Homemade alcohol still

Updated February 21, 2017

Making a homemade alcohol still is not difficult. According to the website, the simplest type of alcohol still is the pot still. This basic system will produce a liquid that is between 40 and 60 per cent alcohol. A reflux still uses a series of pot stills to further purify the alcohol products. A more complex still, the fractioning still, separates the alcohol and water in the distillate and returns the water to the pot, resulting in alcohol that is up to 95% pure.

The heat source

Every homemade alcohol still requires a heat source to warm fermented liquid until it begins to vaporise. This heat source could be a wood flame, if you plan on watching the distillation process carefully, the old-fashioned way. However, a natural gas or propane burner is more reliable and easier to use. In some installations, an electric heat source could work to heat the pot. The best heat source in your situation depends on what is available in the location where you are building your still.

The pot

The pot is the covered container that holds fermented liquids and solids. The exact contents of this material, known as the mash, will vary depending on the type of alcohol you are making. Mount the pot over the heat source to heat the mash to the boiling point of alcohol, or 78.3 degrees Celsius. This temperature must remain below the boiling point of water (100 degrees C) so that the alcohol in the mash will vaporise but the water content will stay in the pot. Therefore, many home distillers find it handy to fit a temperature gauge into the pot.

The condenser

The condenser is usually a coiled metal tube inserted through a small hole in the cover of the pot. As the alcohol vapour rises above the hot mash, it escapes through the condenser tube. The vapour cools and condenses back into a liquid as it travels through the tube. This liquid then drips into a holding container. If you wish, you can distil it again to purify the product and increase its alcohol content.

Fermenting mashes

The mash is the combination of fermented materials that you place in the pot to be distilled. The composition of your mash will depend on how you plan to use the alcohol. If you are distilling alcohol for a fuel, you can use old newspapers, wood, corn stalks and other discarded organic materials. Alcohol distilled from these ingredients is toxic and should not be consumed. Alcohol for human consumption is made from grains like corn, wheat or barley, or sugar products like molasses.

Legality of home distilling

In some countries, such as New Zealand, liquor production laws allow for home distillation of spirits for personal consumption. Home alcohol stills require special applications and the filing of regular reports, and they are subject to excise taxes and inspections. For the law concerning stills in the UK see the following article:

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About the Author

Although he grew up in Latin America, Mr. Ma is a writer based in Denver. He has been writing since 1987 and has written for NPR, AP, Boeing, Ford New Holland, Microsoft, RAHCO International, Umax Data Systems and other manufacturers in Taiwan. He studied creative writing at Mankato State University in Minnesota. He speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese, English and reads Spanish.