Produce eight gallons of alcohol fuel per hour at a minimal cost.
Mother's Six-Inch-Column Still!
Bigger may not always be better, but where the alcohol fuel still is concerned, it does pay for the small farm or homestead to take advantage of the production benefits that size can offer. That's why—after designing this publication's first practical alcohol distillery—researcher Clarence Goosen immediately began working on a new, bigger apparatus . . . which, as it turns out, not only utilizes all the best features of the original three-inch-column still and improves upon them, but Is capable of producing between eight and ten times more fuel than could the initial model!
Now you might think that—because the new still has a capacity that's 1,000% greater than that of the old one— it would cost that much more than its predecessor, too. However, because of the fact that the larger version was purposely designed to use less copper and—for the most part—common (or scrap) metal stock in its construction, you can probably build the entire unit for about $500 if you're a capable scrounger! (And this figure Is, of course, barely twice the cost of assembling our smaller still.)
MOTHER EARTH NEWS' latest alcohol-maker is wood-fired, and has a mash capacity of 275 gallons (the storage vessel is no more than a salvaged fuel oil tank). Like its smaller relative, the new model has a stripper and a reflux column ... however, in the most recent design, both are made from inexpensive 6" thin wall tubing rather than costly copper.
Also, the still's efficiency has been Increased by replacing the marble packing—used in the three-inch column model—with commercially available 5/8" "Pall rings" (they're about 25% more effective than marbles), which provide 131 square feet of surface area per cubic foot and allow for 90% free gas space. (In effect, this means that the rings give us a near-perfect balance of two desirable features ... since we need plenty of surface area to "strip" as much water from the alcohol vapors as possible, yet we must also provide a fairly large volume within the column to achieve a high capacity flow rate.)
Another reason MOTHER EARTH NEWS' six-inch-column still works so well Is that it was designed to maintain temperature equilibrium. In other words, even though the distillery's volume-per-hour output is increased—since more alcohol vapor is forced into the column than it can handle on its own without overheating—the correct temperature balance is accomplished (from the variable boiling point of the mash at the bottom of the column to 175°F at the top) because the column contains two heat exchangers which remove much of the warmth but leave the alcohol distillate within the column.
Furthermore, the still is not only extremely efficient as is, but also flexible enough to incorporate many different modifications. For example, although we used a plate steel firebox (to facilitate transportation of the still), you can cut expenses by constructing your oven of stone and/or brick. Also, the size of the mash tank Isn't critical ... a larger container could be used if the builder desired the extra capacity.
By the same token, you can up the output of the still by increasing its column size to an eight- or ten-inch diameter. You see, the working principle will remain unchanged ... as long as you maintain a height-to-diameter ratio of about 24 to 1 (thus an eight-inch column must be 16 feet in height, and a ten-inch conduit would have to be 20 feet tall).
But the best news is yet to come: This low-cost still, even though it can deliver up to eight gallons per hour of distillate (and more if you choose to upscale it), is also capable of producing a 175 to 190-proof product ... which is ideal for homemade fuel alcohol use!
EDITOR'S NOTE: If you feel that you need a large capacity still for home or farm alcohol production, you'll be pleased to know that MOTHER EARTH NEWS will have a complete set of detailed, step-by-step plans available for the construction of the distilling apparatus shown here by February 1, 1980.
And—should you choose to get involved in alcohol fuel production—be sure to comply with the new, and much less restrictive, regulations pertaining to fuel manufacture that are enforced by the Treasury Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Information—on applying for the necessary permit, etc.—is provided with every set of MOTHER EARTH NEWS' still plans.