Boilers

Distillation Boiler
Fig. 3-4

Every practical still needs a boiler, and all boilers have the same basic characteristics: a well-sealed container with a way of heating the contents and an outlet for the vapor. Successful boilers can be made from household pots and pans, domestic water heaters, and a wide variety of other devices.

The earliest stills were ordinary pots or cauldrons fitted with a snugly fitting lid called an Alembic. The alembic featured a spout that directed the vapor to one side so that it could be condensed and the product collected. This proved to be such an efficient design that it's still used today in many laboratories. A diagram of a modern laboratory retort was used earlier to illustrate reflux. The similarities between the old alembic shown here and the modern retort are obvious.

The size of the boiler doesn't matter much, except for the time needed to bring its contents to a boil, but control of the heat put into it does. We will discuss this in detail later. A well-insulated boiler is more efficient and easier to control.

Boilers generally fall into one of two groups: directly and indirectly heated.

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