You bought your fancy new still column for moonshine, and it finally arrives on your doorstep. Oh, the excitement! But wait… what are all these pieces? How do I get this darn thing together?
We get that question a lot. And, unfortunately, a lot of how you assemble and run your still tower is personal preference. For example, there are many different ways to pack a reflux tower or hook up the cooling hoses. If you haven’t already, I would read our article on Column Packing – Copper Mesh vs Raschig Rings to figure out what type of column packing you want.
So, here is our method of tower assembly that we would recommend starting with if you don’t know where else to start.
Running your dual purpose tower as a reflux still:
1. Place 1 roll of copper mesh (rolled up in a cylinder shape like you received it, but with a smaller diameter so that it fits into the tower) into the bottom of the bottom part of the tower by shoving it through from the side opposite the 3 pins on the inside of the pipe (the pins will help hold the mesh in place during operation). Place 1 roll of mesh up into the top part of the tower so that it is right in the middle of the reflux chamber (this helps conduct heat, making the reflux condenser purpose more efficient)
2. Attach the bottom part of the tower to the ferrule on your boiler. You should feel it when the lip on the gasket slides into the groove in the ferrule on each side (the gasket being seated properly is important for a good seal). You can then wrap the clamp around both ferrules and screw down the knob on the clamp to firmly clamp it in place.
3. Pour the raschig rings in until they are just below the top of the lower portion of the tower and place the perforated metal disc on top (this helps distribute the reflux evenly as it runs down the tower).
4. Attach the top part of the tower, using a gasket like you did in step 2.
5. Screw the thermometer into the thermowell and clamp the thermowell in place using the 1.5-inch gasket and clamp.
6. Attach the cooling water source input tube to the lower barbed fitting on the condenser (the long, skinny, diagonal one). To attached these, simply tighten/screw down the hose clamp down on the tubing on the barbed connector. Do not over-tighten it, though, or you may actually cause it to leak.
7. Attach a crossover tube from the top of the condenser to the bottom of the reflux chamber.
8. Attach the cooling water output tube to the top of the reflux chamber and run it to wherever you want it to drain
Running your reflux tower as a pot still:
1. Place 1 or 2 rolls of mesh up into the top part of the tower. This is just sacrificial copper to provide a large surface area that the sulfides can react with.
2. Attach the top part of the tower to the ferrule on your boiler. You should feel it when the lip on the gasket slides into the groove in the ferrule (the gasket being seated properly is important for a good seal). You can then screw down the knob on the clamp to firmly clamp it in place.
3. Screw the thermometer into the thermowell and clamp the thermowell in place using the 1.5 inch gasket and clamp.
4. Attach the cooling water source input tube to the lower barbed fitting on the condenser.
5. Attach the cooling water output tube to the top of the condenser and run it to any available drain.
As we mentioned above, there are many way to set up your still, and what it comes down to is preference. But if you find something that works well for you, by all means, switch it up! Here are a few things you might consider:
-All copper mesh packing (more expensive, and you will have to replace all the copper mesh eventually, but you won’t need to clean it as often)
-Not packing your entire column so that more flavor comes through
-Putting a separate valve on both condensers so that you can individually control the flow to each
-Anything else you can think of that makes sense!
As always, if you have questions, please leave them in the comments section below and I will do my best to answer them!