When it comes to distilling, the use of silicone in equipment has been a controversial topic. Silicone has received a negative reputation within the distilling community, with many hobbyists arguing that PTFE gaskets are a better option. But is this really the case?
Silicone is extremely flexible, heat resistant, and sanitary, making it an ideal choice for creating liquid and vapor seals in distilling systems. So why is silicone often demonized? The answer is not simple, as there hasn’t been enough extensive research on the effects of plastic on alcohol and vice versa. Many online videos share experiences with silicone in distilling, but these experiments lack complexity and proper regulation. Factors such as heat, humidity, and strong chemicals present in distilleries are not easily controlled. Due to these uncertainties, silicone has been demonized in the distilling community. However, from what we’ve observed, silicone can endure wear and tear, though gaskets should be replaced regularly for preventive maintenance. Long-term experimentation on plastic gaskets is limited since the craft boom started less than a decade ago. We recommend replacing gaskets every one to two years, regardless of the material. In terms of safety, silicone gaskets have proven to be reliable. They are FDA approved, and most third-party safety inspectors have no issues with them.
As mentioned before, silicone’s flexibility is advantageous for tri-clamp fittings.
If your piping isn’t completely flush, a silicone gasket can easily mold to create a tight seal with a simple clamp tightening. They are easy to install and remove, making cleaning and maintenance effortless.
A Perfectly Functioning Distillation Plant
PTFE (or Teflon Polytetrafluoroethylene) gaskets may pose challenges when configuring your still. This material is not as flexible as silicone and undergoes changes under extreme pressure and heat. For example, if you use PTFE gaskets in your still and start the run, the gaskets will begin to change texture as the still heats up. This can result in looser tri-clamps and compromised seals. While this might not be an issue for small hobby-sized stills or recipe development, it becomes cumbersome for taller vodka columns. Having to tighten clamps 15-20+ feet above the ground is never a pleasant experience. However, PTFE is undoubtedly food safe and FDA approved, as long as the fillers, inks, and dyes added to make the gaskets are also safe. If you don’t mind dealing with occasional inconveniences, PTFE gaskets might be the right option for you.
EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) is a versatile material that is weather-resistant, heat resistant, and FDA approved for food safety. It has a higher rating than silicone but can be slightly more expensive, depending on the column’s width. While the cost difference is not significant, some people consider it when budgeting. In the long run, choosing silicone might save you money, especially if you diligently practice preventive maintenance and frequently replace gaskets.
Opinions within the distilling community vary on which material creates the best seal, so the choice ultimately depends on your preferences. Everyone has their own “ride or die” products and materials that they stand by.
If you need assistance with your distilling equipment, feel free to email us at email@example.com. We’ll be happy to help. Cheers!