Fuel ethanol still with lyne arm
1. Boiler, can be made of an oil drum for instance ( 200 litres/50 US gallon or smaller) and be heated by fire, steam, with a gas burner or an electric heater.
2. Cooler, made of empty oil drum. The cooling is provided by cooling water running on the outside of the barrel. Cover the drum with a thin layer of cloth. Water will moist the cloth and evaporate from the drum providing enough cooling. Excess water is collected at the bottom of barrel. If heat is provided by open fire, make absolutely sure that the cooler is in a well ventilated area, ethanol fumes are highly inflammable.
To make it safer it's possible heat the still with steam instead. Boil water in a large vessel and feed the steam via a hose to the still and directly into the mash. That way the heater and the still can be separated by a wall for instance.
3. Lyne arm, Empty 2” pipe 1-1.5 meters long. Copper or stainless steel is best but galvanized pipe may do, it will last long. Be aware that galvanized pipe is unsuitable for consumer grade alcohol . The lyne arm should be at an upwards angle towards the cooling drum which increase strength in the vapour some. The angle is not critical, as long as it is upwards to the cooler. Seal around the pipe at the drum either with silicone or flour/water paste. Or weld it in place.
4. Hose or pipe at the bottom of the cooler. It is important to make a U bend on the hose otherwise ethanol vapour may escape. Seal with silicone or rubber.
5. Cooling water, a constant flow of cooling water cools down the barrel. Since the cooler drum should be covered with thin layer of clothing (cotton for instance) the surface will be wet and water evaporate from the drum.
6. Thermometer, optional. When the temperature rises to 100 C the distillation is complete. Alternatively taste the product to see if there is any alcohol left.
This still will provide an end product over 50 % if the boiler isn’t heated too much. There are many different alternatives to this simple pot still. Using a lyne arm to provide extra strength is a simple and old technique used at whisky distilleries. If the top part of the boiler is covered with mineral wool as insulation the still becomes faster.
Make sure there is at least 30 cm (1 foot) free space in the boiler when it is filled up with mash.
To empty the drum, either weld a ball valve at the bottom side of the drum or use a hose as a siphon.
Alternative placement of the lyne arm
Instead of mounting the lyne arm onto the side of the barrels the lyne arm can use the barrel connectors on the lid. A common type of oil drum has a 2” tap onto the lid. Use a connector to fasten the lyne arm to the 2” tap.
From the top of the lyne arm a soft copper tube is connected that is in a barrel of water. The barrel can be made of plastic and doesn’t have to be as large as the boiler, 30 litre barrel is enough if cooling water is constantly fed to the barrel.
Stainless steel hose
Flexible stainless steel or aluminium hoses are used in the car industry for instance. A 2” hose about 10 metres suit fine as an air cooled condenser. Using air alone as a cooling medium for a condenser limits the cooling capacity but makes the installation simple. Drawback is that the distillation takes longer time. Simply don’t top up the boiler with mash to avoid the distillation run to take to too long time. The cooling becomes much more efficient if hose is exposed to breeze.
Make sure to let the pipe go upwards first about a metre to get some reflux back into the boiler, this works as a lyne arm and increases strength. The condenser can be in either in a spiral shape down, winded around sticks or anything else as long as the hose always goes in a downwards direction to avoid that condensate accumulate in the hose.
A long steel pipe works the same way.