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Safety Measures During Distillation

Because safety is the most important thing, I make a point of going back to basic protection measures during distillation, every now and again. No matter how experienced of a distiller you are, safety should always come first, whether it’s the location, the equipment you use or your own behavior in the process of running your copper whiskey still. Alcohol is almost as dangerous as gasoline when it comes to fire and explosion hazards and although your mash isn’t flammable, the vapors from the first and successive run distillates certainly are, so it is essential to take great care every time you fire up your pot still.

So, here are some basic rules that you should stick to:

Don’t use an open flame indoors. In fact, don’t use an open flame at all if you can avoid it. Along these lines, might also help not to (carelessly) smoke next to your whiskey still during distillation.

Always ensure proper ventilation. Alcohol easily diffuses in the air and can explode at the very interaction with a spark or a flame.

Avoid using glass containers. Use metal and plastic only.

Never fill a pot while it is on the stove or near a heat source. A few drops of spilled alcohol could create an explosion if they reach a hot plate.

Place the receiver low on the floor, away from the heat source. Also, it is recommended to use a small-necked receiver so that, if a fire starts, the small-necked opening is easier to extinguish. You can also wrap a damp cloth loosely around the tubing where it enters the receiver, to keep the vapors in.

Never leave your pot still unattended. A hose line could fail, a receiver might overflow and dangerous vapors would get spread around causing trouble.

Avoid storing uncut alcohol around the house. Or, if you need to, make sure you keep it in the refrigerator. Anything warmer than that and you might be sitting next to a ticking bomb. Also, don’t store alcohol higher than 15% in plastic containers as some types of plastic might dissolve in alcohol.

Avoid vapor leaks in your copper still by making sure all the fittings are tight. If you do get a leak, stop the heat source first and then attend to it.

Keep a CO2 fire extinguisher on hand and make sure you know how to use if you need to.

Also, don’t forget to clean your still immediately after each distillation, while the copper is still warm. Rinse it thoroughly with water and wipe it with a clean cloth. Flush out all the tubing with clear water. You may also use a weak detergent solution every now and then, but not perfumed soap as it may leave an odor.

Enjoy your quality distilling time but always keep safe. Believe it or not, there are worse things than a failed recipe... although that’s pretty bad too!

Posted by Jason Stone on


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