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How to make a still

Picture of How to make a still
This contribution tells you how to distill liquids in your own kitchen.
Maybe for illegal liquor, maybe for purifying water.

! Drinking distilled alcohol may be harmful / fatal.
! Distilling alcohol may be illegal
! Drinking distilled water may be harmful / fatal
 
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Step 1: Materials

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I used:
A pressure-cooker
8mm OD copper tubing
A plastic bucket.

Step 2: Construction

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Form a coil with the copper tube, leaving a long lead-in. I wrapped around a demi.
Drill a hole in the bucket, and poke the lower end of your coil through this.
The copper tube is connected to the pressure-cooker with a (brewing) cork
A bit of Blu-Tac seals the tube to the bucket
Fill the bucket with cold water, and maybe some ice.

Step 3: Use

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A person might take two bottles of cheap wine. put them in the pressure-cooker an heat them to the boil. The distillate would be enriched in alcohol, collected from the bottom of the still.
One might wish to add a bit of colour with homemade caramel, and have homemade brandy.

And then one might drink the output and try to post a coherent Instructable.
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devrid7 months ago

Has anyone used this for purifying water? Thats what I am looking to do.

It's the same process except alcohol boils at 80 C and water of course at 100 C.
The pressure-cooker, isn't that made of stainless steel or aluminum? I have read a few things about it's effect, I mean using this kind of metal distiller in the spirit taste as against using a copper still. I broke my whiskey still so I thought I might as well come up with an improvised distiller. I've made a couple of run with my old still using a recipe from this site: http://www.whiskeystill.net/pages/how-to-make-moonshine, it was excellent. I'm all new to this hobby but the recipe really worked well for me. I'm just not sure how it will turn out if I prepare it with a homemade distiller.
As long as the aluminum pot is oxidized then there shouldn't be an issue... Until new studies say otherwise.

I've been using a home made pot still made from exactly the kind of aluminium pressure cooker pictured above. It works fine and can produce some very nice spirit with a bit of care.

Use copper or stainless steel only, anything else and your going to make something that taste bad, will make you sick or kill you.

lemonie (author)  warren_adams3 years ago
It's Al, but it's not a sophisticated still.
Post your still if we can learn something / like it?

L
guitarMan852 years ago
im tryin to make a personal still out of things i already have. these pipes are 'chrome plated white brass' but only the outside of the pipe is chrome. i was just wondering if the alcohol vapor being exposed to the brass was bad, cause i dont ever see brass on any stills except for a few connectors. Also, are you saying do the whole process again with glass? cause if i had a glass setup i would just do that, and would only have to do it once right??

I would never use brass pipes or fittings where it would or could come into contact with the mash, vapor or any other part of you liquor! Brass is made from copper zinc and LEAD! That's a recipe for certain death! Even if you ran a batch through a still with brass parts one time throw it away it's poison! Even if you run it through a glass or copper still a second time to try and clean it up it's still poison! Once you get lead crystals in your alcohol It's lethal poison! DO NOT DRINK IT! I don't know of any way to remove the LEAD. The best metal for making a still is 99.9% pure food grade copper because it's non-toxic and the copper helps remove sulfites from the mash, Copper water pipe with lead free silver solder will work but even that I would clean it up good before using it. The next best thing is 18/8 304 food grade or 316 surgical grade stainless steel. Don't use cheap non food grade stainless steel because the cheap stuff has other metals in it that will corrode and contaminate you final product and stainless steel won't remove sulfites like copper does. Last but not least you can use lab grade borosilicate glass or pyrex glass But it's 10 times more expensive than the other two. To buy just a 5 gallon glass boiler pot you going to pay $1000. or more and that's not counting the class condenser and all the glass fittings to put it together. You can get a small complete glass still for about $500. to $1000. but it would be so small you could only make a pint or two of product at a time making it not worth it and again glass will not remove sulfites like copper does. My 15 gallon setup is all copper and food grade stainless steel and it took me about a year to get it all exactly right and cost me about $350. Take your time and do it right in the end it will pay for itself in one or two runs.

Vinegar and H2O2 in a 2:1 ratio will remove any surface lead and the brass fitting will be suitable for use.
Do you know that alot water today has lead in it? if you look at Deerparks website they show you how much is there, and there are millions of brass instruments out there. I'm not saying that you should definitely use brass, but you might be overacting a bit. as long as you keep the brass well below 600°f you should be fine.
demon002 years ago
what length of copper coil did you use ?
lemonie (author)  demon002 years ago
I don't know because I didn't measure it. I just re-shaped the coil so it was never straightened and measured.

L
cmadsen5 lemonie2 months ago
Can we have a rough guesstimate?
Tammysue9905 months ago
how did you attach the copper tubing to the lid. and don't tell me with brewing cork please since I have no idea what that is and where to get it. also how did you attach instructions are needed
JokulH9 months ago

TL;DR: Methanol is poisonous, use a thermometer to boil it off first.

Nice big warnings at the top of the page, shame this method doesnt actually tell you to remove the poisonous methanol that can blind you among other things.

Basics you should know:

Alcohol is produced by yeast metabolizing sugars (grain,fruit,cane,corn etc). Methanol and ethanol are produced, methanol is poisonous, ethanol is what you want to drink. Fortunately methanol boils at(65°C/149°F) a lower temperature than ethanol(78°C/173°F) which boils at a lower temperature than water (100°C/212°F). Knowing this and by having a thermometer in your still/pot you can discard the vast majority of the methanol and the water (the first and last bits), achieving a stronger end product that won't blind you.

More stuff:

Wine and beer have small safe amounts of ethanol in them that your body can deal with, until you concentrate the methanol by distilling and then consuming.

For those interested methanol is metabolized into formaldehyde (used in tanning, wood finishing) and formic acid (will literally shut your cells down then blow them up giving you cancer) eyes are particularly sensitive to formic acid this is why blindness is strongly associated with methanol poisoning.

On a side note, definitely use ice in the water around your coil and it doesn't hurt to add salt.

clewis2110 months ago

Pretty cool!

grannyjones3 years ago
Another reason to throw out the first and last bits of your distillate is because that is where all the bitterness/unpleasant flavor comes from. If you get it right, the resulting hootch is smooth, mellow, and fragrant. A work of art.
Also, if using copper tubing, the tubing needs to be thoroughly cleaned and dried before and after each use, to avoid contamination by copper salts.

I can see that you know something about this. My father made grain and sugar shine in the 1940's and always told me, If your not going to do it the right way that's clean and safe don't waist you time.

What are the other reasons I wold want to throw out the first and last bits of the distillate and how much should be thrown out? Also how long should I let it boil for?
Broom tallguy892 years ago
Well, it's related to what grannyjones said... There are multiple alcohols present, but only ethanol is drinkable, and the others impart "off" tastes. Fortunately, (1) ethanol is by far the greatest component of the alcohols, and (2) the others distill at slightly different temperatures - some slightly lower, some slightly higher.

So, in addition to taste, removing the first part (the cooler-temperature mix of non-ethanol + some ethanol) and the last part (the hotter-temperature mix of the last of the ethanol, + some high-temp non-ethanol) reduces the toxicity of the distillate.

You won't die if you you don't do this, but it sure won't make your hangovers (and life expectancy) any better. So do it. :)
guitarMan852 years ago
ok ill try it. thanks, also another question, can you use chrome brass drain pipes on the still?
lemonie (author)  guitarMan852 years ago
"chrome brass drain pipes" - probably, but I don't see a need. If you're really bothered about purity; do a second distillation with glassware.

L
im tryin to make a personal still out of things i already have. these pipes are 'chrome plated white brass' but only the outside of the pipe is chrome. i was just wondering if the alcohol vapor being exposed to the brass was bad, cause i dont ever see brass on any stills except for a few connectors. Also, are you saying do the whole process again with glass? cause if i had a glass setup i would just do that, and would only have to do it once right??
lemonie (author)  guitarMan852 years ago
A lot of top-quality, expensive spirits are distilled in copper-stills. Copper would be good, but I think you'd be fine with brass.

L

You do know brass is made from copper zinc and LEAD don't you? I would never use brass. They have some new stuff they are calling lead free brass but even that has a small % of lead in it, it will make poison you don't want any lead at all in you still.

guitarMan852 years ago
is it ok to use an old flexible copper tube water line? its not shiny insinde now, its a little dark. but no green corrosion at all. i mean we had been drinkin water out of it so it cant be that bad. plus its not real close to the heat its gonna be the worm

Clean it out with hot vinegar and lemon juice first or just go buy some new copper pipe, All that stuff built up in that old water pipe will go into your product.

lemonie (author)  guitarMan852 years ago
I would think so: try it and see what it tastes like.

L
Country4112 years ago
Just so everybody know methanol boils at 149 degrees, and that is the alcohol that will kill you, or make you blind, do some research the stuff is toxic. Ethanol boils at 178, and that's the good get ya drunk stuff. Water boils at 212. So boil your mash to 178 degrees, then throw it away. Keep everything between 179 and 211. Once the temp raises to 212 your getting water, this is when your done. Another little fact that might help, your temp will not rise to the ethanol boiling point till the methanol has been boiled off. Same with the water, it will not turn to steam until the ethanol is gone.

Makes perfect sense.

lemonie (author)  Country4112 years ago
With regard to "do some research"; I have and I've got the paperwork to prove it somewhere (BSc, PhD).
Do you know anything about azeotropes ("it will not turn to steam until the ethanol is gone" is false), or how much methanol there is in a bottle of wine?

L
Country4112 years ago
I in no way meant to be rude when I said, "do some research", sorry it offended you. There is very little methanol in a bottle wine, but that doesn't matter to me because I am distilling corn mash. I am a layman, not a PhD, and my understanding of azeotropes is that they are a combination of fluids such as, ethanol and water, that can not be separated by distillation. This is only relavant to me because my final distilled product will never be more 95ish% alcohol . In reality it's probably lower, I use the bubble test, and not a hydrometer. I understand that this post contradicts my last post, but the method I use (including charting the temps) produces a good product. Just trying to keep it simple, and in terms that simple minded people like myself can easily understand. Thank you for the correction, it pushed me to understand my little back woods hobby in a fuller more scientific way.
L

I don't speak German so I may have clicked the wrong thing but as to the amount of methanol in something fermented like beer or wine it's not very much because if it was people would go blind from drinking a six pack or a bottle of wine. I think what most people don't understand or see is that when you distill beer or wine your concentrating that little 5 or 10 %ABV to 5 times or more stronger than in the first place and your also concentrating the methanol that much more. The methanol in beer and wine isn't enough to hurt you but when you concentrate it 5 or more times stronger in a still then it becomes poison. Methanol in any amount is no good for anyone.

Jugband2 years ago
Not sure what is meant by "Drain Pipe".

You need copper in your vapor path if you plan to be drinking what you're distilling, because copper absorbs sulfur compounds in the vapor which detract from the taste.

I wouldn't want chrome in the vapor path at all, because hot alcohol vapor is corrosive, and might pick up chromium from the fittings.

My boiler is 18/8 304 stainless steel with a FDA grade silicone lid gasket. My column is made from a 50 year old piece of 3 inch x 30 inch copper vent pipe and all the coupler fittings have red brass outside threads over copper unions with hand made silicone gaskets, the red brass doesn't come in contact with the vapor path. I took me about a year to put it together piece by piece. I was worried about the chromium in the stainless steel but 304 is plenty corrosion resistant for mash.

Jugband2 years ago
Is there a way to monitor temperature on this still arrangement?

You need to stop the run when the temperature starts rising above 190F, or you begin getting propanol coming out, and alcohol content starts dropping, because at about 200F the water starts putting off vapor mixing in with the alcohol vapor.

You don't just boil out all the ethanol then start boiling the water at 212F. When the water starts getting close to it's boiling point, it's already giving off steam, to dilute the alcohol output.

It looks to me like you'd have to just guess at when to stop the distillation, or is there something I'm not seeing about where/how to put a thermometer?

On my still I have 3 Miljoco thermometers, One on the boiler, one at the top of the column and one on the condenser.

jbaade1 year ago
It is absolutely untrue that the methanol won't harm you. You must dump the proper volume of the first fraction to come off the still. Methanol turns to formaldehyde in the body when metabolized. It can cause serious, long term damage and kill you. The reason you don't suffer ill-consequences when you drink a bottle of wine (or 2 or 3...) is because in wine the concentration of methanol is at a safe level and is metabolized in such a way that your body can tolerate. It's like I tell my students in the lab all the time, it's not the volume that matters most of the time, it's the concentration.

I was told some years back that as a rule of thumb for every 5 gallons of mash in a simple pot still you need to remove the first 100 ML off the top and for a good column rectifier still take off the first 50 ML to remove all the methanol. I have a good column still and I take off the first 100 ML per 5 gallons of mash anyhow just to make 100% sure that I remove all the methanol. I have been told I don't need to take this much heads off and it's a waist of good ethanol but I don't waist it, I use it for parts cleaner and sometimes I mix it with 10 gallons of gas to burn in the lawn mower and rototiller. Those heads that first come over smells like acetone or nail polish remover anyway. If you drink enough of the heads you will go blind or it will kill you not to mention it will make your final product taste and smell like shit.

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