John Dacey’s engineering stories

Distillery By Design

Regardless of the size of your distillery, having a good engineering design layout for equipment is key to achieving efficiency and a safe working environment. Using advanced engineering 3D block modelling with flow/stress analysis and thermal dynamics engineering tools, we can produce initial layout process designs to suit customer requirements.

Depending on the working capacity required for your copper pot still, along with the type of heating (steam or electric), plant location and code of compliance requirements:

Key Design Specifications

1. Working volume of distillation system

2. Degree of automation and control

3. Structural Engineering design and specifications  

4. Clean room dimensions for housing distilling equipment

5. Air handling system and turn over requirements

6. Certified electric equipment to meet DG inspection

7. Control room and plant room layout

8. Ground water supply temperature and or water chiller system layout

9. Steam condensates return system and spirit collection vessel orientation

10. Steam generation water softener layout design.

11. QA & documentation

Energy Recovery

We need to understand energy requirements and how it is provided. Steam generation systems can run on Biogas or solar energy for electric systems. Pre heated water from solar and condensate return is stored in a closed cell insulated tank, engineered to meet the capacity of distillery requirements. The design process includes specifications & documentation for steam control.

Multifunction Distilling System

Along with our range of standard distilling systems we also provide custom fabricated copper heads that can be fitted to a kettle, which can be used to brew beer or for distilling spirits. The copper head can be supplied with distilling tower, condenser/separator and spirit collection vessels.

Copper Smith

My working life started as a Coppersmith or termed as a SMITHY back in the day. Learning the art of working and annealing copper to form various shapes mostly for the brewing & distilling industry. Spinning large sheet copper discs by hand was hard work but rewarding. Once the copper pots are fabricated, the real art of polishing begins, along with the understanding of the song of copper, as it is worked into shape.

 Known simply as a Copper in NZ, the domed bottom vessel was fitted into a concrete case filled with water then a wood fire underneath would be used for boiling clothes. However my father had a much better use – fermenting beer. Friends & family would gather around to help bottle Home Brew once the sediment had settled. They could be heard far away sampling beer to my mother’s tune on the family piano, until one night the well-stocked cellar ( laundry ) downstairs erupted with the sound of exploding beer bottles. Beer flowed under the back door and down the street. After that, it was back to the local & the 6 o’clock swill.

Today at Liquid Processing Equipment Ltd, we still work copper to form distilling pots and towers as it has many advantages over other materials, including heat transfer distribution good impact on flavour into distilling spirits. When distilling in copper, the copper reacts on a molecular level with the Sulphur put out by the fermenting yeast. It “cancels-out” the Sulphur taste which would otherwise be bitter and not as smooth.

We no longer block copper by hand. Today we use CNC copper spinning technology along with computerised welding. However you still need an ear for the sound of copper being worked…

Beer and gumboots

Installing a new beer system many years ago with our mechanical engineer was an experience we will not forget in a hurry. We won the contract to supply new bright beer tanks and upgrade with new service lines and beer dispenser systems for the bars in a pub in a rural area in Taranaki NZ. It was mainly supported by farmers and travellers and after several days of work we completed the project and enjoyed beer with the locals. The beer tasted terrible not that anyone complained. As the pub was getting busy, we asked others what they thought, but no one complained. After sampling more beer and extensively checking the beer system we called the brewery and was advised to empty the tank?
What!!! 20,000 L of beer down the drain?
We did so, to find the cleaner had left his mop and gumboots inside the 20,000 L SS Bright beer tank!
Bugger, no wonder the beer was not tasting to good. We changed to another vessel and shouted the bar free beer. The cleaner got heaps from the locals for leaving his mop and gumboots in the beer tank.