Step 2: The pot

Picture of the pot
in this instructable i will be making what is known as a pot still. it is a very basic design, but can be reasonably efficient. there are many variations on pot stills and many other types of stills. some more advanced, some less. this will be fine for our purposes, though.

helpful hint: goodwill and other thrift stores are great places to scrounge parts.

you'll need:
a tea kettle
a medium sized thermos
a cork stopper that fits the kettle mouth(I used rubber, but cork is safer, use that.)
copper tubing
a pipe cutter
tubing couplers
a thermometer
various other tools and what not

okay, let's get down to business.

drill two holes in the stopper. one to fit the copper tubing, and one for the thermometer. i'm using a digital cooking thermometer with a wire probe, but analog thermometers will work as well.  drill the holes just a bit smaller than the tube and thermometer probe to make sure you have a tight fit.  you don't want any leaks.

the stopper will fit in the spout of the kettle a la the photo.  your tube should be out of the liquid to capture the vapors and your thermometer probe should be immersed in the water, but NOT touching the bottom or sides of the kettle.  the kettle will get hotter than the liquid and skew your results.  you only want the temperature of the liquid.

the copper tube should be long enough to connect to the condenser (attach a coupler on the end). ah, the condenser. on to thee!
zombiefire2 years ago
could you add some tags please cos i dont understand the pic's much
would it be safe or even work well to make a still using a glass or pyrex container instead of a steel or copper pot?
pdub77 (author)  madscientist1035 years ago
Much like distilling in a lab, pyrex containers work well. I've even used old conical coffee carafes that can be found on ebay and at thrift stores and garage sales. The have a smaller opening at the top than your average Mr. Coffee and therefore can accept a cork in the top rather easily.
Exactly, most glass coffee pots and such are borosilicate glass to withstand the heat.
Oh and also, when you are heating glass, thinner is generally better, as thermal expansion won't affect it nearly as much as thicker glass.
pdub77 (author)  pdub775 years ago
Oh, just make sure the glass can handle boiling temps. Pyrex is fine, carafes made for coffee are heat resistant as well.
You CANNOT use pyrex cookware. That is just a brand name of regular glass cookware. Pyrex Labware on the other hand will work fine. Same with kimax, duran, bomex, or anything that is borosilicate glass. You can tell by looking at the edges. Normal glass will have a green/blue tint, borosilicate should be perfectly clear.
pdub77 (author)  LiquidLightning3 years ago
Perhaps it is not the best option, but I have used non-lab glassware before and it worked for me. It did not break and I still have all of my digits.
kchawk463 years ago
what if your boiling temp goes past 174 and reaches 200 and holds there. Is something not right?
Boiling point of ethanol is 78.4C i think. Water is 100C. Ethanol/water mix is 78.2C. When it goes to 200F the ethanol has all boiled away.
be very careful when attempting this... i used a very similar setup except had a tea kettle with lid, and it blew its top spewing 200 degree mash all over my hand. very painful. i want to try it again but im not sure anything that i can put together will handle this much pressure.
pdub77 (author)  fredricksburgthethird3 years ago
There should not be any high pressure at all. If there is pressure building you have done something wrong or there is a blockage somewhere. I'm sorry about your hand, dude.
Schpool4 years ago
would ther be a difference in the set up when useing a tea kettle with a lid and spout vs. a tea kettle without a lid, but with a spout when boiling the wash?
iv066 years ago
i have a mini freezer that opens from the top, could i fill it with water drill holes in the sides and kind use it for the cooling device? seal up the holes so my water dont leak?
klaad3 iv065 years ago
yea that would work, i had a crappy little beer fridge. all u need is a bucket of cold water in the fridge and your copper tubeing in the bucket. dont flood the fridge it will probably make a huge mess, oh and dont forget to turn the fridge to the coldest you can get it otherwise it wont work
pdub77 (author)  iv066 years ago
Might work. I don't really know. I'm not sure a mini frige could keep up with the rapid heat transfer that will happen while distilling. Basically the water might get hot faster than the frige could cool it down. You'll just have to try. Sorry I can't help more. If you do it, let me know how it works and post some pics. =)
lakerboy116 years ago
does th stove produce consistant heat? does the dubber affect th temp reading on the thermometer?
pdub77 (author)  lakerboy116 years ago
I have talked about this a lot in the myriad of comments about this Instructable. Your heat source does not need to be consistent. If it did, how would early shiners produce their wares over wood fires? Check out my Instructable Distilling Basics. That may help a bit as well.

As I said in the instructable, you should use cork and not rubber. The rubber cork did not adversely effect my results, though, it's more about the corrosive effects of alcohol on rubber.
Radke226 years ago
Could I use a cork in place of a rubber stopper? Or something else? I don't know where to get a rubber stopper that fits. Help please.
Radke22 Radke226 years ago
oh ok thanks. I also have another question... Let's say (hypothetically of course) that I was going to consume the results. I have researched online this topic quite well and have read several warnings about methonal vs. ethonal alcohol and found that methonal is the stuff you don't want (blindness) so is there a way to rid the moonshine of the methonal? and how do I do that? Thanks.
pdub77 (author)  Radke226 years ago
Check out my instructable distilling basics. It will help you avoid methanol. The distillation process not only increases your alcohol percentage, but also allows you to separate out methanol and other dissolved liquids (it's really the same thing whether you're getting rid of water or methanol). Let me know if this explains it or if you need more help. Cheers.
pdub77 (author)  Radke226 years ago
yeah, we've been discussing rubber vs. cork in the comment thread. you're going to be better off using cork anyway.
what size of copper tubing would be best to use? what would be too small
pdub77 (author)  dschmidt14506 years ago
i used 1/4" and it worked great. i would not go any smaller than that. i was using a very small pot, though. with a pot bigger than i gallon, i would increase the size a bit. there is no need to go really big, though. as long as you strain out any solids you may have used in your wash there will be nothing to clog the tube. nothing over 1/2" would be necessary unless you get into a size that would send you to federal prison for a while. if you do that, you have bigger issues than the size tube you use. =)
rebelkid76 years ago
what tempurture does it have to be at to make metonal
tbarry21127 years ago
how long does this take not the making the kettle part but like the time it takes to run through the copper tubing?
boombam7 years ago
would aluminum piping work?
u tryin to go blind or poison ur self bro...........the pot HAS TO BE COPPER..!!
Copper is beneficial in the arm, condenser, etc. but not necessary. It simply reacts with the distillate to reduce bad flavors. Making the pot out of it is largely aesthetic. (it looks nicer when you have an all copper set-up) Blindness is the result of methanol, which is concentrated in the process with or without copper. Myths about moonshine blindness come from the days when moonshine was augmented with methanol, along with paint thinner, and many other nasty things. All you have to do is toss the first 100-200ml per 20l that comes off a pot still, and you've got less methanol than most store bought products. If you get a bad hangover/headache, it's largely because of methanol. Nicely home-distilled stuff is often superior in this regard.
NaTeB17 years ago
Your setup up is pretty proportionate did the ice do the job for the entire run? Was there any vapor coming out? I like the thermostat addition. You cant go blind from distilling small amounts Perhaps if you drank the entire forshots of the batch you would get a intense headache. In order to reach LD from meths in distilled spirits you would have to be distilling in the hundreds of gallons.