The Basic Distillation Process

A simple distillation apparatus consists essentially of three parts: a flask equipped with a thermometer and with an outlet tube from which the vapor is emitted; a condenser that consists of two tubes of different diameters placed one within the other and so arranged that the smaller (in which the vapor is condensed) is held in a stream of coolant in the larger; and a vessel in which the condensed vapor is collected. The mixture of substances is placed in the flask and heated. Ideally, the substance with the lowest boiling point vaporizes first (see vaporization), the temperature remaining constant until that substance has completely distilled. The vapor is led into the condenser where, on being cooled, it reverts to the liquid (condenses) and runs off into a receiving vessel. The product so obtained is known as the distillate. Those substances having a higher boiling point remain in the flask and constitute the residue.

Since a perfect separation is never effected, the distillate is often redistilled to increase its purity (hence the expression "double distilled" or "triple distilled"). Many alcoholic beverages are distilled, e.g., brandy, gin, whiskey, and various liqueurs. The apparatus used, called the still, is the same in principle as other distillation apparatus.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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