What Is a Reflux Still?

by Alicia Crowder; Updated September 26, 2017
What Is a Reflux Still?

The reflux still is a piece of equipment invented as a distillation tool. It still was developed in the late 19th century as an upgrade of the pot still that had been used for centuries.

Reflux stills are used in the manufacture of petroleum and chemical products.

Not only are reflux stills used by oil, chemical and gas companies, but they can also be used to produce many distilled liquids an individual may want create for household use, to satisfy transportation needs and even for consumption.

Reflux Still Characteristics

A reflux still has an internal column with trays attached for the process to flow over and through. In the oil, gas and chemical industry--in which a reflux still is commonly used, the words "process" and "service" stand for any liquid or gas that flows through or inside of an object, whether it is a still, a pipe or a channel of any sort. A reflux still is an enabler of the reflux cycle, during which a product is converted to vapors and liquids and enriched and repeatedly re-distilled.

How It Works

A boiler creates distillate vapors. These are then allowed to rise up through the column in the reflux still. At the top of this column, the vapors are condensed. The condensed vapors now run back down the column as a liquid; as they come back down, they pass through other rising vapors. These rising vapors enrich this condensed liquid. Once the condensed liquids reach a lower level in the column, they then become hot enough to boil again. This creates more vapors and the process continues.


Reflux stills conserve energy when compared to the older pot still method. They also make for a much stronger distillation. Because of the reflux flow, the product becomes much purer. Engineers are now able to design reflux stills with specified levels of purity and a continuous distillate flow.

Reflux Stills for Alcohol

Reflux stills can be purchased and used by individuals in their homes. People use reflux stills to create their own alcoholic beverages, such as beers and liquors. These are sometimes called moonshine stills, and can be purchased at specialty stores or online from companies like Still Drinking, Home Distiller, Still Spirits and Mile Hi Distilling.

Build Your Own

Reflux stills can also be used to make your own ethanol for your vehicle, to purify your water and to make your own essential oils. (Follow the link in Resources for a step-by-step process for building your own reflux still for these purposes.)

About the Author

Alicia Crowder is a full-time freelance writer. Her portfolio includes work for Free Press Houston, Nevermore magazine, Public News and online content. She has published one non-fiction book and written book reviews for multiple sites. Crowder also has experience as a technical writer of construction project specifications and computer software user manuals.

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