Monday, October 8, 2018

Stub 6.5: Stills

Hunter looked over at Bernie as Hunter was throwing old, used automotive radiators up on the truck. “Too bad you only get the scrap price of aluminum for these.” Hunter said.

Bernie grunted. Then he said, “Whatchya got on your mind, boy. I can tell when you are chewing on an idea.”

“Ever think of using these in stills?” Hunter asked.

“Son, folks around here have been using them for condensers since before I was born. You are WAY behind the curve.” Bernie said.

“Yeah, I know that. But has anybody used them in the thumper?” Hunter asked.

That gave Bernie pause. The thumper is a length of stove-pipe just above the pot and it is typically filled with coarse gravel or marbles. The temperature of the column varies with it hotter on the bottom and cooler at the top. Vapor condenses in the column and percolates downward and re-distills as it warms up. Without a thumper, the condensate would never be higher than 30% alcohol.

“Two questions. What would that do  that a regular thumper don’t and just how would you go about setting up a radiator as a thumper?” Bernie asked.

“Well, for one thing the still would warm up a lot faster. And then you could push the still a lot faster. For another, it would make it easier to automate. You could light it off, walk away it it could distill 300 gallons of mash in a couple of hours. Less time means less likelihood of being popped by the ATF.” Hunter said.

Hunter sketched out his ideas on a spiral notebook Bernie kept in the cab of the truck.

“And where did you learn all this stuff?” Bernie asked.

“While working on my Master’s Degree in Biology.” Hunter said.

“I thought biology was about frogs and mushrooms and shit.” Bernie said.

“More about shit than frogs and mushrooms. All the big stuff has already been researched to death. You grow the bacteria in a lab and somebody has got to keep the equipment running. I was that guy.” Hunter admitted.

Programmable logic controllers are cheap. For Bernie, old 12V batteries were easy to come by. Same for steel barrels and sheet steel and tubing. Bernie had LP pigs and old barbeques by the dozen. Besides the PLC, the only thing they had to spend cash-money on was a small, 12V diaphram pump to pull the mash on through.

They did the first few shake-down runs in Bernie’s pole barn. Hunter had to do a few tweaks to get the still dialed in. It was small enough to fit on a trailer, so of course that is what they put it on.

After a demonstration run, they had no problem leasing it out to a cousin who liked to make a little ‘shine on the side. They charged him $10 a day rent for something they had $50 investment in.

At that point, they decided that fabricating stills was going to be way more profitable than hauling scrap and way safer than ‘shinin’.

Next Installment


  1. (You can get to WAY over 30% without a Thumper Like nearly 80%.). Just need good temp control.

    I read that somewhere.....??

    Don't ask where though.

    Just Sayin'

  2. Hehehe, I'm 'betting' that's already been done...