Hotplates, burners & alcohol stoves

There are a wide variety of hotplates and burners here which will help you with your distillation efforts if you do not have access to one already. Below is some advice when looking to buy a hotplate, buy an alcohol stove or spirit burner.

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Distilling with a hotplate or burner

If a stove is not readily available for use, then you will need another source of heat to operate your still.

There are many choices in the marketplace, you just have to examine your needs and decide which is best for you! If you choose a gas burner or stove, use it outside, since it will give off fumes from the burning gas which need good ventilation. An electric hotplate can be used, but you need to use it on a heat-proof surface, such as a concrete floor, or patio stone.

If distilling alcohol, an electric burner is recommended, since any alcohol vapour escaping accidentally from the still can be ignited by an open flame, but is much less likely to be ignited by an electric burner. Either that, or use the burner outside where there is a greater degree of circulating air to decrease the chances of accidental combustion. In bygone years, Moonshiners used open flame fires under their large stills. That caused many explosions with escaping alcohol need for that today, with much safer options!

It is important to stress safety when using any equipment that provides a large amount of heat. Please be sure to use the hotplate or burners on a non-flammable surface such as concrete, gravel or dirt. Or, have a non-combustable, heat-proof shield between the burner and the surface. 

Outdoor distillation may also require a wind screen or wind shield to keep the flame on your propane heater or gas stove from going out. Or, use it in a more sheltered area, out of the wind. If distilling outdoors, be sure you have enough cooling water for your condenser, you don't want alcohol vapour's dangerous, and won't give you any alcohol if it blows away!

You will also need to choose your hotplate or burner according to the size still you have. A small one to three gallon still won't require a very large heat source, but anything 5 gallons or more will. Think of putting a pot of water on the stove to boil. If you have a really large pot full of liquid, it will take quite a while to heat it all. So if you are planning on using a large still, you will need a higher wattage hot plate or decent sized burner. It should also be capable of supporting the weight of the still plus water in it. Food for thought!

Alcohol stoves

The small alcohol stoves featured here won't generate enough heat to run a large still, but are great to go camping with, or cook outdoors. They are included because it's a great way to use up your foreshots (heads) of your still run. If you aren't familiar with those terms, foreshots or heads are the first bit of alcohols that come out of the still. They contain 'off alcohols' called 'cogeners' that may contain other alcohols than ethanol. They will smell and taste bad, and are usually discarded. However, they are still plenty flammable, and can be used in these little stoves for camping or outdoor cooking! Waste not, want not!

Most importantly, always first! When distilling, have your fuel source (propane or gas tank) far enough away from the burner so it isn't at risk, and have your alcohol collection container also away from the still a few feet. Distilling other things such as water or vinegar obviously aren't as flammable as alcohol, but you still want to be as safe as possible with your methods!