Introduction: Microstill

About: The microstill is a home appliance to prepare spirits. Design and software are freely avialable.

Build your own microstill and prepare spirits at home.

The microstill is a home appliance to prepare spirits. Design and software are freely avialable at microstill.net.

The bill of material can be found in the blog.

View the video to see the microstill running.

Step 1: Module Case

The case serves as stand and housing of the control unit and pump. Main component of the case is a electrical enclosure from ABS plastic. The enclosure is supplied with four screws and a rubber seal for the lid.

1. Insert the seal into the lid. Cut excess seal.

2. The lid will serve as stand. Put away the lid.

Turn the enclosure upside down. That will be the top of the case. Four holes need to be drilled into the top. See drawing for details.

3. Measure and mark the position of the four holes.

4. First two holes are 8 mm. I am using a lip and spur drill for that.

5. The third hole will be 16 mm, the last hole 25 mm. I am using an adjustable wood bit for that.

6. After drilling, clean the holes using a half-round rasp.

Next is the front of the case.

The holes for the switches need to be drilled.

7. Measure and mark the position of the four holes.

8. Drill the four holes of 16 mm. I am using an adjustable wood bit for that.

9. After drilling, clean the holes using a half-round rasp.

Next is the left side of the case.

Two holes for the cable glands need to be drilled.

10. Measure and mark the position of the four holes.

11. Drill the four holes of 16 mm. I am using an adjustable wood bit for that.

12. After drilling, clean the holes using a half-round rasp.

After drilling is completed, insert the cable glands.

Then install the pipe clamps.

The lager pipe clamp will be inside the case. It will be holding the pump later.

Inside and outside the case a fender washer will support the plastic.

On top a smaller pipe clamp will be holding the column pipe.

The third pipe clamp will be mounted in the hole to the right.

First, I mount the bolt with two fender washers and two hex nuts.

Then I mount the second pipe clamp on the top. It will be holding the cooler pipe.

Module 1, the case is complete!

Step 2: Module Piping

The piping is composed of two parts: Cooler and Column. Both are soldered from copper pipe and fittings. See drawing for parts list.

As solder I am using Sn97Cu3 lead-free solder, which is suitable for potable water. As solder flux I am using a solder (SN97Cu3) containing paste.

Start with the column.

1. Assemble pipes and fittings that are required for the column. Check all pieces are in place.

2. Apply the solder paste to all joins and assemble the column. Make sure all connections are aligned.

3. Solder the column. Let cool down.

Preparation for the cooler.

Heat exchanger -- inner pipe 12 mm.

4. Slide tee-piece and reducer on the 12 mm pipe. These will be soldered in step 10.

5. Apply the solder past and assemble pipe with the two reducers.

6. Solder the the two reducers to the inner pipe. Let cool down.

Heat exchanger -- outer pipe 18 mm.

7. Slide reducer and tee-piece (step 4) to the end of the 12 mm pipe.

8. Slide on the 18 mm pipe and the second tee-piece from the other end.

9. Slide on the reducer piece to close the outer shell of the cooler. While assembling add solder paste.

10. Solder the outer pipe. Let cool down.

Note: The reducer to close the outer pipe might have a little stopper at the inside. It needs to be removed using a file, in order to make it pass the smaller reducer.

The inlet pipe.

11. Assemble pipe, bow, and reducer applying solder past.

12. Solder. Let cool down.

The outlet pipe.

13. Assemble bow, pipe, and 45 degree bow applying solder past.

14. Solder. Let cool down.

The cooler.

15. Assemble the cooler from heat exchanger, inlet, and outlet pipe.

16. Add solder past to inlet fittings and outlet fittings.

17. Assemble the three pieces.

18. Solder. Let cool down.

After soldering excess flux and debris need to be removed. Submerge column and cooler in water (e.g. bucket) for one hour. Then carfully rinse with water. Leave to dry and polish the outside with a cloth.

Step 3: Module Pump

The module consists of pump and grounding cable (drawing).

1. Strip the insulation from the cores at a length of 5 mm.

2. Attach blade connectors to the 2-wire cables.

3. Connect 2-wire cable to the pump.

4. Attach ring connector to the ring terminal.

Step 4: Module Tubing

The tubing serves as connection of the different modules (drawing).

1. Prepare the tubing of the specified lenth.

2. Assemble the tubing according to the drawing.

3. Add hose clamps according to the drawing.

Step 5: Module Heater

The heater consists of a cardridge heater, 2-wire cable, and a thermal switch (120 C, normally closed) (drawing). The heater cardige is powered via the 2-wire cable. In case the temperature of the thermal switch is above 120 C, the switch opens and the heater is switched off.

1. Strip the insulation from the cores at a lenth of 5 mm.

2. Solder one wire of the thermal switch to one wire of the heater cardige.

3. Solder the other wire of the heater cardige to one wire of the cable.

4. Solder the other wire of the cable to the other wire of the thermal switch.

5. Cover the solder joints with schink tubing to insulate.

Step 6: Module Arduino

The Arduino module consists of the Arduino and a Arduino shield (drawing). The Arduino will be used as is. The preparation of module 6 focusses on the preparation of the shield. The purpose of the shield is to supply the sockets for the other modules. Via these socket the other modules connect to the Arduino.

A prototype shield serves as basis for the shield. See drawing for details of the connection.

1. Solder all sockets to the prototype shield.

2. Solder the resistor.

3. Solder all connections from pins to sockets.

4. Solder all conection from GND and 5V to sockets.

5. Test connections.

Step 7: Module Power Supply

The power supply serves two functions. First it receives electric power of the grid (110-240 VAC) and converts it to 5 VDC for the Arduino. Second two relays switch heater and pump. Relays and power converter come as module. The power supply is then mounting the modules on a PCB and connect them according to the drawing.

1. Unsolder screw terminals from the two relays modules and put them aside.

2. Solder control cable to relays modules

3. Solder pins to the other end of the cables, as shown in the drawings, and insulate using shrink tubing.

4. Mark pin one with permanent marker.

5. Solder relays modules to PCB.

6. Solder AC-DC converter to PCB.

7. Solder screw terminals to PCB.

8. Connect screw terminals, relays and converter as outlined in the drawings.

9. Solder USB cable to converter.

Step 8: Module Sensors

Two temperature sensors are prepared (drawing).

1. Prepare cables.

2. Solder pins to cables and insulate using shrink tubing.

3. Solder cables to temperature sensors, as shown in the drawings, and insulate using shrink tubing.

4. Mark pin one with permanent marker.

After having assembled the sensors you will need to read out the individual addresses of the sensors. Connect the Arduino (with shield) to first sensor and run the address program. Take down notes on each of the sensors. The specific address needs to be included in the microstill program.

Step 9: Module Buttons

Four buttons are required (drawing).

1. Prepare cables.

2. Solder pins to cables.

3. Solder cables to buttons, as shown in drawings, and insulate using shrink tubing.

4. Mark pin one with permanent marker.

Step 10: Assembly - Heater and Column

1. packing of column:

• loose packing with copper mesh along entire column. Make sure the mesh is distributed evenly from bottom to top.

• dense packing at the outlet. Insert copper mesh at outlet and firmly press into the ellbow.

2. mount the heater at the column:

• wrap the tin foil around the colum (2 turns).

• wrap the tin foil around column and heater cardige.

• wrap temperature switch under last turn tin foil.

• fix heater at the column using three hose clamps.

3. install column and cooler at the case.

4. install tubing at column and cooler:

• install elbow at the top to the column.

• install tubing between column and cooler.

Step 11: Assembly - Pump and Temperature Sensors

1. install pump:
• mount tube at the inlet of cooler.

• connect tube to the outlet of the pump.

• mount inlet tube to the pump.

• mount inlet tube to the cable gland.

• install pump in the pipe clamp.

2. install buttons:
• take the white button and remove the nut and fender from the thread. • pass wires throught the respective whole at the front of the case. • insert the button into the whole and fixate using fender and nut. • proceed with the other buttons.

3. install temperature sensors using copper wire:
• mount temperature sensor at the cooler. Choose a position at the side of the tee-piece.

• mount temperature sensor at the column. Choose a position opposite the heating cardige at the top of the tin foil wrap.

• pass the sensor wires throught the cable gland at the top of the case.

• pass the electric wire of the heater through the cable gland at the top of the case.

Step 12: Assembly - Arduino and Power Supply

8. install arduino:

• download arduino program and copy sensor address (step 8) into the code.

• upload program to the arduino.

• mount shield on arduino.

• connect buttons to shield.

• connect sensors to shield.

• connect power supply to shield and arduino board (2x relays and USB cable).

• install arduino in case.

9. install power supply:

• insert power cord to cable gland.

• connect power cord to power supply.

• connect pump to power supply.

• connect heater to power supply.

• install power supply in case.

10. Close case.



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    59 Discussions

    The ground is conntected to the pipe clamp. One needs to make sure that column and cooler are grounded.

    I understand how stills work but I am a little confused on this design. Why does the water come out the left pipe and the distillate come out the right?

    1 reply

    The two copper "pipes" are column (left) and cooler (right).

    The column will separate the alcohol vapour from the water. The vapour leaves the column at the top and enters the cooler.

    The cooler is a double-pipe heat exchanger. The vapours travels in the inner pipe, it cools down and re-liquifies. Alcohol leaving at the bottom. In the outer pipe, fresh wine/mash is pumped towards the column. The wine/mash takes up the heat, i.e. it is pre-heated for the distilation, at the same time it cooles down the alcohol vapour.

    Using the heat exchanger as cooler, no cooling water is required. In addition, energy is saved as the wine/mash is preheated. For details, please have a look at the blog.

    Really good job! Nice solder on the circuit board - and the copper. Thanks

    "packing with copper mesh"

    Watch out for those 'copper' scrub pads - take a magnet with you before buying one - or read the fine print!

    I've found shiny 'copper' pads dissolve into a pile of rust and shiny 'stainless steel' pads do the same.

    2 replies

    A good alternative to copper mesh is broken glass. Put a small screen on both ends of the pipe to keep the glass in.

    Yes ! And know that some of those cheap pads are aluminum , not at all what you want in your booze .


    9 months ago

    Keep your copper clean !

    My understanding is that it is the proteins in the mash, typically from grains, that result in fusel oil, ( the higher alcohols and esters that give you a head ache ). Therefore distilling wine with few proteins is safer than say, a whisky mash. Personally I would remove the first 5% of such a spirit, but don't throw it away, it makes a great way to light the barbeque and adds a unique flavour !

    You probably should look over the whole thing; part 1 starts using 'hole' which is correct and all of the remaining are 'whole' or 'wholes', which means a completely different thing. The word 'relais' is also new to me, do you mean 'relays'?

    It is not so bad to have spelling differences if we can figure out the meaning, but it appears some are corrected, while others are not.

    This is a very well done instructable - you obviously put a lot of work into it. I agree with some of the other comments regarding using it in the US, although some of that is a bit overblown. The dangers of drinking the product are as bad as making the stuff without knowing what is coming through. But using a distiller is illegal, but you will not be bothered unless you use it to make a product to sell to someone else. And I doubt that you would be very happy with wine made this way - yuk!

    The major gain from your instructable is to fold in the use of the Arduino - that makes it worthwhile all by itself.

    7 replies

    1. Thanks for your compliments and corrections. I did update the instructable accordingly and highly appreciate these suggestion. The instrutable should to be clear and concise.

    2. The microstill is to make whisky or brandy from wash or wine, respectively. To make the wash/wine is covered elsewhere. Still, I am planning on building a fermenter (the next Arduino project). The fermenter would constantly produce wash that is feeding into the microstill.

    3. Actually this is my first Arduino project. I love that thing!

    Wow to 3.! You have a good start then with this one. I'm sure many will be looking forward to it with me.

    Using the ingredients for wine and running them through this process does not produce wine. Wine is a fermentation, not a distillate. and you're right...YUK! However, wine can be run through this process (or something similar) to produce other products. Cognac being one example.

    I had not thought of that particular use, but then I don't even know how to pronounce 'Cognac'. That is French, is it not? Better be careful, the PC police are out and about.

    Cognac is only Cognac if it's coming from Cognac in France. Everything else is brandy.

    My guess is that you are correct about that he wanted us to infer that use (I didn't know about that), although he doesn't say, it is not really part of the instructable either.

    But one could take wine made in the fermentation process and 'fortify' it with alcohol, too. I think that it would ruin the wine's taste.

    I read it carefully and immediately understood that it was not written by a native speaker of English but that didn't matter. As a native speaker myself, it was easy for me to make allowances and work out what was intended. I decided not to make a dick of myself by correcting the author's English, and that turned out to be the correct decision.

    A good job is a good job.

    Well done.

    In Oz you can have a 5ltr still which will produce 700ml of alcohol. Also if you dont treat the finished product with active charcoal you are crazy.