Why We Like Stainless Steel

When you think of distilling, you probably picture the old-time copper moonshine stills. If you're distilling alcohol, then you have some nasty sulfur compounds in your wash that formed during fermentation. You'll want copper to help neutralize those sulfur compounds and improve your final product's taste and smell, but you actually need very little copper in order to get this benefit. Copper mesh, scrubbers, or rings in a stainless steel column will give you the same results.

There are other benefits to copper, too. Copper is better at conducting heat than stainless steel, which can save time on initial heat up, however, it also means equally increased heat loss. Copper is easier for the novice to build with because it's a much softer metal than stainless steel, and more readily accessible.

As pretty as it is, there are some reasons why all-copper moonshine stills may not be the best option. First, copper is much more difficult to clean than stainless steel. If you're not diligent about cleaning your still, you'll taste it in your product--and it's not good. Copper is also considerably more expensive than stainless steel, and not as versatile. You can distill essential oils or water in a stainless column by removing the copper column packing, but you may not like your results if you do this in a copper alcohol still. Copper's reactivity can be of benefit in some distillations, and a drawback in others.