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How does water affect distillation?

When discussing spirits, we often forget to mention one of the key components that go into every step of the distillation process – water. From mashing to cooling and dilution, water is present. And it makes a big difference to a distiller’s final product. The following article will discuss what is “good water” and what role it plays in distillation.

Water Source

The first thing to consider when it comes to water is where does it come from? Because of the molecular composition of H2O, water tends to bond easily with other molecules around it. This means that whatever it is exposed to it is likely to be affected by. For example, rainwater will likely have a very different taste to tap water and so on. Another factor to check when it comes to water is things such as its pH level, its hardness or softness, or its mineral content. Depending on where you get your water from will have a big impact on the taste of your final product.

What stage of the distillation process is it being used in?

The next thing to consider is what type of water is needed for each stage. Some processes may require less pure water than others. For example, when cooling your distillate, it is not necessary to use expensive or pure water as this water will not actually have any contact with your final product. On the other hand, when it comes to fermentation and dilution most distillers choose to use distilled or reverse-osmosis water as it has little-to-no taste. This means that distillers can create their product without having to worry about any outside flavors being brought through from the water.  However, some distillers prefer the taste brought through by a specific water source and will use this to their advantage when marketing. At the end of the day, personal preference has a large role to play.

Is tap water okay to use for distillation?

Depending on your area it is likely that your tap water may taste slightly different from another area. For a home distiller, this is generally not a problem. However, it is very important to remember that tap water contains chlorine. And high levels of chlorine (such as contained in tap water) can kill your yeast. It is therefore recommended that if you want to use tap water for your fermentation that you leave the water in an open bucket for at least 24hrs to allow the chlorine to evaporate before using it.

Water is a key element to consider when making any spirit. If you are uncertain of what water to use, consider getting your local water tested or asking an experienced distiller for their advice. We at Still Tec are always available and will be happy to assist in any way we can