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Alcohol Reclaim Still

I'm sure those of ya'll whom have purchased high purity Ethanol have noticed that it isn't cheap with all the taxes heaped upon it, so here is how we recover and continue to use the alcohol in our process that we've already paid over $20 a liter for.

As we are working with small volumes, what we use, is a simple pot still made out of an All Clad stainless asparagus steamer pot, a Quisinart electric fondue pot, and a stainless mixing bowl, in which I have inserted 12 1/2 feet of 3/16" ID copper tubing.

The salad bowl condenser rests on a modified cat liter bucket, over an empty 1.75 liter Clear Springs bottle for final collection.

The only modification to the Quisinart was to bend the ears of the top fork ring down, to permit the insertion of the asparagus pot, and placed canning jar lid rings in the bottom, to suspend the asparagus pot above the bottom, so as to eliminate hot spots.

The Quisinart is a good choice, because of its sensitive controls for alchemy, but for distillation application, its controls are wide open, until we throttle it back to 250ºF for finishing off the oil or alchemy.  We paid $60 for the first one and found our second one at Goodwill for $15, so do shop about.

We also have a couple of Rivals, that don't have quite as sensitive controls in finishing and alchemy temperature range, but are accurate enough to do the job and cost about half as much.

If you don't do the final cook off in the still, a fry cooker will also work, but the controls on most fry cookers are not sensitive enough at lower temperatures for finishing in the still, or any fine alchemy.

We don't recommend sitting a pot of hot Canola oil on the an electric stove and using the surface element to heat the oil, because you can add too much heat and over pressure the still, if you are not paying close attention to details.

Careful with an open burner or any open flames, because even hot oil is flammable, as are any alcohol fumes that might leak out somewhere, should you not get the lid on straight, or hose clamped, or etc, something go wrong.

We like the portable pot, because some of the things that I use it for, are best done outdoors, even if I have to use a portable generator. It also can't put in enough heat at 1.5kw to blow the lid o-ring seal on the pot, or a hose off, which are the weakest links in the system.

We modified the All Clad asparagus steamer pot by drilling a hole in each pot handle, through which I slip two 4" X 1/4=20 round head bolts, that pass though an 3/4" X 2" x 8" Oak board holding down the lid and be secured with washers and wing nuts.

We modified the pot lid, by drilling a pilot hole using Canola oil as a cutting lubricant for the stainless, and using a step drill to open the hole to 5/8" to accept a 1/8" NPT brass bulkhead fitting. I roll a 5/8" X 1.125" over the fitting outer diameter, so that it seals with only hand tightening.

Attached is a parts list below for the above and the rest of the parts, but the use of a neoprene or Viton fuel hose for the application. Many plastics and rubber hoses leach badly in the alcohols passing through.

Operation of the still is simple. The alcohol is sealed up inside the pot, which is set into the pot of oil, which has its controls set wide open, or about 375ºF. I wrap a towel around the pot and 1.5 kw fondue cooker, to conserve heat and speed up the process.

A 1/4" fuel hose conveys the alcohol vapors boiled off, to the condenser, which is sitting atop an inverted cat litter bucket, with reliefs cut out. The bowl is filled with ice water, and after the alcohol fumes pass through its coils and reach the 1.75 liter bottle below, it is ice cold. Recovery is greater than 99% during this step of recovery.

We keep track of how much has been boiled off by how much accumulates in the bottle of approximately the same diameter as the asparagus, and mark on it where I wish to stop distilling.

We usually stop before all the alcohol is gone, and pour it into a smaller container to boil the last bit off to atmosphere where I can watch.

Here is the parts list, and some pictures:

1 All Clad stainless asparagus steamer 1 10" Stainless steel mixing bowl 2 1/8" NPT brass bulkhead fitting 1 Neoprene O rings for lid 5.375" X .125" 2 Neoprene O ring for bulkhead fittings 5/8” X .125 1 1/8” MNPT elbow to 3/16” compression 1 1/8" MNPT to 3/16" compression 1 5 gallon plastic bucket 2 1/4" 20 X 4" Plated carriage bolts 2 1/4" Plated washer 2 1/4" Stainless or chrome wingnut 1 3/4" X 8 1/2" X 2" Oak block 4' 3/16" ID Neoprene fuel hose 2 3/8" Hose screw clamps 12.5' 3/16" ID copper refrigeration tubing

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