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

August 28, 2014
Last updated

How To Maintain Distillation Equipment

Owner of Clawhammer Supply

Making quality distilled products (whether that be water, fuel alcohol, etc.) requires equipment that is clean, safe, and in good working order. Commercial distilleries clean their equipment regularly. Not only when switching from one sprit type to another, but sometimes also in between batches of the same product. Why? Because fresh copper reduces sulfides in the distillate. Essential oils producers are familiar with the importance of this as well.

Before we get started, a reminder: Distilling alcohol is illegal without a federal fuel alcohol or distilled spirit plant permit as well as relevant state permits. Our distillation equipment is designed for legal uses only and the information in this article is for educational purposes only. Please read our complete legal summary for more information on the legalities of distillation.

Cleaning Brewing and Distillation Equipment

Our 100% copper stills can last a lifetime with proper care and maintenance. They're made from 100% food grade c110 copper. We also use durable 16oz. material stock. As long as they're kept clean and dry, our stills will last for generations to come.

It does not take much time or effort to properly care for a copper still and mash equipment. Examine the copper still before using it. Make sure there is no physical damage or copper salt on the inside of the still. If there is copper salt on the copper still, clean the still. To clean the still, use a vinegar solution or a slightly diluted PBW (powdered brewery wash) solution. If cleaning with a vinegar solution, a few gallons to the still and let it boil for one hour. Rinse the still thoroughly with clean water and scrub with a non-abrasive brush. If cleaning with PBW, follow the directions on the label, slightly diluting the PBW if cleaning copper.

Stainless steel distillation equipment is extremely easy to care for. Simply rinse the boiler, column, and condenser after each run and then clean each part with a full dose of PBW. PBW is a great product to use on stainless and we recommend using it to clean the still after each run. Cleaning with PBW will keep the still clean as well as remove all odors.

Stainless steel mash equipment is best because it will last a lifetime, but aluminum works fine as well. Always clean and sanitize the brew pot/mash tun before the beginning of a brew day. First clean it with PBW and then follow it up with Star San. At the the end of a brew day, rinse out the kettle/mash tun and thoroughly dry it out. 

Cleaning Fermentation Equipment

Keep fermenters clean as well. Always clean and sanitize fermentation equipment. Cleaning removes soil from the surface, while sanitizing reduces the number of microorganisms on a clean surface to safe levels. It is a two-step process. First rinse the fermenter. Next, fill with warm water and PBW. Remove any thing that does not dissolve using a soft carboy brush. Next rinse thoroughly with warm water then santitize with Star San before it is used again to ferment again.

Remember, home brewing is legal in almost every US state. However, it is illegal to distill alcohol without the proper permits. Do not distill alcohol at home for consumption.

Kyle Brown is the owner of Clawhammer Supply, a small scale distillation and brewing equipment company which he founded in 2009. His passion is teaching people about the many uses of distillation equipment as well as how to make beer at home. When he isn't brewing beer or writing about it, you can find him at his local gym or on the running trail.

  • Dear Sir,
    I distill alcohol and wish to clean my distilling tower.
    How do I go about doing this ?
    Kind regards.

    Posted by on June 12, 2019
  • How do I find responses to the questions posted on this site?

    Posted by Sam Allen on May 22, 2017
  • i would like to purchase one of these stills just weighing my options/ One thing I noticed is the article on cleaning the mesh in the column and didn’t see one for cleaning the still itself. Either way though the still is soldered solid as a unit how do you get into it to scrub when there’s no way in Seems like you would have to somehow be able to get inside to scrub which once built you can’t?

    Posted by Larry on February 23, 2017
  • Why can I not see the answers to the comments on your site? Do you have a forum where people share info that can be seen?

    Posted by TErry on October 10, 2016
  • Hi i have a orange substance on the inside of the boiler on my still. I used ketchup to clean it out last time. I cant seem to get it out. I rinsed it out and even tried scrubbing it with copper mesh. What is it? And is it harmful?

    Posted by Ryan on February 27, 2016

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