Introduction: Build a Whisky Still

Picture of Build a Whisky Still

If you're reading this, I assume you are interested in the theoretical transformation of a relatively weak alcoholic mixture into a relatively strong alcoholic mixture. That is, the distillation of whisky.

If you are just interested in creating your own alcoholic drinks from scratch, then I recommend starting with brewing beer (LINK). It's cheaper, easier, and less likely to be illegal in you area. If you want to try distillation without risking breaking the law, then trythis project.

If you don't know about the early stages of whisky distillation, here is a quick round-up:

Take some grain, and allow it to sprout. Just as it starts to sprout, quickly kill it by drying. It is now a "malted grain". Mix the malted grain with hot water and stir until you get bored - you are dissolving the sugars from the grain into the water. Filter out the solids, and add yeast. Keep the mixture slightly warm (and sealed from the air) until the yeast has turned the sugar into alcohol. You now have a wash that is ready to be distilled. Apparently, the wash has a strength and taste similar to beer, so maybe you would like to start there.

Distillation is the process of separating a mixture of liquids with different boiling points. In this case, we're trying to separate ethanol (alcohol) from water. Pure ethanol boils at 78.4oC, and pure water boils at 100oC, so heating the wash will make the ethanol boil off first.

[This project was first published in 2008 - if you want to see my more recent projects,click here.]

Step 1: What You Need

Picture of What You Need

A still has three separate parts - something to heat the liquid, something to help water vapours condense before they escape the apparatus and something to cool and trap the alcoholic vapours.

I will refer to these parts as the vat, column and condenser. You also need a thermometer with a scale that goes to at least +100oC.

Legal point: It is illegal to manufacture spirits in the UK without a distiller's licence which is required under the provisions of section 12 of the Alcoholic Liquor Duties Act 1979 and this includes manufacture for "own/domestic use". For this reason, my images are a mixture of diagrams and stock photos. This goes against the usual practice here, but I kind of want to keep my job, and if I did it for real, images posted here can (in a UK court of law) be used as evidence against me. Before constructing your still, you must check local licensing laws to ensure you are not committing an offence, or obtain a distiller's license.

Since this is more a guide to function than form, you may choose to use different materials to those suggested, such as paying out for all-copper fittings. This is by no means an exhaustive tutorial, so if you are planning to produce quality drinking-spirits on a regular basis (as opposed to something merely flammable), you may even want to invest in a purpose-built still. Just remember (again) that, in the majority of countries where you can read this Instructable, you need to check the legality of distilling alcoholic beverages for personal use.

Step 2: The Vat

Picture of The Vat

The vat is the container in which you heat your mash. I would suggest the use of an old pressure cooker, as it has a seal around the lid to keep vapours inside the system, and is large enough to hold a reasonable volume of wash.

Step 3: The Column

Picture of The Column

Alcohol and water have surprisingly similar properties - each will dissolve in the other. This means that you will get water vapours in with the alcohol vapours, but they can be reduced. A tall column above the vat gives the water vapour a chance to condense and fall back.

If you can increase the surface area within the column, so much the better. Looking in my shed, I see a three-foot length of two-inch diameter tube that would be ideal - it's an old bed-leg. To increase the area inside, I could hammer lots and lots of nails into the pipe, or fill it with steel wool. If I was bothered about rust, I could use a similar copper tube and fill it with broken glass.

The column can be connected to the vat by drilling a suitable-diameter hole in the lid of the pressure-cooker, removing the weight-system. The gap between the column and the lid can be sealed with solder, epoxy, welded, or sealed with a compression-fitting, depending on the size of the column and the materials involved. Do not worry about removing the weights or blocking the safety-valve, as the still is never under pressure unless you do something stupidly wrong. The top of the column needs capping, with a hole in the cap to allow insertion of the thermometer. As with the joint at the bottom, this depends on the exact materials you used - it could be as basic as dropping a tin can over the top and epoxying it in place.

Step 4: The Condenser

Picture of The Condenser

When the alcohol boils off, it will be a vapour. You can't drink vapour. You need to cool it so that it condenses into a liquid.

This is probably the easiest part to obtain, as coils of small-diameter copper tubing can be purchased from many DIY stores (sometimes called microbore, it is the 8-10mm tubing used to connect up modern central heating systems).

Cut off a convenient length, and insert one end into a hole drilled into the side of the column at the top, preferably level with the bulb or sensor of your thermometer. Seal it in place (epoxy again), and set the other end low down - the alcoholic vapours will cool, condense and trickle downhill into whatever receptacle you have chosen.

Step 5: Operation

Picture of Operation

Put your wash in the vat, close it, and gently heat it (over the stove, campfire, whatever - heat is heat). Watch the thermometer rise.

As previously mentioned, ethanol boils at 78oC. When the thermometer reaches this point, and remains steady, it means that the vapours surrounding it, and passing down the condenser is mainly alcohol, with some water.

Catch what drips out of the end of the condenser - that is your distilled spirit.

Keep an eye on the temperature. If it starts to rise above 78oC, the bulk of the water is starting to boil, and the vapours you collect will now be making your spirits weaker. You also run the risk of concentrating fusel alcohols in your sprits.

(Fusel alcohols look slightly oily when they drip. If the drips from your still start to look odd, stop the process and save what you have so far.)

How much can you expect to collect?

If you are starting with an alcoholic content of 5% ABV (as many reasonable bitters are), then you will get only around 5% of the volume you put in the vat. That is, one fluid once per pint of wash.

Step 6: Poison!

Picture of Poison!

Some myths:

  • It is a popular myth that illicitly-distilled booze makes you blind.


Methanol (wood alcohol) makes you blind. If you hear about people being blinded by illicit booze, they did not actually distil it, they made some sort of punch with denatured alcohol or antifreeze.

Yeast fermentation of grains does not produce methanol - if your distillate contains methanol, it has come from somewhere else other than the yeast. If your starting mash contains natural or added pectins (grapes, berries, over-ripe fruit (such as windfall apple cider)), then the alcohols produced will have only traces of methanol.

The FDA say that a methanol level of 0.1% by volume is considered safe. According to Tony Ackland, a chemical engineer who started distilling in 1997, fermenting pectin-based fruits can produce 2-3 parts per million of methanol. To produce a fatal dose of methanol, you would need to distil roughly 27,000 litres of mash. Daily doses of methanol below 600mg are considered safe - a dose of that level would require the consumption of 70 litres of 40% whisky per day.

  • Some people say that illicit booze gives you a bad hangover.

Unfortunately, correct.

Neglecting to watch the temperature, or heating the wash too quickly, can result in concentration of higher-order forms of alcohol called fusel alcohols or fusel oils (because they look oily). A small amount of fusel alcohols are naturally present in whisky, and can give a spicy, hot or solvent-like flavour. If you get those flavours in a distilled spirit, watch out for a hangover. Be aware: Very high concentrations (usually caused by incompetent distillation) can cause acute illness, including headaches, nausea, vomiting, clinical depression, or coma. Such liquor may be referred to as rotgut.

If in doubt, you can always pour what you have made so far back into the vat and distil it again.

Some people distil the wash twice. They throw away the residue of the first batch, and put the spirits through again. Second distillations should be done more slowly, and greater care taken to watch the temperature, as the temperature of the vapours will change more quickly.

  • Home-made still tend to explode.

No, they don't. They are open systems, there is nowhere for pressure to build up. If the system leaks pure ethanol, you will get flames.

Explosion may be a risk if you distil in an enclosed space and allow alcohol fumes to build up to stupidly high levels, but that's your room exploding, not your still.

  • Using the wrong metals in your still will poison you.

Partly right. If you are using your still properly, the liquid booze will only touch your condenser. Stories of lead-poisoning originate with people using car radiators as their condensers. Stick to a copper coil (see step 4), and you're fine. The metals of your vat and column will only get into your final product if you heat them enough to vapourise the metal, or you have it so over-filled that the boiling mash bubbles over into the condenser.


I have not actually distilled alcohol for quite some time, and then I used proper glassware. I used to work in a lab with a license to distil one litre per year, and not for human consumption. Do not rely solely on this Instructable to inform your distilling activities - do some research of your own, check the local licensing laws, and remember to take it easy if you actually dare to drink the resultant liquor.

Take plenty of water with it, and do not even think about driving or operation hazardous machinery, even after a small snifter or two, since you will not know the exact amount of alcohol you have consumed.


Kiteman (author)2016-05-01


Read the disclaimers, please, folks, then read *all* the comments before adding your own...

Tecwyn Twmffat made it! (author)2016-11-25

JonW76 (author)2016-11-03

*From experience* if you wanna be extra safe, toss the first jarful of shine aside. It is too potent and has a very high alc content, it can be dangerous for consumption if made with certain types of mash.

ERNesbitt (author)2016-08-07

A very nice 'ible (as always). Unfortunately, it is also regulated/illegal to own a home still in the U.S., but informative indeed. I've been eyeing sets of lab glassware that extract essential oils, and I imagine it would work the same if the temperature was controlled enough.

aebe (author)2016-07-02

Hello . More safety with metals - All should be food grade stainless or pure copper - that bedpost is probably brass , and will poison you as surely as will lead .

Sergei- (author)2008-04-08


This guy puts new meaning in choose your poison!
A lot of no no's in this, worked in a lab ay? As a lab technician or janitor?

You can get lots of methanol from realy anything you distill including just a simple wash of sugar-water-yeast.

People going blind from a punch mmmm better stay away from wine champagne and beer.

Using a bed post as a column is a good idea if it's made from 304 or 316 foodgrade stainless steel or waterpipe copper tubing somehow i don't see that. You will get contaminents in your wash that will cause you harm in the long run from mostly anything else.

Things like using epoxy to seal up joints is bad you need to use lead free solder or silver solder for that.
It's lucky that you have never done any of this yourself or you might be writing this instructable in hospital.

If you realy want to build yourself a quick or complex still try this place for more info first
If you want to distill just small amounts glassware is the safest and most accurate way.


Gadget93 (author)Sergei-2016-05-01

I'm a chemist. No no no. You cannot get methanol from distilling fermented sugar/ yeast mixtures/edible grains. Just no. It doesn't work like that. There is a good reason they call it "wood alcohol".

DrRadium (author)Gadget932016-05-19

It's actually called wood alcohol because it was traditionally made by destructive distillation of wood. Methanol is found naturally in many things including unfermented fruit and vegetable juices, as well as the products of fermentation. It just isn't found at concentrations that are any concern for toxicity.

I'm not a chemist, but I am a MD/PhD molecular biologist who spent 3 years in a yeast lab :)

Kiteman (author)Sergei-2008-04-08

A lot of no no's in this, worked in a lab ay? As a lab technician or janitor?

As head of a large industrial lab. As a high school science teacher. As a published science writer.

Let me know when you've actually read the Instructable properly, plus all the replies I've made to other people who have not read it properly (like the other people who think that yeast produces methanol in anything other than trace amounts). If you still have any smart comments to make, make them then.

Warthaug (author)Kiteman2008-04-08

"(like the other people who think that yeast produces methanol in anything other than trace amounts)" I'm assuming this is a snide remark at my expense. I guess pointing out the biochemistry and science behind it was the wrong way to go. And here I thought it would resonate with someone who claims a scientific background. You can call it what you want - 'trace amounts' or whatever, it doesn't change the fact they are in there. I wont point out the irony that the whole idea behind distillation is to concentrate things that are present in trace amounts. In my average brandy run 3-5% of the total distillate is the sub-78C fraction, and most of that is methanol. Assuming 75% methanol in that fraciton, and assuming that the other 25% is non-toxic, including that fraction into the portion you drink that would be a high enough concentration that 1 servings (i.e. 1.5oz) would exceed what is considered a safe limit. You would hit a mildly toxic dose (i.e. possible blindness) around 6 servings in. For someone who claims to have the background you do, you're sure adamant about something which is both wrong, and a common/ widely reported problem in producing food-grade ethanol. The production of methanol during the fermentation process, and its concentration during distillation is the topic of a multitude of scientific and industrial reports. BTW, is an excellent resource of home distilation, and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in the craft.

Kiteman (author)Warthaug2008-04-08

From your recommended reference

Poor quality home distilled spirit : methanol 0.0186%
Methanol : usual fatal dose 100-250 mL

So, to get a fatal dose of methanol from poor quality spirits, you would have to drink over 500 litres of the spirit at a single sitting.


The lethal dose of methanol is at least 100 ml that is equal to about 80000 mg or you need 27000 liters of mash at least to get that amount.

That is, to produce a single lethal dose of methanol, you have to collect all the methanol from nearly thirty tonnes of fermented grain and water.


Warthaug (author)Kiteman2008-04-08

"Poor quality home distilled spirit : methanol 0.0186%"

here's the full link, so everyone can see

As everyone can see, you're distorting what the webpage states. After a discussion of proper distillation techniques - incluiding throwing away the heads, they (correctly) point out that the methanol content will be minimal; even if you do a poor job. But that is with *throwing away the heads*, which is exactly what we've been saying you have to do all along.

But you're counseling people to not throw away the heads. If you do this the amounts of methanol are much, much higher.

For example, most wines have a methanol content of >0.1%; some fruit juices have methanol contents even higher then that - meaning, of course, if you distill them, and don't toss the heads, you'll concentrate them along with your ethanol. Even with grains you'll get methanol produced, although it'll be lower then fruit-based ferments.

As stated before, my personal experience with brandies is 3-5% of total distillate is methanol/other lower-boiling point compounds. I used to do a lot of sugar mashes, and even then I collected 1-2% the final volume of these lower temperature fractions.

"The lethal dose of methanol is at least 100 ml"

Firstly, that is out-and-out wrong. Methanol has an LD50 of ~1ml/kg, and since most of us aren't 100kg, you're toxic limit is way off.

Secondly, I never said anything about death. I specifically said "mild toxicity, i.e. possible blindness", not once did I say "death" or "lethal dose".

Blindness occurs at doses as low as 0.1ml/kg, and permanent eye damage occurs at doses about 1/5th of that. Meaning for me (at 65kg) I'd have to drink a meager 6.5ml of methanol to blind myself, and a minute 1.3ml to begin seeing minor damage to my eyes. That's not very much.

In the case of my Brandies, if I were to put those heads back in I'd have a methanol content of ~3%, meaning to get my 1.3ml worth (onset of eye damage) I'd have to drink a mere 43ml (1.45oz, just shy of 1 serving) to hit a point where damage is possible. 5 servings gets me upto 6.5ml; onset of blindness.

Lastly, there is a growing body of medical evidence that long-term exposure to minute amounts - parts per *billion* range - can have damaging effects of the neurological system, including the onset of a Parkinson's-like disease. Chronic higher doses have a large range of known effects - including, but not limited to - reproductive disorders, teratogenic effects, optic, liver, kidney, and heart damage.

But hey, its your life. If you'd rather continue on in your delusion, and poison yourself slowly, that's your business. But to falsely claim that there is no danger - when there is a well established danger - is just wrong.

Kiteman (author)Warthaug2008-04-08

Please point out where I say "do not throw away the heads"?

All this argument has happened because people - yes, I mean you - are not reading what I wrote.

Check Step 5 - I specifically say not to collect the condensate until the temperature at the top of the column reaches 78oC - by that point, all the methanol will have evaporated.

I have been discussing the product collected if you follow what I write. You seem to have assumed, that just because I did not use the term "heads" that I am some sort of ignorant fool that is quite happy to encourage others to poison themselves.

"The lethal dose of methanol is at least 100 ml"

Firstly, that is out-and-out wrong. Methanol has an LD50 of ~1ml/kg, and since most of us aren't 100kg, you're toxic limit is way off.

First you recommend, then you criticise me for your recommended site quoting numbers you do not agree with.

Wikipedia agrees with those numbers
According to the official MSDS; "Methyl Alcohol (Methanol) Oral rat LD50: 5628 mg/kg" (I mass about 70kg, so (a rat my size) needs a touch under half a litre to kill me)]

The reference you gave us says that says a 100ml dose is fatal.
The official HSE data says it needs 500ml to kill 50% of those who drink it.
What do you say?

Warthaug (author)Kiteman2008-04-08

"Please point out where I say "do not throw away the heads"?" My bad, but you have repetitively commented that there is no risk of methanol poisoning, when there is. You specifically attributed methanol poisoning from moonshine to adulterants; which is also false. "First you recommend..." They're a great resource for how to distill properly, build a still, make a mash, etc. But I'll take the medical communities findings when it comes to toxological data. "According to the official MSDS" There is no such thing as an "official MSDS". MSDS's are produced by the manufacturing companies, and simply have to meet some rather weak standards. Take a look at Lilly's MSDS for methanol - they've got completely different LD50's listed compared to yours. And why use the rat standard, when the toxicity in humans is well established? its long been known us lowly primates are far more sensitive to methanol than are our rat brothers. My values - both the LD50, onset of blindness, and onset of optical damage, came from HUMAN data, published in "Medical Toxicology" by R.Dart, published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins in 2003. "Wikipedia agrees with those numbers" No, it don't. Direct quote, from your wikipedia link: "The usual fatal dose is 100–125 mL (4 fl oz)" That 1/5th of your "half liter". For myself thats 1.3ml/kg; just a hair higher than the 1ml/kg I quoted previously. And wikipedia does not state its an LD50, so we don't even know if the two values are comparable. Bryan

Gadget93 (author)Warthaug2016-05-01

There isn't a risk of methanol poisoning here. I hope you've lightened up since then.

DrRadium (author)Gadget932016-05-19

I hope so too. Even unfermented fruit or veggie juices contain methanol to the tune of 1-11mg/100mL (per Hou et al., 2008). Especially since we are not talking about methanol consumed in isolation but in a much larger amount of ethanol. The reason is that methanol isn't very toxic. The problem is that it is metabolized to formaldehyde by alcohol dehydrogenase, and then to formic acid by aldehyde dehydrogenase. Formic acid is what produces the toxicity. To treat methanol poisoning, one has to keep alcohol and aldehyde dehydrogenases inhibited with a drug like 4-methylpyrazole until the methanol is excreted unchanged. Or do it old school by keeping the enyzmes busy with their preferred substrate.... ethanol.

Sergei- (author)Kiteman2008-04-08

just read your new post about the methanol 0.0186%. You get more than that in a 25l wash of just sugar water and yeast just to make 4 liters of alcohol especialy if it's a pot still.

Kiteman (author)Sergei-2008-04-08

Then Warthaug's references are wrong.

Warthaug (author)Kiteman2008-04-08

'Then Warthaug's references are wrong." No, you mis-read what it was stating. The resource pointed out - correctly - that when the heads are disposed of the worst case scenario is a minute amount of methanol (0.0186%). You're telling people not to dispose of the heads - which is where the methanol is. That is plain wrong, and including those in the final product will greatly increase the methanol content.

Kiteman (author)Warthaug2008-04-08

See my post timed 12:36pm

Dr_Stupid (author)Kiteman2008-06-04

It's not that people didn't read it properly, you simply didn't explain it properly.

Kiteman (author)Dr_Stupid2008-06-05

Yeh, it's real bad. That's why I won...

Gadget93 (author)Kiteman2016-05-01

You did an excellent job.

veryrealperson (author)Kiteman2014-02-27

people love to critisize. I enjoyed

elrowe (author)Kiteman2016-01-28

There is some methanol present in all fermentations. It comes out first because it boils at a lower temp than ethanol. This is why moonshiners throw away the first runnings.

In general, there are few food-grade epoxies so some specificity would help here, using LocTite could poison someone.

Moreover, you can reduce the amount of fusel alcohols present by fermenting at a low temperature. Knowing the behavior of the yeast can do wonders for the flavor of any alcohol product. Stress a yeast with too-high a temperature and they produce fusel-alcohols.

Sally Zielke (author)2016-05-01

Some good information here, but also a lot of bad!

Copper is used to remove sulphite which are harmful. EVERY fermentation using yeast causes methane production. This is why all distillers remove the first portion of the distillate and trow it in the bin!

As far as construction, ONLY use copper or SS! Solder with lead-free solder or SS welding! IF you're going to do this, be smart and save your own life and that of your family... think carefully and research research research! Theres a lot of forums out there that'll give you much better designs and proper procedures!

Peace out!

Kiteman (author)Sally Zielke2016-05-02

Methane is a gas, so I think you mean methanol?

If "every fermentation" using yeast produces methanol, why do we never, ever hear of beer or wine containing methanol?

Sally Zielke (author)Kiteman2016-05-04

Hmm good question. Not familiar with this processes, sorry, but I am certain that methanol is present in both, as are other chemicals that need to be removed...

Kiteman (author)Sally Zielke2016-05-05

You may be certain, but the head brewer of my local brewery, which also has a distillery, says that the grain mash contains no significant traces of methanol - according to him (and his spirits regularly win global awards), the heads are disposed of to improve the flavour.

DrRadium (author)Kiteman2016-05-19

You're both right. Methanol is produced in yeast fermentations (which is why Sally is right), but only in very minuscule, insignificant amounts (which is why Kiteman is right). When distilled, it ends up in the first fractions (heads) along with low boiling undesired off-flavor compounds and is tossed along with the last fractions (tails) that contain fusel oils and other high boiling off-flavor undesirables.

Even if the heads are left in the end product, it still won't poison you. Ever heard of freeze 'distilled' alcohol causing blindness? Me neither. Yet when one filters the ice out of frozen hard cider, any methanol in the mix is concentrated in the liquid. Same for fusel oils, which is why the stuff doesn't compare in taste and produces worse hangovers compared to a product made using true distillation.

Bootleg alcohol during prohibition didn't contain methanol as a product of bad fermentation or distilling. It contained it because it was deliberately added. Methanol was cheap and legally available as a solvent and when added would make low ethanol booze still get you drunk.

Sally Zielke (author)Kiteman2016-05-05

@Kiteman I envy you! I am very interested in making Whisk(e)y and have no such luxury at hand! I have, however, joined 5 distilling forums (3 Ozzy, 1 US and 1 international - European) to learn what I can; my comments above are not of my own experience but of a collaboration of all those 5 forums. These guys range from hobbyists to boutique stiller to still manufacturers, servicing these boutique distilleries. Naturally I had assumed they knew what they are talk ing about.

Furthermore, I have recently digested 2 books ("The Complete Distiller", by Nixon & McCaw and "Making fine spirits" by Zymurgy Bob) which are stating the same as what I have noted above.

Essentially, the distillate collected is in 4 parts (often simplified into 3 where freshet & Heads are combined for ease and, as you say, taste improvement) - foreshots, heads Hearts and Tails; where:

FORESHOTS: A small amount of low boiling distillate, which is the first to be collected during a run. Foreshots contain high levels of acetone, methanol, and aldehyde volatiles. Catch and discard

HEADS: Spirits from the beginning of the run that contain a high percentage of low boiling alcohols such as methanol, acetone and aldehydes.

HEARTS: The section of a distillation run which is taken as the product, contains mostly ethanol, with a small amount of congeners.

TAILS: Distillate from late in the distilling process containing a high percentage of fusel oil and little alcohol.

From extensive reading and some experimentation with a friend that has a hobby still, we allocate 5-% of the initial boiler volume to foreshots, then take "cuts" in order to separate the other 3 parts.

CUTS: The different collections of varying distillate (taken by the distiller) during a distilling run. Cuts are usually small amounts (300-500ml) in volume allowing efficient separation of the parts.

personally, Heads feels pricey on the tongue, hearts are warm and smooth and tails have a little warmth but smell funny (wet cardboard or dog) and often taste similar to the wash put into the still, but not in a good way...

Hope that clears up where I'm coming from....

DIY-Guy (author)Sally Zielke2016-05-04

Which "ss" metal are you referring to, Sterling Silver? Or Stainless Steel?
Thank you!

Sally Zielke (author)DIY-Guy2016-05-04

Stainless, mate. Haven't heard of using silver for this kind of process, possibly because it is too expensive...

spark master (author)2016-05-02

No wher ein the USA or in virtualy all nations on earth is it legal to distill. Make beer/wine/mead perhaps, but not distill.

New Zealand (up to about 3 years ago) was the ONLY place to legal distil.

Now legal to distil vs will you get hunted down is another story. Here in the USA they take it very seriously

As far as Myths etc.

Methanol will kill you pure simple truth. Ethanol that is properly distilled and charcoal filtered 2-3 times has no real taste. Knob Creek and Mellow Corn Whiskey are my faves and while they are both 100 proof, the Mellow corn does indeed taste like whiskey and one has a small reaction when consumed neat, no ice no water. Knob Creek on the other hand has no nasty "kick". In my experience if I gave it to you neat, and did not say what it was and you never drank liquor before, could drop shots with no issue. Yes it is THAT smooth. If you are given to drink, try a shot of 9 year old KC.

After effects, well the cleaner the ethanol is the better you feel the next day. I can drink quite a bit of either and no issues. I do not drink much of either because it is that easy to get blotto then be a hermit the next day.

After removing all the heads/methonol spirit, then taking the middle of the run and not getting any of the fusil oil/tail, that give pure ethanol, with some water. You can re-distil that for higher % of booze, but it isn't needed, then you pour it through a wetted charcoal filtration system 3 times. You should now have a clear relatively tasteless liquor. Put into a deeply charred barrel (Oak? Maple?), toss in the right peatmoss and let sit for a year to steep. Walla Crappy Happy Highland Happy Juice.

Oh I fergit, some feed stocks (say apples) produce more meths spirits then other, (like grain)

Do you research first on if you think having you house taken away by the BTF, is worth saying here "here try my moonshine" .


MobyD1 (author)spark master2016-05-06

Well aren't I the lucky one for living in New Zealand. Unless they changed the law without telling me I can distill ethanol (or methanol for that matter) without restriction, but I am not allowed to sell it. So much for those of you that think that you are living in the land of the free. The Russians probably have more freedom than this. We can buy stills in Brew Shops in NZ and all of the ingredients necessary to make a decent drop.

Down here we tend to make a clear spirit and add flavours to create, Whiskey, Whisky, Vodka, Gin, Rum etc etc. It may not be quite as smooth as the real stuff, but add some Coke or other mix and you will be hard pressed to tell the difference.

The trick with the process is to not use grain of any sort. The malting process extracts sugars from any grain but also introduces cellulose (wood) fibre to the process. Distillation of cellulose fibre will produce Wood Alcohol (Methanol) and you don't want that. Instead of using grain, use pure Sugar or Invert Sugar in the fermentation process. Pure sugar fermentation will produce Ethanol. There will be minimum contaminants but it is traditional to throw away the first cup full and most people filter through a charcoal filter at least twice.

To avoid the risk of explosion, don't use naked flames. It is common to use electric hot water tank elements (Incalloy Type) to run the still. The process is simple as the toxins, ethanol, methanol, fusil oils come off at specific temperatures. Monitor the process closely and only collect distillate within the ethanol range and it seems to be O.K.

If you live in a police State don't attempt any of this and don't drink it either.

olmon (author)2016-05-03

It is actually much easier to make wine than it is to make beer AND once the wine is done fermenting (12 to 18% alcohol) you can circumvent the distilling legalities by putting the wine in plastic jugs & sticking them in the freezer for several days. Then take them out & pour what didn't freeze into another container. In my experience, the yield is approx 1 quart per gallon. What you end up with is the rough equivalant to a schnapps or brandy. I've done it with several different flavored wines. Makes a very nice 'sipping' drink without any hassles.

Codswallop (author)olmon2016-05-03

The freezing process is known as crystal fractalization. I don't know the laws in the UK, but in the US it is just as illegal as any other form of distillation, and will get you(trusting to memory here) $10,000 in fines a d five years in the federal hoosgow.

poco424 (author)Codswallop2016-05-03

I thought it was legal to make up to 99 gallons of your homemade Hooch for personal use in the United States. If that is an error someone please reply.

Codswallop (author)poco4242016-05-03

Without a Federal license it is a felony. You're thinking of fermentation (beer- and wine-making), which is perfectly legal in all 50 states. The US Treasury Department's web site says this (among other things):

  1. Within title 26 of the United States Code, section 5601 sets out criminal penalties for activities including the following. Offenses under this section are felonies that are punishable by up to 5 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both, for each offense.

    • 5601(a)(1) – Possession of an unregistered still.
    • 5601(a)(2) – Engaging in business as a distiller without filing an application and receiving notice of registration.
    • 5601(a)(6) – Distilling on a prohibited premises. (Under 26 U.S.C. 5178(a)(1)(B), a distilled spirits plant may not be located in a residence or in sheds, yards, or enclosures connected to a residence.)
    • 5601(a)(7) – Unlawful production or use of material fit for production of distilled spirits.
    • 5601(a)(8) – Unlawful production of distilled spirits.
    • 5601(a)(11) – Purchase, receipt, and/or processing of distilled spirits when the person who does so knows or has reasonable grounds to believe that Federal excise tax has not been paid on the spirits.
poco424 (author)Codswallop2016-05-03

The govt needs the money and the control, I guess.

Codswallop (author)poco4242016-05-03

It's better than Prohibition. License and tax it. Same thing they ought to do with all the other recreational drugs. But Prohibition is a big money maker.

Kiteman (author)olmon2016-05-03

Do that with cider, you're making "applejack".

Boomer1 (author)2016-05-03

I live in Alabama, and have seen it made. I've talked with quite a few folks that made it before, during, and after the depression, just to survive. And you got it right in your tutorial.

There are as many "recipes" for making shine as there are for making chocolate cake.

There are those that use different ingredients in their mash. I've seen whole corn, sprouted and mashed, cracked corn that was soaked soured then mashed up, corn meal, oats, sprouted oats, and even sweet feed.

Pots and what they are made of are always debated. The old timers always use copper, but stainless steel is popular among younger makers. Another disclaimer can be mentioned about lead poisoning as some brass can contain lead. Nobody in their right mind uses car radiators, solder, "lead-free" or otherwise. The old timers around here used a bit of pancake batter and an old paint brush on pipe joints and fittings.

Water.... good water makes good spirits.

Tap water, with it's chlorine, fluoride, etc, etc, etc makes a bitter or metallic taste. Well water is hit or miss, iron water is a no-no, as well as water with any sulfur content. The best you can get according to the really good distillers is water piped out of a limestone cavern. And even then the water should be tested.

All this typing is making me thirsty, take care. ;)

UnclTodd (author)2016-05-02

An absolutely fascinating read (the comments!) with the slight entertainment value of reading about how to become a federal felon in the US. Both sides of my family produced distilled spirits until the 1950's, when it became legal to purchase alcoholic beverages in the former Indian Territory.

JerryY1 (author)2016-05-02

thee things I didn't see here are one don't use an aluminium pot use only copper or stainless steel and you need some copper in your still, two the first part to come out should be dumped this is usually about 10% of your expected yeild and three what can cause a still to explode is leaking alcohol vapor that is exposed to open flame, there are many good books on the subject, before trying this learn all you can first and of course check to be sure you can legally distill where you live

owin (author)2016-05-01

Do not go much over 78.4C as over this temperature Methyl Alc produced.

JohnM590 (author)2016-05-01

pressure cooker is fine although to small. Where the pressure gauge is is going to be your tubing(copper) so it will not ever build pressure and blow up, steam/vapours will exit this 1/2"tubing.

Gadget93 (author)JohnM5902016-05-01


JohnM590 (author)2016-05-01

OMFG these are terrible recommendations. DO NOT USE A BRASS BED POST, DO NOT USE ANY BRASS, use copper or 304/316ss only. Do not use copper or anything from CHINA.

rickharris (author)2011-07-28

Errr it's Illegal in the UK unless licensed!!

Still pots don't explode! tell that to the 5 Eastern Europeans recently killed in Boston Lincs.

Your picture of the pressure cooker seems to show the safety valve which you say don't bother if it gets blocked - Whereas in a perfect world the system isn't pressurised there are circumstances where it might be and so the safety valve is a good - Ummm -Safety feature.

I have 'heard' you can distil alcohol in the freezer freezing the water and then pour off the Alcohol. You could do this in a PET soda bottle. There are Turbo yeasts that produce higher levels of alcohol.

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