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Safety Precautions

Distillation is not child's play it is a science and could prove dangerous if you do not know what you are doing and do not pay careful and constant attention to the process.

Please read these safety precautions through carefully before starting off.

  • Allow sufficient space to work in. Your distillation area should be well lit, clean and well ventilated to prevent the accumulation of alcoholic vapours.
  • When working with flammable liquids such as ethanol care should be taken to eliminate any fire hazards. Keep a fire extinguisher handy and collect the distillate securely so the risk of spilling it is reduced. Don't smoke!
  • Before any distillation, please ensure that there is no obstruction in the piping that could cause excessive pressure build up in the still and cause it to burst. You may risk burning yourself if the vapours do not have an easy exit point. For this reason we frequently emphasise that the alembic head should be placed loosely on the pot, for appropriate models, so it may easily pop off in such a case (see Sealing technique).
  • Perform a cleaning distillation first (see Cleaning and maintenance for more info).
  • Read Basic distillation rules for some guidelines before performing a distillation.
  • Apply rye putty to seal off any leaks as they occur (see Sealing technique)
  • Don't overfill your alembic, allow enough headroom for the vapours to collect in. The liquid volume in the alembic may expand or foam if the heat source is not carefully monitored and boil over or cause an obstruction in the piping. For this same reason, when distilling a thick mash dilute it sufficiently to give it a liquid consistency. As a general rule do not fill your pot more than ¾ of its capacity.

Riveted Copper Still
  • Monitor the temperature constantly. Do not allow the liquid in the alembic to boil uncontrollably. The heat source should be at high strength at the beginning of the distillation to start off and reduced when approaching boiling point. Try to maintain the wash at a slow boil or simmer.
  • If using electrical heating, try to install an RCD on the line (residual current device - or circuit breaker) if at all possible.
  • Control the temperature of the condensation water so no vapour is exiting the condenser and calculate the ratio wash to distillate so as not to boil your still dry.
  • We encourage a temperate attitude towards drinking. Do not drink during the distillation process at all! This is no time to be making drunken mistakes!
  • We attempt to make a basic presentation on the distillation process on this site and may have inadvertently included some inaccuracies. We do not claim to be the ultimate authoritative guide to distillation and encourage you to read up on the distillation process as much as possible. There are many good books available on the distillation process. You may also join a distillation discussion group as homedistiller.org/

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