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How to make a cheap pot still

A Brief Intro of Distillation

The definition of distillation is as follows:


The separation of the volatile parts of a substance from the more fixed; specifically, the operation of driving off gas or vapor from volatile liquids or solids, by heat in a retort or still, and the condensation of the products as far as possible by a cool receiver, alembic, or condenser; rectification; vaporization; condensation; as, the distillation of illuminating gas and coal, of alcohol from sour mash, or of boric acid in steam.

The separation of alcohol from liquids such as wine is made possible because the boiling point of alcohol is lower than that of water. Alcohol's boiling point is Boiling point. 78 °C or 172 °F where as water's is 100 °C or 212 °F. We can take advantage of this differential by carefully raising the temperature of the liquid (commonly called wash) to the point where the alcohol in the wash evaporates but not the water.

We then capture this alcohol vapor and direct it through a cold, arduous passage. This has the effect of condensing the vapor back into liquid form, which we capture as concentrated alcohol (hard alcohol).

An Overview Of The Design

In this tutorial we will be constructing a very inexpensive pot still. This simple still construction will enable you to make hard alcohol or booze, with minimal effort. This design is also a guideline, there are as many ways to make a still as there are ways make a car. Each design has strengths and weaknesses.

I choose to start out with money as the main deciding factor. I highly recommend that you only use copper or Stainless Steel in your still making. It just seems to be the safest thing to do. As far as aluminum goes, I have no idea. These stainless steel vegetable pots and bowls are cheap enough that it doesn’t really matter at all.

To help condense the liquid we use a 5 gallon bucket with cold water constantly circulating through it during the distillation process. I’ve also used a 10ft copper tube, it would probably work better if I had a longer one but this does seem to do the job.

Materials Needed

  • 10ft 1/2 inch ID soft copper coil
  • 5 Gallon Bucket
  • Scrap garden hose
  • 1/2" Female copper adapter
  • 1/2" Male copper adapter
  • 1/2" copper butt splice
  • Silver Solder
  • Flux
  • Stainless Steel Vegetable Pot (Cash and Carry)
  • Stainless Steel Bowl (Cash and Carry)
  • Gasket material (Cork would probably be best)
  • Silicone Sealant
  • Drill and various drill bits
  • Something alcoholic to distill
  • Many small clamps or Vise Grips
  • Coil bending springs
  • Sand paper ot steel wool
  • Propane torch
  • Heat source, preferably an electric hot plate.

What You'll Need

Preparing the Condensing Bucket

  • Drill 2 holes in the bucket the diameter should be slightly smaller than the garden hose.
    • Drill 1 about an inch from the bottom and 1 about 2 inches from the top of the bucket
  • Drill another hole 1/2 inch in diameter about 1 inch from the bottom 90 degrees from the other bottom hole.

Making The Lid Assembly

  • Drill a small pilot hole in the bottom of the bowl
    • Using successively larger bits enlargen the hole to 1/2 inch in diameter
  • Place the male copper fitting in the hole
  • Brush flux over the hole and fitting
  • Solder the fitting to the bowl using silver solder (DO NOT use lead based solder)
    • This isn't as easy as it sounds, soldering copper to stainless, I wasn't able to get a very good bond on this joint. It may be better in the future to come up with a fitting with a nut and gasket.

Making The Condensing Coil

  • Carefully shape the coil so that it fits within the confines of your 5 gallon bucket. Make sure to leave about 18 inches or so on the top of the coil straight.
  • Using the coil bending spring, carefully bend a large radius 90 degree curve pointing down.
    • This is where we will be installing the lid for the still
  • at the bottom of the coil leave 8 inches or so of it straight.
    • We will be placing this part of the coil through hole at the bottom of the bucket
  • Using the sandpaper or steel wool, clean the end of coil where the lid will be attached.
    • Also clean the ends of the butt splice and the female copper adapter
  • coat the end of the coil, splice and adapter you just cleaned with flux
  • Assemble the butt splice and female fitting to the end of the coil
  • Carefully heat the fitting and splice with the propane torch and apply solder to the fitting and splice.
    • Use SILVER solder (do NOT use any lead based solder)
  • Allow to cool

Assembling The Condensing Bucket

  • Place the coil in the bucket and thread the bottom of the coil through the hole at the bottom of the bucket
    • Try to make this a tight of fit as possible
  • Apply silicone the inside and outside of hole where the copper sticks our.
    • Be generous with the silicone, you don't want any leaks
  • Place the cut end of the garden hose through the bottom of the bucket.
    • This water will flow in through this hose.
  • Place a cut end of the garden hose through the top hole of the bucket
    • This will be the drain hole
  • silicone the hoses to the holes similar
  • Allow the silicone to completely cure before adding any water to the bucket.
    • After the silicone has completely cured place the drain hose in your sink or other suitable drain place
    • ttach the input hose to your faucet (you may need an adapter that will allow you to attach the hose)
  • turn on the water and test your seals
    • If they leak then drain all water, dry the leaky areas and apply more silicone.
      • Repeat as necessary

Attaching The Lid to The Vessel

  • Pour 3 cups of water into the vegetable pot
  • Place gasket on lid of pot
  • clamp the lid to the pot
  • Screw the pot / lid assembly to the female fitting at the top of the coil

Flame On - The Distillation Process

  • Turn on the water.
    • adjust so that it maintains a steady flow without overflowing.
  • Place hot plate under the pot and turn on.
  • Once the water begins to boil you should see liquid coming out of the other end of the copper tube.
    • This liquid is distilled water.
  • If you don't get any water then you may have leaks.
    • Use a paint brush to brush soapy water over all joints to track down any leaks and fix them.
  • That's all there is to it.
  • allow everything to cool then try adding some wine


  • ISBN 0967452406
  • ISBN 1878087169
  • ISBN 0865716269

Amazon's Related Products

  • ASIN B0052V9WOM
  • ASIN B000BQK602

See Also

External Links

Pics to make pretty soon

Bending Condensor Coil
Coil In Bucket 01
Coil In Bucket 02
Coil In Bucket 03
Coil In Bucket 04
Coil In Bucket 05
Condensor Coil
Condensor Output Hose
Drilling The Lid
Finished Gasket
Finished Product
Finished Ready To Distill
Gasket On Boiler
Lid Assembled
Placing Fitting In Lid
Predrilling The Lid
Preparing Fitting On Coil
Soldered Coil Fitting
Soldering Coil Fitting
Tracing Gasket
Water Drain Hose Inside
Water Drain Hose Outside
Water Input Hose Inside
Water Input Hose
Output Hose