How a column still works

Column stills are very tall, vertical, column-shaped vessels. The interior of all column stills is divided into several layers, each of which is called a "tray." These plates have many holes so that liquor and steam can flow freely up and down inside the stills, and the liquor is heated and turned into steam to enter the stills.

 column still

Once the stills are started, the alcohol vapor flows up the stills. The vapors are liquefied at each layer, creating a liquid layer in each dish. The rising smoke is forced to boil as it passes through this layer of liquid, which in turn causes the vapor to pass through the previous layer of plates and flow upward again. Each layer undergoes this mini-type distillation and then, layer by layer, upward in successive distillations. As each layer is distilled, the alcohol concentration increases. Thus, the column can still distill nearly pure ethanol if there are enough layers. Column stills can be operated continuously and efficiently, so new liquors can be constantly produced.

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