Make your own distilled water – 1 gallon at a time!

As you may have read previously on the blog, I purchased a Megahome 1 gallon water distillation unit in order to help improve my brewing water quality. Many factors came into play when deciding to go this route, and you can check out my decision making process in my series of posts on Brewing Water. This article will mainly focus on reviewing this particular distillation unit, for its ease of use, quality of construction and overall value.

As I stated previously, the product I decided to purchase was a Megahome 1 gallon unit available from Nutriteam.com and also other places on the web such as Amazon. Most of the small distillation units available for home use generally are of similar design, and available from many sources. They are fairly simple in construction, consisting of a boil pot, and a fan-cooled steam collection / distillation unit which sits on top via a friction fit rubber gasket. Water is heated to boiling in the boil pot. The steam is then forced through the coils of the distillation unit. The steam condenses, and is forced out through the end of the coil through a spout which drips into a collection pitcher. Optionally, you can have the water drip through an activated charcoal filter packet, but I decided to omit this step as it may not be of added benefit for brewing water. The filter packet is advertised as helping to “improve the taste” of the distilled water. Personally, I think the distilled water tastes perfectly fine as a drinking water if you so choose. It makes great tea by the way, no matter what the interwebs may tell you.

Operation on this unit is fairly simple:

  1. add (chloramine free*) water to the boil pot
  2. place the steam collection / distillation unit on top
  3. plug in the unit to a power source
  4. push the reset button
  5. place the included pitcher below the spout to collect distilled water
  6. walk away and let the thing do its job already! Gosh!

The unit will begin to heat the water, and before long it is boiling inside. Distilled water should start to flow from the spout, and in about 4 -5 hours you should have a gallon of distilled water. The unit shuts off automatically when the boil pot empties as the higher temperature trips the temperature switch to shut the unit down, so no need to babysit. The unit can then only be restarted by pushing the reset button. I’ve been able to distill my brewing water in the days before a brew session without issue. You can easily do 3 gallons per day during your normal waking hours, so even someone wanting to do 10 gallons for a brew should not have an issue if you plan ahead and keep at it throughout the week. You can easily store the distilled water in carboys or buckets for extended periods, so making extra in advance is not a big hassle.

What’s left inside the boil pot is everything else. If you have hard water like me, it looks something like this:

The boil pot can be wiped out pretty easily depending on your water composition. I find that if you let the unit sit and cool for some time, even a few days, the pot cleans out much easier. It doesn’t need to be spotless for the next distillation cycle, just wipe out what you can or use a plastic bristle brush, and refill for the next gallon. Eventually though, your boil pot will probably start to collect a lot of deposits that you can’t get out by wiping or brushing. Don’t bother scrubbing at it, you will only end up tired! You will then need to use some chemicals to remove the deposit. My distiller came with some acid that you mix with water and use to dissolve the deposits. It took quite a long time before I actually had to do this demineralization step with the acid. It worked like a charm!

I’ve run my distillation unit quite a bit, probably about 80 cycles is 5 months and have not had a single issue. Build quality seems good, the only cheap feeling part to the whole unit was the plastic drip spout, which attaches by 2 tabs that I feel could break if you decided to use the charcoal filters and changed them often enough. I opted for the cheaper white enamel finished model, and it has been very durable so far. The added cost of the stainless steel and black version is probably only required for someone who plans on leaving this thing sit on the counter for everyone to see. And honestly, I would try and find somewhere to use the unit other than your kitchen if you can. The unit is pretty good size, so its not going to store in your kitchen easily. Also, the noise made by the fan is fairly loud. Not that its noisy in an annoying rattling way, but the fan is pushing a lot of air, so its going to make a bit of white noise like fans always do. It also produces a bit of heat, so keep that in mind if you want to run it in a small area like a bathroom. I have mine permanently set up in my brewing area in the basement, so I can run it without noise or  heat effecting the rest of the house. The BPA-free pitcher is nice, designed perfectly for what its meant to do, catch and hold the 1 gallon of water until you can transfer it to another container. I wouldn’t put it through a lot of use as a drinking water pitcher you put in your fridge though. It wasn’t designed for that. The whole unit is really easy to use, not much to it really. Overall value I think is good to excellent. Unfortunately, like most consumer items in the US, this product is made in China. Also the user manual should have been re-written by someone from Nutriteam in the US. Makes for super happy good reading of product instruction time! On the ALBC product rating scale of “Buy it, Borrow it or Break it,” I say Buy it.

(* I added the “chloramine free” note to the above step 1, and wanted to note here that for brewing you definitely want to remove chloramine from your water if you can. Unfortunately chloramines can not be removed by boiling or distillation. So what I do is add part of a campden tablet to my source water before I begin treatment by slaked lime or distillation. 1 campden tablet should be able to treat 20 gallons of water. )

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