Build a Keg Still for Whiskey (Pot still design)

Making a pot still using a keg as a base for making flavoured spirits, this is my second instructable on making a keg still the first one was a reflux still and you can see that here

Now before I continue lets get the boring legal stuff out of the way....

Check the laws in your local area, some places you cant even own a still let alone use it to make a drinkable product, check it out first. I know in New Zealand you can make your own booze and in the UK you can have a still that makes up to 5L if you have a permit.

ok lets carry on, so why am i making another keg still if I already have one? well its turns out that even in pot still mode the reflux still does not give enough flavour on the spirit, it strips it out due to refluxing too much. When you want to make rum and gin and other flavoured spirits you need a Pot Still as a reflux still will just strip out the flavours.

Now it is worth having a column for the reflux still as you can use this to make vodka which can be used to make gin in your pot still later on. I have both a pot still column and a reflux column now and they both fit on the same boiler, Now I will be repeating the boiler making process as some people may be reading this and have not seen the original instructable so I have to assume they don't have a boiler yet.
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egosselin14 days ago
have you ever had any issues using glass for the thumper ?
n1cod3mus (author)  egosselin14 days ago
not really no, the only problem is that its probably too small, so I don't use it any more, if I have to I do a larger run or a double run and then distill it a second time. This is known as a stripping run.
I understand what you mean by too small after reading this article :

The last part gives a rule of thumb : "A good rule of thumb is make the thumper twice the size of the amont of distillate in a single run. ie: one run = 1 liter of spirits then make the thumper 2 liters .... as a minimum, have it at least 1/3 the volume, ie ((#gallons of wash * %alc of wash) / 3)"
n1cod3mus (author)  egosselin3 days ago

yep thats exactly what I read, and where I read it, but at the time I wrote the instructable I was far too excited about producing alcohol of my own. I realize now, though it did work a bit, it wasn't correct. I have since ditched it. I might make another one later out of a milk can or a smaller keg. is an awesome resource once you have sifted through the dross

egosselin9 days ago

Where did you buy the tri clamp n1cod3mus ? I'm having a hard time tracking one down...

n1cod3mus (author)  egosselin9 days ago
just on ebay search fro tri clover clamps, o0r tri clamp.

dragon stills in the US sell them

Almost half-way done, your instructions are excellent Sir !

n1cod3mus (author)  egosselin6 days ago

cool thanks, Don't forget to post a photo by clicking "I Made It" button

woodduck3 months ago

love your designs I've made both you stills now and love them. mine is slightly different to yours as you will see in the photos. I already had a condenser that I made for a bloke based on what he wanted which was huge. he ended up not wanting it cause he wanted a reflux still so I ended up with it and adapted it to suit my still and thumper. the still works great and I can't wait to try your jacks recipe. .

zamo274 months ago

i cant figure out one thing.. when you fill the keg and it start evaporating then eventually the element will be exposed, possibly burn or cause a fire?

am i missing something? is it safer to use a band heater

please verift as i want to start distilling my country wines


n1cod3mus (author)  zamo274 months ago
as long as your element is covered in liquid it will be fine, out of a 23L batch you would normally get around 4L of alcohol tops, leaving about 19L of liquid in the still. now because my welder was crap my element doesnt sit straight so it point upwards a little. i tested how much liquid i would need to cover it completely by at least an inch above it and it was 16L so with 19 left after I have got my alcohol off there was plenty to cover it.

I understand your concerns but there is no an issue with it cause a fire for a few reasons. 1 the plug has a fuse in it which would pop if there was a short. 2 there will always be enough liquid to cover the element. 3 you are only taking off the alcohol and once you have that you turn the still off 4 if the element started to burn and the fuse in the plug didn't pop the mains breaker would pop and kill the power to the whole building 5 if all of that failed the element would just burn out in the keg which is steel and not combustible. 6 you should really be doing this in an open space ideally outdoors if you have it in an open space there would be nothing around the still to catch fire anyway.

yes you can use a ring burner but for 1 they are hard to control the temperature and 2 they are a flame so provide a source of ignition if your still was leaking vapor this would allow for the vapor to ignite and BOOM!

overall electric is better and safer than traditional still operations.
zamo27 n1cod3mus4 months ago
Thanks I will try thid
devoncbutcher5 months ago
Hi there, great write up I built my still based on your instructions here. I finally did my first run yesterday and although the still was producing as designed, it seemed extremely slow. How fast should it be producing?
n1cod3mus (author)  devoncbutcher5 months ago
yeah it should be run slowly, for a higher percentage of alcohol

what size wash did you have? what was the starting SG and end SG of the ferment?

how long did the wash take to run and what was the yield?

it depends on what you are running, if you are running a rum or a whiskey then you only want to have the heating element set to half power, it should take an hour or a little over to heat up to the point where it starts to flow out. you don't want to scorch it or have the still puke. my normal wash is around 23L.

if you are running a sugar wash neutral then you can run that a lot faster provided you have some scrubbers in the column to create reflux. tip of the day, chore boy copper scrubbers are 100% copper and the best thing for your column packing. you can use stainless steel scrubbers but copper is better as it removes the sulphides from the resulting product.
pothead al6 months ago

Hi there, just a quick one, how did you weld the immersion flange to the keg, was it MIG or TIG ? I have a gasless mig would that do ?

also the thermostat on the immersion, do you remove it completely ?

the phase angle controller ( which I am awaiting from China) is it easy to connect altogether ?



n1cod3mus (author)  pothead al6 months ago

I didnt weld it my self, but yes you could use a gasless mig if you got the right spool for it.

yes very easy to connect, just connect negative in one side and negative out.

hi there not electrically minded so I don't really understand what you mean, so on the heater for example




How does it all go to the controller ? pictures attached

n1cod3mus (author)  pothead al6 months ago

I got your email about this but I will answer it here too, for the UK users, the contact nearest the heat sink attach N (blue) from the mains supply/plug, run a wire from the other connector to the N connector on the element. simple.

I have also designed a casing for this controller that can be 3d printed, see the pics.

2014-01-12 16.52.51.jpg2014-01-12 18.36.27.jpg2014-01-12 19.39.21.jpg2014-01-12 19.39.28.jpg2014-01-12 19.39.37.jpg

many thanks for that

paulbunyn6 months ago

I've been told not to use any metal but Copper or Stainless Steel. Are you sure brass couplings and the heating elements are OK to use?

n1cod3mus (author)  paulbunyn6 months ago
yeah the brass is lead free so that is fine, the heating element is copper ;-)
tricky-19487 months ago

hi me again well the set up you are running is the same as mine, only I have an elbow at the top 54mm reduced to 15mm at the top of the elbow I have a 1/4 pipe drilled and soldered into the top for thermometer to go into it is removable, I use two o ring one at the top and bottom of the thermo, The out let is 15mm copper pipe goes to a chilling coil in a bucket 15L the coil has about 10 turn`s, all my connection are none soldered as I use a maintain bike inner tub cut into 11/2" strips to seal the joint`s work`s really good so you can inter change them around from a boka to a pot still, for the 15mm joint`s I use rubber denso tape, just make`s the wife happy so I can put it all away.

n1cod3mus (author)  tricky-19486 months ago

I have changed my recently and put the elbow right on the top.

I am planning to build a new still soon. All copper and brass.. well not the tri clamps which i will be documenting fully as in instructable.

mampoer7 months ago

In step 2 you say "click here for a (SG) calculator" but I can't see a link.

n1cod3mus (author)  mampoer6 months ago

windshadow7 months ago

Thanks for posting this !

n1cod3mus (author)  windshadow7 months ago
No Problem, enjoy ;-)
gn0stik7 months ago

This is nice. And since you are using sanitary/tri-clamp/tri-clover fittings, you can easily use that on a stainless milk can, or some other vessel if needed later. Perhaps something that is easier to get access to the inside of..

n1cod3mus (author)  gn0stik7 months ago
yep you sure can
tricky-19488 months ago

hi mate nice reading your post, one thing that I am not sure, as I run on gas, I am now looking to change over to electric, what I have found here in the uk all our heating elements seem to have a cut out on them to stop the boiling process even with the thermostat out, was this the same as the one you have used.

best regards Richard

n1cod3mus (author)  tricky-19488 months ago
the thermostat is what causes the cut out on the element on its own. in a heating system there is an additional cut out which is in the other electronics of the system but thats not in the element it's self, so once you have removed the thermostat there is no other cut out, which is why you have to plug it in to a voltage controller.

if you have a heating element take the casing off and send me a picture and I will talk you through what you need to do ;-)

I ended up printing a case using my 3d printer for my Chinese voltage controller ;-)

hi many thanks' for coming back to me I have not ordered the element yet, copper or ss element ? just ordered this controller off flee bay, so have taken note on what you have ben saying, by the way great work you have done

1 of 3 images

n1cod3mus (author)  tricky-19488 months ago

yeah that looks basically the same and has enough watts to cover the element.

I would go for copper every time, the more copper in your still the better it helps to remove sulphides.

I'm actually thinking of building a completely copper still, but sheet copper is expensive here in the UK.

yer that`s what I was going to do as I have a good engineering back round, But also found the sheet copper was way to dear, so I have opt for a 10 gallon beer keg, made the boka. then removed the coil ex, And have added an extra 2 foot onto it so it can be a form of pot still from the keg it stand`s about 41/2 foot with scrubbers. ok so I will go in for copper elements as I have 2 keg once I get that done will show you some pic as I have done it from your drawing`s many thank`s .


n1cod3mus (author)  tricky-19488 months ago
so are you saying you have made it with a removeable head which can then be attached directly to the keg?

if so that basically what I have done now, with my boka, it worked great but I wanted a detachable head, I will update the instructable or might make a new one not sure.

I'm also working on an instructable for tennessee whiskey / kentucky bourbon which I will release very soon, as the contest for homebrew is ending on the 10th of feb.

hi yes I used a 54mm socket on top so the coil assembly could just fit inside so when you want to go to a pot still, a short section of 54mm pipe with an elbow soldered, What I did was to drill a 1/4 hole into the top of the elbow and soldered a short section on 1/4 pipe into the top for the thermo with a o ring top and bottom to retain pressure.
some time back I made a pot still out of a burco boiler
what I did, I went on ebay and found a large copper water jug that had a lid on it to use for the for the head in principle it look`s the part, there again
I have never used it apart from having a cleaning run, worked ok but only five gallon so I put it on the back burner. it was just a thought to save a lot of preparation time, I have now cut the hole in the beer keg, just waiting for
some 1.6 rod`s & 2.5 rods to turn up then I will have ago at the welding, did ask a welding .company but they were talking about 11/2 hours to weld it and at £40 plus vat it was a bit of a joke.

.all the best Richard
ps as soon as I get a chance I will
send pics which might help you and others out there.

n1cod3mus (author)  tricky-19487 months ago
I did the same, ordered some rods 1.6mm and then found that my welder couldn't get the amps high enough for them, and that I was crap at welding lol so i took it to a welders think it cost me about £40, and they warped the socket which i didn't realize until i go home and the welders was an hour drive away.
stoobers9 months ago
This is a great instructable.
I want to try something similar, but how are your electric connections isolated so you don't get electrocuted? Is there some kind of grounded metal box? Do you have some photos of this? This may seem sort of obvious to you, but I don't have any experience in isolating an electrical connection. Can you attach some photos?
n1cod3mus (author)  stoobers9 months ago
there is no ground connection on the controller, but I will but putting it in a plastic casing when I get round to it which i will print on my 3D printer.

due to the cheapness of the controller it doesn't have a casing so you have to improvise one.
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