Below is a list of our most commonly received questions.
If you do not find an answer to yours, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: Are these stills functional or are they just good-looking replicas?
A: Our stills are made to be completely functional. They just also happen to look great.
Q: Is everything in the pictures included in the price?
A: Yes, the setup includes the pot, onion head, condenser and thermometer.
Q: Are there instructions on how to operate the still?
A: Yes. A quick-start guide is included with the purchase of every still.
Q: Do you have a return policy?
A: Yes. Our return policy is 90 days, so if you are unsatisfied for any reason, just send an email to email@example.com or call 1 888 413 6829.
Q: Do the stills come with a warranty?
A: Yes. All of our stills come with a 2 year warranty.
Q: What heat source should I use for the still?
A: This depends on your preference and available facilities. For indoors distilling, the easiest option is an electric stove or hot-plate. Propane burners are very effective, but as with any heat source that uses a flame, they should always be used outside. We also advise avoiding a natural-gas or oil stove when distilling indoors.
Q: Can I use an induction cooking surface to run the still?
A: Solid copper is not compatible with induction heating because of the material's magnetic and electrical properties. Unfortunately we don't have any experience with induction heating and we are not aware of any way to use an induction cooking surface to heat a copper pot.
Q: Do your stills contain lead?
A: No. The soldering is the only part which is not always made of copper but is guaranteed to be 100% lead-free.
Q: Are your stills really 100% copper?
A: Our handcrafted units are made of 100% high quality copper. However, the welded joints may be made from other safe, lead-free materials: brass soldering is used for areas of the still that need to sustain high temperatures, tin solder is used for other joints that are not exposed to high temperatures, as in the pot (boiler) and where hammering is not possible, the piping or the thermometer attachment and silver solder is used for the brass handles and other areas of specific stills. Brass, tin and silver are materials which do not alter in any way the flavor, coloring or quality of the distillate.
Q: In the pictures I see a thermometer on the stills. Do the stills come with one attached?
A: Yes. A thermometer comes affixed to the onion top to measure vapor temperature (in F and C).
Q: Your (condenser) coil has only three turns, is that enough to cool the vapor?
A: Three turns is perfectly good as there is plenty of surface area on the coil to condense the entire vapor resulted.
Q: Do you make a thumper keg for any of your stills?
A: No. Thumpers are only used in large scale production of moonshine to increase proof and remove sediments. This strips the flavor from your product and is undesirable unless using poor ingredients. The removal of sediments is not needed either, due to the bulb on top of our stills. Among other benefits, this prevents the carry-over of liquid into the condenser when properly operated. Adding a thumper is expensive and unnecessary.
Q: How do I seal the top of the pot and the onion head?
A: All you need is a water and flour mixture or Teflon tape. We recommend Teflon tape because it is much cleaner.
Q: How often should I clean my still?
A: It is important to process a run with water before you first use your still, to make sure any impurities left from the manufacturing process are eliminated. The procedure starts with washing all parts of the still very thoroughly with hot-soapy water. The second step is doing a vinegar run. Simply mix equal parts vinegar and water to roughly one-fifth the capacity of the still and run it through the still until the result is completely clear. If you don’t use your still often, we recommend that you do a run of 40% water - 5% rye flour after you use it, before putting it away. This eliminates sulfuric acids and other harmful substances that may have deposited on the walls of your still. If you use your still more frequently (every few weeks), make sure you wash it after every run with dish soap and hot water. You will receive a small booklet with useful cleaning guidelines and basic instructions together with your still.
Q: My copper still has oxidized. Can I polish it?
A: With time, copper will oxidize and take on a darker shade of red. If you want to polish the exterior make sure not to use abrasive cleaners or toxic substances. You can also try traditional techniques such as rubbing the still with a salt and lemon solution or ashes from a wood fire – which also work fine for the interior.
Q: Do you also sell the separate parts of the still?
A: No. All of our copper pot stills are custom made full sets so each part of the set is handcrafted to fit the rest of the equipment.
Q: Can I come by your facility to look at the stills?
A: No. Unfortunately we do not have a store front and we only house our stills in a fulfillment center.
Q: How long does it take to ship the stills?
A: The still is shipped within 2 business days of ordering via FedEX Home Ground. Delivery usually takes 3-5 days.
Q: Do you supply a tracking number with the order?
A: Yes, once the still is shipped you will automatically receive an email with a tracking number.
Q: Do you ship outside the US?
A: No. Due to US Customs regulations, we are unable to ship our products outside of the United States.
Q: Do you accept money-order payments?
A: No. Card and Paypal are the only modes of payment we accept.
The distillation process
Q: What is distillation?
A: Alcohol is obtained through the fermentation of natural sugars. Distillation is the process through which alcohol is separated from the fermented mass which may also contain methanol, amyl alcohol, furfurals and other undesirable components.
Q: Do you have a recipe and instructions on how to prepare the ingredients that go in the still?
A: Yes, a basic moonshine recipe is included in the quick-start guide you receive with your still. For more recipes of different spirits and relevant articles, you can always check our constantly updated blog at: http://www.whiskeystill.net/blogs/whiskey-still-co-blog.
Q: What is the purpose of the tomato paste in your moonshine recipe?
A: Your yeast will need nutrients to keep them fed while the mash ferments. Tomato paste is an inexpensive yeast nutrient. Yeast also prefers a slightly acidic solution; the tomato paste will help lower the PH.
Q: What ingredients can I distill?
A: You can use a very wide range of fruit, cereal and other botanicals to make a multitude of spirits. For more information and recipes, check out our blog.
Q: What is the average running time?
A: There are a lot of variables involved in your distillation process, but an average run can take anywhere between 2-6 hours.
Q: How much alcohol can I expect to get out of a single run?
A: It depends on how you decide to run it and the ingredients you use in your mash. However, a typical result is about 10-20%. For example, a 5 gallon still could potentially make 1 gallon of whiskey or moonshine.
Q: What proof (ABV) can I expect from a single run?
A: A single run will yield approximately 80-150 proof. It all depends on how fast or slow you choose to distill though. Slower distillations results in a higher proof distillate.
Q: How do I measure the proof?
A: Measuring is done with a tool called hydrometer (or an alcoholmeter). This is a small instrument which floats according to the density of the liquid it is placed in. Alcohol is less dense than water so the less dense your overall distillate is, the more volume of alcohol is present. Practically, the further the hydrometer sinks the higher proof alcohol. Hydrometers are available online or at a brewers supply for about $20.
Q: What are heads, hearts and tails?
A: The distillation process results in three different parts: the heads, hearts and tails. The hearts is the ethanol – the part you are looking to get. The other two need to be eliminated or “cut”. Heads (predominantly methanol) usually have a very sharp taste and foul scent, while tails contain compounds with higher boiling points which can alter the taste and scent of your spirit if not removed on time. In contrast, the hearts should be completely transparent and odorless. You can save the tails and use them for the distillation of a second batch, as there’s still ethanol alcohol which can be extracted from them.
Q: How do I know when to cut?
A: The cut off points can be calculated with the use of a hydrometer and a thermometer (there is one attached to every still). The two instruments can help you determine what type of alcohol is being produced at a certain time and when it is time to cut your heads and tails. For example, if vapor temperature has reached 207°F, that means most of the alcohol has already been distilled and you may stop distilling. The percentage at which to cut depends on the type of wash used but also the flavor. You can usually cut fruit mashes or grain washes somewhere between 207-208°F, but this very much depends on the flavor and strength you want to obtain. You might want to take into account that a second distillation is required for most spirits, for a more purified, higher percentage alcohol distillate. Cut off points for the second run are different, somewhere between 177-197°F (85%-58%). Experienced distillers can also identify cut off points by monitoring the taste, smell and cloudiness of the distillate.
Q: May I dilute the alcoholic distillate?
A: Yes. In fact, most spirits are distilled to high alcoholic percentage and afterwards diluted with water. This usually happens to bring commercial drinks at a standard proof.
Q: Can I use my still to make hydrosols/essential oils?
A: As we specialize in alcohol distilling, we cannot advise you on the process of making hydrosols/essential oils. However, we do know of people who have purchased our smaller stills for this purpose.
Q: Can I use the same still to make alcohol and essential oils?
A: If you do choose to use our stills for making both alcohol and hydrosols/essential oils, for safety reasons we strongly recommend that you use separate equipment. Cleaning the still maybe not be enough to make the distillation of alcohol safe if the still was previously used for the extraction of essential oils.
Q: Is distilling legal?
A: We're assuming you've familiarized yourself with the law, and if you haven't, we highly recommend you do so. To legally distill alcohol you need proper government approval. For an alternative fuel permit go here: http://www.ttb.gov/forms/f511074.pdf. For a micro-distillery check out the BATF permit information here: http://www.ttb.gov/spirits/. Additionally, most states have their own set of requirements for distilling fuel alcohol, so be sure to look up your state as well.
Q: Does the government track stills?
A: Short answer: no. However, the government does require us to keep records of all stills sold and we are to present these records if requested. This being said, we have never been issued any such request to date, nor have any of the other still manufacturers we have spoken to. If a request were ever made, we would notify all owners via email, phone, and standard post immediately.