Introduction: Alcohol Filter - a Giant Brita for Whiskey, Vodka, Gin, Rum, or Other Cheap Liquors!

Picture of Alcohol Filter - a Giant Brita for Whiskey, Vodka, Gin, Rum, or Other Cheap Liquors!

For those looking for the "Cilffs Notes" summary of how this works:  Fill a 4-foot polycarbonate tube with approximately 1lb of (12x40 mesh size) Activated Carbon (activated charcoal), put a couple coffee filters over the end, pour the alcohol into the top, and watch as your cheap swill magically transforms into decent, respectable booze.  Total Cost:  about $15.

I enjoy a drink on occasion, usually after work and/or before bed.  These days, my drink of choice is often a Scotch whiskey, but we can't afford to drink Glenmorangie 12-year all the time...

My wife found some SUPER cheap whiskey on sale at Costco, and bought a bunch for me.  (She's sweet.)  The whiskey, however, was a bit harsh...Which led me to wonder, "can't I just filter out the impurities myself?"  

Turns out, you can.  The system I designed mimics what's officially called the "Lincoln County Process," which is still in use today by Jack Daniels Corp. in Tennessee.  If you're interested, you can read a bit more about it via the below links:

After filtering the whiskey once through the giant Brita, my dad and I decided that it tasted AT LEAST as good as Jim Beam.  Not quite Jack Daniels, but your mileage may vary.  We also added a very small amount of vanilla extract after filtering, which REALLY balanced out the flavor and body of the whiskey.  

In the following pages, I'll detail the parts needed, and the (easy) steps...


- Ben

Step 1: Procuring Your Precious Parts...

Picture of Procuring Your Precious Parts...

Parts Needed for your Alcohol Filter:

- 4-foot, transparent polycarbonate tube, available for $3.57 at the Home Depot...

(if that link doesn't work, it's Model # TGT8CL4 R24, and/or Store SKU # 408360.)

- Approximately 1lb Activated Carbon (also known as Activated Charcoal), at about 12x40 mesh size (This equals about the size of coffee grains.)  

(A .pdf explaining carbon mesh size: )

I found my activated carbon on eBay for around $10 from this seller:


- a round piece of fine metal mesh to hold the activated carbon particles on the inside of the tube while letting the filtered liquid escape (optional; otherwise, small amounts of carbon will end up in the coffee filter whenever you change them out; you can dump them right back into the top of the tube.)
- A stack of coffee filters; you'll need to use two per filtering batch
- A few rubber bands to hold the coffee filters in place
- Funnel
- Hose clamp of at least 2" diameter (to fit around tube and help hold it in place; see the first step on the following page...)

Step 2: The (not-quite) Lincoln County Process:

Picture of The (not-quite) Lincoln County Process:

1)  Remove both tube caps, rinse out the tube, and replace only one tube cap.

2)  MacGyver some method of holding the tube vertically while the liquid filters (I suspended mine with rubber bands and a hose clamp inside a round wood jig that my dad had made for another purpose).  I imagine that the easiest way would be to attach a hose clamp (carefully tightened) just above the middle of the tube, and then suspend the hose clamp from a loose vice or spring clamp of some sort.

3)  If you didn't opt to place a small circle of metal mesh inside the bottom cap, secure coffee filters around the bottom of the tube.  (If you DID use a mesh circle inside the cap, there's no need to place a coffee filter around the base at this step.)  

4)  Pour activated carbon into the tube...Note:  Some alcohol will remain in the tube after filtering each batch; since we were filtering a number of bottles, our net result was virtually the same amount of alcohol.  If you're only processing one or two bottles, you may want to use less activated carbon, since less alcohol will remain with the carbon after filtering.

5)  Run as much clean (preferably, pre-filtered drinking) water through the tube as you'd like (we used approximately 3-5 gallons of filtered water to pre-flush the filter).  This step gets rid of some of the carbon dust that will filter through into your alcohol.  Note:  activated carbon / activated charcoal is PERFECTLY safe to digest in small amounts; people often take activated carbon tablets as a dietary supplement. 

6)  After you've filtered the carbon dust out to your liking (and the resulting water is as clear as you'd like it to be), let the water drain out for a bit.  Even after waiting for the water to drain, it will look as if there is still some remaining water left in the filter; you'll notice little to no taste difference in the first batch of your filtered alcohol.  

7)  Replace (or place) two coffee filters tightly around the bottom of the tube, and secure as near to the bottom as possible with rubber bands.  You'll change these filters each time you run a batch of alcohol through.

8)  Filter away!  Place an empty bottle and funnel below the tube, pour your alcohol into the top of the tube, and go entertain yourself for half an hour.  When you return, your filtered alcohol will taste FAR smoother than before.  As mentioned on the first page, we also added a very small amount of vanilla extract after filtering, which REALLY balanced out the flavor and body of the whiskey.

After you've filtered all of your bottles, your activated carbon CAN be "recharged," stored and reused.  Empty the activated carbon onto a baking sheet, and bake it in the oven at about 250 degrees for half an hour.  

I'd love to hear how your batches came out, and any best practices that you discovered!


- Ben


EcoExpatMike (author)2017-10-09

Ideal would be a GLASS tube.

prponder65 (author)2017-07-10

Do not use polycarbonate tube. It will leach all kinds of nasty chemicals

into your liquor. It is not made for high proof liquor. If your going to make

this setup use copper pipe or stainless pipe only instead of polycarbonate.

tim.milonas.7 made it! (author)2014-10-07

THIS SYSTEM ROCKS! Been using it for about 2 months now and have had GREAT SUCCESS! (as Borat would say) I do a triple filter of either Albertsons whiskey @$11.99 or Heritage Canadian Blended Whisky @ $9.99 per bottle 1.75 ltr. Also at Albertsons. It is Smoother than Jameson. I know; as I was curious enough to go to the local bar and pay $11 for a double shot just to compare. A double filter brings it to about a Gentleman Jack Daniels Smoothness. In fact it with 3 runs, it filters it almost too good as, admittedly, I do lose some flavor but I played around with a few ideas and found the original suggestion of vanilla extract really made it great, then with just a few drops of liquid smoke, it became perfection. I get about 2 bottles ran 3x ea before I recharge the activated charcoal in my oven at 450 degrees for 30-45 min in an aluminum pan. CAUTION-DO MAKE SURE YOU RECHARGE AFTER THE CHARCOAL IS COMPLETELY DRY AS i WAS WATCHING TV WHILE IT WAS BAKING AND HEARD A LOUD BOOM! i WENT INTO THE KITCHEN AND THE OVEN DOOR WAS BLOWN COMPLETELY OPEN & THE CHARCOAL WAS FLAMING A GHOSTLY DANCING BLUE FLAME. As it burned off, I stirred it & got several more POPS of the oven door. so DO USE CAUTION. I AM CURIOUS TO ANYONE ELSE HAS DONE THIS WITH ANY TIPS OR TRICKS THAT WILL ENHANCE THE PROCESS.

Pour boiling hot water to clean and activate the charcoal prior to pouring booze through the system, not by putting it in the oven.

Try recharging in foil pan on a grill you will have no problems and it doesnt heat up the house you can also just rinse with ro water before you put it to bake a bottle of store bought water poured down the tube will also do the job remember you are filtering alcohol with it cheers to that

2220 (author)2016-03-08

Hi Ben,

i like your set up, i want to try it with some home brew, i am almost ready to start but i am not sure how to calculate the amount of alcohol to put through the filter before i need to clean or replace the carbon.

i would appreciate it if you could advise me on this.

Thanks, John.

Ghostrider513 (author)22202016-10-09

Flush the carbon with boiling hot water to activate the carbon each time you use it. The carbon can be used for 10,000 liters of alcohol if you do this every time.

mike.nutile (author)2016-05-12

Version with ceramic filter too

mike.nutile (author)2016-05-12

Version with ceramic filter too

mike.nutile (author)2016-05-12

I made this and was able to add a ceramic drip coffee filter (for cold brew coffee) about $25 bucks on Amazon etc.

RobS68 (author)2016-01-12

Just curious, does this process reduce the alcohol percentage at all?

HoldOnTight (author)2015-11-16

this rocks! I got some really, really cheep stuff and tried it out. 1st run through: Not bad at all. Let me try a second run to see if it improves...yup, gettin beddr. Okay, letc if a third tims a charmer, Ahhh, dat's SMOOOTHAA. Tis is FUNNN! dAM bottle is almost empty. Wher da licker go? Damn filtr stol my booze!

andrewchen5678 (author)2013-11-03

While it is illegal to distill at home, is it legal to carbon filter at home?

JoeK31 (author)andrewchen56782015-09-20


Cacadogg (author)2015-04-05

can i just use a Brita to filter??!

JoeK31 (author)Cacadogg2015-09-20

Yes! It works like a champ BUT it dont have as much carbon in the filter so you have to filter your booze at least 4 times. I tryed it with a cheap vodka & was absalutly blown away by the results!

Leatherback (author)2015-06-27

I bought activated charcoal from a pet supply store. I soaked and rinsed it dozens of times and the filtered water was still slightly grey. What am I doing wrong? The link to the carbon mess sizing did not work for me.

cornz (author)Leatherback2015-07-26

go to:

Everything you need to know is there.

cornz (author)Leatherback2015-07-26

you bought the wrong carbon!!!

seriously, you need proper stuff, pet shop stuff isn't upto the job.

varocketry (author)2015-07-03

Jack Daniel's uses Sugar Maple charcoal made right there on premises. The type of charcoal used will add different flavors.

It can be reused (recharged) numerous times but not indefinitely. You'd probably have to gauge by a change in the taste of the output, i.e., output tastes like input without filtering.

kfcf (author)2015-06-25

An easier way I've been usingwith much success is simply adding the activated charcoal to a bottle of vodka, let stand for about an hour, pouring off as much vodka as possible, then rinsing the charcoal multiple times with water while filtering each time. Let charcoal dry on filter paper then heat in a cast iron pan till no odor comes off. Add charcoal as above and repeat the process 2-3 times. I like to use a propane flame to get the +/- 1000 degree temp required.

cashmoney100 (author)2014-11-09

Vanilla and lemon extract together more vanilla than lemon add a citris flavor remember to use 100% not imitation

tim.milonas.7 made it! (author)2014-10-07

I HAVE RECHARGED MY CHARCOAL SO MANY TIMES i HAVE LOST COUNT. I USE A BROWN #4 COFFEE FILTER DOUBLE LAYER FOLDED OVER THE BOTTOM OF THE TUBE AND SECURED WITH A HOSE CLAMP (RUBBER BANDS POPPED OFF ONE TIME & I WOUND UP WITH WHISKEY ALL OVER THE FLOOR OF MY SHOP. (sorry caps, I watch the keyboard, not the screen.) I hold the tube IN PLACE WITH A BENCH VISE JUST OPEN ENOUGH TO PROVIDE STABILITY AND DUCT TAPE TO HOLD IT IN PLACE with a piece of tape reversed where it contacts the tube so it doesn't stick so I can raise it up & down when switching bottles. I use a transmission filter for a funnel as it fits perfect in the bottle and the poly tube fits tight into the top w/plenty of room for any over flow to recover before spilling over if anything goes wrong. then I apply a new filter on the top with a hose clamp and turn it upside down, take the old filter & cap off the top and re-pour the next run, changing filters after every run. For vodka and tequila, A great source of flavor extracts to use is any local baking or confectionery supply store call and ask for Luanne's Super concentrated Flavor extracts. They are extremely high quality and very inexpensive.

MadVlrus (author)2014-06-02

Also, how many times can you 'recharge' that active carbon?

MadVlrus (author)2014-06-02

That is an excellent guide! When I first discovered this, I bought different size bottles from a shop, cut the bottoms off and had the vodka go through two coffee-paper-wrapped-carbon filters.

How much vodka can I filter through 1lb of activated carbon? How much tap-water (if it's already drinkable)?

Thank you!

panhead55 (author)2014-01-30

OK, I get it... but why in the world would you want to do this to Black Velvet. BV is a very smooth Canadian blend, just fine as it is. Would suggest this process for some of the cheaper (Harsher) bourbons available at Wally-world. Personally, I will be trying this on 'Caliber' brand rum and vodka trying to avoid those nasty morning afters I believe comes from the impurities in the cheaper stuff. GREAT idea BTW. Loving it!

n1cod3mus (author)2013-02-26

this is the same method used to filter home made vodka, nicely documented, would go well with my Keg Still instructable

wilgubeast (author)2013-01-17

Incredibly well-documented. I like the look of the polycarbonate tube, especially when it's full of Black Velvet. Nice work.

chefsea (author)2012-12-12

This is great and was very smart to add the vanilla to smooth out the flavor.

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More by BenTheMakerBot:Alcohol Filter - A Giant Brita for Whiskey, Vodka, Gin, Rum, or Other Cheap Liquors!Home Carbonation System...Cheap, Healthy, and Green.
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