Make your own free website on

V. I. P. = V. I. P


Very Important Postings = Very Important Persons

On March 26 2006 Tom posetd the following , at Nanda ( Robert ) Warren's forum and doing so, established a FIRST in postings at this forum, in the fact that he is giving a piece of advise that is Clear, Precise and directed to the 'MAKING OF ETHANOL' from the USER'S point of view.

  • Congratulations and We all thank you for a job well done, Tom

Tom Setchel Views On Production  Priorities

  • I have been using my 803 for about 2 1/2 years and it works great.
  • To Date I have not bought a control valve for mine.
    • I regulate the temp by making hand adjustments.
    • I regulate it closely monitoring the temp and making
      manual adjustments fairly frequently at start up.
    • When the system gets heated up and in equilibrium it runs with out much adjustment until the
      alcohol content in the beer begins to run low and then it requires more attention as well.
  • With close watch I am able to get 190 proof Ethanol regularly.
  • My operation is not very large and I would recommend the valve if you were going to run the still for more than a two or three of hours at a time.  
  • You do need to leave the still to monitor other parts of the process and do not want your proof to drop when you are not paying attention
  • or for Fire or Pressure to cause an accident.
  • I try to always have two people around when I run the still.
  • I am a big proponent of the Buddy system when working in potentially dangerous conditions.   
  • I am a scuba diver and would not consider diving by my self.
    • You get the picture. 
  • If your experience parallels mine, The challenge that you will have will not be the Still operation itself
    • But consistently producing beer to feed the still in quantities that will make a difference to you.
  • The still Works. Follow the directions and it will work.  
    •  Some of us have made minor little modifications to that are supposed to make some minor differences in efficiency.
  • The biggest challenge I have found it consistently getting feed stock, the Bio Chemistry and Microbiology correct.    
  • Strange things can happen and it is real easy to loose a whole batch, then scratch your head wondering why.
  • I ,like you, have no problem with figuring out the
    mechanical parts of an operation and have worked to tweak mine to make the best use of, and the conservation of, heat energy as possible.
  • The parts that I can not see without lab equipment and a microscope have been the hardest for me to wrap my arms around.
  • The most important part I have learned about that is:   
      • Cleanliness Cleanliness.
  • I have tried several different feed stocks and find that the difference in each one is huge.
  • I have decided that I need to find one or two and maybe thee feed stocks and perfect the process and fermentation of these instead of trying to use just anything that comes along that I think I can ferment.
  • To me the Key to successful Ethanol for fuel operation of any size or scale is to secure a good steady reliable feed stock and to develop your process to convert the sugar in it to Alcohol (Beer) consistently.   
  • The Distilling is the easy part, after you get your Charles 803 and
    • An Efficient boiler system designed.
  • I have not, yet, spent to much time trying to get to Anhydrous Ethanol (200 Proof) that is necessary for blending Gasoline.
    • Perhaps some one with some experience in this area will chime in.
  • I do use some of the highest proof that I make in my 1997 Ford Taurus by just dumping it in the tank and going.
    • (265k miles on the old gal now. About 5-10k on ethanol with no problems so far.
    • I had a friend drill a hole in the bottom corner of the
      fuel tank and a valve and I occasionally drain a quart or two of off the bottom as Water seems to gather there when I am running Ethanol.
    • ( I never run below 1/4 tank in fear of drawing water to injectors.)
  • I have been using most all of the fuel that I make in Lawn care equipment at this point.   
    • MY Sears lawn tractor does not seem to know the difference between gas and
      alcohol except in colder weather.
    • (Then I Prime Carb. With Gas to start)   I live in Georgia NOW (a Buffalo NY Native) so The cold is not often a problem when I want to mow.
      • ( I say with a smile)
  • Have Fun and Good luck.
  • Please , Every one,
    • Please Work Smart and safely.
  • If ethanol catches on fire it does not explode with a bang but does make a nasty fire on a hurry and the worst part
  • Always keep a fire extinguisher near by at all times that Ethanol is present and be sure that your production and storage facilities are well



This is the BEST sharing of actual experience that I am aware
Good Job!  And thanks for sharing.
Posting both the positives and negatives are helpful to others. 
And, of course, the emphasis on cleanliness, consistency, and safety are what made the mark for me!
Thanks Tom,

There have been numerous postings and discussions about the production rate of the Charles 803.
Members have aptly pointed out that production rates are difficult to estimate because distilling is a dynamic and
complex practice with many variables affecting production.

These variables include

  •  Concentration of ethanol in the beer : 'PROOF'
  • Ambient temperature of both still and boiler
  • Rate of heat applied in the boiler
  • Design of the boiler, and the Still itself

My experience with the Charles 803 is that it works 

It is relatively easy to achieve high proof (90-95%) ethanol if one follows distillation procedures outlined by RobertWarren on his website.

  • Robert has given us all the information needed to build a still that produces consistently
    • High proof ethanol at a rate that can satisfy the needs of a family
    • Small business
    •  And if the instructions are followed, it can be done safely.
      • For this we all owe Robert a debt of gratitude.

After learning the basics of distilling with the Charles 803, I, like
others, have succumbed to the temptation to “tweak” Robert’s still, to try to get a little more out of it. From my limited
experience as a distiller,

I offer the following suggestions on “TWEAKING”:


  • 1 )  Tweak for safety first. Make sure your boiler and still are vapor tight, you’ll be unsafe and losing precious ethanol if it’s not.
  • I pressure tested mine using compressed air.
  • Keep the boiler and still separated, so that if vapor leaks develop, the vapor won’t be near flame. 


  • 2 )  Tweak your fermentation process next. Just when I think I have it all down, I learn something new, usually the hard way.
  • Fermentation is complex :
    •  start small, then after getting consistent results, batch sizes can be increased.
    • Aim for as high a proof beer as practical, because 10% beer distills at a much higher rate than 4% beer.
    • Cleanliness and attention to detail are vital.
    •  Make notes.
    • Put a thermometer probe in your vat so that you can watch what’s going on.
      • Keeping the temperature consistent is key to consistent results, especially in cold or hot weather.


  • 3) Tweak your boiler and the plumbing connecting it to the still next.
  • In the “Safety and Boiler Operations” section of the website Robert Warren wrote,
    • “The distilling process begins at the boiler and the
      plumbing from the boiler to the still becomes the first stage of the still.”
    •  Robert outlines    Some ways of increasingproduction by paying
      attention to the boiler and plumbing later in this section.
    • Tweaks I’ve made in this area have yielded good results.
      • I will outline them below.


  • 4 )  Tweak the still last.
    • It works as designed and doesn’t need to be fixed.
    • Most opportunities to increase efficiency occur prior to vapor entering the still.
    • The simplest way I’ve found to increase production is to pay attention to the boiler and the plumbing connecting it to the still.
      •  I offer my experiments to the forum with the hope that anyone who tries this will do so cautiously, with safety always in mind, and then will share their results in the interest of further development for the Charles 803.
  • The following is a simple approach I used based on Robert Warren’s suggestions:
    • I had an extra 42” of 3” copper pipe after building my Charles 803, so I stuffed the inside of this piece of pipe with “structured copper mesh”
      (available from and connected it to the top of my boiler by soldering it to a 3” threaded fitting.
    • I capped the top of this pipe and added an adjustable relief valve, which is set at 3 psi.
    • I plumbed a connection from the top of this 3” copper pipe to the inlet on my Charles 803.
      • At first this plumbing was a simple ” heater hose.
      • Later I used 1 ” copper pipe for this connection in order to increase
        vapor flow.
    • In essence what I created was a pot still on the top of my boiler which concentrates the ethanol vapors prior to them entering the
      Charles 803.
    • This means that the Charles 803 doesn’t have to reflux as hard and makes it more efficient.
  • ***I have had production rates average as high as 4 gallons an hour and as low as 2 gallons an hour, depending on the proof of the beer.
  • From talking and listening to other Charles 803 users, this appears to be significant.
  • Remember what Robert Warren wrote “distillation begins with the boiler and the plumbing from the boiler…”
    • Creating reflux prior to the vapor reaching the still, concentrates the vapor and requires less work for the still, which increases production.
    • The problem is that if you create too much reflux, pressure will build up in the boiler.
    • If vapor leaks develop near an open flame, fire and or explosions can happen, therefore extreme caution needs to be observed.
    • My boiler is outside, open to the atmosphere.
    • The Charles 803 is inside a steel pole building, with a wall between the boiler and the still, for safety sake.
  • I have used this system for approximately 8 months now with good results, but have been hesitant to share this idea, until I was reasonably sure it worked and could be done safely.
  • I cannot emphasize enough the need for a vapor tight system, adequate relief valves and proceeding cautiously when you develop your boiler system.
  • While this concept may be developed to create greater reflux and vapor concentration by using taller or larger pipes with more packing, this must be done very cautiously, because it is well known the propensity
    pot stills have of exploding. This concept is essentially a pot still feeding a Charles 803.

I have consulted Gilles prior to posting this concept for the forum, because I am very concerned about safety. He is working on some ideas for homebuilt relief valves. He will also post a schematic of my system and some pictures on his feedsite.

      • Your feedback is appreciated.




  • Because ethanol and water are completely miscible (they mix completely) you should have exactly the same amount of ethanol in the top of your  drum as you do in the bottom.
  • The solids in the solution may cause some variation, but you should have very close to the same amount throughout the container.
  • When boiler temp reaches 212F at sea level, the ethanol is boiled out.
  • Here's the theory
    •  Pure ethanol boils at 173F at sea level
    •  Pure water at 212F=a differential of 39 degrees.
    • A 50% mixture of ethanol and water will boil at 192.5F (halfway between 173F and 212F)
    • A solution containing 90% water, 10% ethanol will boil at 208.1F
    • While 95% water, 5% ethanol will boil at 210F at sea level.
    • Theoretically we can tell the proof (percentage of ethanol) in a beer by it's boiling point. (Of course, it's a lot easier to use a hydrometer, which measures density or "specific gravity.")
    • The importance of this theory is that it let's us know that once a boiler temperature reaches 212F, that there is no longer any ethanol
      left in the beer, only water and solids.
  • My experience is that these temperatures vary, because the process of boiling is dynamic.
  • Small amounts of vapor began to rise at around 175F, but a consistent vapor flow doesn't start until several degrees below the theoretical boiling point.
  • 6-7% beer in my system usually sends consistent vapor to the still at about 203F in the boiler, as measured by my thermometer at 880 feet above sea level.
  • I then back off on the heat so as not to overwhelm
    the still.
  • Once the still reaches equilibrium (consistent vapor and
    consistent cooling water flow) I then slowly turn up the heat until the boiler temperature rises slowly to 210F (in my system, with my thermometer, experience has taught me that the ethanol is all boiled out at 210F).
  • As the ethanol boils off, the theoretical boiling point rises, therefore more heat needs to be applied to raise the beer to it's new boiling point, until it finally reaches 212F.
  • This is a dynamic process, which can be monitored by watching the flow rate of the vapor into the still, as well as the temperature of the boiler.
  • I've described how I use my boiler thermometer in a couple of previous posts. If this doesn't make
    sense, please let me know. Robert Warren also covers this theory on his website.


  • Distillation is all about controlling the temperatures in both the boiler and the still to take advantage of the difference in boiling points of ethanol and water.
  • Understanding and then applying these
    theoretical boiling points are key to good and consistent results.
  • I had a difficult time, until I learned to monitor the temperatures of my boiler and still.
  • I hope this is helpful. Let us know how things go from
    • Good luck.

Enter supporting content here