Introduction: Making a Relatively Cheap Still (for Distilling Water(for EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY!))

Picture of Making a Relatively Cheap Still (for Distilling Water(for EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY!))

Let's get started learning what distilling is:

1. Purify (a liquid) by vaporizing it, then condensing it by cooling the vapor, and collecting the resulting liquid.
2. Make (something, esp. liquor or an essence) in this way.

Distillation is the method of separating a mixture into its component parts by use of the difference in their boiling points. It normally involves heating the mixture to a temperature at some point just over the boiling point of one, but well below the boiling point of the other. This makes the first one boil off, where it can be collected or discarded, and leaves the other in the original container. The method is often used in oil refinery (fractional distillation is used to split out the different compounds in crude oil) and in liquor and alcoholic beverage creation (to adjust the alcohol content).

Distillation is the one way to clean and purify most water (killing water borne pathogens and even removing most salt from the water). 

LAWS: Within the United States, it is ILLEGAL to distill any kind of alcohol without a license.
1. this is for informational purposes only and should not be used for illegal activities.
2. DO NOT use an open flame if distilling alcohol. The vapors are HIGHLY flammable. Doing so can result in a huge fire ball!

Here is my disclaimer: What you choose to use this still for is your own doing, and by doing so I will NOT be held liable for anything that happens, or if your busted by the law. I assume NO liability at all.  (in other words don't blame me for your bad decisions!) 

Lets get started...

Supplies you will need:
- 5 Gallon bucket
- 20 or more feet of 1/4 inch (or size of your choosing. 1/4 inch seems to work best) copper pipe
- Compression fitting for your copper pipe 
- 1 gallon metal (plastic lined) paint can (can find them at homedepot for around 5 bucks)
- Thermometer
- JB weld
- 5 minute epoxy
- sandpaper 
- wireties

(I hope i haven't missed anything)

I greatly apologize for not showing it being built step by step. I had this made and thought "Damn, should have made a instructable!"

I hope this tutorial will show you somewhat what mine looks like and you'll be able to base your design off of it.

Good luck!

Step 1: Making Your "pot"

Picture of Making Your "pot"

Drill a hole just big enough to let the thermometer slide in. pull it out and rough up the can around the hole a little with the sand paper. put down some JB weld, slide the thermometer back in, and apply a little more to make sure it's sealed up good and tight

The jb weld will ensure that there are no leaks.

Note: While your at the step, drill a hole to allow the compression fitting to fit into it nice and SNUG!

Step 2: Create Your Condenser

Picture of Create Your Condenser

With your copper tubing and your bucket, begin by drilling on the side, at the very bottom (just big enough for a snug fit around the tubing) pull about 6 or so inches through the hole and begin to spiral the tubing around the inside (try to maintain a constant downward slope). 

Tilt the "spout" downward as well

Rough up the plastic and copper a little where it exits the bucket and use your "5 Minute Epoxy" to seal the hole. 

You may find it necessary to drill a hole and wire tie the tubing and spot to hold it steady and secure, wherever you drill, rough it up, and use some epoxy to seal it!

Step 3: Let It All Dry

let all the epoxy dry and setup. (approx 1 day)

Nows a good time to take a break!

Step 4: Connect It All, and Begin Distilling

Picture of Connect It All, and Begin Distilling

Im wrapping this tutorial up for now as i can no longer feel my fingers, or my hands for that matter.

Fill the "pot" with what every liquid you want to distill (water), fill the condenser bucket with water (you can add some ice as well). 

begin heating it up and distilling.

Whatever you are distilling you will need to research the temperatures to use. 

REMEMBER: I assume NO responsibility for what you choose to use this still for.. What you use it for is based on your own decision.

Note: I recommend only distilling water.

Note: I will edit and add onto this tutorial as needed. but for now I hope this help get some folks headed in the right direction into the magical world of science! :P


pikhovede (author)2015-02-21

If you want to make a real still, here you go :

david.roseman (author)2015-01-27

Are you crazy? Use a PLASTIC lined paint bucket????? yes, let's heat up plastic in a hot solvent based liquid. Also, how is JB-Weld safe for being in a hot alcohol vapor? Do you know how many chemicals will be dissolving off JB Weld into the vapor path, and into your spirit?

Use ONLY COPPER and S/S in all vapor and liquid areas!!!! Anything else can leach unknown chemicals into your final spirit!

Omg.....It;s like you are trying to kill people with this.

Ole Lucky (author)2015-01-01

#1. When making a still use as much Copper in the construction of it, at least the condenser needs to be copper.

#2. Never bring your still to the boiling point! 212° you will ruin the final product, never take it over 150°.
Keep your temperature between 130°and 140° but for better results try 110 or 115°. bring your temp up slowly.

#3. When your run starts dump the first pint or so out. This is Methanol it is poison it can kill you!

#4. Alcohol boils at 170° it starts evaporating at 100°. Water boils at 212° and starts evaporating around 110°. See where I'm going with this?

#5. Think about this.... Water starts freezing at 30°f. Alcohol freezes at -170°f.
You don't need a still to make good drinkable Alcohol. Put your fermented brew in plastic gallon jugs with the tops off in a freezer overnight. Then turn them upside down on quart sized canning jars.
the Alcohol will start running out within a few minutes. If you made good Must or Wort you should get about 3/4 of a quart of about 80 proof liquor out of a gallon. This is Called "Jacking" In the olden days they used this to make Apple Jack.
But you can with any fermented liquid. Plus there isn't any Methanol to worry about.

david.roseman (author)Ole Lucky2015-01-27

Please explain how freeze distilling has no methanol, despite being a fruit based wash, which has the MOST amount of methanol in it?

Second, the methanol amount is dependent on what the wash is. Sugar and grain washes have the least, fruits, and especially apples have the most. Distilling it, you should be dumping the heads due to ALL the nasties in it, which btw is not that much methanol. Tails (the ending bad tasting spirit) also has a good amount of methanol.

Heat input is a concern, and should be a constant source, you should NOT control the wash temp, because that means you are changing the input heat. If that is varied, then you do not have a clean run. Monitor the vapor temp, or better yet, use a spirit hydrometer.

taylooooor (author)2012-04-29

One VERY IMPORTANT thing that should be mentioned: if anyone should choose to distill alcohol using a setup like this, do not use a gas burner, and keep away from any open flames--the alcohol vapor that you will be condensing is incredibly flammable, and any source of ignition could cause a giant fireball. Many bootleggers have the scars to show for it--if they were lucky enough to get by with just burns.

vidarnorway (author)taylooooor2012-04-30

My advice is to use OPEN flame,, because it preventing large vapor build up,,, if any leak it burn up instead of building up to a big explosion,, i use a electric heater but keeping a burning candle near,, to prevent any accident,,, any vapor is burning out before it get to the point of any danger,,,, this is tested and well known method in Scandinavia ,,and Eastern Europe,,,,,,,, also copper pipe should be avoided,,, it can be poison,,, in fact it is more poison when its used whit warm alcohol

TylerTsero (author)vidarnorway2012-04-30

Copper has been used for MANY MANY years. infact it's one metal that was found to be non reactive when used in a still application. all major breweries (I.E. Heineken) use all copper setups.

Sergei- (author)TylerTsero2012-05-22

beer is not distilled

Sergei- (author)Sergei-2012-05-22

im sure they use stainless

TylerTsero (author)Sergei-2012-05-24

They use copper because of it's conduction capabilities. Stainless is far much harder to heat & keep at a specific temp.

Best of luck,

Sergei- (author)TylerTsero2012-06-12

Not sure about what country you are in but there is no way they can get away with brewing beer here in australia brewing in copper because of the standards they have to use stainless to eliminate contaminents wich develope over time with copper and there is no need to use copper because of its conductive purposes becase if you have a temp cotrolled area it will do just fine and if you leave it in a copper boiler you will ger copper caroisin in your beer

Wyattr55123 (author)Sergei-2012-07-14

You are correct in that beer brewers use stainless, but spirits and whiskeys use copper pipes. Look at the pipes in houses. They are copper. The solder is non-toxic, and the system is safe.

Sergei- (author)Wyattr551232012-07-23


I didnt say distillers don't or can't use copper because copper is the only thing that will get rid of the egg smell from the product only brewers shouldn't use it

The distillers need copper somewhere in it not the brewers because of the boiling of dead yeast gives of a rotten egg smell you can not carbon filter of easy or at all

Wyattr55123 (author)Sergei-2012-08-03

I merely said that major breweries use stainless as much as possible, and actually the yeast is not boiled, the yeast is at a yeast friendly temperature during fermentation and is filtered out with the hops, flavor additives and anything else in the beer

Sergei- (author)Wyattr551232012-08-18


Your talking about brewers when i was talking about distilers big difference
When people are talking about distillers they mean places like jim bean etc when people talk about brewers they talk about companies that make beer cider etx

Thats right brewers dont boil/distill the yeast of they filter it or decide to make a pale ale with the live yeast still inside thats the 2 ways you get the fiz

TylerTsero (author)Sergei-2012-05-24

Not distilled but brewed. Theres a difference of boiling, and brewing. But shows that when working with alcohol, copper is the choice metal.

vidarnorway (author)TylerTsero2012-04-30

Copper is not legal to use in Norway,,,,in any breweries any more,,,, you can see copper boilers,, but thy are all covered inside,,,,

what thy use is stainless steel ,,,,, copper is its most poison when its new,,,but will be reactive for many years,,,,, also hot water boilers have not copper any more for same reason

TylerTsero (author)vidarnorway2012-05-01

Copper is the traditional material used in commercial still construction and for good reason:
Copper catalyses the breakdown of esters and sulphuric compounds in the steam vapors. These volatile compounds are produced during the fermentation process and are highly undesirable in the distilled spirit.
Copper avoids the production of ethylcarbamat which is a toxic substance formed from cyanides. Again these are nasty chemicals you don't want in beverage spirits.
Copper improves the quality of the final product when the mash is not biologically perfect.
Copper improves the aroma of the final product.
Copper is a great conductor of heat. This allows for good natural reflux production in a still column as well as very efficient condensers.

I mcan't seem to find anything about copper being posiousnous

backlash (author)TylerTsero2012-06-06

Not to be a nag, but comming from first hand experience of a product made of some mash in said still. copper is safe to use when maintained properly. that being said, stainless steel is a better option. the taste of the end result is dramatically improved by the lack of impurities from the stainless. i promise im not talking out my rear end, the beverage lacks its normal bitter flavor while maintaining that kick. hope this helps.

sconner1 (author)TylerTsero2012-05-02

Pure copper isn't poisonous. But nothing in nature is pure.
It's copper compounds like sulfates that are poisonous.
But when it comes to stills, the mistake is that people use lead/tin solder to connect and seal copper parts together. The lead leeches into the liquids.

TylerTsero (author)vidarnorway2012-05-01

I have been researching quite alot about copper and stills. From what i can find, copper is the SAFEST metal to use. Copper SULFATE (when copper corrodes, it's the green stuff thats copper sulfate, before each run a good still runner will clean his still) is poisonous. Copper indeed is the BEST way to go, with a little maintenance, copper will leave no trace flavors. just requires cleaning..


blkhawk (author)vidarnorway2012-05-05

I believe that you are mistaken, copper is not toxic. What is toxic is the solder used to weld copper pipes. Sometimes the acidity of water might react with the solder.

Wyattr55123 (author)taylooooor2012-07-14

Bootleggers transport the whiskey. Moonshiners make it.

Skymeat (author)taylooooor2012-04-29

False again. A setup like this will produce at most a fraction of a cup of flammable distillates. It's a great proof of concept, but you're not going to see a fireball from this thing.

A first run of mash, beer, wine etc...will likely net you 30% abv in a simple pot still like this with part of a cup of total flammable material. Nothing to worry about.

Most home stills that run today are propane fired. it's very safe. Proper precautions should be taken. Don't smoke and have a fire extinguisher. It's not like you're cooking explosives.

If you want to make spirits make a still, or buy one. It's not hard or expensive. Just make sure you use appropriate material. The basic idea is concentrating something. So if you use the wrong material you are concentrating poison.

Thundermoon99 (author)2012-07-28

Class Class stop it this is for educational purposes only B| :)

Sergei- (author)2012-05-22

Looks like any other basic way to distill but i woulld use a stainless pot because your boiling alcohol to vapour not just water the copper is ok but needs to be cleand with something first then run the first batch with steam through it before useing for the first time

You need the copper to get rid of the egg smell without it you will be in trouble if you want to drink it and i would replace thee plastic bucket with a metal one because it can get hot\t


sleepy120 (author)2012-05-01

I only distill water...... bum wink wink

wschruba (author)2012-04-28

You *can* brew alcohol in the USA (I believe the limit is 50 liters or gallons a year, non-commercial). You *cannot* sell it. Laws may be different in your area, but a great many homebrew shops would be out of business if this were true.

NightFire (author)wschruba2012-04-29

The US allows for brewing, which includes beer and wine, it does not allow for distilling spirits and has some very harsh punishments. Simply owning a still without a permit is enough to convict you.

Permits are difficult and expensive to get. There are exemptions also, you can make fuel with your still, but expect to be inspected often, without notice and have your product tested every time, to make sure it's been poisoned.

Skymeat (author)NightFire2012-04-29

False. You can own a still. That is not a crime anywhere in the US. It's what you do with it that is a crime. Don't spread false info.

It's like walking into your local headshop and asking for a bong. That's illegal. Walk into your local brewing store and ask for a water distillation apparatus. That's perfectly fine.

NightFire (author)Skymeat2012-04-30

If you read my own response to this I amended what I said. However, it is illegal to own a still without applying for a permit unless you can prove it's solely used for water or essential oils or is a display piece.

If the still has EVER been used for alcohol, it will have remnants that the BATF will be able to find. Which makes owning antique display pieces dangerous as well.

I had a permit for a still to make fuel, I was inspected every 6 months.

Skymeat (author)NightFire2012-04-30

It is perfectly legal to own. It becomes illegal if you use it in a manner inconsistent with the law. The operative word in the last sentence is you.

Still manufactures in the US are required to turn over all sales records as well at the request of the BATF. That still doesn't make it illegal to own. A used still is perfectly legal as well whatever it was used for. That said, never use a used still unless you know every inch of the construction and the actual materials used. Lead free parts look just like leaded parts and lead filled parts are way cheaper.

So while it's perfectly legal to own the sales slip you signed may be turned in. Just be smart out there.

NightFire (author)NightFire2012-04-29

You can get away with having a still without a permit and without notifying the govt if it is used exclusively for distilling essences, water, etc.

Skymeat (author)wschruba2012-04-29

The only COUNTRY on the PLANET where home distillation is LEGAL is New Zealand. And that is only for small home shops without resale.

That said the laws regarding distilling in your part of earth vary from petty crime, tax crime, execution...

Breaking the speed limit is illegal too.

Planet Vegan (author)wschruba2012-04-29

Fermenting alcohol and distilling it are two different processes and, while the former is perfectly legal, the latter is not (in North America). Probably one of the main reasons is that, if done incorrectly, with sub-grade equipment, or without a keen eye to safety, one could very easily end up with methanol in their brew (which is an optic nerve poison, ie, it'll make you go blind), or with a fire on their hands. Oh, and of course the government isn't too keen on the fact that they can't tax it. That having been said, I've had many a home distilled moonshine (mostly in Europe) so as long as you know what you're doing, you can end up with some mighty tasty stuff. :P

TylerTsero (author)wschruba2012-04-29

Sadly this is false. I wish it wasn't though

"Spirits -
You cannot produce spirits for beverage purposes without paying taxes and without prior approval of paperwork to operate a distilled spirits plant. [See 26 U.S.C. 5601 & 5602 for some of the criminal penalties.] There are numerous requirements that must be met that make it impractical to produce spirits for personal or beverage use. Some of these requirements are paying excise tax, filing an extensive application, filing a bond, providing adequate equipment to measure spirits, providing suitable tanks and pipelines, providing a separate building (other than a dwelling) and maintaining detailed records, and filing reports. All of these requirements are listed in 27 CFR Part 19."

Best of luck,

TylerTsero (author)TylerTsero2012-04-29

Let me rephrase my last comment. Brewing and distilling in most cases are very very different. But distilling is in fact illegal in the USA :/

loki7714 (author)2012-04-29

Do not use this to distill alcohol if you decide to build it. The plastic lining of the can will leech toxins into the gaseous alcohol vapors!

vidarnorway (author)loki77142012-04-30

food grade plastics of politylen type is no danger,,,,, its new method in Scandinavia whit low temperature stills,, whit no piping the hole still is plastics only ( food grade) am shore its a indestructible somewhere how to build it,,, the copper pipe is the danger in the method mention in this indestructible

TylerTsero (author)loki77142012-04-29

It's food grade epoxy coating. same stuff as used in food/beverage manufacturing.

But as the 'structable says, it's ment for use with water only :)

best of luck,

loki7714 (author)TylerTsero2012-04-29

It's probably safe for water distillation, but there are only 4 materials that I know of that are non reactive when exposed to heated alcohol vapors and those are PTFE (teflon tape), glass, stainless steel, and copper.

xephonics (author)loki77142012-04-29

Also clear silcones (i.e. aquarium sealant) are non-reactive to alcohol vapors. But do not use the ones that are mold resistant, as they have other chemicals which are not considered safe.

Lady122GA (author)TylerTsero2012-04-29

those empty paint cans (ones never used for paint) are lined with epoxy phenolic, which makes them safe for food and pharmaceutical use.

Hope that helps to clear up any confusion.

manuka (author)2012-04-30

Yes- DIY "moonshine" making is indeed totally LEGAL here in New Zealand. It's really no big deal.

As there's a great brewing & distilling supplies outfit just along the road from me, I hereby offer my offshore brewing,distilling & tasting services- PayPal accepted!

HWACK (author)2012-04-29

For any "quantity" you will need also a water in-feed & drain for the green bucket. Because the condensing water it will get very hot and lose it's condensing capacity.

TylerTsero (author)HWACK2012-04-29

WIth a bucket filled with ice, and then water, it has no problem with doing a 1 gallon run. you could get about 5 or so runs from it.

jimakiva (author)2012-04-29

If you distill alchohol, be careful what pressure cooker sealing ring is made of---rubber will give an unfortunately bad flavor---no rubber and very definitely no galvanized metal should be used in a distillation reg.

Foxtrot70 (author)jimakiva2012-04-29

AH, I forgot about the rubber gasket. A possible seal to be used probably a clean sterilized white cotton rope type packing. Some leakage i.e. steam would occur but not so much as to hinder the overall effort.

sturmey (author)2012-04-28

instead of starting from scratch for a pot, check your local thrift store for a pressure cooker. The already seal the lid to the pot, and some of them have threaded fittings which will make your connections easier.

TylerTsero (author)sturmey2012-04-28

I thought of doing this way. had a old pressure cooker laying around but the weight is what got me. Was trying to keep the weight down as to make it very light, and easy for camping or something.

But for a more secure and safer still for a stove top use (for those who want to distill liquids of THEIR choosing), the pressure cooker is a better choice :)

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