The Chemistry Behind Alcohol Distillation

Alcohol distillation is a relatively straightforward process: as liquid mixture evaporates into gaseous state, its concentration of component A decreases while component B becomes increasingly abundant – this results in gradually changing amounts of product within final distillate over time. Distillation processes have been around since antiquity; today they’re used in everything from essential oil extraction to alcohol creation.

Heat the wash to temperatures above 172 but below 212. Ethanol boils off as vapor, separating from the water in the wash. After condensing back down into liquid form, distillate is collected. At first, the more volatile alcohols with lower boiling points will evaporate first; these are called foreshots or heads. Unfortunately, foreshots contain toxic levels of methanol as well as other toxic congeners; therefore commercial distillers discard foreshots from their distillates production process. Once the heads have completed distilling, more desirable ethanol alcohol will begin to bubble off into what are known as hearts; commercial distillers use them in their products. Tails refers to lower boiling point vapors which contain fusel oils such as propanol, butanol and amyl alcohols – these should be avoided as they could potentially cause methanol poisoning and blindness.