Our Big Copper Beauty Part II: Design and Manufacturing
Back in March we engaged Vendome Copper and Brass Works in Louisville, KY to build us a 150 Gallon Pot / Column hybrid still. It arrived earlier this month. Part two in our series following the progress of our new still will showcase the design and manufacture of our new friend. It’s a pot/column hybrid still that is very versatile. We have all sorts of great plans for it which will yield some wonderful stuff for your imbibing pleasure.
The first step in building this still was to finalize some of the larger details. Again, our overall scope is to make many different types of products in this still so every decision was made with that in mind. We went with a 150 gallon pot because It’s just big enough to give us a decent yield of distillate in one day and small enough to be manageable. We can make decent quantities of one product one day and still have the ability to clean the still make something completely different the next.
Next, we chose to put 6 plates in the column. We will save distillation basics for another day. But, for now, understand that with each plate comes more REFLUX. REFLUX is what purifies a spirit by separating the different elements created in a fermentation. Each individual plate can be turned off giving us the ability to use as little as one plate all the way up to six. Vendome also set up the vapor lines so that we can bypass the column all together and go straight from the pot to the condenser. This is valuable in “stripping runs” where all we want to do is remove as much alcohol as possible from a wash without worrying about component separation. Another crucial decision was that we went with an all stainless steel condenser as opposed to a copper condenser. Stainless is easier to clean allowing us to switch products easier from day to day.
The next step was the sign off on the blueprints of the still. A lot of time went into port placement, leg height, distillate collection and other items to custom fit the still to our space while all along focusing on versatility.
After everything was signed off on, Vendome started with construction. First, they turned the corners of the still which is the hardest part in working with copper according to Vendome. You need some pretty serious equipment to be able to move around a couple hundred pounds of copper and get it to form into the shape you want. Once the corners were turned they started welding on ports for sight glasses, the man way, filling, heat in and out, and vapor paths. Then came putting it all together. There are some pretty spectacular welds connecting the shoulders of the pot to the body, the body to the bottom corners and the bottom corners to the legs. The bubble caps in each plate were made, put together, then welded into the column. The stainless condenser was machined and polished and the man way door was etched out. They plumbed up the clean in place (CIP) system and did a test run with water to ensure there were no leaks and everything work well.
They crated the whole still up in two units one with the pot and helmet and the other with the column, condenser and stand.
The next post we will walk through each individual section of the finished still as well as, delivery, and installation. You are in for a treat when you see the great work done by Jeff McPhie and our operations team in regards to the facility. It really is a beautiful place to work.