must be separated. In order that the process may be better understood we will assume that a mixture of pure alcohol and water is to be operated on in place of the wash as above referred to. Distillation in this case is intended to deprive the water of its alcohol, the operation theoretically leaving water in one chamber and alcohol in another. This is accomplished by reason of the differences in the boiling points of water and alcohol. The alcohol vaporizes at a lower degree (173°F.) than water (212°F.) Thus the liquid at the end of the operation has been divided into two parts or fractions.
This, however, is not a clean division for the reason that while in the beginning the vapors contain a large quantity of the more volatile alcohol, at the end they will contain a large portion of the less volatile water. The whole of the alcohol will be separated in this manner, but it will still be mixed with some water and in order to again divide the alcohol from the water the first distillate would have to be redistilled until at last the water is reduced to a minimum or entirely eliminated, if possible.
But as it requires less heat to vaporize alcohol than water, so it also requires more cold to condense alcoholic-vapor than water-vapor. If then we pass the mixed vapors into a condensing chamber cooled to a certain temperature low enough to condense water-vapor but not the alcohol-vapor, then the water-vapor will fall down as water while the alcohol-vapor being uncondensed passes on to another chamber where its temperature falls to a point where it in turn condenses into liquid.
In intermittent distillation, as by the simple still, the vapors of mixed alcohol and water at first contain a great deal of alcohol and a little water, then more water and less alcohol, and then a great deal of water and hardly any alcohol. It may be asked: "Why not take only the runnings rich in alcohol and leave the others?" The answer to this is that if this be done then all the alcohol is not extracted from the wash and there is just that much loss. The solution of the problem is to get all the alcohol out mixed with the water that is inevitably with it and then redistill this result thus getting out (sifting away) some of the water, and again distill this result, and so on until only pure alcohol is left. This, however, is a very troublesome business and has been abandoned as a means of removing impurities such as water, the ethers, and fusel oil except by makers of whiskey, brandy and other beverage spirits, in favor of continuous distillation and continuous rectification.
It will be seen from what has gone before that there are two means of separating alcohol and water; one by an initial difference in heating and by a further difference in cooling or condensing.
It is on this foundation that the whole art of fractional distillation or rectification rests. While we have for illustration been considering a mixture of pure alcohol and water, the wash or liquid formed by the fermentation of grain, etc., contains a variety of ingredients of different boiling points, some more volatile than alcohol, some less. The fermented wash consists first of non-volatile or only slightly volatile matters, such as salts, proteins, glycerin, lactic acid, yeast, etc., and second, volatile bodies such as alcohol, water, various ethers, etc., fusel oils and acetic acid.
When wash is distilled in the ordinary simple or pot still, the first part to come over consists of the very volatile matters,—more volatile than alcohol even,—that is, the ethers mixed with some alcohol. This is known as the fore-shot or first runnings, and is collected separately. When the spirit coming over possesses no objectionable odor, the second stage has begun. This running would be of the alcohol proper, getting weaker and weaker, however, as the running continues and this would be caught separately as long as it is of sufficient strength. At last would come the weak spirit containing much fusel oil. It is to be understood, however, that there is no defined line between these divisions. They graduate one into the other. The first and last runnings in the old practice were mixed together and distilled with the next charge. When a strong spirit Was required, rectification would be repeated several times. It is customary, however, with the improved modern apparatus, to produce at the outset spirit containing but little fusel oil and at least 80 per cent of alcohol. This is then purified and con centrated in the above manner and afterwards reduced with water to the required strength.
Another cause of the offensive flavor of the products of distillation is the presence of various acids, which exist in all fermented liquors; they are chiefly tartaric, rnalic, acetic, and lactic acids. The excessive action of heat upon liquors which have been distilled by an open fire has also a particularly objectionable influence upon the flavor of the products.
The first operation in the process of rectification is to neutralize the above-mentioned acids; this is effected by means of milk of lime, which is added to the liquor in quantity depending upon its acidity; the point at which the neutralization is complete is determined by the use of litmus paper. In the subsequent process of distillation, the determination of the exact moments at which to begin and to cease collecting the pure spirit is very difficult to indicate. It must be regulated by the nature of the spirits; some may be pure 20 or 30 minutes after they have attained the desired strength; and some only run pure an hour, or even more, after this point. The product should be tasted frequently, after being diluted with water, or a few drops may be poured into the palm of the hand, and after striking the hands together, it will be known by the odor whether the spirit be of good quality or not; these two means may be applied simultaneously.
The process of rectification may be carried on in the apparatus shown in Figs. 35 and 36. A is a still which contains the spirit to be rectified; it should be four-fifths full. The condenser E and the cooler G are filled with water. After closing the cocks L and I, the contents of the still are heated by steam, which is introduced at first slowly. The vapors of spirit given off pass, by tubes b, above each plate a, of the series in column B, and escape through C and D into the condenser E, where they are condensed on reaching the lentils d d', and return in a liquid state through pipe f and connections g g' to the upper plates of the column B. In these return pipes the liquid is volatilized, and constantly recharged with alcohol to be again condensed, until the water in the condenser is hot enough to permit the lighter alcoholic vapors to pass into the coil c c c, without being reduced to the liquid state. When this is the case, the vapors pass through F into the cooler G, where they undergo complete condensation. Great care must be taken that the heat is not so great as to permit any of the vapors to pass over uncondensed or to flow away in a hot state; and also to keep up a constant supply of water in the cooler without producing too low a temperature; the alcoholic products should run out just cold. The highly volatile constituents of the spirit come over first, that which follows becoming gradually purer until it consists of well-flavored alcohol; after this comes a product containing the essential oils. The more impure products are kept apart from
the rest and re-distilled with the next charge. Some hours generally elapse before alcohol begins to flow from the cooler. The purest alcohol is obtained while its strength is kept between 92° and 90° Baume, and the operation is complete
when the liquid flowing through the vessel marks not more than 3° or 4° Baume; it is better, however, to stop the still when the backing or "faints" indicate 10% because the product after this point contains much fusel-oil, and is not worth collecting.
In order to cleanse the apparatus—which should be performed after each working—the still A is emptied of water by opening the cock Q. The contents of the condenser are then emptied in like manner by opening the cock J, through which they flow upon the plates in the column B, and wash out essential oils which remain in them. These two cocks are then closed, and the door U in the still head is removed. The water in the cooler G is then run by means of pipe into the still A, so as partially to cover the steam-coil in the latter. After again securing the door U, a strong heat is applied, and the water in the still is well boiled, the steam evolved thoroughly cleansing all the different parts of the apparatus; this is continued for 13 or 20 minutes, when the heat is withdrawn and the still left to cool gradually.
In the intermittent rectifying still above described the impure products are distilled with the next charge. In the apparatus as perfected and used in large distilleries or rectification plants, the division of the several products composing the phlegm or raw spirit is made at one time and continuously on the principle now to be described.
It was stated in the beginning of this chapter that the various impurities in alcohol, the ethers, the water and the fusel oils, have each their own vaporizing point and each their own condensing point. As this is so, they may be separated from each other and from the alcohol on the same principle as we have seen that water is separated from the mixture of pure alcohol and water; that is by fractionation, as it is termed, or by "sifting out" one body from another.
Thus in fractional distillation, each condenser or retort in the apparatus shown in Fig. 37, above acts as a sieve or trap, letting pass the most volatile substances but retaining those of a less degree of volatility. By passing the mixed vapor together through a good condensing medium the temperature of which is lower than the boiling
point of the less volatile, but not so low as the boiling point of the more volatile the vapors of the less volatile liquid will be condensed, while the more volatile will retain their gaseous form. Thus by having a number of condensing mediums each one slightly lower in temperature than the other, the various vapors with their various points of volatilization will be successively condensed, allowing the passage of the more volatile vapors over to the condenser beyond.
If we had mixed gravel and sand and desired to separate the gravel into assorted sizes and get the sand by itself, we would pass the mass through a series of sieves of gradually smaller mesh. The first sieve of course would catch all the largest pebbles, the next in size would let all the second sized gravel through, and so on until the final sieve would have separated the coarse sand from the fine. In this figure of illustration, the coarse pebbles may be taken to represent the water and the fusel oils which are mixed and partly tend to rise with the alcohol, and the alcohol may be represented as the gravel larger than the sand, and the fine sand as the etheric vapors. If this gravel were forced upwardly through a series of sieves gradually growing finer, it would be analogous figuratively to the upward passage of the vapors through a distilling column composed of plates or chambers; the water and fusel oils would be retained in the lower portion of the column and continually sent back there; the alcohol would pass into the upper chambers of the column and the ethers or fore-shots would pass out from the very fine sieve at the top of the column.
The vertical chambers above each plate of the rectifying column are to-day used as the separate eliminating chambers referred to above. It has been found in practice that as before stated, each plate of a column contained upon it liquid of a certain temperature and above it vapors of a certain degree of vaporization. That is, in a con-
tlnuous column fed regularly by condensation from above and supplied with a constant flow of phlegm, each plate carries upon it a liquid of constant composition relative to the boiling point of the fluid on that plate. As many extractions may thus be made from the various plates as there are different liquids to be isolated. Thus by tapping different portions of the column, vapors of different degrees of vaporization are found and may be carried off and the phlegm be thus fractionated. In the case of one column the first runnings or fore-shot would be found in the upper portion of the column to which they would have risen by reason of their degree of volatility. The last runnings or oils, aldehydes, etc., would be found in the lower portion of the column still mixed with the spirit, while upon the plates of the middle portion of the column would be found the vapor of the alcohol freed from the fusel oils and from the ethers.
It is understood, of course, throughout this description that the liquid being treated is not wash but phlegm; that is, the raw spirit containing the fusel oils, ethers, water and alcohol.
Fig. 38 represents a simple rectifying apparatus designed for small or medium sized plants, and manufactured by the Vulcan Copper Works Co., of Cincinnati. The still is upright, with a chambered column above it, of the usual type. The chambers are fitted with a vapor boiling pipe and cap and a drop pipe and each is provided with cocks whereby it may be drained for cleansing.
Above the column is a separator, comprising a casing containing a series of tubes. The vapor from the column circulates around the tubes through which passes a current of cool water. The condenser is of the same construction as the separator and is provided with a gage glass and a draw-off cock. The operation is the same as in other simple rectifiers; part of the vapor from the column is condensed in the separator and passes back on to the upper plates, while the more highly varporized portions pass over into the condenser.
The diameter of the still is large relatively to its depth so as to yield an economical and at the same time highly effective distribution of heat through the charge. This also affords an extended boiling area from which the vapor rises evenly and regularly, thus ensuring conditions peculiarly conducive to produce the best fractionating. The floor space required for this still and others of the same character built by this company is very compact and excessive weight on the top floor of the building is dispensed with.
We have shown in Figs 39 and 40 two forms of rectifying apparatus, one a twin column Barber rectifier and the other a rectifier of the Gillaume type combined with inclined column still.
In the twin column apparatus, Fig. 39, the first column or clarifier A receives the raw phlegm and accomplishes the elimination of ethers. The clarified phlegm passes then to the second column
where the alcohol is separated from the last runnings or fusel oil. In other words, the phlegm or impure raw. alcohol is only raised to such a temperature in the first column as to drive off the very volatile constituents such as the ethers. These therefore pass off at the top of the first column into the condenser C, the retrogradation or condensed alcohol being returned to A, while the boiling phlegm taken from the middle of the column and still containing the aldehydes, oils, etc., is conducted by a pipe E to the second column B wherein the last runnings or amylic oils, etc., are separated from the purified spirits.
The vapors in this column are carried to the condensers D and F and from there to a refrigerator G. The fusel oils are extracted from the plates slightly below the center of the column and are carried to an oil concentrating apparatus H.
In the most complete forms of apparatus used to-day, there is a variation of this construction. The first runnings, middle runnings and the last runnings are each led off from the main column to separate coolers, condensers, etc., and the purified result from each of these columns is in turn led to a trunk rectifier common to all where the product is redistilled and entirely freed from impurities. This gives a very high grade of alcohol by a process practically continuous. At the same time the impurities are not returned to the first or main column to contaminate the vapors therein and add to the amount of fusel oils contained on
the lower plates. In construction of this character there is a very large saving in the cost of the fuel and the result is much better in every way.
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