There’s something satisfying about making your own moonshine. Taking the simplest of ingredients and transforming them into a spirit that can rival other whiskeys and gin from around the world. Doing this isn’t easy. It takes skill and perseverance – a mixture of art and science.
Before you can start honing those skills, you’re going to need a Moonshine Still, also known as a whiskey still. It’s an essential piece of equipment that’s not only capable of distilling liquor, but a whole range of other useful liquids like distilled water, wine, alternative fuels, essential oils and more.
Choosing the best moonshine still can be challenging for a first-timer. You’ll need to select the right type, stainless steel or copper, capacity and brand to suit your level of expertise and requirements. The good news is, we’ve created a list of home distilling kits that are perfect for beginner through to intermediate level home brewers. There are a selection of kits at varying price points to suit a range of budgets. So let’s dive straight into the reviews and help you find a home still.
What to look for in a home still
1. Quality of construction
This is a major consideration if you want your still to keep liquor producing for years. Look for products manufactured using durable, high quality, rust resistant materials. It can be difficult to check workmanship if you’re buying online so be sure to check customer reviews. Poorly constructed stills will soon be singled out through the review process.
It’s all very well to want the best, largest still on the market. But keep in mind that often you’ll need skills to construct the unit, that includes the ability to solder. If this is a problem, look for a simpler unit that comes ready-made.
3. Ease of cleaning
This is often overlooked when buying a still. But it’s a key part of the process that can’t be avoided so if it’s easy, that’s a bonus. Look for a big head so that getting your arm into the pot is possible. A smaller opening will make your life a lot more difficult at cleaning time.
4. Size of the product
If you don’t have a lot of space at home, you’ll need to choose a smaller product that fits into a small space. Some stills are quite large and will be a nightmare to find a space for if you have no garage or spare rooms.
5. Copper Vs Stainless Steel
Although there are a variety of other metals used to make stills, copper and stainless steel are the two most common options. Copper is an easy metal to work with if you’ll be constructing the still yourself. Also, it is an excellent conductor of heat and removes sulphides during processing. The final alcohol that is produced will generally taste and smell better if your still is made from copper.
Stainless steel is less expensive than copper, easier to clean and extremely durable. However, it won’t conduct heat as well and there may be residual compounds in the final alcohol.
The Science Behind Making Whiskey
The Best Moonshine Stills in 2019
1. WMN Trulystep 3 Gallon Distiller
Weight: 8 pounds. Capacity: 3 gallons. Dimensions: 9.8” x 9.8” x 9.8”
The WMN Trulystep 3 Gallon still is an excellent kit for beginners thanks to its entry level price and simple assembly. There aren’t a lot of parts to it so you don’t have to worry about biting off more than you can chew as a first timer.
The Trulystep is about 10” in diameter and height so it easily fits into the corner of a garage, tool shed or even a spare room in the house.
This alembic unit is mostly made from stainless steel although the pipes are made of copper. A copper constructed kit is preferable but it shouldn’t be an issue for a newcomer to distilling.
- Easy to set up for a beginner
- Will fit into most rooms
- Includes set-up video
- Includes built in thermometer for easy temperature inspection
- 3 gallon capacity may be restrictive
- Cooling hoses could be longer
2. OLizee 8 Gallon Distiller: Best Overall Option
Weight: 14 pounds. Capacity: 8 gallons. Dimensions: 14.2” x 14.2” x 14.2”
The OLizee 8 Gallon still is an impressive looking piece of stainless steel equipment with a handy 8 gallon capacity. This is a well constructed kit that is connected with high quality welding that will serve the buyer for years.
This still includes a thumper keg that allows the home brewer to make a cleaner, stronger end product. Get creative and add you own flavors, fruit and infusions to stamp your personal touch on the final spirit.
The Olizee incorporates an independent airway which allows for a higher purity in the batch. This is an innovative feature that gets a big thumbs up from us.
- 1 year warranty
- Includes an independent airway
- Impressive, high quality construction
- Solid, stainless steel materials used
- Includes thumper keg
- Instructions aren’t very clear
- Coil could be longer
3. North Georgia Still Company 5 Gallon Distiller
Weight: 14 pounds. Capacity: 8 gallons. Dimensions: 14.2” x 14.2” x 14.2”
The North Georgia Still Company 5 Gallon still is made by a veteran owned and operated manufacturer that produces high quality products. This 5 gallon still is constructed from 100% US copper and really looks impressive.
This whiskey still kit includes a worm with a water inlet and outlet which allows the user to use a water pump or hose with it. Why is this a good thing? This enables the moonshine to be cooled with ease!
- High quality materials and design
- Impressive to look at
- Large head allows for easy cleaning
- Professionally soldered seams
- Includes thumper keg
- Need to buy additional compression fittings
4. Seeutek 2 Gallon Distiller
Weight: 8.49 pounds. Capacity: 2 gallons. Dimensions: 10.0” x 10.0” x 7.0”
The Seeutek 2 Gallon moonshine still kit was included on this list thanks to its size. At only 2 gallon capacity, it’s appeal is that is uses up very little space. This unit is ideal for use on the stovetop.
The other major bonus about this kit is that it includes everything you need out of the box. This will surely appeal to beginners who want a simple, all-included product. It can be frustrating ordering a whiskey still only to discover you’ll need to buy another part that requires 2 weeks shipping!
If you think you’ll want to ramp up production of your distillery within then next year then this probably isn’t the right product for you. It is limited to 2 gallons which is very low capacity.
If you are searching for a premium still then you should be aware of this unit’s “faults”. Namely, the condenser soldering isn’t as thick as the others on this list. Also, it’s made from stainless steel that isn’t rust resistant.
In a nutshell, if you’re looking for a low capacity still that you won’t use all the time, this will do the job nicely. It’s at the budget end of the scale so set your expectations accordingly.
- Uses very little space
- Ideal for beginners
- All parts included
- Stainless steel is rust resistant
5. Spirits’ T-500 Boiler and Condenser
Weight: 6.85 pounds. Capacity: 6.5 gallons. Dimensions: 36” x 24” x 24”
The Still Spirits T-500 boiler and condenser is a premium still that is sure to impress. It stands above the others on this list as it’s a fractionating still which produces 93% alcohol purity. This is very impressive and if you have the budget available, this is an excellent option.
Made from high quality stainless steel, this still is rust resistant and made to a high standard of quality. A flaw found in some stills is that stainless steel can add an unpleasant rusty flavor to the spirit – not so in this case.
Although this unit produces large quantities of pure alcohol, it is relatively simple to setup. A beginner could easily set this up with no prior experience using a still.
- High quality materials and design
- Handy discharge tap
- Collect an impressive 95% of possible alcohol with each wash
- Easy to get started
- Pricey compared to other models
6. Still Spirits Turbo Air Still
Weight: 11 pounds. Capacity: 1 gallon. Dimensions: 16.0” x 11.5” x 11.0”
The Still Spirits Turbo Air Still is the second product on this list produced by the New Zealand company Still Spirits. Although it’s more affordable than the T-500, it is still incredible innovative. More like a kitchen kettle than a mini moonshine still, this appliance comes without the complicated assembly, hoses and water cooling setup. Instead, plug it in and start the distillery process!
The distillation process will take two hours and produces enough alcohol to make a one quart bottle.
- Very easy to use
- Low cost option
- Store in the kitchen
- Low capacity
7. Clawhammer 5 gallon still
Weight: 9.5 pounds. Capacity: 5 gallon. Dimensions: 3.5’ x 9.0” x 9.0”
The Clawhammer Supply 5 Gallon still is a premium reflux still made from copper. It’s important to point out that this kit comes unassembled so you’ll need to have some basic DIY construction and soldering ability to put this one together.
This unit doesn’t include the necessary hoses or extension pipe so if you go for this option, make sure to buy these separately.
Although there is more work involved in getting started, the Clawhammer 5 gallon still does a fine job of producing quality spirits, ethanol, distilled water and essential oils. Standing at 3.5 feet, the height will provide a higher over-proof, purer end product.
- Produce pure spirits
- High output from each run
- Construction could be a challenge for some
- Very tall unit that could be difficult to store
8. Vevor 18.5 Gallon Distiller
Weight: 33.0 pounds. Capacity: 18.5 gallon. Dimensions: 37” x 17.7” x 17.7”
The Vevor 18.5 Gallon distiller is a beast of a unit, and we mean that that in the best way possible. This is the largest alembic moonshine still on the list and it’s built for those that want to produce a lot of spirit. How much is a lot? 11 pounds for alcohol content of 50% by volume 0r 16.5 pounds for 30%.
Although this still could be used by beginners through to experts, keep in mind there is some construction needed to put this kit together. It’s made of 304 food grade stainless steel and comes with in-depth instructions so fitting it together shouldn’t be insurmountable.
- All heating methods can be used such as firewood or natural gas
- Large capacity boiler
- Well documented instructions and recipes
- Durable stainless steel
- Uses up more space than the others
- Need basic DIY and soldering skills to set up
9. Alchemade 5 Gallon Distiller
Weight: 10.0 pounds. Capacity: 5 gallon. Dimensions: 23.0” x 16.0” x 16.0”
The Alchemade 5 Gallon is an alembic still that is made from impressive looking hand crafted copper. It’s not just about looks though. Copper allows the natural flavors and aromas to really shine through from the wash as it reduces the natural sulphur content.
The Alchemade is a versatile product: small enough to be used on a stove top yet still boasts a 5 gallon capacity. However, it’s worth noting that you’ll probably need to replace the condenser and bucket for larger ones if you intend producing sprits on a larger scale. They are simply too small for this unit and will require frequent checking.
- Quality 20 gauge copper construction
- Hand crafted, no need for any construction
- Small enough to fit on stove top
- Built in thermostat
- Condenser and bucket are too small
10. Belovedkai 5 gallon distiller
Weight: 10.0 pounds. Capacity: 5 gallon. Dimensions: 14.0 x 16.0” x 16.0”
The Belovedkai 5 gallon is a stainless steel made alembic still that’s suited to beginners through to experts. This is an easy to set up kit that will have you producing spirits with a strong aroma such as whiskey and brandy, as well as distilled water and essential oils.
- Built in thermometer
- Easy to setup and use
- After setup, can take a few cleans to remove the taint
Frequently asked questions
What is a moonshine still?
A moonshine still is a unit that ferments mash by heating it. The chemical process produces alcohol as a by-product which can be used to make the spirits you buy in shops like whiskey, vodka and brandy.
How does a moonshine still work?
During heating, the ethanol boils at a lower temperature than the water so it is separated from the mash. It’s the ethanol that we want to use. The ethanol becomes a vapor then, in time, turns into a liquid again, which is collected in a container.
What can a home distillery produce?
In addition to spirits, essential oils, distilled water, wine and ethanol for fuel all have the potential to be produced. Each still may have limitations though so check the product description to make sure.
What is a mash?
A mash is a combination of grains, yeast and sugar mixed with water.
Is it legal to make moonshine?
This will depend on the country you are from and, if you’re in the US, what State you live in. The purchase of a still is perfectly legal in the United States. However, the production of spirits may be illegal or require documentation. We suggest doing your own research into the legalities of your location before jumping into this hobby.
Of course, you don’t have to make spirits with a still. Many will buy one of these units to produce distilled water or essential oils.
What types of whiskey stills are available?
Home distilling kits come in a huge range of sizes and types. As the years roll by, new and innovative designs are being released. However, there are three common types of still.
Reflux Still: Purity=~95%
A reflux still is similar to a pot still. The key difference is that it has a tall column which “catches” the vapor. This is generally a purer, higher alcohol spirit with little or no taste.
Pot Still: Purity=40-60%
This is the traditional way spirits was distilled back in the prohibition days. A pot still incorporates a simple design, using a large boiler (the pot) to heat mash water. During the processing, a tube transfers the vapor to a condenser where it becomes a liquid again.
Fractioning Still: Purity=95
The fractioning still, aka hybrid still, is basically a reflux still with a taller column, often several feet. This results in a very pure alcohol with no flavor.
Choosing the best moonshine still doesn’t need to be overly complicated. Be realistic about key considerations like your DIY skill level, space available at home and budget. Then make a decision from there.
For those home distillers that are looking for simplicity, the Still Spirits Turbo Air Still is a solid option that is barely more complicated than a kettle. Of course there are trade-offs that come with this simple design and small size – alcohol quality and capacity.
If you like a more conventional still that’s quality all-round, the Alchemade 5 Gallon still is your best bet. It will require a bigger investment up front, but the unit will continue to produce high quality spirits, distilled water and essential oils for years to come.
Have fun with your new distillery and don’t be afraid to get creative with the ingredients and flavors. It’s a fun hobby and who knows, you may be the next Jack Daniel in the making?
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