How The Still Spirits T500 works
Distillation is the process or method of seperating liquid mixtures based on the differences in the volatility of their boiling points. Distillation is a unit operation that physically seperates the blended solution, it does not a chemical reaction, but can be used to seperate chemical solutions. Commerically you would see this in the petroluem industry, with the distillation of crude oil into its various chemical compounds. You may also see distilled water, this is a high quality and purity water product which is used for special applications such as car batteries. The topic that we are going to be focusing on is the use of distillation equipment in the production of distilled alcohol, also known as a distillery.
Using the Turbo 500, we are able to use the benefits of distillation to make our own distilled water, essential oils, alcohol and many other great products. I will talk about water to begin with, as most of us have boiled water at some stage in our life, and possibly distilled it in high school science. Water has a freezing point of <0°C (state of solid – ice), boiling point of 100°C (state of liquid – water when between 0°C and 99.9°C), >100°C water will then be in a gas form known as steam. When you boil a kettle, you will see bubbles come up through the water and reach the top, releasing steam. In the Turbo 500 distillation unit, we funnel this steam through a long pipe called a reflux which is packed with special shaped cupped ceramic saddles, the gas vapour cools as it travels through the saddles and creates condensation as it drops below its boiling point (returns back to a liquid form). In the Turbo 500 we also use an arangement of special cooling apparatus to help the condensation process.
With a mixture of water and alcohol, the boiling point will be at ~78°C, as ethanol (alcohol) has a boiling point of ~78°C, the mixture will boil off the lowest boiling point substance, until all of that substance with the lower boiling point has evaporated and is exhausted. The boiling volume would then move onto the next boiling point which would be 100°C (water). One thing that should be noted that, the higher the percentage of a particular substance boiling, in this case alcohol, the higher the % in the distillate (final product) will be, as there will be a percentage of water also evaporating, diluting the final product. Higher quality stills like that of the Turbo 500 unit improves the total final % of the distillate and the yield (how much we can extract from the boiling solution).
There are three main parts to the Still Spirits Turbo 500,
- 25L stainless steel boiler with a 2kw enclosed element
- The reflux head unit which is made up of two important parts (1. reflux 2. condenser)
The boiler has a very powerful heating element, which does not come in contact with the liquid, for it to work optimally, we must use special ceramic beads. These beads create a surface area for the gas to build and release before building too large (helps the volume simmer rather than rapidly boil), otherwise we get large bubbles of gas called surges.
The reflux first column is the reflux, where steam from the boiler travels up, with the lowest boiling point substances traveling higher than the other substances (ie alcohol will travel higher before being cooled than water). The second stage is the condenser, whereby the steam that has passed through the ceramic saddles (discussed earlier) is then passed through to be converted in an intense cooling environment within the distillation head unit.
What is special about the Still Spirits Turbo 500?
The Still Spirits Turbo 500 reflux condenser is a little bit special, it works on the principles of ceiling temperatures, where through its intelligent design it prevents chemical substance above a certain boiling point being processed. Unlike other reflux condensers on the market the Turbo 500 works with a focus on the water flow and controlling the temperature of the water flow out. Assuming that the temperature of the water flow is stable, it is able to create a ceiling threshold temperature based on the water flow out. So effectively, If you are looking at collecting a product of a boiling point of ~78°C, water flow out would be set just to collect everything up to this temperature, then prevent any other products with a boiling point above ~78°C up the reflux and into the condenser.
This technology break through was only developed through the redesigning of the contemporary reflux, designed to make distillation easier with hassle free operation. It’s designed to set and forget as it operates until exhaustion, requiring simple initial setup with water flow and turning off once distillation is complete.
How do you make alcohol to begin with before distilling?
Alcohol is a by product of yeasts feeding on sugar in a body of water. There are other compounds made during the process, like CO2, different forms of alcohol and methanol, but we focus on the beverage alcohol produced which has the boiling point of ~78°C as discussed. This process is called ferementation and is performed in a food grade fermenter (also known as a barrel), taking depending on the ingredients used and environmental factors between 7-12 days.
Cost of operation
The running cost of the Turbo 500 will vary depending on the ingredients, will vary the operation time but between 4-5 hours is the general rule with a full run. At $0.13kwh off peak ($0.22kwh on peak), the unit cost a insignificant $1.30 – $2.20 in power consumption to operate, this is opposed to other forms of distillation units requiring LPG gas bottle which can be quite expensive after 5 hours of operation.
Cost of final product
This will vary depending on what you are making in terms of whiskey or liqueurs, also the varying qualities available. But working on the highest quality and most recommended blend of ingredients you are looking at approximately $10 per the bottle which is equivalent to a $60+ triple distilled commercial grade alcohol bought from your everyday liquor outlet. Higher and lower alcohol quality grades can be achieved, but there is a sliding scale quality for quantity. We stress ‘you get what you pay for’
This figure has been fully aggravated to consider all aspects of cleaning, fermenting, distilling and blending of your drink.
Looking more detailed at ingredients
The use of premium ingredients will not only increase the quality of the end product, but will increase the ease of use of the distillation products. Providing you use very high quality ingredients (like the still spirits 6kg triple distilled production pack) there is a reduced need to discard the first 50mls that is associated with other stills, as these yeasts produce one tenth of the metho and impurities during initial fermentation. Thus, any remaining impurities will be removed with the combination of the high % T500 reflux and the still spirits carbon filtration system. But it is still recommended to discard the first 50mls
It should be noted that a reflux will only increase the concentration not change quality the product is, high quality product in equals high quality out. Low quality yeasts and sugars can create compounds that produce undesired substances that have very close boiling points to the ~78°C in addition to high levels of metho ~65°C that can carry across and can fool the reading equipment used to test % of product. Spirit Hydrometers work on density and are only accurate when measuring pure spirit and water.