How To Choose the Right Distillation Method

How To Choose the Right Distillation Method

Posted by Mary on Jan 17th 2018

Deciding which distillation method to use depends on what product you want to distill. Additionally, different moonshine stills are best suited for different types of distillation. Here’s a quick guide on how to choose the right distillation method for your needs.


Water is typically distilled via pot distillation. There are a few differences between distilling water and distilling alcohol though. For example, alcohol requires some copper in the moonshine still because the copper reaction yields a better tasting and better smelling spirit. Copper reacts with sulfur compounds that were produced during fermentation. Unlike alcohol, water isn’t fermented beforehand, so you are not starting with those sulfur compounds to begin with—except for certain well waters. If you’re distilling water from your well, check and see if there are any sulfur compounds in it before deciding whether to use copper or not. Just remember that water boils at 212°F (100°C), which is higher than what you distill spirits at.

Best Still To Use For Distilling Water:

Whisky, Bourbon, Rum, or Fruit Mashes

Again, pot distillation is the best method to use here. This is because you carefully chose your ingredients for fermenting in order to produce a certain flavor or characteristic in your spirit, and pot distillation will help concentrate the amount of alcohol in your product without removing those flavors. Reflux distillation, on the other hand, strips out the characteristics you got from fermenting. You also want to incorporate some copper into your still to reduce the sulfur compounds that were produced during fermentation, which affects the way your product tastes and smells. Your entire still does not need to be made out of copper; you just need some copper to get the reaction.

Best Still To Use For Distilling Whisky, Bourbon, Rum or Fruit Schnapps:

Essential Oils

Essential oils are another product that require using a pot still. You put your organic materials either directly into the kettle or into a basket above the water line in the kettle before the column. However, you do NOT want to use copper anywhere in the still when distilling essential oils because you do not want the copper to react with this distillate. You don’t need any column packing in a pot still.

Best Still To Use For Distilling Essential Oils:


Gin is a high-proof spirit that gets it characteristics from different types of botanicals. A gin series still is a reflux still that incorporates a gin basket, and we place our gin baskets towards the top of the column between the cooling lines and the condenser. This allows the vapor to pass through the botanicals and pick up the flavor after it has been purified and before it has recondensed. The most common botanicals used in various gins are juniper berries, citrus peels, coriander, and cardamom. As mentioned before, any time you distill beverage-grade alcohol, you may want some copper incorporated into the still, so copper mesh is a great column packing to use in your stainless steel gin series still.

Best Still To Use For Distilling Gin:


Vodka is a colorless, flavorless, high-proof neutral spirit that can best be achieved with reflux distillation followed by carbon filtering. The more reflux that can occur in the still, the purer the spirit. You also still need to have some copper in the moonshine still because you want to neutralize sulfur in beverage-grade alcohol. After distilling, vodka is run through a filter system that contains prepared activated carbon, which filters out remaining impurities, leaving you with a clear, odorless, smooth, and neutral spirit.

Best Still To Use For Distilling Vodka:

Fuel Alcohol/Ethanol

Fuel alcohol also requires as much reflux action as possible in order to get you to the highest proof that you can achieve, but you don’t necessarily need copper because this alcohol is not for tasting. When it comes to reflux stills, the modular flute or sight glass stills are best because you can add more sections to them. The more sections you have, the more reflux you will achieve. We use a 7-section flute still to distill the alcohol we use to clean and sanitize our equipment here at Brewhaus. Keep in mind that you must denature alcohol intended for these purposes, including ethanol for fuel.

Best Still To Use For Distilling Fuel Alcohol: