Distilling Basics for Beginners
Distilling With a Moonshine Still
Distillation is basically a process used to separate a mixture into base elements. Whether you are distilling water, vinegar, fuel, perfume, or alcohol, you are separating the vapors to collect only the part you want.
A distillation unit, which can be called a moonshine still even if you're not making moonshine, works by boiling a liquid. This separates the "pieces" that the liquid into different parts. You collect only the pieces you want and discard the rest. You can precisely decide which pieces you collect because each compound boils at a different temperature.
There are two main different types of distilling methods depending on what you want for your final product. Pot distilling is what you use when you want to keep a lot of the flavors that you got from fermenting. Pot distilling is for making moonshine, whisky, rum, brandy, and fruit schnapps. Reflux distilling is what you use when you want something with a really high proof but as flavorless and odorless as possible. Vodka and fuel alcohol are made by using reflux distillation.
Click on a topic below to learn more about distilling.
General Information About Distilling
This blog goes over how brewing beer and making moonshine (or distilling spirits) are the same and how they are different. The main thing they have in common is fermentation. A lot of homebrewers want to learn more about distilling as the next step in their hobby, so this is a good place to start.
What To Know When Choosing Which Moonshine Still To Buy
We wrote this blog as a quick guide to figuring out what type of still you need. It doesn't cover every single type of still on the market, but it breaks down the different units that we sell. All you need to know is what you want to make and how much you want to spend, and this guide will take care of the rest.
Ah, the age-old question: Should you get stainless steel or a copper moonshine still? It really comes down to personal preference, but we list the pros and cons of both in this guide. Brewhaus is biased towards stainless steel, but we're not going to argue that you need some copper in there to make moonshine. You just don't need the whole still to be made out of copper in order to get the benefit. Read this article to learn more.
This guide explains how we build your still from start to finish. All of the Essential Extractor series distillation columns are made here in our Texas warehouse from 304L stainless steel tubing. Yes, we often have a lead time before your still ships. That's because your distiller is hand-made and built-to-order, so we can't compete with places like Amazon and Ali Baba who sell mass-produced, Chinese made stills. We take great pride in hand-producing the highest quality distillers, just as we have since 1992.
When you buy your stainless steel still online from Brewhaus, there are several options that you can customize. The top question we get is "What are couplings for?". In a nutshell, couplings are for adding things to your kettle like a drain, internal heating element, or thermometer. They don't have to be couplings either. We can also install ferrules on your kettle if that's what you need for your cartridge water heater. This blog give you more detailed information on what couplings can be used for so that you can make a better decision when you buy.
When you order a complete distiller from us, you get your choice of column packing: copper mesh or ceramic raschig rings. A lot of people just pick copper because that's what they're familiar with, but there are reasons to choose either. If you're making moonshine, you definitely want the copper mesh. If you're distilling essential oils, you actually DON'T want copper and should choose the ceramic rashig rings. This article explains the difference between them, how to pack your column with them, how much you need to buy, and more.
Just like your column packing and coupling options, you have a choice in which thermometer type for measuring the vapor temperature at the top of your column. It's not just about digital or analog though. We also have a solar digital thermometer kit. This kit involves welding a ferrule to the top of your kettle where you can clamp an end cap to it. The end cap has a 1/2" coupling welded into it, which is where the thermometer screws into. This gets rid of the bung at the top of the column. Also, don't be fooled by the name "solar digital." It's actually a battery-operated digital thermometer that can be recharged in the sun.
A parrot goes at the end of the condenser before your collection container. It holds your alcoholmeter so you can take real-time readings of your alcohol percentage while you distill. It's not a necessity, but it is convenient. You don't have to decide if you need a parrot when you first buy your moonshine still. You can always order one later because it connects to the condenser with chemical-tolerant hose. The parrot is less expensive when you by it with the complete still or distillation column than if you order it on its own later though. Learn more details about distiller's parrots in this article.
Thumpers are an alternative to a distillation column. They're also known as "doublers." Thumpers don't double the purity of your distillate, but using a thumper is like "double distilling." This means that one run in a thumper is basically the equivalent of running two pot distillations in a regular pot still. Using a thumper increases the purity in one pass instead of having to do two separate pot distillations. They come in different shapes and sizes, but Rick designed Brewhaus' thumpers to be tall and slim for best condensing incoming vapor and getting ideal thumper action.
After You Buy: How-To's & More
Here, you'll find instruction manuals for our moonshine stills in PDF format. To reduce waste, we no longer include paper instruction books with our stills. Each instruction manual includes a parts list in the beginning that lists everything that comes with a complete moonshine still. If you only order a column, it does not come with a kettle, kettle lid, hose pack, submersible water pump, or water control system. If you have any questions beyond these instruction manuals, we also have some assembly videos on our Brewhaus YouTube channel.
About Filtering & Fermentation, Yeasts & Grains
Alcoholmeter or Hydrometer?
You can't just use one or the other for both types of readings. Although both meters look the same, they are calibrated to different density liquids. Learn about what each one does so you can make sure that you're getting accurate readings.
Still have questions?
Brewhaus' forum has been online since about 2002 and contains nearly 30,000 posts with over 7,000 registered members. The forum remains active through its community of dedicated members, many of whom can answer your questions if you're new to distilling.