Saturday, October 22, 2011

Stainless Steel Vs. Copper Moonshine Stills

Stainless Steel Vs. Copper Moonshine Stills
One of the first issues many people who are new to home distilling struggle with is what type of material should their still be constructed with. Moonshine stills are only safely constructed with one of two materials, copper or stainless steel, both of which have their advantages and disadvantages.Stainless steel has the advantage of being extremely strong and durable as well as being relatively easy to clean (especially when polished). It is less expensive than copper and because it's considerably stronger, a thinner gauge can be used thereby resulting in a significantly lower overall cost.

The problem with stainless is that it's a poor conductor of heat. This is not so much of a problem when heat is applied directly to the distillation boiler, but presents problems in any still where you are looking for naturally generated reflux as the steam vapors rise through the distillation column. Stainless also contributes nothing to the breakdown of esters and sulfuric compounds which is essential when producing high quality spirits.

There are several manufacturers who build all stainless steel small scale stills, but they typically concentrate their efforts on forced reflux designs that produce high proof tasteless alcohol. This is the only way they can avoid most of the foul tastes resulting from the absence of any chemical catalysis during the distillation process.

Copper is the traditional material used in both commercial and home stills and for good reason:

  • Copper catalyses the breakdown of esters and sulfuric compounds in the steam vapors. These volatile compounds are produced during the fermentation process and are highly undesirable in the distilled spirit.
  • Copper avoids the production of ethyl carbamate which is a toxic substance formed from cyanides. These are nasty chemicals you don't want in your homemade spirits.
  • Copper improves the quality of the final product when the mash is not biologically perfect.
  • Copper improves the aroma of the final product.
  • Copper is a great conductor of heat. This allows for good natural reflux production in a still column as well as very efficient condensers.

  • It would seem that copper would be the ideal material for the entire still and that would be true if cost were not a concern. The problem with copper is that it must be rather thick and therefore costs are driven up beyond the budgets of most hobby distillers. We would not use a copper dome less than 16 gauge or a copper pot less than 12 gauge on home stills up to 15 gallons (60 quarts) in useable capacity. Larger stills would require even thicker copper.

    There are a couple of manufacturers who produce small scale all copper stills. One down in Arkansas literally builds artwork but his prices are very high and the gauge of material is thinner than we would use on comparable sized stills. There is another in Indiana who builds stills of material so thin we wonder how they can even get them shipped to a destination without damage. Material costs simply prevent a good option for an all copper hobby sized still.

    We therefore have combined the use of these two materials to produce moonshine stills that are the best combination of functionality, durability and cost. Our stainless pots are durable, easy to clean and economical. Our still designs incorporate an all copper construction to maximize steam vapor contact in order to achieve the full chemical reaction that copper provides. We think you will agree that our moonshine stills for sale are the best option available for the home distiller.

    If you would like to learn more about our copper stills for sale or making moonshine at home, visit us at hillbillystills.com.