How to Clean the Still When it First Arrives

This is a very common question you’ll see on the forums and in the comment sections of youtube videos. You yourself might be wondering the same thing so let’s dive into the initial equipment inspection and cleaning process you’ll want to carry out before making your spirits. 

Taking Delivery on your Parts

You’ll want to give your parts a thorough inspection when they first arrive. Check to see that your components aren’t damaged or missing. Next, you’ll want to ensure that you can properly set up your equipment. All of your gaskets should fit, pipping should be aligned, clamps fit nice and snug, etc. If you’d like, you can give your parts a nice surface clean with a stainless steel cleaner such as the “Aspire” Stainless Steel Cleaner & Polish.

If you’d like to give your copper parts a nice polish, mineral spirits work great to get any oils from your fingertips and discoloration from shipment right off. However, as you begin to use your copper parts, the inside will begin to develop a slight patina which is completely normal when running vapor and liquids through your still. 

If you’d prefer to prevent this chemical process from happening to your copper parts, you can always clean more frequently in between runs. PBW is also a highly recommended product to use on the insides and outsides of your brewing and/or distilling equipment when cleaning. 

Steam run

Now that your still is nice and shiny and fully assembled, you can execute a steam run. We typically suggest charging your kettle with a 1:1 ratio of vinegar and water to get any excess dirt and oil remnants out of the vapor path. Do NOT leave your equipment unattended. You can use this time to introduce yourself to your still (“Hello still, I’m _____”)  and check to see if there are any leaks. If so, tighten your clamps down.

If there is leaking from elsewhere other than the tri-clamp connections, then please get in contact with your distillation equipment provider to address the issue as soon as possible. You definitely wouldn’t want to run high-proof ethanol through a leaky system… as we’ve seen, it can be perilous. Not only that, but you’ll end up wasting your precious beer! 

Not only should you do a steam run when you first use your still, but it’s also great for in-between runs. It’s not necessary if you’re going to be distilling the same spirit but if you were to switch from a whiskey run to a vodka run, you’d want to get those strong flavors out of your still. You’ll want to keep your spirit smelling and tasting very similar every time you distill it and having a clean base to start with always makes this easier to achieve. 

Sacrificial run

Now that your steam run is completed, you’ll want to do a sacrificial run to push hot ethanol through your system to kill off any remaining bacteria. You can do this first run with a sugar wash, which is a super standard and cheap option.  Wineos Plain Ol Sugar Wash is a common recipe that many hobbyists use but there are plenty of other alternative recipes that can be found on the Home Distiller forum

This will not render a drinkable finished product, hence the name “sacrificial” run. If you don’t have any contaminated distillate, that’s awesome but we still would recommend that you DO NOT drink it. Now that your still is properly sterilized, it’s time to start pumping it with the good stuff! 

If this article didn’t answer any of your questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out so we can point you in the right direction when it comes to cleaning your still. You can shoot us an email: or give us a ring here at the office line:  (561)-845-8009