Stills can be made from a wide variety of materials, including aluminum, brass, iron, glass, steel or clay. However, the majority of alcohol stills today are made out of either stainless steel or copper. Although more expensive, copper is preferable to steel, not only to preserve ancient traditions but because of its unique characteristics. Copper has been used for centuries. Old time moonshiners in the Appalachian hills used copper. Modern commercial distilleries use it too.
Following, we explain some of the main properties which make copper optimal for turning your mash into tasty moonshine.
- The distinctive and most important property of copper is the fact that it reacts with alcohol on a molecular level. It produces a chemical reaction which removes the sulfur compounds that result naturally from yeast fermentation. As you have likely experienced, sulfur is a foul tasting and malodorous element, which allowed to develop in your distilled spirit or essential oil will give your end product quite an off taste and an unappealing smell.
- Copper has very high thermal and electrical conductivity, which makes it ideal for even heat distribution and efficient cooling of the vapors.
- Copper is a resilient AND malleable material, which means it has exceptional durability and is also easily cut, pounded and stretched into the desired shape. This makes it a perfect material for achieving the distinctive “onion” shaped alembic.
- Copper is very resistant to corrosion, especially under extreme temperatures and humidity fluctuations. This explains why copper artifacts have been found in superb condition in various archaeological sites, some dating back to ancient Egypt and Rome.
- Another impressive property of copper is its scientifically proven antimicrobial effects. Copper destroys a wide range of bacteria and viruses. Copper doorknobs are used by hospitals to reduce the transfer of disease. Copper tubing in plumbing systems helps diminish the presence of any bacteria in drinking and bathing water - the Romans were the first to discover this and used copper to improve public health. Copper also prevents the production of ethyl carbonate, a toxic substance formed from cyanides.
- Due to molecular interactions, Copper also improves the quality and aroma of your final product when the mash is not biologically perfect, making your moonshine finer, clearer, sweeter. Although stainless steel stills may be cheaper and claim longer durability, the advantages of a copper still are far superior. Plus, don’t underestimate the allure of the reddish-orange hue of copper - bathed in history, tradition and centuries of experience!