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This blog provides information for educational purposes only. Read our complete summary for more info.

May 13, 2014
Last updated

How to Clean Brewing and Distilling Equipment

Chief Operating Officer at Clawhammer

Clean Equipment After Assembly

Before using our brewing and distilling equipment for the first time, it will need to be thoroughly cleaned. After assembly, the equipment is going to have a lot of flux and bits of solder that need to be removed. 

To clean the inside of a still, fill the boiler with a gallon of white vinegar, attach the column, and boil for about an hour. After boiling the vinegar for an hour, carefully dump out the the vinegar. It will be HOT- we recommend using heat resistant gloves.

After dumping the vinegar, fill the still with PBW, let is soak, then scrub the copper still with a toilet cleaning brush (one that is new and only for stills!). Dump the water out and fill the still one more time with clean water. Scrub the still once more with a scrubbing brush and dump the water out one last time. For info on cleaning the outside, read our article on How to Clean a Copper Still.

Clean Equipment After Each Use

Here is the procedure we recommend distillers follow when cleaning a copper still:

First, we recommend wearing a pair of protective gloves as the still will still be hot.

  • Remove the seal between the boiler and the column cap skirt.
  • Completely remove the column from the still.
  • Rinse the column with clean water, and scrub the inside of the column with a carboy cleaning brush (these are the perfect size and work really, really well).
  • Once the column has been cleaned, dry it off and place it in safe dry spot for storage.
    Put on gloves again and dump the leftover wash out.
  • Fill the still with 1/2 gallon of clean water and scrub the still with a scrubbing brush. 
  • Dump the water out and then rinse it one more time with clean water.
  • Dry thoroughly and store in a cool, dry environment.

How to Store Copper Distilling Equipment

After a still is cleaned it needs to be dried. A still should be dried with clean rags and then tilted upside down to allow any remaining water to drain. After the still is completely dry, store it in a dry safe location. Store the still in a location where it won't be dropped or otherwise damaged. We always hate it when we get an email from a customer who had a still damaged while it was in storage because it fell off of an 8' shelf (it has happened).

Examine the Copper Before Use

Before then next use, the still needs to be physically inspected prior to transferring any liquid into the boiler. If any corrosion has occurred or copper salts are built up on the surfaces, still must be cleaned before use. Copper salt can have a blue, teal, purple, very dark brown and even black appearance.  Cleaning the still with a light acid should remove these salts and make the copper look like copper again. Food safe chemicals like lemon juice and even vinegar will do the trick. To use vinegar, fill the still with a gallon of white vinegar and heat to a boil. After a boil is reached, use a brush and pipe cleaner to remove all remaining deposits.

Note: if buildup of other organic matter has occurred (such as leftover residue from a mash) Powered Brewers Wash will be needed. PBW is a commercially available cleaner designed to clean brewing equipment. We contacted 5 star chemicals about using their product to clean copper stills. 5 Star Chemical said that PBW is safe on copper-  however they recommend a lighter dose and also they said to make sure the powder is completely dissolved. We have had great luck with PBW, we highly recommend this product. We'll also sometimes use PBW if we have not used the still for a while.

The information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not meant to be used as the basis for any person or entity to make any decision or take any act whatsoever.

Emmet Leahy is the Chief Operating Officer and lead product developer at Clawhammer Supply, a small scale distillation and brewing equipment company. He loves the process of developing new equipment for making beer at home just as much as he does using it to brew his own beer. He's also passionate about teaching people how to use distillation equipment to produce distilled water, essential oils, and with the proper permits, fuel alcohol and distilled spirits.

  • Where can I find answers to all of the questions? confusing board. BTW,
    Im running your 5 gal still. Works perfectly.

    Posted by thomas on February 21, 2022
  • Hey, I got it! Thanks for the e-book!

    Posted by Skip on December 03, 2018
  • I have began reading and watching on you tube and have a good idea how to make mash……but I have a question….I have a new copper onion head still so after reading I should do a first time Vinegar clean….I got that….but after that vinegar cleaning and rinsing with water do I still need to rinse with a solution of Star San…..I have a 5 gallon onion head still unused…..I also want to know do I need to clean the still after each run…….also one more how much yield should I expect out of a 5 gal. still

    Posted by Paul I Fender on February 08, 2018
  • I have began reading and watching on you tube and have a good idea how to make mash……but I have a question….I have a new copper onion head still so after reading I should do a first time Vinegar clean….I got that….but after that vinegar cleaning and rinsing with water do I still need to rinse with a solution of Star San…..I have a 5 gallon onion head still unused

    Posted by Paul I Fender on February 08, 2018
  • made a cooling coil to cool my wert. what should i use to make sure there is no copper sulphate

    Posted by Bill on March 02, 2017
  • Do you need help with a message board that works? I’d love to help out and get something effective. I can’t find any answers.
    THanks for your support!

    Posted by Heidi on February 07, 2017
  • i have a pre-made still. the condenser tube has an internal copper coil. The still overheated and when i took it apart for inspection and cleaning i noticed a heavy scale build-up on the copper. i believe that it is sulphur based. the wash that i processed at that time cake out clear (as usual) at 95% alc vol (also normal). it only has a mild smell (good). the initial taste is good but the after-taste in the back of the throat is a little rough. i think it’s the sulphur build-up. as i can’t take the condenser tube apart i need to chemically treat it. have tried white vinegar and citric acid. very poor result. i have access to hyrodchloric acid and sulphuric acid. i intend to use a diluted mixture of one of these to strip the sulphates. if anyone has done this before i would like to know the result they achieved.

    Posted by Mike on June 24, 2016
  • What’s the best way to clean the worm

    Posted by mike on March 07, 2016
  • Hi I am making a 5 gal copper still,is there a better way to have a bigger opening,to clean the tankThank you very much

    Posted by Reg Lauzon on March 02, 2016
  • I thinking about getting one of these stills, but got one question how do you clean the condenser 1/2 tubing, do you run water and vinegar through your still, like your running a batch of wash. and if you do how much, Thank You

    Posted by Ray on February 01, 2016
  • How do I clean the worm

    Posted by Matt on October 30, 2015
  • where do i fine answers to post?


    Posted by Andy on July 02, 2015
  • Where do I find the answers to the posts on your site? some of the questions are the same ones i’m thinking of.

    Posted by Layle Willis on April 20, 2015
  • Hi Kyle,
    Well I’m a real dummy got my one gallon still put together ( pretty sure gonna need to up grade to a 10) and I don’t know which end is up. I have no idea what to hook up to what or what it should look like do you have a video on that ? I’m getting ready to start my mad hand clean my still then just need to know what all the tube openings are for where to put then thermometer does it have to be in the body of the still? Or can it attach to the top? And do you use the top or bottom opening for the condensed vapor to pass through

    Posted by Ruthann on January 26, 2015
  • Put your first run in the still when you are about to run it. If you put it in the mash you run the risk of killing the yeast.

    Posted by Aaron on January 24, 2015
  • How do you clean the worm?

    Posted by Frank Porter on July 23, 2014
  • thay say your first run put it back in the next you put it into the mash to???

    Posted by buba on July 20, 2014

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