This is a very common question that you will often see on forums and in the comment sections of YouTube videos. You might be wondering the same thing, so let’s dive into the initial equipment inspection and cleaning process that you should carry out before starting your distillation.
Taking Delivery of Your Parts
When your parts first arrive, it is important to thoroughly inspect them. Check for any damage or missing components. Next, ensure that you can properly set up your equipment. Make sure all gaskets fit correctly, piping is aligned, clamps fit snugly, and so on. If you like, you can clean the parts’ surfaces using a stainless steel cleaner such as the Stainless Steel Cleaner & Polish.
If you want to polish your copper parts, mineral spirits work great for removing any oils from your fingertips and discoloration from shipping. However, over time, the inside of your copper parts will develop a slight patina, which is normal when vapor and liquids pass through the still.
If you want to prevent this chemical reaction from occurring on your copper parts, you can clean them more frequently between runs.
Shiny Copper Distillation Equipment
Now that your still is shiny and fully assembled, you can perform a steam run. We recommend charging your kettle with a 1:1 ratio of vinegar and water to remove any dirt and oil residue from the vapor path. Do NOT leave your equipment unattended. You can use this time to introduce yourself to your still (“Hello still, I’m _____”) and check for any leaks. If you find any, tighten the clamps.
If you notice leaks occurring from places other than the tri-clamp connections, please contact your distillation equipment provider immediately to address the issue. Running high-proof ethanol through a leaky system can be dangerous, as we have seen. Moreover, you would end up wasting your precious beer!
Performing a steam run is not only recommended when you first use your still, but also in-between runs. It is not necessary if you are distilling the same spirit repeatedly. However, if you switch from distilling whiskey to vodka, for example, you would want to remove any strong flavors from your still. Starting with a clean base makes it easier to maintain consistent aroma and taste in your spirit.
After completing the steam run, you should perform a sacrificial run to flush hot ethanol through the system and eliminate any remaining bacteria. You can use a sugar wash for this initial run, as it is a common and inexpensive option. Many hobbyists use this recipe, but alternative recipes can be found on the Home Distiller forum!
This run will not produce a drinkable final product, hence the name “sacrificial” run. Even if you do not have any contaminated distillate, we still recommend that you DO NOT consume it. Now that your still is properly sterilized, it’s time to start filling it with the good stuff!
If this article did not answer your questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us so we can guide you in the right direction for cleaning your still. You can email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org