Alcohol distillation is the process of extracting ethanol from fermented beverages and extracting it as the second major step in their production of spirits. Distillation relies on physical principles to extract it; alcohol (ethyl alcohol) boils at lower temperatures than water; when heated in fermented drinks the alcohol will vaporize, leaving all other liquids behind while condensing back down into a higher concentration than originally present in its source liquid.
Other ingredients clinging to the alcohol vapor create a layer known as the “heads,” which contains unpleasant tasting and smelling compounds like methanol, acetone and other toxic materials that must be separated out from the heart of the distillate and discarded because they pose health risks to drinkers and can even lead to blindness.
Once the heads have been separated from the hearts, their alcohol-rich steam is cooled and directed back into a new batch for reuse – this allows maximum alcohol extraction without polluting hearts with unwanted chemicals.
Distillation requires a delicate balance between heat, pressure and energy that must be carefully managed for maximum efficiency. Each control function can modulate fluid, vapor or energy flows to adjust the process and sight gauges are essential in any distillation system.