Picking and Selecting a Home Still Kit
Home distilling is the process of the brewing or distilling of alcohol such as beer, run, bourbon whiskey and many others on a reduced scale for your personal use and not for commercial purposes. You will need to have a home still kit to be able to perform this distillation which allows you to be creative and experiment with your own recipes and concoction which is quite exciting and challenging at the same time.
Many people choose to distill their own alcohol for a variety of reasons but for the most part it is mainly due to the cost involved as brewing your own alcohol is definitely cheaper that buying commercial equivalent alcohol. Apart from the initial layout cost of the home still kit, the running costs are quite low which mainly consists of the ingredients, water and heat. Still after considering all these, it is still way cheaper than buying ready commercially brewed liqueur in the store. In addition, home distilling provides you the flexibility of coming up with your own creative recipes to get that special taste that is not commercially available in the market.
History Of Home Distilling
I’m a big fan of Boardwalk Empire. You remember that show on cable? Boardwalk Empire traces the career of an American gangster during the prohibition.
The interesting thing about America’s flirtation with alcohol prohibition is that instead of cutting down on alcohol intake and alcoholism in the United States, it actually made the problem worse. Also, it created a lot of crime.
If you think drug lords and drug dealers kill each other and cause a lot of mayhem now, you haven’t seen anything compared to the gangland killings of the 1920’s and early 30’s. It was crazy.
Since alcohol was illegal in the United States, bootleggers, interestingly enough, the patriarch of the Kennedy clan was a bootlegger, made fortunes. That’s how a lot of family money was made in that part of American history. Prohibition exploded crime, caused a lot of problems, and also laid the family fortunes that fueled the rise of many American political families.
Thankfully, the days of alcohol prohibition are long past us. But there is a rising nostalgia in the United States and elsewhere for the thrill of distilling your own hard liquor or spirits.
During the days of prohibition, American producers really only had two options. Either they import booze from Canada (and this largely explained the rise of the Seagram’s fortune) or they made their own alcohol using their own home still kit. The latter was called moonshine.
Now, moonshine did not originate during prohibition, but it blew up during that time. It became really popular because as long as you know what you are doing, you can create alcohol. Just as many places in the United States feature people setting up methamphetamine labs in their home, as long as you have access to the right ingredients, you can make high grade alcohol.
Legality Of Using A Home Still Kit
The good news is, a home still kit is no longer illegal in this day and age. Long gone are the days of federal agents busting into homes to confiscate your home still kits and moonshine stills.
Distilling alcohol at home is no longer a source of legal problems if you do it on a small scale. However, if you are interested in creating your own whiskey, gin or even vodka, you might want to think twice. This is quite a big undertaking that you are going to be taking on.
Understand that distilling alcohol at home is no joke. You have to know what you’re doing and you have to have the right equipment. If either of these are missing, you either would have an explosion on your hands, or you would have a really nasty product. Neither of these situations is good.
So do yourself a big favor and invest in the right knowledge. The good news is that you only need to check out YouTube as well as download pdf’s that are public domain on the internet to get a good enough understanding of how the distillation process works.
With that said, you also should not take for granted the importance of the right equipment. While it is technically possible to distill hard liquor using pots and pans, your yield is probably going to be fairly low and the quality might suffer. Do yourself a big favor and buy the right home still kit to maximize your efficiency. Read HERE for some recommendations of a good home still kit.
You probably have better things to do than slaving over a kitchen watching fermented mash boil to get liquids that you are going to distill. That takes quite a bit of attention to detail because a lot of that stuff is going to escape if you do not use the right equipment.
If you haven’t gone on a distillery tour, I suggest you do it. You don’t have to do it physically. You can watch a YouTube video, but you need to see how a typically distillery is set up. It is not a casual operation. There’s a lot of thinking that went into putting together the right floor plan as well as buying the right type of equipment because distilling high quality alcohol efficiently is serious business.
With that said, keep in mind on the following factors.
Setting Up a 5-Gallon Moonshine Still
A 5-gallon still is fairly easy to set up if you buy a home distilling kit. A 5-gallon output is actually not all that big. So, accordingly, you can buy kits from the internet to piece together multiple pots that can distill up to 5 gallons of hard liquor.
Order a Copper Still Kit
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced veteran, I would suggest that you order a copper steel kit. Not only does it look nostalgic, but it also does a great job of efficiently distilling whatever fermented mash you’re processing. There’s a reason why a lot of historical distilleries use mostly copper or all copper equipment. Copper is chemically well positioned to perform at peak levels when distilling and cooling processed liquids.
There are Lots Of Home Still Kits On The market
Complicating all of this is the fact that there are lots of moonshine kits on the market. You might be thinking that if you’ve seen one of these distillation kits, you’ve pretty much seen them all. Well, there is some truth to that because it’s kind of like the blues.
When you listen to a blues jam, you’ve pretty much listened to all the blues because there’s a tight range of melodic variation the blues have to work with. In fact, you’re not listening to the blues if it doesn’t have this fairly tight and formulaic melodic variation.
Despite the seeming rigidity, however, you can tell who’s a great blues musician from a lousy one. The same applies to moonshine still kits. The kits look fairly similar, but their operations can produce massive differences in work product.
So you have to pay attention to these small details because while you’re working with the same general template or general form, the way you use it, the timing, as well as your mash and the design peculiarities or idiosyncrasies of the specific kit you’re using may play a tremendous role in the actual quality of the liquid you end up with.
How to Pick the Right Home Still Kit
Personally, I would pay attention to the following factors when trying to pick the very best home still kit
First, I would look at the amount of space I have in the home or the garage that I’m going to be distilling alcohol in. This is crucial. You don’t want to buy something that is so small that you sacrifice yield. You want a home still kit that fits your designated space.
The second thing I would look at is the volume that I’m looking for. Unless you are thinking of making your own version of Jim Beam or Jack Daniels, I would suggest that you keep everything low and slow. In other words, focus on low volume, slowly feel your way around the distillation process, and work on quality. Once you have mastered quality, then you can scale up.
Third, I would pay attention to the particular chemical and temperature needs of the fermented mash I will be processing. Believe me, there’s a big difference between processing and distilling whisky from vodka.
There are different considerations involved and the bottom line is the taste will be affected. Keep an eagle focus on taste. Understand the common expectations revolving around your expected work product and trace back from there. That’s how you can determine the particular equipment specifications of the home still kit you should buy.
Make no mistake about it, a DIY moonshine still is a lot of fun intellectually. There are a lot of things that are fun and awesome intellectually, but when you actually have to do it and put everything together, you get a completely different picture.
So do yourself a big favor and make sure that you have a clear understanding of what you need a home distillation setup for. Once you have a laser focus on the work product, you can then trace back to the specific set of equipment you would need to produce great quality product for you, your family and your friends time and time again.
Simple Alcohol Distillation Process Chart
Recipes To Make RUM And BOURBON
Below is a good recipe that is recommended by Moonshine Still Pro
home still kit RECIPES
Distilling spirits is as much the art of preparing the fermented wash to distill as it is the actual distilling. These recipes were prepared so that the beginning distiller can have early success in producing quality spirits. These recipes are for 5 gallons of fermented wash and the ingredients can be adjusted proportionally for greater or lesser quantities. You will need a stock pot and a fermentation vessel large enough for the batch you wish to produce. Equipment used for home brewing beer is typical.
Rum is usually the spirit first recommended to the new distiller. It is the easiest to produce with ingredients locally available to everyone. Rum is the distilled fermentation of molasses. Molasses is the by product of refining sugar cane into white granulated sugar. Molasses still contains sugar ranging from 40% sugar content in blackstrap molasses to as high as 55% in light table molasses. While it can be argued that the best rum comes from a fermentation of pure table molasses and water, the quantity of molasses required for such becomes very expensive for the hobby distiller. Brown sugar is white sugar with a coating of molasses (use only “Cane” sugar, if the package doesn’t say “Cane Sugar” then it is beet sugar). Brown sugar (use the dark variety) can produce very tasty rum at far less expense than using pure molasses. Be aware that we are using two pounds of brown sugar per gallon. If you have access to reasonable cost unsulphered table molasses the recipe could be altered to substitute two 12 oz jars of molasses per pound of the sugar. Do not use more than three 12 oz jars of molasses per gallon as the osmotic pressure due to the density of molasses will be too high for fermentation. One could also use a combination of white granulated sugar and table molasses (say 10 jars of molasses and 5 pounds of white sugar).
10 lbs of pure cane dark brown sugar
4 gallons (approximate) of prepared water (see other distilling information)
1 sacket of Rum Yeast (for substitution see other distilling information)
Heat 2 to 3 gallons of the water to boiling in a large stock pot then reduce heat. Dissolve the brown sugar and/or molasses in the water. Hold temp above 165F for 10 minutes to kill bacteria. Pour the sugar water into your fermentation vessel. Top off with cool water to a total volume of 5 gallons. Let cool to 80 F. Sprinkle yeast across surface, allow to stand for 15 – 20 minutes and then gently stir in. Ferment for 5 to 7 days (as long as fermentation continues). Siphon into your still boiler keeping as much of the yeast sediment from entering the still as possible. Distill per still instructions. Age for 30 days at distilled strength shaking once a day. Dilute with aerated distilled water to 80 proof. Enjoy!
EASY BOURBON RECIPE
4 lbs corn meal (grocery store grade)
3.3 lb can of unhopped malt extract syrup (from any homebrew shop)
8 lbs of pure cane sugar (if it doesn’t say “cane” then it is beet sugar)
1 packet (4g) of alpha amylase enzyme
1 sacket Whisky Yeast w/AG (the amyloglucosidase is important for max yield)
12 toasted oak chips (for aging)
Heat 2 to 3 gallons (3 will be easier to stir than 2) of the water to approximately 200 F (just shy of boiling) then reduce heat. Slowly pour in the corn meal while stirring. Continue to cook and stir until corn is fully gelatinized (10-15 minutes). Dissolve the sugar and the malt syrup in the corn meal/water porridge. Turn off heat and allow to cool to 165F. Stir in the alpha amylase enzyme. Allow to rest for 1 hour. Pour the mash into your fermentation vessel. Top off with cold (chlorine free) aerated water to just over 5 gallons (approx. a quart over). Let cool to <85 F. Sprinkle room temperature whiskey yeast across top of mash. Wait 15-20 minutes until yeast has rehydrated then stir in gently. Cover and ferment at 75-80F until fermentation is completed (4-7 days). Strain mash into the still boiler using a large straining bag or clean white pillow case. Distill per instructions provided with the still. Age at distilled strength with the oak chips for 30 days or longer shaking once daily. Strain off oak chips and dilute with aerated distilled water to 80 proof. Enjoy!
OTHER INFORMATION FOR PREPARING A WASH
The quality of your water is important to making good spirits. The water should be clean, chlorine free (chlorine can kill yeast), ideally have some calcium content (but devoid of iron content) and be approximately 5.5 to 6 on a PH scale (just slightly acid).
PH can be measured and adjusted with supplies purchased from a homebrew shop. If you want to proceed without actually measuring the PH most municipal water supplies and bottled store water have a neutral PH of 7 to 8. Add ¼ tsp of lemon juice per gallon and then your water will likely be in the ballpark. Calcium content can be increased by adding 1/8 tsp of gypsum per gallon. Aeration can be accomplished by filling a sealable container half full with your water and shaking it vigorously for 60 seconds. Aeration can also be done with an aquarium air pump used with new clean tubing and a new clean bubbler stone. Pump bubbles through your wash or mash for 20 minutes.
Different yeasts can be used successfully. Bread yeast does work but it will die at a lower alcohol percentage than distilling yeast strains and settles out poorly. Inconsistent results using bread yeast are due to the fact that all brands and types within each brand are different and bread yeast manufacturers never reveal which yeast strain they are using. Bread yeast will require added nutrients to complete a proper fermentation. Turbo yeasts already include the nutrients (no additional nutrients required) that are required for fermentation and can be used with most any type of spirit. Specific turbo yeasts designed with the right nutrients for the application (whiskey, vodka, rum, etc.) are perhaps the easiest and most foolproof to use. Generic distillers yeast (DADY) works well in grain mashes and in particular for the production of ethanol fuel. It requires added nutrients in sugar type mashes. Wine yeast is often obtainable rather economically (try Lalvin EC-118) and will also require added nutrients in sugar washes. Wine yeasts are sold in small sackets so you will need one for every 2 gallons of wash. Homebrew beer yeasts can be used for grain mashes but they are typically not used very often for distilling purposes as they are generally limited to lower alcohol fermentations and typically develop flavor profiles which do not suit many types of spirits. For yeast nutrients you will need something that includes both vitamins/minerals and DAP (diammonium phosphate) or buy the two separately. If nothing else is available to you can add a small can of tomato paste and throw a few raisins into your wash to add nutrients. Grain mashes typically require less added nutrients as the grain supplies them.
Yeast works in a very narrow temperature range. Most all yeasts will die at high temperatures (above 85 F) and work very slowly (if at all) at low temperatures (below 65 F). Keep your ferment around normal room temperature (72 to 78 F) for optimum results. Be aware that the fermentation process itself generates some heat particularly with large batches. It may be necessary to keep your fermentation vessel in a cooler place than your desired temperature especially for the first few days.
Complete fermentation can take from 3 days to two weeks depending on the ingredients, the yeast being used, and the temperature of the fermentation. Rigorous fermentation will be obvious during the 2nd and 3rd days after tossing your yeast but will become much more subtle after that. The best way to tell when fermentation has ceased is to use a fermentation vessel with an air lock. That way you will see when the air lock stops bubbling entirely. Generally speaking it is OK to leave a wash sealed in the fermentation vessel for a few days if needed before you distill.
Recommendations Of A Good Home Distilling Kit
If you are just starting out, you may not have an idea what to buy or which distilling kit is suitable for your needs. We take you through some of the more highly rated home still kit that many users have found to be satisfactory and hope you can make an informed choice when it comes to your turn in buying one for yourself.
1) OLizee 8 Gal Stainless Steel Water Alcohol Distiller Copper Tube 30L Moonshine Still Spirits Boiler Home Brewing Kit with Thumper Keg
Olizee is an Amazon based vendor that sells home still kit and other kitchen and household appliances such as water filters and baby walkers. They have a good reputation among buyers of their products because of their quality. Let’s look at some of the features of the Olizee home still kit below: –
- All stainless steel construction and welding technique – avoid any health problems associated with copper and solder constructed stills
- Multifunction – can be used for distilling fruit wine, distilling water, purifying water, distilling brandy,etc
- Thumper keg – new thumper, perfect for adding flavors to your product! use any fruits or flavoring
- Independent airway design – allows the distillate to rise faster and delivery a higher purity
- ONE Year Warranty! Package Included: 1* Distiller(parts complete)
Other Product Description And Specifications
- Size:8 Gal
- Boiler volume: 8Gal/30L
- Boiler diameter(Inside): 36cm/14.2″
- Boiler height: 36cm/14.2″
- Cooling pot diameter(Inside): 20cm/7.8″
- Cooling pot height: 13cm/5.1″
- Cooling copper pipe length: 160cm/63″
- Silicone hoses length: 90cm/35.4″
- Net weight: 5.08kg
- Boiler material: Stainless steel
- Cooling pipes material: Red copper
- 1x Stainless steel boiler with 4 clamp and thermometer
- 1x Thumper keg
- 1x Air valve(for fermentation use)
- 2x 90cm silicone hoses
- Copper cooler with stainless steel cup and copper pipe
- English Instruction(include recipes)The best way to gauge whether a product is good or otherwise is listen to what actual users have to say about them. These comments are very frank and accurate as these users have actually used the product themselves instead of hearsay. For example, this user have this to say: –
A Good Starter Still
For what it is, this is a good stovetop still. It takes some twiddling to make it work well, though.
First, this is a lower grade stainless that does work fine with an induction plate. That way there is no problem with open flame sources. I used a Duxtop induction burner with it and it did very well. The kettle and lid are a thin gauge stainless. Mine sealed perfectly although I needed to hand bend one of the clips just a very small amount to make it hold well. It doesn’t take a lot of pressure to seal. If things get bent, I expect it will be difficult to impossible to get it to seal properly again, so be careful with the thin metal.
The condenser is a bit problematic. The hole for the drain is too high up in the pot – half an inch lower and it would be far better for having more coils immersed.. And, since the pot has straight sides, the drain goes straight out – i.e. almost level. That can make for a liquid trap which will create back pressure and make your condensate sputter out instead of dribble in a nice stream. It took some bending and tweaking and also holding the condenser pot at a slight angle to ensure that there was a constant downward flow. I have a slight leak of the cooling water around the exit which I will seal with a bit of silicone.
The thermometer is terrible and not accurate enough to be of much use. It goes 0 to 200C with markings each 4C. That’s about 7F between the markings – not enough to make decisions on. I will be replacing the thermometer. The thumper needs a screen to disperse the bubbles more effectively. Would be nice if it were included, not hard to add one. If you can get a copper screen, even better! You can also use the thumper as a slobber pot or a gin steamer.
The flexible hoses are screw connectors. It is tempting to use a wrench to tighten them, but I found that hand tightening works better and does not destroy the soft gaskets. A few extra gaskets are included if you do destroy or lose a couple. I had zero leaks in the system as long as all the gaskets were in place and hand tightened. My first trial I did have a leak – but a gasket had fallen out before I put things together.
There are no adapters to a faucet. You could use an ice water bucket and a recirculating pump or go to a hardware store and/or waterbed store to make a faucet adapter. I tweaked one from a waterbed filling adapter and a barbed nipple. As an alternative, you can cap the bottom water connector and run the top connector to your sink and just keep pouring ice and water into the condenser cooler. If you aren’t running the still with too much heat, this works fine, although it’s labor intensive.
The positives are that it runs fine after a bit of tweaking. Keep the heat down and all of the vapor will be condensed with no smell. For the person who answered my comment with a note about not using it inside, I have not had any problems with smell, but I run it slowly so that there is no “steam” escaping, just condensed liquid. The big copper tube coming up provides a tiny amount of reflux action to help increase purity. When you’re done, everything fits inside the big pot so it is relatively easy to store. Overall, I’m pretty happy with this despite the tweaks that were necessary.
But this guy below seemed to be less than thrilled about this home distilling kit
Assembly Manual Poorly Written
The assembly manual is poorly written I have 2 rubber hose 1 copper tub and 1 coil tub left over on the assembly the company has no contact phone need more info on assembly.
As such it is always to read through all the reviews HERE before deciding on your purchase.
Home Distilling Journey
If you want to read an exciting home distilling journey, the following article which appears on Home Brew Academy details the reader’s journey into the world of home distilling. In the article he notes that whether it be distillation of alcohol, or distillation of water, petroleum, or fragrances, it’s all basically the same concept.
With scotch whisky, you in a sense have “concentrated beer”. The part that is concentrated is the ethanol, but the base favor is the same base flavor that is in the beer.
It seems he has been homebrewing for about 8 years and have been home distilling for about 5. He got into home distilling because he really enjoy single-malt scotch. You know, the REALLY peaty, smokey, kick-you-in-the-face kind from Islay.
He further adds ” A few years after taking up homebrewing I got to thinking: “Scotch is pretty much distilled beer, just without the specialty malt and hops. I make my own beer, so why can’t I make my own scotch style whisky???”
Then I realized I can… and I WILL!
I read up on the process, constructed a still out of an old Sierra Nevada keg and some various sizes of copper tubing, and was ready to rock ‘n’ roll. In the the first batch I distilled, I made a test wash out of 25lbs of sugar and turbo yeast. Sugar is cheaper than barley and if I was going to fuck something up, I wouldn’t be out as much money with the sugar wash.
Everything was filled and hooked up. I sat down, cut on the propane burner, turned on the water for the water jacket, and waited…watching the column temperature like a hawk. After what seemed like forever, the temperature FINALLY got to where it was supposed to start doing something.
But just as he was about to give up halfway through, he noted that clear liquid started slowly dripping from the collection tube of the still into the glass collection jar. So he just sat back and watched the stuff slowly drip drip drip and begin to fill up the jar.
He then began to realize that this process really worked. to read further into his journey, you can go HERE