Tips for Effective Cleaning and Maintenance of Distillation Equipment

Tips for Effective Cleaning and Maintenance of Distillation Equipment

The Very First Cleaning

Soak the column, condenser, parrot, and other parts of the still in a mixture of water and vinegar (50/50 ratio) for several hours.

Gently scrub the inside of the still with a long brush, rinse it with warm water, and let it dry.

Fill your boiler with a solution of white vinegar, making sure the heating element is fully submerged. The vinegar will help remove impurities from the still.

Turn on the heat and bring the vinegar in the boiler to a boil. Keep it boiling for 30 minutes to an hour, allowing the steam to clean and sanitize both the still and the condenser. Do not turn on the condenser until the vinegar has reached the boiling point to ensure proper circulation of steam.

After 30 minutes, turn on the condenser and run it as you would during a normal distillation process. This will help identify any leaks in the joints or seals. If leaks are found, solder them properly before using the still, as they can be dangerous.

Ensure that you perform this procedure in a well-ventilated area.

Finally, turn off the still, empty the boiler, and scrub and rinse the boiler, column, and condenser with warm water.

Polishing Your Copper Still

Polishing the outside of your copper still gives it a shiny appearance. It is recommended to use non-toxic polish and avoid abrasive cleaners. Here are some solutions you can use:

Vinegar + Salt + Flour Solution: Mix one tablespoon of salt with a cup of vinegar, then stir in flour to form a paste. Apply the paste to the still, leave it for 30 minutes, then rinse it off.

Ketchup + Lemon Juice: This method is not as effective as the vinegar + salt + flour solution, but it can be used to spot-clean tarnish on the copper still. Rub the mixture on the affected areas and let it sit for 15 minutes. Use a dry cloth to remove it.

Industrial Tarnish Remover: Commercial tarnish removers or copper cleaning products are easy to use. Take precautions and use protective gear for your hands, eyes, nose, and mouth to avoid direct contact or inhalation. These products should only be used on the external surfaces of the copper still, and it is advisable to use them in well-ventilated areas.

Regardless of the cleaner you choose, make sure to rinse the still thoroughly and dry it to prevent discoloration.

Storing Your Distillation Equipment

Before storing your equipment, ensure that it is completely dry.

Use a soft, dry cloth to wipe the equipment.

Position the still upside down to allow any remaining water to drain out, and let it dry in this position.

After drying, store your still in a safe place. Consider the following:

– Avoid storing the still where it could be easily damaged or dented.

– Choose a cool and dry storage location, avoiding damp areas.

Important Maintenance Tips

Before your first spirit run, it is important to do an ethanol run. This cleans the still and enhances the flavor of the first distillate by removing trace elements from the construction process that could affect the flavor of your spirits. Discard the distillate from this ethanol run.

Check your still for leaks and fix them before using it. Leaks are dangerous and can cause fires.

Before each run, inspect the still for any physical damage that may have occurred during washing, handling, or storage, and repair it before proceeding.

If your still is used for producing essential oils, clean it with warm or hot water, as oil residue can stick to the walls and potentially clog the outlets, especially in the condenser.


A well-cleaned still produces high-quality spirits with great flavor. Copper stills are particularly effective at eliminating sulfur compounds, resulting in delicious moonshine. It’s important to clean your still correctly, depending on its type and function. Using warm or hot water during cleaning will remove dirt, oil residues, and unseen microorganisms. Regular cleaning and maintenance will ensure your distillation equipment remains in optimal working condition for a long time.

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