB.   

       Fifth, Sp.: odour, litre
MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 10 2008

       Well, my super reflux still was bought in a shop. I wish that when people jumped in and made statements like "DISTILLING ALCOHOL IS ILLEGAL UNLESS IT IS GOING TO BE DENATURED. THIS IS INTENDED FOR INTELLECTUAL CONVERSATION ONLY." ... that are specific to a single country, that they would oh, I dunno, maybe use the term "in the USA ..." .   

       The community on this site is rather international after all.   

       Anyhoo, Mash, or "wash" will consist of water, ethanol, various solids and suspended by-products, fusil oils <mostly esters, strong-smelling contaminants>, and methanol. Fusils cause hangovers and taste unpleasant, and methanol sends you blind.   

       Fortunately, and especially with a refluxing still like mine, the methanol is the first thing that boils off. Because of the miscibility of ethanol, methanol and water <it forms an.. I can't remember the term, um, "doesn't fractionally distill very well" matrix> meaning the first bit to come out of the still will be ~95% ethanol, with traces of water and most of the methanol. For 25 litres of wash, you throw away the first 50mls. I throw away the first 3-500 mls, because I like my optic nerves how they are, thankyouverymuch. Then the next 3-4 litres will be ~90% ethanol, with ~10% water and traces of fusil oils. After that the temperature creeps up and the concentration of fusils gets high enough to not filter out very well, so I stop the process.   

       As long as your temperature control is good, there will only be traces of fusils. Problem is, becuase they're mostly esters, you can detect them at concentrations in the order of 1 ppm. That's why you carbon filter. If I get a good run off my still, often I cannot smell any impurities at all, but I double/tripple carbon filter anyway.   

       Anyhoo, back to the point. There are freely available designs for reflux and super reflux stills available on the net, which guarantee you will be able to, in ~4 hours, produce 3.5-4 litres of 90% spirit, of a very high purity <For the record, I haven't had a hangover in a very long time>, which cost maybe $200 in materials to make. . Why would I want to bodge something together out of plastic?   

       Lastly, high concentration alcohol can leech all sorts of crap out of "food grade plastic" - it is fundamental to home-stilling that you never, ever allow your spirit to come into contact with plastic. Just sayin'.
Custardguts, Apr 10 2008

       Excellent information, and yes in the United States, ODOR and LITER are correct. It is also illegal to distill hard alcohol here for some dumb reason and that's why my knowledge is strictly theoretical. In my apartment (flat in case you want to critique me) the ODOR from fractional or reflex distilling would cause serious eviction problems.   

       Custardguts, would using an all metal enclosure be a safer idea? I was unaware that alcohol caused problems with plastic as so many cheap vodka's and rubbing alcohol's come in plastic containers. Perhaps they are a specific grade?   

       As for my optic nerve, I'd rather take a beating on here before I consider real testing on my body.
RXAaron, Apr 11 2008

       And you're going to trust US to protect your optic nerve?
GutPunchLullabies, Apr 12 2008

       You can buy cheap vodka in a plastic bottle?   

       Weird, I would have thought the FDA or whoever keeps track of these things would ban that. Rubbing alcohol doesn't matter, 'cause you don't <read: shouldn't> drink it...   

       AFAIK it's to do with impurities leaching into the alcohol, or some other such hazard. Glass is rather inert, so I always store in glass, it's easier that way. Everything in the still is either stainless steel or ceramic, so no dramas there, although once again, you don't store for too long in the stainless, either. Gets a "tinny" taste.
Custardguts, Apr 13 2008

       Actually, craft distilling has just been legalized in Washington state.   

       Also, the spirit one gets from a sugar wash, for example, has negligible methanol. The reason distillers separate a run into heads, hearts and tails is taste.   

       And if one is going to all the trouble to make a still, why not make a decent reflux column? It's not hard, and the product is excellent (unlike the 'pistol-whisky' one gets from the Amazing Still, which is drinkable if you and a buddy take turns holding a pistol to each other's head to make you drink it).
gregor-e, Apr 13 2008

       Seriously, though, with a reflux still you need to be careful. Some people think it's only the temperature you need to keep track of, but it's not. You really need to keep track of "cooling water flow rate VS temparature" ...<and I suppose VS outflow of product as well>. Essentially if you crank water through the cooling line, the temperature will stay nice and low, giving you a false impression that all is well.   

       So then if you then do a crap job of filtering, or <shudder> don't filter because you don't normally need to, and drink a large ammount, you may be making a visit to the dialisis unit of your local hospital. In larger quantities, fusils are not your friend. You've got to f^ck up about three things in a row to have this risk, but it is a risk with amateurs.
Custardguts, Apr 13 2008

       I don't know anywhere non-extremist that distilling is illegal. It may well require a license but so does my TV.
vincevincevince, Apr 14 2008


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