Why high separation still cannot produce pure ethanol.

Why high separation still cannot produce pure ethanol.

Why high separation still cannot produce pure ethanol.

It is still impossible to generate pure ethanol using today’s high-separation technologies. Azeotropes are formed when water and ethanol come together. When two liquid compounds’ molecules become loosely connected, they form an azeotrope, which has a shared boiling point that is different from the boiling points of either ingredient.

Azeotrope develops when a combination of 96.5 percent ethanol and 3.5 percent water is prepared, and it has a boiling point of 172.67 degrees Fahrenheit (78.15 degrees Celsius).

Pure ethanol has a boiling point of 173.12 degrees Fahrenheit (78.4 degrees Celsius), which is 0.45 degrees Fahrenheit (0.17 degrees Celsius) higher.

The still treats this azeotrope as a single compound having a boiling point of 172.67°F (78.15°C), and it continues to separate it on the basis of this boiling point. A fractionating column does not produce pure 100 percent ethanol, but rather pure 96.5 percent ethanol with pure water as the “impurity,” resulting in a product that is 96.5 percent ethanol.

Under the parameters stated above, no amount of redistillation will have an effect on this percentage; 96.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) is the theoretical maximum purity that can be obtained via the technique described above.

The above-mentioned temperatures are at atmospheric pressure which is considered standard. The temperatures in a column still would be far greater than reported because of the increased pressure at the bottom caused by the pressure drop over the plates.

The boiling point of a wasted wash under ordinary pressure would be 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius), but because of the higher pressure, it would be 220 degrees Fahrenheit (104.4 degrees Celsius).

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The swan neck is perched on the rim of the vessel. There are many different shapes and sizes available.
Ogees, or bubble-shaped chambers, are often used to link the swan neck to the pot. At various points during the distillation process, the ogee permits the distillate to expand, condense, and fall back into the pot. Pot stills with tapering swan necks are more common since they provide greater separation and enrichment of the spirits while they are in operation.

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The lyne arm is resting on top of the swan’s neck in this position: A tapered or straight shape may be achieved by tilting the cylinder upwards or downwards, respectively. The majority of the arms are tapered.

A dephlegmator, or what Scottish distillers refer to as a purifier, is often used in pot stills to remove odors. This device is equipped with baffles that chill the distillate using water plates or tubes, recirculating 90 percent of it back into the vessel.

Its primary function is to enrich the spirits before they are sent on to the condenser for further processing..

When spirits are being cooled, the condenser (also known as a worm) is employed to provide a tiny stream to a collecting tank or pail.


When it comes to creating whiskey, there are several different types of stills to choose from. Stills used for distillation include the moonshine still, gooseneck still, continuous-run column still, French Charentais alembic still, and artisan pot still, among others. In traditional English spelling, the French term alembic is used to refer to this word.)


Pot stills, often known as moonshine stills, are the most basic and fundamental designs available. They are made of a closed pot, similar to a pressure cooker, with a pipe running from the lid into a condenser coil.

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In order to effectively cool the vapors, the condenser coil may be either long enough to allow for air cooling or short enough to be submerged in a water jacket.

Because there is almost no separation after the vapors exit the boiler, such a still provides the bare minimum in vapor separation. It will concentrate an 8 or 10 percent ABV wash to 60 percent in a very short period of time, despite the fact that this type of still is not suited for the production of drinking alcohol by contemporary standards.

This style of still is now in use by a large number of home distillers as well as illegal commercial moonshiners. Furthermore, since this sort of still is commonly heated on a stovetop or on a gas burner, it is important to strain the wash to eliminate any suspended particulates before pouring it in the boiling pot. Failure to do so would increase the likelihood of burning sediments at the bottom of the pot.


When it comes to the production of Scottish malt whiskey, the gooseneck pot still is the most popular style of still. This style of still is also used to distill several Irish whiskies, as well as a handful of American and Canadian whiskies.

While this particular form of pot still has been in use for commercial whiskey production for many centuries, it is now more popular than ever in contemporary whiskey distilleries, owing to its versatility.

There is a large round boiler in the gooseneck still and it functions in a manner similar to the crude pot still except that it has a long, broad neck rising from the boiler that allows sufficient separation to hold back most of the fusel alcohols from the distillate while retaining the desired flavors in the finished spirit.

This bend occurs near the top of the neck, where it links to a piece of pipe known as a lyne arm, which leads to a condenser coil submerged in water. However, in certain distilleries, the lyne arm is tilted upward rather than downward toward the condenser, which is a common occurrence.

Despite this, the quantity of condensation that occurs in the neck and lyne arm of a gooseneck pot and then falls back into the boiler has an impact on the degree of separation.

Known as reflux, this condensation occurs when there is an increase in the amount of separation. If the lyne arm is oriented downward, any vapor in the lyne arm that condenses will fall forward into the condenser and form a component of the distillate that is sent through to the receiver.

If, on the other hand, the lyne arm is slanted upward, condensation will flow back into the boiler, causing further reflux and, therefore, more separation.

Forsyths whisky still with a gooseneck design.


Geeseneck stills are better ideal for distilling beverage alcohol than crude pot stills because the long, wide neck offers a greater surface area that results in a higher percentage of reflux than crude pot stills.

In commercial production, gooseneck stills are well adapted for the distillation of whiskey, brandy, rum, schnapps, and other non-neutral spirits, for which they are frequently utilized in a variety of industries.

But they are not appropriate for the manufacturing of vodka, gin, or other spirits produced from neutral alcohol, since this needs a high separation still capable of generating only pure azeotrope ethanol, which is not available in these stills.

Gooseneck distillates are often separated from suspended particulates, in a manner similar to the malt washes used in the production of Scottish malt whiskey. If there are any suspended particles in the wash, this might result in the burning of the solids. Some gooseneck stills are heated by an open fire beneath the boiler, which could result in the burning of suspended materials.

Steam jackets, on the other hand, are used to heat the majority of current still photographs. When used in conjunction with a rummager, these stills are capable of boiling entire mashes with all of the grain in the boiler without burning the solids at the bottom of the kettle.

Rummagers are agitating devices that gently rotate within the still pot, pulling a net of copper chains down the bottom of the boiler to prevent particles from caking up and burning during distilling. They are used to keep solids from caking up and burning during the distillation process.


In the design of this still, there is a fault from the start. Because the continuous-run still has a continual flow of fresh wash flowing into it at all times, there are always heads and tails present in the column of wash.

An alternative is a batch still, which is any of the noncontinuous stills covered in this article, where the heads are taken off at the beginning of each run and then they are no longer available. A continuous-run operation means that all steps of the process are continuously introduced into the column by the incoming wash.

As for the tails, this does not provide an issue since the tails are located lower in the column than the hearts, and so do not interfere with the hearts’ removal from the trays where the hearts are being removed.

Due to the fact that heads are still present at these trays, it is always possible that a small number of heads will remain in the hearts phase no matter how thoroughly a continuous run is equilibrated.

However, the continuous-run column is a high-separation still that achieves very exact separation of the chemicals contained inside its column, as previously stated. Inevitably, there will be a trace quantity of heads in the hearts, and this amount is still far under the permitted limits for drinkable spirits. When compared to the residual heads found in commercial batch stills, it is usually far less in most instances.


This kind of still is used for the production of large quantities of spirit in a continuous operation that may last for up to eleven months without interruption before being shut down for cleaning and upkeep. It is customary for them to have a fractionating column that is around 100 feet (30.5m) high (similar to that of an oil refinery), as well as a series of bubble-cap trays that are located every few of feet down the length of the column.

They are wider apart towards the bottom of the stack and closer together near the top of the stack. It does not have a pot or boiler in the traditional sense; instead, it is heated by blasting steam upward from the bottom of the column, while the wash is continually fed onto a tray in the center of the column.

After passing through the column’s trays, the wash comes into contact with heated steam, which vaporizes the compounds in the wash and transports them up the column. During the boiling process, the lower-boiling compounds continue to ascend up the column, while the higher-boiling compounds condense and are transported down the column.

Every tray in the column has an exit valve, which allows vapor to be taken off and sent to a condenser via which it is condensed. Thus, operators may set up the system such that certain trays go to a condenser that is connected to the heads receiver, another set of trays are connected to the hearts receiver, and yet other trays are connected to the tails receiver, among other configurations possibilities.

Everything that sinks to the bottom is a residue that gets flushed down.

A possible bourbon configuration would have the top two trays configured for heads, followed by the next four trays configured for hearts, the next five trays configured for tails, and the rest of the trays would reflux with no draw off, with whatever reached the bottom being discarded as residue as a result.

If the ABV is kept constant at 65 percent, the draw-off rates would be regulated to maintain a heart’s phase. Continuous-run column stills are used to distill bourbon, and the process is typically completed in two distillations, with the hearts pulled off at around 65 percent ABV in each distillation.

The wash must be relatively clear with a low concentration of particles since a continuous-run system may operate for several months at a time. Otherwise, the building of residue in the system would become intolerable and the system would have to be shut down in order to clean it.

There is no procedure in which the whole mash is distilled using a continuous-run still since the still is always running. Every batch of mash must be strained or filtered before it is deposited in the reservoir that serves the still.

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For the distillery to be able to keep up with the demand for a wash for the stills, it must have a battery of fermenters that are always running at each step of the fermentation process.