Garbage Bag + Rice Cooker = Alcohol Still





Introduction: Garbage Bag + Rice Cooker = Alcohol Still

About: Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of, manufacturers of "3D Printer" output devices. His detailed drawings of traditional Pacific...

A still has two parts, a boiler and a condenser.

A rice cooker/warmer makes a great boiler.
It's got a rubber gasket so all the steam goes out the vent. It's insulated so all the heat goes into the mash.

A plastic garbage bag makes a great condenser.
It's got lots of surface area, cooling and condensing the vapor very quickly.
In my experiments it didn't need to be vented and hardly puffed up at all.

I tested my still by distilling a gallon of "rice wine for cooking" which has salt added to it to keep people from using it as a beverage. I put the bag in a tub to keep it from rolling off the table when it got heavy, and in case the bag leaked.

The whole system works great!
Finally I was able to use up that gallon of salty wine, which I inherited from a friend who moved back to China.

Step 1: Rice Cooker Modification

My rice cooker is a National/Panasonic cooker/warmer.

I pulled that perforated metal cup out of the cooker's steam vent.
I found a chunk of tubing the right size and inserted it into the steam vent.
Then I bunched up the end of the garbage bag and put it over the open end of the tube and tied it tight with a strip of bicycle innertube. The alcohol steam goes into the bag and condenses back to liquid there.

There's an aluminum baffle disk in the lid that keeps bubbles from going out the vent.
If you use a fermented mash that doesn't make bubbles you can remove the baffle and get more steam.

Don't wait too long to shut off your still. Do it by feel, by putting the bag on a scale to see if it's got as much alcohol as you think it should in it, or by putting a thermometer in the steam vent. You can poke the thermometer in through the side of the bag and just leave it there. When the steam temperature starts climbing higher than 176 fahrenheit (78C)you're getting water vapor. You're done.
Unless you're on a desert island and are distilling fresh water from salt.

If you leave your still running unattended , or if you put your friends in charge which is the same thing, you'll get lousy booze from it. It will keep boiling away long after there's no alcohol left in the mash. Eventually it'll boil the pot dry, start scorching the residue, and shut itself off.
When you get back you'll have a bag full of scorched booze that's too weak to be its own painkiller.

Step 2: Rubber Glove CO2 Trap

Here's my "fermentation vessel".
Just a regular five gallon jug that drinking water comes in.
A rubber glove is held over the neck of the jug with rubber bands.
The CO2 from fermentation puffs up the glove.
The rubber bands should be just tight enough to hold it on there.
If the glove overinflates the gas should leak out around the wrist of the glove.
I put the glass head over the glove because I didn't know where else to put it.
Also it sends the artistic message "This stuff messes with your brain".

A balloon or even a plastic bag works just as well as a vapor trap but doesn't look nearly as cool.
You could also go to a brewer's supply store and buy vapor traps, but then you wouldn't be reading instructables. Please read a beer brewing book especially about the hazards. Many people are killed by bad homebrews containing botulism etc., so you do need to follow certain sterilization procedures.

The jug contains Kombucha - this photo is from an experiment to make Kombucha with a higher alcohol content. It ended up not tasting as good as the regular stuff, but the fermenter worked great.



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    72 Discussions

    Beware, using this technique you are unable to filter out the first 50 ml of your alcohol (referred to as "heads") which contains huge levels of methanol and other toxins which can cause blindness and the like.

    2 replies

    There's always methanol present after fermentation, no matter what. That includes the two Fat Tire beers I just drank. Somehow they didn't kill me, so why would the heads kill me if I left them mixed in after distilling those two beers?

    Use an airlock from a legitimate source, not a cork for the love of all that is boozy. Also I don't Know where many of Y'all get your information on toxcicity of homebrews and distilations. But , like 90% percent of y'all are wrong. I suggest ya just nut up and read something REAL. The smart ones do. Like the compleat distiller, or the alaskan bootleggers bible. Happy boozin'.....

    1 reply

    As long as you use edible foods for your mash, distillation should produce perfectly drinkable results (not accounting for taste) . Poisons can be made if non consumable materials are used in the mash (such as sawdust, antifreeze, or other chemicals). Another potential source of distillation related poisons is the materials used to make the apparatus - Lead-based solders, for instance, are not a good idea. Certainly, producing your own 'fortified' drinks from cheap wines, etc should be perfectly safe. Having said that, I might be concerned about chemicals leaching from a plastic bag condenser.

    9 replies

    This is the only thread I've seen that has a realistic discussion of ethanol and methanol, so I'll throw in my $.02. I can say from experience that the more methanol you can remove, the more pleasant you will be the following morning. I started distillation with a one gallon jug and an electric teakettle, and finished with an industrial operation and reflux still that could produce 195 proof alcohol.

    All fermentation causes methanol to be created, pectin makes the situation worse.

    The purest ethanol flat out doesn't give me a hangover. The rest does.

    I've used a plastic bag condenser before. It works, but it's inconvenient. Everything you need for a better setup can be had for $5 from a hardware store.

     The BLACK plastic bag container is made from (yeah I know originally petroleum!) from the recycled recycled and recycled again plastic waste normally flying about  at your friendly garbage dump / landfill....and thats the reason it is deliberately coloured   Black would look sickening if they tried any other colour that reflected more light. The black it absorbs light making it   decent enough for your garbage. It was made for it isn't their problem if you use it to distill BOOZE!
    Now where I live in Asia  we have "rag" pickers....... the poorest of the poorest of the poor  who collect & then  wash plastic bags/ bits of all colours shapes and  thickness that they might find at the garbage dumps, gutters etc.The  water used is what they can get free (normally open drains and gutters),pack them into neat bundles and sell them to the "recycle" man who collects truckloads and delivers it to the manufacturer.... Voila  Black Garbage bag in neat packs of 50's and 100's. The bottom of the recycle chain! 

    I found this gas can in my basement- washed it out with amonia... then water. once i thought it was totally clean I poured water, sugar, and yeast once it was filled... i smelled it and I can kinda smelled a light gas oder. should i dump it?

    You should dump it without a doubt. Never make anything intended for consumption with anything less than food grade containers.

    Even if you start with edible grains or fruits, you can still get methanol. Most of the online articles I've seen advise "throwing away the heads", dumping the first 25% or so of the distillate. Since methanol boils lower than ethanol, this gets rid of most of the bad stuff.

    Not the first 25%.. Typically the first 5-10% is considered 'foreshots' and should be discarded.. The next 15-20% is usually called 'heads'.. It typically has alot of flavor/body.. The next 40-50% is called 'hearts'.. That is the purest portion.. Really the only thing vodka makers would want to deal with.. And anything worth collecting after that is called 'tails'.. Depending on what you're making, you typically mix in various proportions of heads, hearts, and tails, then toss the remainders into the next batch, and likely redistill your proper mix, and do separations again... As for methanol, the vast majority does come over in the foreshots.. Recipes that use ingredients with alot of cellulose/pectins will produce more than things like sugar/molasses (which hardly produce ANY at all).. Actually pretty much anything you distill would be safe if you didn't separate the phases.. Essentially that wouldn't be much different than drinking the undistilled wash.. A few ounces of pure foreshots on the other hand could be bad!

    The treatment for methanol poisoning is ethanol.  It seems that drinking both ethanol and methanol would cancel out any methanol risks.  I think people discard it because it affects the taste and hangover.  Here is a link to a site with some interesting info

    A 10% ethanol solution administered intravenously is a safe and effective antidote for severe methanol poisoning. Ethanol therapy is recommended when plasma methanol concentrations are higher than 20 mg per dl, when ingested doses are greater than 30 ml and when there is evidence of acidosis or visual abnormalities in cases of suspected methanol poisoning.

    The bag is probably HDPE, which is kind of safe but using a thick PP bag would be a better idea.

    Sheesh, what ever happened to putting apple cider in a bottle with some yeast and opening it once in a while to let it vent? Ha ha, I'd like to know how to do this stuff, but it seems too complicated to me.

    4 replies

    LOL that's basic brewing for things like wine and beer. What they're talking about here is more advanced stuff--think brandy, whiskey, etc. I want to do this too, but my boyfriend has specifically instructed me not to blow up the house. *grin*

    The only real hazard that comes with distilling is the fire/explosion hazard. 100 proof (which this still would need to distill 2x to achieve) is the point at which alcohol will burn on a solid surface. If it catches fire, you can put it out with water, it isn't like a grease fire where you need dry chemical or CO2. However, if vapors are escaping as opposed to being condensed and collected, there could be an explosion hazard, but it's very, very unlikely.

    it is actually very easy to brew 7-10 proof alcohol. all you need is probably in your kitchen already (exempting a very basic understanding of chemistry). try putting some PURE apple juice in a glass bottle with a stick of cinnemon, some whole cloves, and a dash of nutmeg (if youlike). then just add a few granules of any old yeast to it, cork it and seal with wax, and put it in a warm dark place for 5-7 days. mighgt be better once distilled but you dont need to bother with that.

    sealing this is not a good idea. there needs to be a way for the CO2 to vent which is produced when yeast break down the sugars into alcohol. otherwise you can have a build up of CO2 in the bottle which can either present issues for taste or the production. also I'd imagine you might blow the cork. try a one way valve. I did not want to buy one so I drilled a whole in a screw on cap, put a tube into it, then made a loop in the tube and added water into the tube but just enough to create a seal. then as CO2 moves through the tubing it pushes through the water but just like in your toilet no gases, namely O2, can get back into your beverage.