Whether you are just starting to brew moonshine at home, or already have a lot of experience in creating fun recipes for moonshine, safety is still a very important factor to keep in mind. If not done carefully, making moonshine can have unintended consequences. Here are 5 safety tips that you should always keep in mind:
1. Use only high quality moonshine stills
At Hillbilly Stills, we make it our highest priority to use only the highest quality materials to make a still. Stills are made primarily from two materials, copper and stainless steel. One can make stills from old sheet metals or scraps from a bigger project but it should always be made with high quality copper, or stainless steel, and soldered without lead. It is important that you thoroughly research the still you are buying and invest only in the best one you can afford.
2. Set up distillation outside
When you buy a new still, be sure to first read the safety instructions carefully. It will most likely tell you to set up your still outside to keep small accidents from turning into big accidents. Distilling outside also makes it less likely that your still’s outlet is not blocked which can lead to excessive pressures.
Bonus Tip: Keep the fire extinguisher within reach at all times.
3. Save the celebrating until after you’ve finished your batch.
When you are making moonshine, you need to be fully alert and be close to the set up. Making moonshine is an experiment as you are always trying out new recipes and accidents can happen if the experiment goes wrong. You should always be nearby and sober so that you are 100% aware of your surroundings to make quick decisions and minimize risks.
4. Run regular maintenance checks
Not only should you invest in high quality moonshine equipment, you should also take efforts to maintain it. Cracks and leaks can be dangerous because escaping alcohol vapors can lead to explosions. At the very least you run the risk of leaking expensive alcohol (that’s called alcohol abuse where I come from). Most commonly folks run a batch of water through the pot still to detect any leaks. We recommend quickly running alcohol instead as water will promote corrosion, the green junk that forms on copper. Usually you can seal the leak by soldering a piece of metal or applying a flour paste. You could also talk to your still manufacturer to get the best solution for repairing your still.
5. Experiment with care & talk to the experts
Making moonshine is a fun science experiment. You try out various recipes to figure out the best tastes to your liking. However, you’ll want to be sure to throw away the first bit of your run, also known as foreshots. Make sure you have the right quantity and quality of ingredients. If not sure, ask others, or ask on the Hillbilly Stills Facebook page. The moonshiner community is very helpful and is always willing to share their experiences.
Did you recently buy your very first stainless steel still or a copper pot still?
We highly recommend you clean your new still thoroughly before brewing your first batch of moonshine to remove residues from the manufacturing process. Inevitably, as we’re building the still, there are instances where weld material, debris, and other chemicals cam make their way into the still, and that’s the last thing you’ll want in your first batch.
It’s also important to clean and maintain your still – whether it’s copper or stainless steel – after each run, so we’ve included helpful tips on how to clean your just used still below as well.
As manufacturers of high quality copper pot stills and stainless steel distillers, we always are trying to educate our customers on the best way to perfectly clean your moonshine still to ensure a long life of producing the finest quality product with each batch.
When you get the new still be sure to wash the exterior and all parts outside of the still. One of the advantages of owning a stainless moonshine still is that it is very easy to clean when compared to a copper still. No matter which type of still you have, we’ve got some great cleaning tips to follow below.
Here are some recommendations how to clean your new still:
Cleaning a Stainless Steel Still
Luckily for stainless steel still (that’s a mouthful, right?) owners, your product is designed so that it’s extremely easy to clean. It may not conduct heat as evenly as a copper still, but you’ll certainly save some time in the cleaning process. Before your first run, you’ll want to ensure that your still is free of any debris, residue chemicals, and nice and sanitized. Follow the tips below to make sure your stainless steel still is ready for use:
- Use warm water and any dish soap you would use for your own pots and pans
- Make a solution of 1 tablespoon of 3% caustic soda (Sodium Hydroxide) and 2 liters of water (recommended temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit) and use that solution to rinse the still.
- Common white vinegar is also a great cleaning agent for your still.
- Do NOT use any bleach.
After you run a batch of moonshine, you’ll also want to make sure that your still is properly cleaned from the mash and still vapor. That can be easily done with a pair of oven mits, some clean water, and a still scrubbing brush. We recommend that you clean you still at the end of EACH run to make sure it’s safe and ready to use.
Cleaning a Copper Moonshine Still
So you’re playing with the big boys, huh? Congrats on the copper still. If it was manufactured by us, you’ve got yourself a high quality product that is designed to consistently produce top notch hooch. Home distillers like copper stills because they evenly conduct and control heat – better than stainless steel – but they present a problem in the cleaning process. In order to make sure your still is ready for its very first run, you’ll want to follow the following steps:
- Mix 1 tablespoon salt with 1 cup vinegar to make a paste and apply to outside of the copper still to remove any tarnish. Add flour to thicken the paste. Rinse with water after 30 minutes. Repeat the process if necessary
- Combine ketchup, lemon juice and cream of tartar (optional) to make a paste and clean the outside of the still. Rinse with water.
Once you have cleaned up the outside, you should do your first batch run which cleans the inside of the still and removed any flux. A common first run method includes making a solution by mixing equal parts of vinegar and water that is one-fifth capacity of the still and running it through the still. Then follow this by running a cheap alcohol run that strips out the flavor from the previous run. Now your still is ready for making great tasting moonshine and spirits.
After each run, you’ll want to make sure that you’re taking proper care of your copper pot still by rinsing out the mash with water and using a still scrubber to make sure all debris is removed. Then dry with a towel to prevent any tarnishing.
Do you have any tips that have worked for you? We would love to hear it in the comment section.