Distillation Equipment – A Prepper’s Guide

Distillation is a survival skill any serious prepper should have. As such, distillation equipment should be at the top of any prepper’s emergency list. 

Why? You may have some luck surviving without food but not without water and clean water at that. Besides, distillation equipment have some more important applications that are very relevant to any prepper during an emergency. 

Here is why preppers need distillation equipment

There are many distillation applications, but for preppers, these four uses come out as the most important.

1. Distilling water
You can barely go a week without water. Let’s just say that water is life and if you will not have your equipment for any other purpose, at least have it for clean water supply. We need water to stay hydrated, clean up, and in other situations for medical applications. More than that, we need clean drinking water. Let’s put this into perspective. Averagely, the normal human being system requires at least 1.75 liters of clean water every day to be healthy and function normally. This could be more in harsher conditions for instance in the extremely hot climate areas.

Whether you are permanently living in a place or you are there only for a while, buying bottled water doesn’t really make economic sense particularly for groups of people. On the other hand, relying on boiling water to kill bacteria may not purify the water. Distillation remains to be the most effective method of not just eliminating bacteria and other microorganisms but also removing unsafe chemical compounds from drinking water. In emergency situations, distilling equipment come in handy and are a much economical investment compared to stocking-up bottled water.

A simple table-top home steam distiller will do if you need a simple drinking water solution. These units are sold in kits including an electric still integrated with a condenser, filter, and a collection container. With an average distillation rate of 15 minutes per gallon, the home steam distiller is just enough for a prepper. Again, they are pretty easy to use, maintain, and are also safe and portable.

Alternatively, you may opt for a simple DIY steam distiller especially if you are considering other heating options apart from electricity.

2. Distilling fuel alcohol

We certainly need fuel to run our automobiles or trucks, for heating, cooking, lighting, and many other purposes. No prepper’s survival checklist is complete without fuel. Agreed that wood and gas are widely available. However, if you’re the type that likes it lean, wood fuel can be bulky and messy while gasoline may be hard to refill. How about distilling some fuel alcohol in such cases?

Ethanol is a clean fuel that can easily be produced using distillation equipment. It can be used for almost all gasoline applications and makes a good alternative. It can also be used to power small machines, run vehicles, cook, and heat. The two greatest advantages of fuel alcohol is that it can be produced on demand and is also portable.

It is important to note that distillation eliminates up to 95% of impurities from alcohol fuel. Because engines should run on 100% pure fuel, the other 5% can be removed by treating the fuel with drying agents like corn grit in the prepper’s case.

The best stills for fuel alcohol distillation are the reflux column stills. These stills have the capacity to produce the highest proof alcohol fuel. However, preppers would typically go for hybrid stills which can double up to produce other products.

3. Distilling antiseptic and disinfectant

Antiseptics are used to clean wounds while disinfectants are used on surfaces. They kill germs and bacteria to maintain high levels of hygiene.

Ethyl alcohol, for instance, is a multipurpose antiseptic/disinfectant that can be produced from fermented sugar proofed through distillation. When distilling antiseptic, it is vital to note that the strength of antiseptics in alcohol should range between 50% and 70%. High alcohol content does not necessarily guarantee the effectiveness of antiseptic. Above 90% of alcohol will affect the healing process of wounds negatively.

4. Distilling spirits 

Spirits are not exactly necessary but it would make it in the list of important stuff for preppers. In addition, you never know when it will come in handy as a barter so you do not miss crucial supplies thus it counts as valuable or as an enjoyable pastime. Distilling spirits requires some skill therefore gear up and equip yourself, there is no harm in learning. Importantly, continuous practice makes you a master in case you opt, later in life, to go commercial. Just be keen to familiarize yourself with federal, state, and local regulations concerning production both for personal and distribution purposes.

On a simpler level, you could distill wine to produce high-proof brandy or corn liquor. However, you will need serious skill and sophisticated distillation equipment to produce spirits like whiskey. But if you are caught up in a situation, sophistication would be far from what you can manage. You would probably need the simpler, quick-fix versions using readily available supplies to keep you going.

The distilling equipment

A standard distillation set-up includes the following apparatus:

  • A source of heat. There are various types of heat sources including open fires like wood or coal or closed fires like gasoline, propane, or electricity. 
  • Copper or steel boiler. This is used for carrying your alcohol (or whatever you intend to distill).
  • Condenser. The condenser is used for cooling the heated steam back to its liquid form 
  • Thermometers. Used for measuring temperature 
  • Collecting vessels. Used to collect you final distillate 
  • Tubing (column) and connectors. These are functional for transporting steam from the boiler to the condenser then to the collecting container. Tubing can be copper or plastic depending on what you are distilling. For liquids intended for consumption, copper tubing is ideal. On the other hand, use plastic tubing for ammonia/ether used for producing disinfectants.

The process of distilling spirits involves first preparing the mash from grains, fermenting it, and straining it to form up to 10% low-proof alcohol. The alcohol is then proofed through distillation to raise its concentration up to between 40-50% which translates to 80-100 proof. 


Whether for emergency situations or for going mobile for any reason, distillation equipment come in handy for preppers. You don’t have to love liquor to own distillation equipment. There are other important uses for these handy units that will make your survival situation bearable. While at it, if you will need to gulp down some just to remain unshaken in the worst of emergencies, well, there you have it. 

By the way, did you know that you can learn about distilling from the comfort of your home? Check out our article about online distilling courses.