Best Heat Source For Distilling

When you want to get the ideal heat source for your distilling, you may have a big decision on your hands. Distilling can be a precise task and getting the heat right is key to ensuring you get the right results.

From a durable design to a power output you can readily control it with multiple temperature settings. 

With the wrong heat source, you could make a challenging task somewhat dangerous which is not what you want. At the required high temperatures, a flame or exceedingly hot plate can become a hazard wherever you decide to do your distilling.

An unstable plate could also mean having to spend more time making sure nothing spills onto your countertop instead of focusing on the job at hand. 

You could be someone who is used to using propane tanks for their heating and grilling and you can certainly use them for distilling too. Then again, electricity may be the safer, more reliable option to take as you already distill from indoors anyway.

Whichever you choose, take the time to work out how to use the heat source properly and effectively with the right controls. 

OUR TOP PICK

Cuisinart CB-30P1 Cast-Iron Single Burner, Stainless Steel

With an easy-to-clean flat surface and a brushed stainless steel housing, the Cuisinart Cast-Iron Burner looks great for distilling on your countertop.

This one comes with a large heavy-duty cast-iron plate that is designed with 1300 watts in mind and non-slip rubber feet to keep it in place. With no coils on the plate, there is reassuring stability you can sense whenever you use it.

For a single burner, it should be easy to use and this is no exception. The adjustable thermostat can change the temperature just by turning a knob and there are six temperature settings to select from.

There are also indicator lights so you will know when it is on and ready to go. When you have done distilling, you can also wipe the plate clean so it is ready for the next time. 

Pros

  • Durable Housing - A housing constructed from brushed stainless steel should be long-lasting
  • 1300-watt Capacity - The large plate has a sizable heating capacity
  • Adjustable Thermostat - Change the temperature easily by the turn of a knob to get it just how you like it 
  • Indicator Lights - Make sure that you know when it is on, and know when it is ready to use

Cons

  • Slow To Get Going - You may find you need a bit of patience to get it to the temperature you, especially for boiling

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EDITORS CHOICE

GasOne B-5350 270,000 BTU Rugged Propane Burner Cooker With 0-30 PSI Regulator with Steel Braided Hose For Outdoor Cooking, Turkey Fry, Black

Some people just prefer propane, and rightly so if they use it for the majority of their heating and cooking needs. The GasOne B-5350 270,000 BTU Rugged Propane Burner Cooker can hit a huge BTU output of between 257,000 and 270,000.

That fact alone makes it one of the highest flame output burners for a single propane tank on the market. The metal body and cast iron burner also make it a suitably durable design from top-quality materials.

You can also make sure you take charge of the output with a wholly controllable flame and a PSI adjustable propane regulator.

Choose from 0-30 PSI which offers high pressure when you want it as well as precise heat adjustment with leak-free propane burning. Controlling the gas and pressure flow is one thing but the high-temperature paint also looks after the frame. 

Pros

  • Huge Power Output - The highest available from a single propane tank at between 257,000 and 270,000
  • Wholly Controllable Flame - Take back control of the flame and get the temperature just right
  • PSI Adjustable Propane Regulator - Can be altered from 0-30 PSI for precise heat adjustment and leak-free burning
  • High-Temperature Paint - No more peeling frames or that smell of burning paint

Cons

  • Weight - At 33 pounds, you may want to keep this in the same position at all times

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BEST VALUE

Duxtop 1800W Portable Induction Cooktop Countertop Burner, Black 9100MC/BT-M20B

With LED and digital controls, you should be able to control the Duxtop 1800W Portable Induction Cooktop Countertop Burner pretty easily.

Precise measurements may be in order which is just as well with 15 power levels to select from starting at 200 watts and ending at 1800 watts. The countertop burner uses 120V 15 amps for its electrical output, which is standard in all US homes.

Its sleek design will also complement your decor wherever you decide to put it indoors.

It should also be safe with a count-down digital timer of up to 170 minutes as well as auto-pan detection and over-heat protection.

At 1800 watts, this should also be comparably powerful with a gas stove with the added benefit of an automatic shut-off from the digital timer. 

Pros

  • Sleek Design - The bold yet minimal black look will certainly look good on your countertop
  • Overheat Protection - Take the safe approach by being protected against overheating
  • Digital Timer - Get your measurements right by knowing how long you have been heating
  • LED - The temperature can be easily viewed on the display

Cons

  • Magnetic Pots/Pans Required - As this is an induction burner you would require a magnetic pot to make any use of it

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RUNNER UP

Broil King CSR-3TB Professional Single Hot Plate, Hi Power, 14-Inch by 4-1/8-Inch by 12-1/4-Inch, Grey

A thermostat is ideal to have with a hot plate to control the temperature.

The Broil King CSR-3TB Professional Single Hot Plate features a Robertshaw thermostat with infinite heat controls so you can get the temperature up to just how you want it.

The tubular element measures eight inches in diameter which should mean enough space for your pot.

A stainless steel housing can be easily cleaned. The heavy-duty stainless steel construction is also reliably durable. This is also considered an industrial-rated hot plate which makes it essential for both boiling and simmering.

It should be formidable in its power too as it can go up to 1500 watts. 

Such power does come at a cost though as it weighs 6.5 pounds yet you may prefer the stability in its weight.

Pros

  • Robertshaw Thermostat - Endless heat controls to get to your desired temperature
  • Heavy Duty Construction - This is a truly durable design made from stainless steel
  • Industrial Rated Hot Plate - Ideal for boiling, simmering, and effective distilling
  • High Power - This hot plate can go up to 1500 watts

Cons

  • Heavy - At 6.5 pounds, you may be able to find a lighter burner

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RUNNER UP

Elite Gourmet ESB-301BF Countertop Single Flat Burner, Electric Hot Burner, Temperature Controls, Power Indicator Lights, Easy to Clean, 1000 Watts, Black

Depending on where you want to do your distilling, you may be looking for a portable option. The Elite Gourmet ESB-301BF Electric Countertop Single Flat Burner can offer a reliable heating solution without taking up too much room.

A 6.4-inch cast-iron cooking plate is sizable and flat which makes it convenient to use and effortless to clean. 

As you would expect from an electric burner, there are three temperature control settings to use and effective 1000-watt power output.

Once your desired temperature has been reached, the power indicator light should turn out so you know when to use it. You can also use a variety of materials including copper, stainless steel, cast iron, and non-stick aluminum.

A power cord of 26 inches long also means you can keep this a safe distance away from wherever you decide to use it indoors. At such a compact size, that can give you so many options. 

Pros

  • Compact Size - Easy to move around depending on where you do your distilling
  • Effective Power - At just 1000 watts, you should still be able to provide sufficient heat
  • Safety Features - The non-skid feet and power indicator light should make it a safe burner to use
  • Three Temperature Control Settings - Choose from low, medium, or high heat settings

Cons

  • Low Wattage - You should be able to find more powerful burners

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Buyers’ Guide

Several features can make your heat source the right one for your distilling. You may prefer to use the propane tanks you usually have or are content using electricity through an open flame may be a step too far.

There are also various options for temperature control setting with the turn of a knob or a button to turn it on. 

The best burners are also easy to clean so you can wipe them ready for the next use. An electronic controller may also be a good option to have to ensure that the drip rate is under control.

The heat source is a vital part of the distillation process so choose wisely then enjoy a long-lasting piece of kit. 

Best Heat Source For Distilling

Heat Source

There are only two different heat sources to decide between for your distilling. These are propane and electricity and there are several differences that you should consider.

The cost may be the defining factor yet also ease of use as you can control an electric heat source easier than propane. An open fire can also be used as a heat source yet that can prove incredibly dangerous.

Propane

If you do decide to plump for propane as a heat source then you should be aware that each tank is limited. To ensure you can complete a run, make sure you have at least two propane tanks at any one time. 

One drawback of using propane is that it can prove incredibly difficult to get the temperature low enough to ensure a steady trickle of distillate.

At a low point, the flame can burn yellow and not blue then leave sooty residue on the underside of your boiler which is down to the lack of oxygen. 

There is also the issue of carbon monoxide gas which can prove deadly unless you have adequate leak-proof protection. The main reason that people decide to choose propane is the cost as it should prove cheaper in general than electric.

A lot of people are also more comfortable heating with propane as this is their main heat source for cooking and heating their homes.

Electric

You can also use a still that is heated by an electric hot plate and this is the most widespread option. One of the benefits of using this heat source is how quiet it can be, the reduction in fumes compared to propane, and how you can have more control over the amount of heat.

There are no open flames to deal with and no chance of carbon monoxide poisoning. With an adequate controller, you can also make fine adjustments and it can prove to be a truly efficient method of distilling. 

Open Fire

Some distilleries use open fire as a heat source for their stills to this day, especially in Scotland. At first, a direct flame would have been the heat source of choice yet gradually steam pans and coils took over until eventually external heating systems such as electricity became dominant.

Of course, back in the day, they would have used coal or gas fires and now there are only a few that continue to employ an open fire as a heat source. 

User Friendliness

Distilling can be a complex process so lookout for a button you can simply push to get the heat going. That could apply to both propane and electricity and you may even find one with an indicator signal that is ideal for safety. 

There are some models where the light will turn itself off to let you know that it is ready for use. If you are a beginner distiller then you may want one with easy-to-use knobs that can deliver a more precise temperature and more control over how you want to distill.

Easy Cleaning

The best heat source should also be easy to clean as you could be using it regularly for your distilling. A metal hot plate can be relatively easy to clean with a damp cloth. The process of distilling can use up a lot of heat so you should be prepared to clean it after each use.

Not only can the hot plate and heat source be easy to clean but should also look good so you should want to keep it looking clean.

Durability

Just like the cleaning, find a hot plate with a metal construction as it should be durable, stainless steel is ideal. Their capacity for holding weight should also be taken into account as you do not want the hot plate to break easily.

One of the indicators for durability should be the warranty and the longer, the better.

Electronic Controller

Whichever heat source you decide to use, you are best advised to run you still with an electronic controller. With this method, you can dial in the drip rate quite easily. Start the electronic controller in manual mode then set the power to 100%.

The still should be heating at 100% of its power before production can begin. Once it does, dial down the power percentage to match whatever output rate you want. 

The output will slow down, at which point you can ramp up the power percentage. The still would require an increase in power a couple of times anyway to keep up the output rate. If anything, you should remember to run your still, not by temperature, but by drip rate.

Having some element of control over the vaporization can prove important for your pot still by not pumping those vapors through too fast for the condenser to turn them back into a liquid distillate.

Frequently Asked Questions

At What Temperature Should You Stop Distilling At?

When you are distilling, you should be careful to keep an eye on the temperature. Once the temperature becomes excessive, it can be difficult to get it back down.

The ideal temperature to stop distilling should be about 205 to 207°F. Anything above that may become problematic for your distilling. 

What Is The Best Temperature To Cook Moonshine?

The best moonshine is made from ethanol which boils at a temperature of 175°F. This is a particularly high temperature but does make the best moonshine.

Other types of alcohol boil at lower temperatures, which includes methanol and that can be collected in a cup after condensing as it will be poisonous. 

What Indicators Can I Look Out For To Know When Distillation Has Finished?

When the alcohol flow stops, you can be confident that the distillation process is over. This is when no more liquid is collected in the receiving vessel, the distillation flask is empty and the temperature on the thermometer has begun to drop.

At that point, you can turn the burner off and disconnect it from the power source. 

Robert Kaser
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