Step 3 - Distill

Step 3 - Distill


Distillation is a process of separating alcohol from water using heat as a catalyst. In the RSO 2.0 process, heat is now managed. The simple approach to distilling is using a double boiler on a hotplate or electric stove.

In the past, water in the wash has been avoided until the final purge. Its presence now plays a big role in protecting the oil. With moderate heat, water slows down the process so temperatures rise slowly as the alcohol boils off.


Three different devices are available for distilling down the oil. The first is an open boiler run as a single pan or a double boiler setup. The second device is a moonshine still that is the only device properly engineered for alcohol recovery. The third device typically used is a consumer water distiller. Water distillers are popular for supposedly recovering alcohol, but are not setup correctly for so up to 1/3 of the alcohol vapor will be lost into open air.

Open Boilers - Single or Double Boilers

This is as simple as it gets - two pots stacked together. Just add water to the base and and the wash on top. This setup allows easy control of heat. Always have a thermometer on hand to know when 90c/195f has been reached.

FYI, Crock pots work as open boilers.

The double boiler approach allows the distilling temperature to be maintained at a constant level. The above image shows a double boiler setup that doesn’t recover the alcohol. If you have large batches or wish to recover the alcohol, then a small Moonshine Still is in order. Again, its all about controlling the temperature. Crock Pots, Rice Cookers and Water Distillers are harder to control the input heat; you get whatever the device is designed to deliver. Here's a simple procedure -

  1. Fill the bottom boiler half full with water.

  2. Fill the top boiler with the wash, then add 500ml/2cups water and 500ml/2 cups brine.

  3. Bring the bottom boiler to a simmer, not quite boiling. The top boiler will boil first since alcohol has a lower boiling point than water.

  4. Once the top boiler reaches 90c/195f, turn off the heat. See troubleshooting below if no visible oil.

continue to the Common Ending below..

Moonshine Still

The preferred tool for distilling is a simple Moonshine Still on a hot plate. This tool is engineered from the start for recovering alcohol. A Still comes with a built-in temperature gauge for monitoring the entire distillation process. You will be “Flying by Instrument” with only the temperature gauge to guide you from beginning to end.

Using a Moonshine Still is very straight forward. As shown above, the still has two hoses on the right for circulating water through the condenser, and an alcohol drain tube on the left placed in a capture jar, in this case, a flask. Out of sight in the bucket is a little 3 watt aquarium pump that drives water into the condenser. Here's the procedure for using this setup -

  1. Fill the large boiler with 1 liter/1 quart of water, add 1/2 cup brine.

  2. Set the lid and condenser in place and latch it down.

  3. Power up the hotplate to full power.

  4. Watch the temperature gauge as it will soon spike 82c/180f, then turn the power down to 400 watts of power. The alcohol should drain as a continuous stream. Kick the power up one setting if the stream starts and stops.

  5. Once the temperature rises above 83c/182f, swap capture jars. Kick the power up another notch.

  6. Allow the temperature to continue rising till it reaches 195f, then turn off all power. Let it cool down for 10 minutes.

  7. Remove the lid w/condenser and place the boiler in cold water. A large sink or bathtub will do fine. See troubleshooting below if no visible oil.

Continue to the Common Ending below

Water Distillers

Water distillers became popular for distilling washes but are not engineered to do the job. The built in condenser does not have enough cooling capacity to condense the vapors so about 1/3 remains in vapor form. You know this is happening when you can smell the alcohol. You can only use water distillers that have a temperature control panel. Simple On/Off devices offer no control thus will not work.

Best way to use a water distiller is to set the Stop Temperature to 84c/183f and then when it shuts down, swap the capture jar, then set the temperature to 90c/195f and let it run till it stops. Here's the procedure -

  1. Fill the boiler with the wash, then add 250ml/1cup water and 250ml/1cup brine.

  2. Setup the capture jar

  3. Power up and set the Stop Temperature to 84c/183f.

  4. When it stops, swap capture jars saving this most concentrated alcohol for reuse.

  5. Restart the distiller and turn the Stop Temperature up to 90c/195f.

  6. Once it shuts down, let it cool for 10 minutes, then remove the top. See troubleshooting below if no visible oil.

continue below..

Common Ending

All three devices now have some floating oil and oil adhering to the boiler walls. Here's how to collect the oil -

  1. Add a couple handfuls of ice to bring the temperature down to 10c/50f.

  2. Use a fork to press the oil against the cold boiler walls.

  3. Pour out the waste water through an Ice Filter.

  4. Fill the boiler with hot tap water to liquefy the oil. Swirl the water around and the oil will release it's salt.

  5. Add a couple handfuls of ice to the boiler to cool it down to 10c/50f. Press any floating oil onto the walls.

  6. Pour out the water through the Ice Filter.

  7. Add 1/4 cup 95% Ethanol to the boiler. Add just enough to make the oil watery.

  8. Place the boiler in hot water. For water distillers, turn on the power for a few seconds.

  9. Use a silicone spatula and smear the alcohol into the oils, the oil will melt away.

  10. Pour the oil laden alcohol in a small metal bowl for the upcoming Winterize step.

  11. Pour a bit more Ethanol in the boiler and mop up any remaining oil, add that to the bowl.

Continue on to the next step - Winterize


Tips and Tools

Tip: Using a Moonshine Still:

When using a moonshine still to recapture the alcohol, the temperature will run up to 180f and stay there for a long time. The length of time is determined by the ratio of alcohol to water. Once the ration starts leaning towards water, the temperature starts to rise. Once you see the temperature rise above 182f, swap out the capture jar. This jar will hold the maximum concentration of alcohol, either 91% Isopropyl or 95% Ethanol. The second jar will be diluted down to about 70% alcohol once the temperature reaches 200f.

Tip: Using a Water Distiller:

When using a water distiller to recapture the alcohol, its critical to use one with a programmable ending temperature. Simple units with an on/off button do not give you control to shutoff at the right time.

Power up the unit and set the ending temperature to 182f. the unit will run for up to 180f and stay there for a long time. The length of time is determined by the ratio of alcohol to water. Once the ration starts leaning towards water, the temperature starts to rise and the unit will shut down at 182f. At this point, swap the capture jar, restart the unit, and set the ending temperature for 200f. The first capture jar will hold the maximum concentration of alcohol, either 91% Isopropyl or 95% Ethanol. The second jar will be diluted down to about 70% alcohol once the temperature reaches 200f.


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WARNING: Never distill alcohol near open flame. Alcohol vapors are highly flammable so always distill in well ventilated spaces.

This oil is appropriate for oral ingesting and vaping. Due to the potential of residual salts, do not torch this oil. Torch temperatures can reach over 760c/1400f and can vaporize any residual salts.

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