Distillation stills have been in use for nearly 2000 years, using the pot still; however, it is only in fairly recent times that the Valved-Reflex Column has been used.
The Column Head:
Valved Reflux homemade still comprises of a 28″ length of copper tubing column which is fixed to a 2 x 2 x 1-1/2″ reducing tee, and capped by a short nipple and lid.
The lid is drilled and perforated to allow a thermometer to be mounted. Since the lid is not soldered, the entire column assembly comprises of just three solder joints.
Before operation, the columns crammed with Raschig rings (described later) to allow a large area condensation and reflux surface inside the column.
Column and Head Assembly:
The column of the Valved Reflux Still is made up of 28” copper tubing. It must be attached to a reducing tee, measuring 2x2x1-1/2” and is to be topped by a short nipple and cap and boiler cap at the bottom.
In order to enable a thermometer to be mounted, the cap must be drilled with a 3/8” hole and rubber perforated. It must be pointed out at this stage that, although the dimensions are given in detail, it may be that available materials for the stem may not comply with these measurements; the builder should therefore make sure that the hole fixes into the thermometer. There will be no more than 3 solder joints on the whole column assembly as the cap is not soldered. This will permit the column and packing to be back flushed and cleaned out, just by removing the cap and hosing the column down.
Raschig rings must be packed into the column so that a large condensation area and reflux surface is created.
The construction process now moves to the fabrication and attaching of cooling lines to the overhead condenser.
Soft copper tubing measuring 1/4″ is bent to shape to enable them to run along the sides of the column and then to fit the compression fitting elbows at the condenser coil. The lines run to the bottom of the column and are joined to the water line hose by means of ½” tubing and elbows.
It is usually a problem acquiring 1/2 to 1/4″ reducing fittings. This means that both upright nipples are fitted with drilled caps. After this the cooling tubes are fitted and soldered to the caps.
Standard pipe “U” clips are then soldered on to the column. This will help to give stability.
Finally, a short length of ¼” tubing is fitted, running from the center of the reflux column to a needle valve on the bottom of the still head.
It is recommended that this reflux line be tapered and curved. It must be long enough to that the tapered drip end can be centered over the top of the column packing; there should also be a slightly descending slope from the needle valve fitting to the wall of the column.
Once the length and shape are correct, a hole must be drilled in the column so that the reflux tube can be run through and the other end can be installed in the compression fitting on the needle valve.
The very final thing to be done is to solder the joint between the tube and the column.
To know more about the other aspects of moonshine and homemade stills, visit: http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/edible-innovations/moonshine2.htm.
Note: Remember, the distillation of ethyl-alcohols is illegal without a permit per federal moonshine laws and is inherently dangerous because of ethanol’s flammability (never operate a homemade still indoors). For more moonshine laws and other moonshine still permit information, visit: http://www.ttb.gov/spirits/faq.shtml. Sorry, ya even need a license for personal use due to TTB federal distillation moonshine laws.
For more info on your own homemade copper still plans for home, see http://stilltutorial.com