A copper still can be built with readily available and inexpensive supplies and tools. The still is comprised of three parts; a pressure cooker (copper or other material) to heat the liquid, and copper tubing to condense water vapours. The copper tubing is inserted into the third part, a pail of ice and cold water to cool and trap the alcoholic vapours. Although distillation is at heart a simple process, there are infinite recipes for creating home distilled spirits. Trial and error may be required to hit on a winning recipe.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Pressure cooker
- Eight millimetre copper tubing, 3 metres (10 feet)
- Plastic bucket
- Brewing cork
- Ice or cold water
- Empty bottle
- Wine, beer or "wash" to distil
Assemble the items needed to build a still as per the list. While it is possible to use a a copper clad pressure cooker, it may be cheaper to buy an aluminium or ceramic pressure cooker. The pressure cooker should have a seal around the lid to prevent vapours from escaping. Be sure to get a pressure cooker with an exhaust vent, in which a brewing cork will be inserted.
The copper tube must be formed into a coil that will fit into the bucket. Wrap the tube around a cylinder shaped object small enough to fit into the bucket. A large can, jar or pot that will fit into the bucket will do. Once the copper tube is coiled, remove it from the cylindrical object and set it aside. Leave a length of copper tube about a foot at the bottom of the coil, and several feet at the top of the coil.
The top end of the coil will connect to the pressure cooker. A brewing cork can be fitted with the top end of the copper tube. Push the copper tubing a 1.25 cm (half inch) into the cork. The cork must be then secured in the exhaust vent of the pressure cooker.
The bottom end of the coil will drain the resulting distilled liquid into a waiting bottle. Drill a hole near the bottom of the plastic bucket. Place the coil in the bucket and run the extra length of tube at the lower end of the coil through the hole in the bucket. Use a bit of Blu-tack to seal the tube to the bucket. Fill the bucket first with ice, then with cold water.
To use the copper still, put wine, beer or distiller's wash into the pressure cooker and bring to a boil. The distilled liquid will emerge from the bottom end of the copper tube where it emerges from the plastic bucket. For example, two bottles of wine could be distilled to produce a beverage with an alcoholic content more akin to brandy.
How to build a copper still
Tips and warnings
- The wash used by professional distillers to make whiskey has a look and taste similar to beer, so distilling beer may make a good first distillation project.
- Distilling alcoholic spirits may be illegal.
- Drinking distilled alcohol may be harmful.
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