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Old 04-30-2008, 12:17 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Making a Micro-Still

Would any of you tfpers know a good website or have directions on making a small still for brewing alcohol. maybe even some directions on how to brew properly.

i would like to do this as a small experiment, something to do just to see if i can. I have no intention on selling the crap. it would be a nice experience.

oh, and when i say small i mean small. i suppose any directions would work, i could just scale down.
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Old 04-30-2008, 02:54 PM   #2 (permalink)
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The basics to brewing beer:

http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/beer.htm
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Old 04-30-2008, 03:00 PM   #3 (permalink)
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mmm...blindness...

(I have no idea)
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Old 04-30-2008, 03:44 PM   #4 (permalink)
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You want to distill, right? Two basic types:

1) Reflux still. Used for making clean ethanol (vodka). Can be set less efficient to create whiskey or can have a gin head of sorts for gin and schnapps.

2) Pot still. The classic, with a kettle and a wound copper collector. Used to make whiskey type liquors. Not as efficient but a good deal cheaper and simpler than a reflux setup.

I don't have any links for you but if you search for "Reflux still" you should find plenty of commercial ones (Illegal to import into the US) and from there should be able to find plans all over the place. I used to run a pot still for my own education and consumption and it's pretty fun. It's a great way to get rid of nasty (mistakes) home brewed beer.

The biggest safety rules:

Distillate and alcohol steam are flammable (duh). You must provide enough distance between the fire and the product/steam. If you run too hard (fast) you will create a dangerous flash fire situation because you'll overload your condenser, causing a flammable vapor do build up in the air. This is as dangerous as your condenser plugging causing a pressure rise in the kettle leading to an actual explosion. You must plan for both situations when you design your still. ANY steam coming from the condenser is cause for alarm, turn the damn thing DOWN, NOW! kinda alarm.

Fire extinguisher in between you and the still at all times, NOT behind you.

No drinking while running. Period!

The methanol is contained in the heads of the distillate. Methanol is what makes you go blind. It's cumulative. You throw away the first 150ml or so "for the fairies" in a 5 gallon run. That's wasting about 100ml of good ethanol but better safe than sorry. There is trace methanol in all drinking ethanol, BTW. Tails are what give you hangovers and make the liquor taste bad. These come at the end of the run and you can test for them by pulling off samples and lighting them. With experience you can see the difference in the flame coloration.

That's about it for the big safety rules besides common sense and a good pair of safety glasses.

A good thermometer in the steam path will let you know what your still is doing. DON'T scrimp on the thermometer.

A screw neck keg (now pretty obsolete and cheap) makes a GREAT 10 gallon pot but that's a little bigger than you want. It was my favorite I ever made, I silver soldered a copper arm to the machined and inverted stem. My thermometer/pressure relief (really just a rubber stopper) were in the copper arm. A little hard to clean but I was working in a brewery and had all sorts of really caustic cleaning chemicals at my disposal. I had old copper fittings I'd throw down in with the mash to emulate a copper kettle taste. No clue how effective it was.

Champagne yeast is good for making your mash, it can support 25% alcohol or so. Nothing quite like the first time you get a full gallon of 'shine from your 5 gallon mash. It's quite a feeling of accomplishment.

GL and be safe.
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Old 04-30-2008, 07:01 PM   #5 (permalink)
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if you want to go easier, make a batch of wine and pop it in the freezer. draw off what doesnt freeze first and you have the alcohol. you can repeat this process several times to increase amount of alcohol to water ratio. much safer and not likely to blind.
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Old 04-30-2008, 07:35 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by serlindsipity
if you want to go easier, make a batch of wine and pop it in the freezer. draw off what doesnt freeze first and you have the alcohol. you can repeat this process several times to increase amount of alcohol to water ratio. much safer and not likely to blind.
AUGH! Well made moonshine DOES NOT MAKE YOU BLIND! That's an OWT. Get the methanol out and you don't go blind.

Q: How do you get the methanol out when you freezer distill?
A: You don't, it stays in the liquor.

Freezer distillation is a very imprecise method to extract the ethanol out of any fermented product. If you do it you are wasting lots of the little yeasties' piss. I'm not into wasting yeast piss.
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Old 04-30-2008, 11:02 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smoore
AUGH! Well made moonshine DOES NOT MAKE YOU BLIND! That's an OWT. Get the methanol out and you don't go blind.
thank you! i knew someone was going to bring up the blindness thing.

beer is out, btw. i want to make liquor. thanks for the replies so far, its greatly appreciated.

about the blindness thing, i read somewhere in the past that if you make a good still, and pass it the evaproating substance through cold water, or a "Thump keg" this problem will be eliminated once and for all. i dont know if thats accurate or not though, hence, why i posted this thread.
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Last edited by SSJTWIZTA; 04-30-2008 at 11:08 PM..
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Old 05-01-2008, 09:52 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SSJTWIZTA
thank you! i knew someone was going to bring up the blindness thing.

beer is out, btw. i want to make liquor. thanks for the replies so far, its greatly appreciated.

about the blindness thing, i read somewhere in the past that if you make a good still, and pass it the evaproating substance through cold water, or a "Thump keg" this problem will be eliminated once and for all. i dont know if thats accurate or not though, hence, why i posted this thread.
Naw, a thumper is just to compensate for a crappy condenser. it's just an unheated chamber with tails or old mash in it. Not needed if you have a good condenser. Basically it pre-cools the steam. Won't take out methanol.
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Old 05-01-2008, 12:28 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Try this:

http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-make-a-still/
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Old 05-01-2008, 01:37 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Hmmm, I'd always heard that the blindness was caused by impurities gathered from using a car radiator as a condensor.
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Old 05-01-2008, 01:46 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The_Jazz
Hmmm, I'd always heard that the blindness was caused by impurities gathered from using a car radiator as a condensor.
You get lead poisoning from that. I don't know if an effect of that poisoning is blindness but methanol will f you up, I do know that.
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Old 05-01-2008, 02:44 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Just remember to get your official Permit from your friendly Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, before distilling any alcoholic beverages!
Yes, methanol can cause blindness, among other ill effects. Methanol itself is not particularly more toxic than ethanol, but it's metabolized to formaldehyde and formic acid, which are much more toxic than the acetaldehyde and acetic acid from ethanol. Distilling in a radiator can cause similar symptoms as a result of ethylene glycol poisoning.
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Last edited by n0nsensical; 05-01-2008 at 03:07 PM..
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Old 05-01-2008, 03:04 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smoore
You get lead poisoning from that. I don't know if an effect of that poisoning is blindness but methanol will f you up, I do know that.
I stand corrected. I have my deadly things from homemade alcohol mixed up.

Won't happen again.
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Old 05-01-2008, 03:10 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The_Jazz
I stand corrected. I have my deadly things from homemade alcohol mixed up.

Won't happen again.
Heh, hope I didn't come across arrogantly. I did not mean to, just trying to edjumikate.
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Old 05-01-2008, 03:44 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Well, we are talkin' 'bout corn sqeezin's here, so no harm done.
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Old 05-02-2008, 09:29 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smoore
Heh, hope I didn't come across arrogantly. I did not mean to, just trying to edjumikate.
i have trouble taking smoore seriously with what is easily the best avatar on this forum.

i feel like i should be able to help as my dad has many years experience with both wine and spirit making and has plenty of old school equipment.
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Old 05-02-2008, 09:49 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lotsofmagnets
i have trouble taking smoore seriously with what is easily the best avatar on this forum.

i feel like i should be able to help as my dad has many years experience with both wine and spirit making and has plenty of old school equipment.
Pictures! I love still pr0n.
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Old 05-02-2008, 11:08 AM   #18 (permalink)
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wine is easy to make, im looking for a bit of a challenge. Thanks for the contributions everyone.

Stuff like what tully posted is especially helpful. Im a visual guy, and pictures help an assload, but any information is valued. i need to learn as much as i can about this subject before i dive into the project.
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Then they came for the communists and I did not speak out because I was not a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for me And there was no one left to speak out for me.
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