How To Choose The Right Moonshine Still

How To Choose The Right Moonshine Still

Posted by Mary on Mar 29th 2016

If you’re new to distilling, choosing the right equipment to get started can be overwhelming. Many beginners aren’t aware that different types of stills are better equipped for making different types of products. For example, someone who wants to make vodka could wind up spending several hundreds of dollars on a pot still before finding out that pot stills are best for making whisky and definitely NOT vodka. No bueno. So here’s an introduction to our different types of moonshine stills and what they are each best suited for distilling.

Essential Extractor Pot Distiller

What it is: A pot (or kettle or keg or milk can) with a condenser attached

What it’s best for: Distilling whisky, bourbon, rum, fruit schnapps, water, essential oils

The pot still is your moonshine still of choice if you want to ferment a mash with grains, molasses, or fruit. When deciding on a heating element, I would suggest the Band Heater, although you could also go with an internal heating element like the Still Heater if you prefer. Internal, cartridge-style heaters like the Still Heater are the most efficient, but in this case you run a higher risk of scorching your grains and things in the mash. A hotplate would work, too, but both band heaters and Still Heaters heat up faster than a hot plate.

Essential Extractor Pro Series II or Essential Extractor Pro Series II High Capacity

What it is: A pot (or kettle or keg or milk can) that has a distillation column attached to the lid; the condenser comes out of the top of the column

What it’s best for: Distilling vodka and neutral spirits PLUS whisky, bourbon, rum, fruit schnapps, water, essential oils mentioned above

Reflux columns are great because they allow you to produce a very pure and neutral distillate. By definition, “reflux” is the term for when the vapors that rise in the column repeatedly re-condense and return to the system. Reflux occurs within the column as the vapor rises and loses heat when it reaches the cooling lines at the top of the column. So when a component reaches a height where the temperature falls below its boiling point, it re-condenses back into liquid and drips back down the column. The water and by-products continue to reflux in the column while the purest vapors rise to the top and leave through the condenser, so it separates each component by boiling point and allows you to achieve a purer distillate such as vodka.

The columns of our PSII’s are actually comprised of two parts. You use the entire 2-piece reflux column to make vodkas and neutral spirits that you can flavor as liqueurs like amaretto. Or you can use it as a pot still to make whiskies, rum, etc. by attaching only the top portion of the column directly to the lid of the kettle.

If you’re using it as a pot still, you’ll still want to find a way to get some copper in there if you’re trying to produce beverage-grade alcohol. You don't need to pack the entire column with copper mesh like when you’re using the entire 2-piece column for reflux; you just need a little copper to get the reaction you need. So you can just roll one strip of copper mesh and put it in the column. Make sure it fits snugly enough to stay in place but not so tight that it blocks the column completely and acts as a plug.

Essential Extractor Gin Series or Essential Extractor Gin Series High Volume

What it is: Similar to the reflux column still: A pot (or kettle or keg or milk can) that has a distillation column attached to the lid; a gin basket is placed towards the top of the column before where the condenser comes out at the top

What it’s best for: Distilling gin and infused spirits PLUS vodka, neutral spirits, whisky, bourbon, rum, fruit schnapps, water, essential oils mentioned above

The gin column still is basically the same thing as a reflux column still but with the addition of a gin basket. This is also great for distilling your own essential oils. You simply put whatever you want to extract the aroma or essence from in the gin basket prior to distilling, and the vapor picks up those flavor profiles when it passes through the gin basket on its way to the condenser.

A Note on Regular vs High Capacity Units

The difference between the PSII and the PSII High Capacity (as well as the difference between the Gin Series and the Gin Series High Volume) is the width and length of the column. The regular PSII and Gin Series are each about 2” in diameter whereas the High Capacity and High Volume are each 3” in diameter as well as taller. This allows the column to take in more vapor, which enables you to do faster runs. The High Capacity/High Volume column does not yield more product overall than the regular columns, but instead it lets you distill the same amount in less time. For example, a High Capacity PSII with an 8-gallon kettle would take about 3-4 hours to run while the regular PSII would take 6-8 hours (plus heat-up time). Obviously, the amount of product from your run depends on the size of your kettle, not the size of your column, but it doesn’t hurt to clarify that just in case.

4-section Complete Flute System with Copper Bubble Plates or 6-section Complete Flute System with Copper Bubble Plates

What it is: Works similar to a reflux still except that it has a wider diameter for faster runs and uses copper bubble plates as the column packing, eliminating the need to use copper mesh or ceramic raschig rings; also has windows so you can monitor the distillation process

What it’s best for: Distilling vodka, neutral spirits, whisky, bourbon, rum, fruit schnapps, water, essential oils, and you can do gin and infused spirits as well if you add a modular gin basket

Our flute stills are the most powerful moonshine stills we make; they have the widest column diameter of all of our units (4”) so they can take in more vapor than the PSII columns. Something that sets our flute stills apart from others is that each bubble plate section comes apart, allowing you to change the height of the column depending on what you’re distilling. Many other brands only offer flute columns as one complete unit, which makes them less versatile as well as very difficult to clean. Plus, our copper bubble plates are superior to the perforated copper discs that you find elsewhere because our bubble plaes provide a better heat exchange by design. We also have that gin basket module so you can use the flute still to make your own gin without having to make significant modifications or purchase an entirely separate unit.

EasyStill(TM) Distiller

What it is: A small, tabletop distiller similar to a coffee-maker based on the design of a popular water distillation unit that has been factory modified for the option of alcohol distillation

What it’s best for: A smaller and lesser expensive method for distilling vodka, whisky, bourbon, rum, fruit schnapps, water, essential oils

With the EasyStillTM, the activated carbon filtration takes place inline to complete the entire distillation and filtration processes a single step. However, it only has a 4L collection container, so it’s only designed for small runs. It’s a nice, compact system for the casual distiller, and you can produce a very clean distillate with it, but for some people, it just doesn’t give you the same satisfaction that you get from running a full-sized still.

If you have any additional questions, feel free to give us a call at 817-750-2739 or  contact us here.