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Jun 08, 2022 View:

Automation for moonshine still

Automation for any moonshine still with a steamer
(I do not know how exactly the word for a can or a hollow cylinder at the outlet of the moonshine is translated into English, see the figure and diagrams).

Many people have questions about how you can make the work of a moonshine still fully automatic without using expensive solutions. (for example using Arduino).
I am collecting simple and unusual solutions that have been posted on the Internet by individual craftsmen in the past years.


Second interesting idea,
maintain a constant boiling point of alcohol in the hollow column (we will rather focus on the upper point). We will try to predict the temperature change using the lower two sensors. Anything that has a lower temperature should condense directly back into the cube (reflux).

this is what we end up with: (this is a hydrometer with 94% alcohol content)

As practice has shown, the temperature in the reflux condenser cannot be the basis for controlling the distillation process. The problem is that it differs by 1 - 1.5C, depending on external conditions (room temperature, atmospheric pressure) and the type of distilled material (wine has some control boiling points, mash has others, mead has third, jam mash - fourth).

An interesting feature was noticed. The temperature of the copper air cooler (column, where the fan is on the diagram) changes in an interesting and strictly defined way: the temperature at the end of the distillation (precisely at this point of the cooler = closer to the end of the first heat exchanger) behaves as follows: it slowly rises to somewhere around 67- 69C, and then drops sharply to 46-47C (within 10-11 minutes). And after this drop in temperature, the outgoing alcohol, as they say, “does not burn” (all the alcohols are already partially gone, there is nothing to burn).
This temperature dip is explained, apparently, by the fact that the heat capacity of the boiling steam changes so that it is able to cool much earlier in the heat exchanger than the alcohol-containing steam. That is, there is more water in it and it condenses already at the first turns of the heat exchanger.

The design of the refrigerator can be as follows:

fixed 4 fans with a diameter of 140 mm from a computer at 12 volts. Heat exchangers cope with the task easily, there are no stagnant zones in them, they are straight-through. Toward the end of the first heat exchanger, a temperature sensor was attached, which controls the switching on of the refrigerator fans with a setpoint of 30C.

As a result, a control algorithm for the apparatus was formed:
1. We heat the distillation cube (about an hour - one and a half - depending on the external temperature of the environment and the volume of the apparatus, in the experiments a tank of 20-25 liters was used). We are not doing anything. We are waiting for the "heads" to appear. We are waiting for the electronic thermostat (in fact, a unique digital signal) to trigger, which is set to 30C. It was noticed that after turning on the thermostat, it does not turn off until the very end of the distillation process (if the outside air temperature is above zero). The actuation of the thermostat and the switching on of the column fans exactly coincides with the beginning of the "heads" outflow. We start the timer for 5 minutes (this time is always enough to drive off 200 ml of heads). After 5 minutes, we can begin to take away ethyl alcohol ("strong body"). We are waiting for 30 minutes. During this time, about 1 liter comes out (with a usual filling of a cube of 20 liters) of a strong "product" (60 percent ethyl alcohol).

2. We pass to the selection of "weak body" (low concentration of alcohol, "tails"). We distil for 1 hour (distillation of the "weak body" takes about 1 hour while the "alcohol is burning" - this is still somewhere around 1.5-2 liters). And during this hour we do nothing, but only fix the maximum temperature of the temperature sensor.
In general, the temperature on the column fan at this point can float within 53-69C, but not by 20C. At 20C, the temperature changes only at the end of the distillation and abruptly. For example, you recorded the maximum temperature on a column with a fan, let it be 69C. After driving off the "strong body", we begin to control the deviation from this temperature maximum. If another maximum is caught, fix it (write it down). And again we are waiting for a deviation from the maximum at 20-22C. As soon as the temperature drops below the level (for example, 69-21 = 48C), we switch to the “tails” distillation mode.

3. In the “tails” selection mode, simply set the timer, for example, for 1-1.5 hours and get as much as possible. During this time, all residues of alcohol will be distilled off anyway. After 1.5 hours, you can turn on some kind of alarm about the end of the process, and after - all equipment can be cooled down and turned off.


Real experiment:
Distilled 18 liters. Sugar mash.

0:00 - Start heating the distillation cube.
1:00 - Boil violently. The reflux condenser (column with fan) is warming up.
1:02 - Thermostat has tripped. The fans spun. The setting is 30 degrees for on, 28 for off. Heads began to flow.
1:06 - 250 ml. "Heads" drove away. 57-60C - steady-state temperature at the control point of the column with the fan.
1:30 - 1 liter of 60% alcohol solution distilled.
1:58 - 2.5 liters distilled off (1 liter of "strong body" and 1.5 liters of remnants of the "weak body"). The temperature slowly crept up.
2:03 - Temperature at the set point of the refrigerator 69.7C.
2:10 - The temperature slowly crept down.
2:16 - 66.3C.
2:24 - 58.3C.
2:28 - 55.0C.
2:29 - 54.0C.
2:30 - 52.2C.
2:31 - 51.0C.
2:32 - 48.0C.
2:33 - 46.0C.
2:35 - 46.2C - the end of the "weak body" distillation.
2:39 - 46.6C.
3:27 - 45.0C - the end of the "tails" stripping.