Boilers

It's easy to worry too much about building or acquiring a boiler. There is an incredible variety of materials, designs and heating methods to choose from, but in the end, all we really want to do is gently boil some liquid and contain its vapors. Amateur distillers frequently use boilers in the range of 4 to 50 liters (1 to 12 US gallons). You should choose your size by carefully considering how much you intend to ferment, and how often you plan to run your still. It is easy and common to build something much larger than you really need or want.

You can build a boiler from a wide variety of containers, so long as they are sturdy, can be tightly sealed, and either set on a hotplate or fitted with an immersion element, jacket or coil. People have used pots and pans, stainless steel milk cans, commercial beer kegs, and even a vacuum cleaner! In general, stainless steel is an ideal material for a boiler, but any material can be used that will stand up to the temperatures and conditions of distilling without leaching any flavors or odors into the liquid or vapor. Use your imagination, but always remember that the boiler must be capable of safely holding boiling liquid for long periods of time.

Most of the vessels you adapt for a boiler will require some modification so you can attach a condenser or a column. The most common practice is to weld or solder a connecting device to the lid. Common connectors include threaded joints, plumbing unions, flanges, and slip fittings. Many people fasten the column or condenser directly to the lid, but this reduces future flexibility in how the still will be used.

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