This blog provides information for educational purposes only. Read our complete summary for more info.
What Type Of Still Should I Buy?
We get a lot of questions on the difference between our 8 gallon bubble plate column still and our 8 gallon standard "hybrid" column stills.
The question we hear the most is "Which Column is best for making ____ final product?" The answer is "It Depends." In general, columns can be categorized into three different groups: forced reflux, reflux and non-reflux columns. Use the following guidelines for selecting the column that will work best for the product you want to make (assuming you have the proper permits).
Clawhammer's Hybrid Column:
This is our original column design and it is the most popular column that we sell. The reason we sell more of this design is the fact that this column is multi-functional. The hybrid column can be used to distill many different final products. This column falls into both categories -- it can be both a reflux and non-reflux column depending on how it is used.
If you run the hybrid column without any packing it will run like a pot still. When running unpacked the first run will start in the range of 100-110 proof and the proof will drop from there. If the column is packed the column will start producing higher (between 140-160 proof) depending on the amount of packing, the starting ABV of the wash, and how quickly the still is running, and will drop from there.
Using our hybrid column allows you to easily add or remove packing depending on the product you are distilling. To add natural reflux simply add copper packing material to the column. If you want to remove the reflux simply don't add the copper packing to the column. Also- the amount of packing added to the column will affect how much reflux the column creates. These are some basic guidelines for adding packing to our hybrid columns.
- Add 1-2 scrubbers to column of a 1 gallon still.
- Add 4-8 scrubbers to the column of a 5 gallon still.
- Add 5-10 scrubbers to the column of a 8 gallon still.
- Add 7-13 scrubbers to the column of a 10 gallon still.
A commercial distiller would use a hybrid column for everything except fuel alcohol, gin, and vodka.
Clawhammer's Bubble Plate Column:
The bubble plate column is another type of reflux column. A commercial distiller would use this for making vodka & gin instead of an open, non-reflux column. A distiller with a fuel alcohol permit would use this to make fuel alcohol instead of an open, non-reflux column. The bubble plate column was designed to offer higher average proof while simultaneously stripping nearly all of the flavor from the final product. If the end goal is to create a high proof final product with little flavor then this is the column you want to select. And if maximizing proof is your goal, a dephlegmator should be used as well (more on that below).
How The Bubble Plate Column Works:
Vapor comes into contact with the plates and caps inside the column; causing vapor to condense back into a liquid. As vapor rises, it condenses and pools. Some liquid drips back down through the column, some of the vapor moves on. The liquid that falls is eventually forced back up though the caps and plates. This process of being forced to run though the caps and plates multiple times creates an end product that has essentially been distilled multiple times in a single run, which results in a higher proof when compared to an empty column. The bubble plates perform a similar function as the copper packing in the hybrid column, but does so more efficiently. When running a bubble plate column the first run will start in the range of 145-170 proof and the proof will drop from there.
Although we don't endorse true reflux technology for the production of traditional whiskey, we do endorse it for making fuel alcohol, vodka and gin. We also do not endorse those without the proper permits to distill alcohol.
Forced Reflux Stills
You can achieve even higher proof by adding a dephlegmator to the top of the bubble plate column, which actually forces reflux to take place. A dephlegmator is basically a condenser that attaches to the top of the column. Water is ran though the dephlegmator which condenses some of the vapor that passes by it, sending the liquid back down the still. However, it does not condense everything depending on the temperature, allowing high proof vapor to pass through, increasing the average proof of the final product.
When using a dephlegmator it is best to attach a hose with cooling water in the range of 175-185 degrees Fahrenheit. It is best practice to monitor the cooling water temperature going into the dephlegmator. Using the water from the output of the condenser on our stills as the input of the cooling water for the dephlegmator works well.
If a dephlegmator is attached above the bubble plate it will start producing between 170-193 depending on the amount of cooling in the dephletmator, the starting ABV of the wash, and how quickly the still is running.
The bubble plate column dephlegmator combo is our best option for fuel alcohol, gin, vodka.
Remember, it is illegal to distill alcohol unless you have the proper permits.