All for Joomla All for Webmasters
Alaqua 7004 Boulevard East, Suite 28A,Guttenberg, NJ USA 07093    +(00-1) 551 482 7568   
Alaqua 7004 Boulevard East, Suite 28A,Guttenberg, NJ USA 07093    +(00-1) 551 482 7568   

Alcohol Distillation: Basic Principles and Equipment | Alaqua Inc

Date:14 July, 2023   |   No Comments   |   Posted By Team Alaquainc

The goal of this write-up is to help you understand ethyl alcohol distillation. It begins by explaining the fundamental concepts of distillation and how the process works. The types of distillation equipment and systems that may be used in a small fuel alcohol plant are then examined, as well as the performance and control criteria required for a broad assessment of each. So let’s start!

Ethyle Alcohol Is A Safe Alternative Fuel.

The use of ethyl alcohol as a liquid fuel is not a novel concept. So it gained a lot of attention and debate as a motor fuel in the 1920s and 1930s. Several countries utilized it as fuel during World War II. With the introduction of the oil embargo and cartel, and the resulting quickly climbing oil prices, interest resurfaced in the United States in the mid-1970s. 

However, if one agrees that the long-term price of oil and energy will continue to rise, ethyl alcohol as a liquid fuel, particularly for internal combustion spark ignition engines, will remain a potentially feasible alternative fuel source. So the ability to successfully produce alcohol from a variety of agricultural and forest residues, as well as grains, enhances its appeal to farm producers.

Ethyl Alcohol derived from “Beer” 

Using a three-step process, producers can actively produce alcohol from various agricultural products.

1. Breaking Down feedstock:-

Basically, it is the process of chemically breaking down the feedstock (raw material) through a process that may include boiling and the addition of enzymes.  

2. Fermenting:-

Microorganisms, usually yeast, act to produce a “beer”. The term “beer” refers to the liquid fraction of a fermented mixture of water and ground or crushed grain that typically contains no more than 10-12% alcohol, making the process and final alcohol content similar to that of domestic beer. So this “beer” contains a small percentage of alcohol, remnants of the feedstock, yeast cells, and various other substances.

3. Separation of Alcohol:-

Separating the alcohol from the water and other components in the beer, generally by distillation, to get pure enough alcohol for use as fuel. 

Fermenting grain (cooking it in water and treating it with enzymes to break down the starch and convert it to sugars) results in a 5-10% alcohol content. The amount of water used, the grain, and the fermentation quality collectively determine the final concentration or “beer.” This beer has so little alcohol that it is ineffective as a fuel and must be concentrated further to get mixes that will ignite and burn. To achieve a higher alcohol concentration, we employ a distillation column.


In the production of distilled water or the separation of alcohol from water, practitioners commonly employ the distillation process. So a simple distillation involves heating water, creating steam, then condensing it to produce pure water, leaving non-volatile contaminants behind.

Fractional distillation, used to separate two liquids with different boiling points, such as alcohol and water, is slightly more complex. Alcohol with 4% water boils at around 173° F, while water boils at 212° F. A mixture of the two will boil at a temperature within this range, dependent on the alcohol-water ratio.

While in a controlled environment, like a sealed container with a tiny hole linked to a balloon, the levels of water vapor and alcohol vapor in the gaseous mixture above the liquid will stabilize, reaching equilibrium. This equilibrium means no change in the alcohol/water ratio within the liquid or vapor mixture. However, since alcohol is more volatile than water, the vapor phase generally contains a higher alcohol-to-water ratio.

Utilizing this property, distillation allows us to progressively concentrate the alcohol from the mixture. Each re-condensation from the vapor state results in a higher alcohol concentration due to the higher alcohol content in the vapor compared to the liquid mixture it originated from. So this process of repeated evaporation and condensation, when controlled, results in a high concentration of alcohol in the final product.

Equipment used for distillation:

Distillation involves the separation of different components or substances from a mixture based on their different boiling points. Various types of Industrial Distillation Equipment are used for distillation processes, depending on the scale and requirements of the application. 

Some common equipment used for distillation include:

  • Distillation Columns: 

These are vertical or horizontal vessels that facilitate the separation of components by allowing vaporization and condensation to occur at different stages. They typically consist of trays, packing materials, or structured internals to increase surface area for efficient separation.

  • Condensers: 

These devices cool the vaporized components from the distillation column, causing them to condense back into a liquid form. The condensed liquid is collected and further processed.

  • Reboilers: 

Reboilers provide heat to the distillation system, typically at the bottom of the distillation column. They vaporize the liquid feed or re-circulated liquid, which rises through the column for separation.

  • Distillation Flasks: 

Round-bottomed glass containers employed in laboratory setups for small-scale distillation experiments. Users can fit them with a condenser and heating mantle.

  • Heat Exchangers: 

In the distillation process, heat exchangers transfer heat from one fluid to another. They help in cooling or heating the liquid streams, improving energy efficiency.

  • Separation Cones or Pots: 

These smaller vessels are used for batch distillation processes. They allow for the separation of components based on boiling point differences in a controlled manner.

  • Fractionating Columns: 

Industries, especially in oil refineries and petrochemical plants, employ fractionating columns for achieving more precise separations. They contain multiple trays or packing materials to enable more stages of separation.

  • Distillation Control Systems: 

These systems include sensors, temperature controllers, pressure gauges, and other instruments used to monitor and control the distillation process parameters.

  • Auxiliary Equipment:

In distillation systems, operators may use additional equipment like pumps, valves, filters, and storage tanks to support the overall operation and manage the feed and product streams.


It’s important to note that the specific equipment used can vary depending on the type of distillation process (e.g., fractional distillation, vacuum distillation, steam distillation) and the industries involved, such as chemical, pharmaceutical, oil and gas, or beverage production.

Final Thoughts:

In a nutshell, this write-up covers the principles of alcohol distillation and the equipment involved. It explores the three-step process of producing ethyl alcohol, explains distillation concepts, and highlights common equipment like distillation columns, condensers, and heat exchangers. In fact, made in usa distillation equipment serves as a valuable resource for understanding alcohol distillation in a concise manner.

ALAQUA Inc, Established in 1989, supplies ASME code evaporators, crystallizers, Heat Exchanger Equipment suppliers, and more. With over 25 years of experience, ALAQUA is a trusted name in process equipment supply, committed to quality and customer satisfaction. Contact us for your industrial equipment needs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Alcohol Distillation & Equipment Needed for it

Question: What is the equipment used for distillation?

Answer: The primary equipment used for distillation typically includes a heat source, a distillation flask (where the liquid to be distilled is placed), a condenser (where the vapors are cooled and condensed), a receiving flask (where the distilled liquid is collected), a thermometer, and a stand to support the setup.

Question: What equipment do you need to distill alcohol?

Answer: Distilling alcohol requires similar equipment to general distillation. This includes a still (which could be a pot still or a column/reflux still), a heat source, a condenser, a collection vessel, and a thermometer. Please note that distilling alcohol at home for consumption is illegal in many places without the appropriate licenses.

Question: What is commonly used in a distillation setup?

Answer: A common distillation setup includes a heat source, a distillation flask, a Bunsen burner or heating mantle, a condenser, a thermometer, and a receiving flask. The setup might also include a stand to support the equipment and a stirring mechanism.

Read Also:- Use of Distillation System in Industry

About the author

Leave a Reply