Step 2 - Distill

Step 2 - Distill 


Distillation is a process of separating alcohol from water using heat as a catalyst. This was accomplished in the original RSO recipe by using a Crock Pot, Rice Cooker, or other electric cooking appliances. These devices are considered open boilers as they vent the evaporated solvent into open air. Larger extractions can use a small countertop Moonshine Still on a hotplate or a standalone water distiller with heating element and built-in condenser. 

WARNING: DO NOT DISTILL ANYWHERE NEAR OPEN FLAME. Always distill in well ventilated spaces using electric heat. The fumes from the solvent are very flammable.

A Simple Hack

This process uses Distilled Water to assist boiling out the alcohol. In the past, water in the wash has been avoided until the final purge. Its presence now plays a big role in cleaning and protecting the oil. Distilled Water provides two benefits. The ion-free water pulls water-soluble compounds out of the oil and provides heat protection through vaporization effectively holding down the temperature. This way, the oil isn't overheated during the bulk alcohol reduction. The end result are oils purged of most polar and semi-polar compounds leaving the oils in a purer state that is easier to winterize. 


Basic concept - Pour the clean wash into a boiler, add some water, and boil away the alcohol. Once it reaches 93c/200f, turn off the heat, let it cool down. Add ice to the boiler to bring it down to 10c/50f. Use a fork to secure the floating oils to the boiler walls. Pour out the waste water while retaining sediments in the boiler. Dissolve the oils with Ethanol and you're ready for the next step.  That's the simple explanation. Here are the details for each type of distiller. 

Three different classes of devices are available for distilling down the oil.

Open Boilers - Single or Double Boilers

Crock pots, Double boilers, or just a pot on a skillet. All these act as double boilers because the added water acts to limit the temperatures. When the temperature reaches 93c/200f, you are done.

The double boiler approach allows the distilling temperature to be maintained at a constant level. It's the added water that limits the heat.  The above images show the boiler setups 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 -

continue to the Common Ending below..

Moonshine Still

This is the preferred tool for distilling large quantities of alcohol using a simple countertop Moonshine Still on a hot plate. This tool is engineered from the start for recovering alcohol. These consumer stills come 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 a tube on the left for collecting the alcohol into a capture jar. 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 - 

Continue to the Common Ending below

Water Distillers with Temp Controls.

Water Distillers became popular for distilling washes but are engineered for boiling water, not alcohol. These units drive too much heat into the boiler and the built in condenser does not have enough cooling capacity to condense all the alcohol vapors so about 1/4 of the vapor escapes into the surrounding air. You know this is happening when you can smell the alcohol. Here's one fix that adds an external condenser for additional cooling.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Acetone has a boiling point of 56c/132f, almost a third lower than water's boiling point at 100c/212f. Water distillers will require an additional external condenser to remove enough heat to re-condense this solvent.

The better water distillers have a temperature control panel on the front allowing you to set the ending temperature. Simple On/Off devices offer no ending temperature control, so these units may go dry by boiling off all the water before shutting down. This will cook the oils, not a good thing..

Best way to use a water distiller is to set the Stop Temperature to 85c/185f. Let it shut down. Wait 10 minutes,  then unplug and remove the condenser. Add another cup of water, replace the condenser, then set the new ending temperature to 93c/200f and let it run till it stops.  Here's the procedure - 

Continue on..

Common Ending

All three devices will have oil in various states. You could have floating oil, oil adhering to the boiler walls, or black sediments floating at the bottom. Here's how to collect the oil -

You now have a bowl with the dissolve oils and a small jar with about an ounce of alcohol. 


1) No floating oil at the end.  

In most cases, once distilling ends, there is oil floating on the water surface and adhering to the boiler walls. Then there are times the floating oil has balled up and sunk to the bottom as sediment. It's all good. The sediments can be thought of as miscelles with a polar surface and non-polar insides. This is why the sediment will not attach to the body of oil.  It's skin is made up of polar compounds keeping the oils apart. Use cold temperatures and you can save both. Line a coffee filter basket with one layer of linen-like paper napkin or a No4 coffee filter. Once the waste water is chilled down to 10c/50f, pour the waste water through this filter to capture the sediments. This filter will be cleaned up in the above 'Common Ending' paragraph.


Oil-in-Water emulsions are a problem when distilling down the oil.  Water and oil are bound together via semi-polar phospholipids and denatured proteins. The trick here is to limit the amount of water used, which in turn limits the amount of emulsions. Translucent waste water is the goal. Opaque waste water that looks like milk contains an emulsion. There are oils in there but also nasty water soluble compounds that will make this very bitter. You can process this emulsion as a second run and use the bitter oils for topicals, etc. Recovering the oils from the emulsion is another process to be explained on an additional page. 

Tips and Tools

Tip: Using a Moonshine Still:

When using a moonshine still to recapture the alcohol, the temperature will rise to alcohol's boiling point and stay there for a long time. The length of time is determined by the ratio of alcohol to water. Once the ratio starts leaning towards water, the temperature again starts to rise. Once you see the temperature rise, swap out the capture jar. This first 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 93c/200f. By stopping at 93c/200f, very little water will be boiled into the alcohol.

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, thus may boil off all the water and cook the oil.  

Power up the unit and set the ending temperature to 85c/185f. The unit will run up to alcohol's boiling point 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 this point, let it cool for 10 minutes, then unplug the condenser and remove it completely. Add 1 cup of distilled water, then power up the unit for 5 minutes. This will get rid of any remaining alcohol. 

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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. 

Disclaimer:  Your use of any information or materials on the C.H.S. Website is entirely at your own risk, for which we shall not be held liable. It shall be your own responsibility to ensure safe use and operation of any processes, products, services or information made available through C.H.S publications and Website.

Revision History - RxCE Distill Step

23/12/09 Lowered the ending temp of water distillers to 93c/200f

23/11/28 Added a link to CancerWriter's external condenser recommendation.

23/10/01 Page published.

23/09/20 Page done

23/06/10 Soft release candidate published to the FB group.