Distillation Equipment Guide

Distillation Equipment Guide

Distillation equipment is vital to producing spirits such as whiskey, vodka, rum, and gin. Whether you are a home distiller or a commercial producer, choosing the right distillation equipment is essential to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of the separation process. This guide will introduce the fundamentals of distillation and walk you through selecting the right Distillation equipment for your specific needs.

What is distillation?

Distillation is based on the difference in the boiling points of different components in the liquid or gaseous state to achieve separation. In this process, we convert a liquid into a vapor, then re-condense it and collect it in a container. We also use this technique to obtain pure liquids from non-volatile impurities. It can also be used to increase the absorption of specific components in a mixture. The distillation process begins by heating the liquid to its boiling point. This causes the liquid to evaporate and form a vapor. Afterward, the gas is cooled by passing it through a tube at a lower temperature. The cooled vapors condense and form a distillate.

The distillate is the pure form of the original liquid because it leaves behind impurities and produces distillates. When we repeat this process on the collected liquid, we call it double distillation.

How to choose distillation equipment?

Types of distillation

Simple Distillation

Simple distillation consists of heating a liquid mixture to its boiling point and then immediately condensing the resulting vapor. The method is only valid for mixtures with large differences in the boiling points of the liquids (minimum difference of 25 o C). The purity of the distillate (purified liquid) is controlled by Raoul’s law.

Fractional Distillation

Fractional distillation is commonly used to separate mixtures of liquids with similar boiling points. It involves several vaporization-condensation steps (performed in a fractionating column). The process is also known as distillation. The equipment required for the fractional distillation of a mixture is listed below.

  • round-bottomed flasks or distillation flasks
  • Heat source, which can be a fire or a hot water bath.
  • Receiving flask to collect condensed vapors
  • Fractionating column
  • thermometer to measure the temperature in the distillation flasks
  • Condenser
  • Standard glassware.

Steam Distillation

Steam distillation is commonly used to separate heat-sensitive components of a mixture.

This is achieved by passing steam through the mixture (slightly heated) to vaporize a portion of the mixture. The process does not require high temperatures to achieve high heat transfer rates. The resulting steam is condensed to obtain the desired distillate. The steam distillation process can be used to obtain essential oils and herbal distillates from a wide range of aromatic flowers/herbs.

Vacuum Distillation

Vacuum distillation is ideal for separating mixtures of liquids with very high boiling points. To bring these compounds to a boil, heating to high temperatures is an inefficient method. Therefore, only the pressure of the surroundings can be reduced. The lower pressure allows the components to boil at a lower temperature. Once the vapor pressure of the composition equals the surrounding pressure, it is converted to vapor. These vapors are then condensed and collected as a distillate. Vacuum distillation is also used to obtain high-purity samples of compounds that decompose at high temperatures.

Air-sensitive vacuum distillation

For compounds that are air-sensitive and react readily with air, a vacuum distillation process can be performed, but the vacuum must be replaced with an inert gas after the process is complete. This process is often referred to as air-sensitive vacuum distillation.

Short-Range Distillation

Short-range distillation is used to purify small amounts of compounds that are unstable at high temperatures. The process is carried out at low-pressure levels and usually involves the distillate traveling a very short distance before being collected (hence the term “short-run”). In this method, the reduction in distance traveled by the distillate also reduces waste along the walls of the equipment.

Regional Distillation

The process of regional distillation involves the partial melting of the substance and the condensation of the resulting vapors to obtain a pure distillate. The process is carried out in long vessels with the help of zone heaters.

Understanding Distillation Equipment

Distillation equipment consists of various components that work together to separate alcohol from the fermentation broth through the process of distillation. The main types of distillation equipment include:


A still is the main equipment used in the distillation process. It consists of a boiler, a tower or pot, and a condenser. The boiler heats the liquid to produce steam, which passes through the tower or pot and is then cooled and condensed back into liquid form by the condenser. Distillers come in a variety of designs, including pot stills, column stills, and hybrid stills, each suitable for different types of spirits and production methods.


The condenser is responsible for cooling the vapors produced in the still back to a liquid state. It usually consists of a coil or pipe in which cold water is circulated to condense the vapor and collect it as distillate. The condenser can be passive (using ambient air or water) or active (using a coolant such as glycol), depending on the size and design of the still.


The fermentation vessel is where the fermentation process takes place, converting sugar into alcohol and other compounds. For home distillers, the fermentation vessel may be a simple bucket or barrel, while for commercial producers, the fermentation vessel may be a larger tank. Fermentation vessels should be made of food-grade materials and equipped with an airlock to allow gas to escape while preventing contamination.

Wort Bucket

A wort bucket is used to mix water with grains or other fermentable ingredients to make wort. It may have a false bottom or other filtration system to separate the liquid (wort) from the solids (spent grains) after the wort is processed. Wort barrels are essential to the production of whiskey, bourbon, and other grain spirits.

How to choose distillation equipment?

  • Production scale: Scale your production to your needs, whether it’s for personal use, small-scale artisanal distillation, or large-scale commercial production. Choose equipment that will meet your production volumes and growth projections.
  • Budget: Establish a budget for the purchase of distillation equipment and consider both upfront costs and long-term operating expenses. While quality equipment may require a higher initial investment, it can provide better performance, efficiency, and durability over time.
  • Quality and materials: Look for distillation equipment made from quality materials such as stainless steel or copper that are durable, corrosion-resistant, and easy to clean. Avoid equipment made from inferior materials that may compromise the quality and safety of your spirits.
  • features and specifications: Consider the features and specifications of the equipment, including capacity, heating method, cooling system, automation options, and compatibility with production processes and recipes. Choose equipment that meets your specific needs and preferences.
  • Safety and Regulatory Requirements: Especially when handling toxic, flammable, or corrosive substances, the safety performance of the equipment is critical. Ensure that equipment complies with relevant safety and environmental regulations to avoid potential legal issues and safety risks.
  • Equipment performance and efficiency: Select equipment for its separation efficiency and product purity capabilities. Evaluate the energy consumption and maintenance costs of the equipment to ensure that it is economical to operate in the long term.
  • Technical support and service: Choose a reputable supplier that can provide good after-sales support and technical service. Understand the warranty policy and maintenance requirements of the equipment to ensure long-term stable operation.
  • Energy and efficiency: Sustainability and energy efficiency are increasingly valued in the spirits industry. Choosing energy-efficient distillation equipment not only reduces operating costs but also meets the preferences of environmentally conscious consumers.