Builing Plans for Pot Stills

Regarding using pressure cookers, Jack cautions ...
I've used them- I hate them. The pressure release valves ALWAYS leak (fire hazard, and damned wasteful), thay always come coated in some impossible-to-remove grease, the places to mount the thermometer is always guaranteed to give false readings (either high or low, never the same twice). They are expensive, heavy, the aluminum model pits to easy, and the steel is to expensive (with the same problems except pitting of the metal). Don't bother. Get a small keg or 5 gallon drum that's stainless and food grade- I've seen them for from $20 to $40US. Or get a milk can (US$100) expensive, but attractive.

Below is a diagram of Harold B's pot still. Very cheap and easy to make. Harold suggests that you should adjust the heat so that the lower end of the condensor can be touched. The reason for this is that you can see water vapour if things are too hot, but you can't see the alcohol vapour.

Another great simple design is Geoffs..

Walter describes his pot stills ... "Volodia's Samohonka 1&2"
Inspired by folk stills in Jamaica and East Africa made from 44gal drums, (see "Alcohol in East Africa. 1850-1999" - www.dur.ac.uk/History/web/distillhist.htm) I made an urban version using:

  • Pot : 5gal (20 L) open top paint container.(These can be ordered in new from some proprietary paint chain outlets/paint trade oulets, or get some free from painting contractors and clean them with paint stripper/turpentine (I have done this before I found a source for $AUS15 ($US7.50) "Ameron" coatings makes a heavy gauge container for their industrial coatings. The parent company is in the U.S. The paint company "Solver" in Australia can get unused containers through their chain of shops. Container manufactures sell them quite cheaply but only in lots of 50 (I enquired). Cleaning free empties is not too difficult. and helps to recycle them. I know a local owner of a paint store who recycles them into kid's rubbish bins with appropriate designs on them - why not something more useful!
  • Outlet arm - 1.5m of 10mm (3/8in) soft copper tube, bent to form a "lyne arm",up 200 vertically & then 600 long inclined upwards (to get some reflux) and then down 700 vertically. The 10mm soft copper tube is easily bent without flattening - use salt inside the tube to help prevent this, standard grommet for plastic beer fermenters, or improvise using cut sections of synthetic wine corks glued to both sides( they close in well).
  • A 500 long Leibig condenser over the 700 copper tube section out of plastic T sections (2 x 19mm/13mm (3/4in,1/2in) barbed PVC Tees) & 500 length of 19mm (3/4 in) plastic tube, clamps, silicone or epoxy resin, plastic glue.

  • Rubber grommets (as for plastic fermenters)
  • Plastic tubing - standard 13mm (3/4in) plastic tubing with plastic tap to hose connector, 10mm tubing for distillate (this fits on the 10mm (3/8in) copper tube), and for the water outlet from bucket to sink.
  • Gas flame diffuser mat or bain marie (water bath) to get even heating.
  • Thermometer -digital or mercury to measure pot vapor temp. Stop distilling at 91C (196F).
  • Thumper/Doubler - 10 L (21/2gal) paint container, with rubber grommets for copper tubing.

  • Worm condenser variant - 20L (5gal) plastic bucket or cut down container, coiled copper tubing, grommets.

No welding - just glue, silicone, clamps. All this is sitable for most kitchen stoves and sinks. Obviously this is an introductory still for the beginner.Paint tins are not heavily coated. Kept dry it should last years - rust remover will extend this.

I forgot to mention Safety aspects important as we don't want kitchens going up in flames! I switch the exhaust fan on to take away any stray fumes, even though the ring clamp is air-tight. I made the lyne arm quite long for partial reflux and to take it away from the stove. The distillate outlet tube goes down to the floor, well away from the stove. An electric stove might be safer, although apparently slower.

MooNShiNeR describes his 75 gallon pot-still, doubler and shotgun condenser below. See Moonshine Still Photos for a couple of photos of it.
I use a medium sized (75 gal) pot still with a doubler/thumper (5 gal) and a shotgun condenser for my purposes. I also utilize a 20 gallon outfit with a 1 gallon doubler and a worm condenser mainly for running smaller batches and epecially for running backings or low wines to "up" the proof quickly.

I use copper sheets soldered with silver solder to build most of my components. Shotgun condenser made from of an old, antique copper fire extiguisher. Cut both the ends off and sand everything inside and out. Clean it to the "eat off of it" stage. Cold water enters the shotgun condenser from the bottom and exits the top to force the hot water out and this always keeps the bottom part of the condenser way-cool.A shotgun condenser is basically a condenser with a water jacket too cool the steam and it has dozens of 3/8" copper line that the steam goes through. It's kinda hard to explain. Where the steam goes through looks like the business end of a gatlin gun. Bore two holes in the jacket about 3" from each end and solder a brass hose copper garden hose connector in it, top and bottom. On the one you use for the bottom, you will put a spigot used to regulate the amount of cool water coming into the condenser. On the top one you'll attach a garden hose and lay it out where the hot water can drain off the top of the condenser. Two copper sheet circles are cut and clamped together and numerous holes drilled through them. The circles are placed inside the copper jacket and spot soldered.(silver) in place with a few pieces of the 3/8" line in to keep things lined up good. The lines are cut about 4" shorter than the jacket. Start putting the lines in and soldering them in place and solder the circles in good, top and bottom.

On the first run, you'll be able to tell if you have any leaks or not. you can fix them if it does.

Make a tight fitting cap for the top to be sealed/pasted on with corn meal and water. The bottom does not require a tight fit at all. It is just there to collect the alcohol as it comes through and then out to the jug/bucket. With a shotgun condenser, you can fire the still as hard as you want to and you'll have no problem with it not keeping up. That's why people who do volume like them so much.

A. Nonimus suggests ..
First off - most homemade potstills in the U.S. are made out of 20 litre pressure cookers (they have all the fittings you need including pressure release safety valves)- If this is in fact what is planned, you MUST remember to NOT PERMANANTLY MODIFY THE PRESSURE COOKER IN ANY WAY -(remember, 3/8" copper tubing makes a nice coil, and fits the outlets on most stills!) if the law gets news about you running your own still- they can (with a warrant- not hard to get anymore, I'm afraid) raid your place, if they find a pressure cooker with a bunch of copper tubing attached to it, and holes drilled in it that are homemade- they will have the evidence needed to take you to jail for running a still. IF the pressure cooker is always returned to it's original state (normal fittings and weights) after you distill with it, and if you put your condensor next to some beer making supplies (or, rather mash making supplies- same thing)- when (if) the cops show up, they find a normal (unaltered) pressure cooker and something you will swear up and down is a wort chiller for the making of beer. If no moonshine is found- they have absolutely no case against you.

Second - The average 20litre pressure cooker can be set inside a large stockpot (the 30 quart or larger models, just measure the cooker, and go out shopping for a cheap canning pot big enough to hold it easily). By placing 2 pieces of wood, pipe, etc. accross the top of the canning pot, the handles on the pressure cooker will sit on these cross pieces- this will keep the bottom of the pressure cooker off of the bottom of the canner. Fill the large tub with water and then fill the pressure cooker/potstill with your mash and cook with a nice even heat (if using gas this reduces the fire hazard as well- now the alcohol isn't in direct contact with the metal touching the flame). This allows you to distill mash that has a lot of solids (the more gentle heat helps prevent sticking and burning), it also allows you to do something else while warming everything up- Just put the water on to boil, and put the canner in after the heat is where you want it- better temp control- and unlike the still- you don't have to watch the water heat up (unless you are bored out of your mind)- just make sure the potstill body isn't touching the metal of the large stockpot (The "jacket")- there you go- a homemade steam heated still!

Toms potstill ..The boiler is a 2.5 gallon soda canister. I heat it by securing it in a pot of boiling water, and run it like a double boiler. It works great!

  • Note, this tea kettle still is frequently talked about on the internet. IT IS DANERIOUS, and produces very little POOR quality spirits. DO NOT use these plans!!!
  • Dangerous Laboratories Tea Kettle plans: http://www.dangerouslaboratories.org/moon1.html

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