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How to Perform Freeze Distillation

Finn McCuhil

The first thing that comes to most people’s minds when they think of distillation is a boiling kettle. Counter top water distillation units are widely used to purify drinking water. The distillation process is used to separate water from other dissolved chemicals.

Distill vinegar in your freezer.

If the freezing point of the material you wish to separate from the water is lower than 32-degrees Fahrenheit, you can let your freezer do the distilling for you. Acetic acid (vinegar) has a significantly lower freezing point than water and is an ideal home project for freeze distillation.

  1. Pour the mother of vinegar into a 2-liter bottle. Leave at least three inches of airspace at the top of the bottle to allow the water to expand as it freezes.

  2. Place the bottle into your freezer.

  3. Allow the bottle to freeze for at least 24 hours.

  4. Remove the bottle from the freezer and remove the cap.

  5. Place a funnel into the mouth of an empty bottle. Place the frozen bottle neck down into the funnel.

  6. Allow the liquid from the frozen bottle to drain until the ice inside it is clear.

  7. Discard the ice remaining in the frozen bottle.

  8. Tip

    Allow the vinegar to drain from the bottle. Do not heat the bottle to speed the operation. This will only dilute the vinegar.


    It is illegal to distill ethanol without a permit. You can apply for a federal distillation permit (see Resources).