Making your own reflux still?

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Hristo Botev
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Making your own reflux still?

Post by Hristo Botev »

Anyone on here made one? Recommendations? Links? Ideas? Is it worth spending a few hundred bucks to buy one commercially, rather than make one myself? Would like to make gin at home.

classical_Liberal
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Re: Making your own reflux still?

Post by classical_Liberal »

@HB
Beer, then wine, now liquor... :lol:

In the event of collapse it looks like you'll have a powerful bootleg empire. Similar to Joseph Kennedy during prohibition, he was a strong Catholic too. Coincidence?

I have nothing useful or helpful to add, just wanted to poke fun.

Edit: After some quick research it appears Kennedy's bootlegging is more historical fiction than historical fact. The popularly believed fiction still serves my original teasing purpose so I'll let it stand with this correction.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Making your own reflux still?

Post by Hristo Botev »

Ha!

Well, talking with my Dad on the phone last week he let it slip that, for a brief period of time in high school, he made some money running liquor across state lines, because he thought it was fun and he was really in to fast cars. He ultimately gave it up when he realized just how violent the boss men could be, and how little they seemed to care for the lives of anyone outside of their immediate inner circle. So, I guess things are just coming full circle.

In all honesty, as DW and I are trying to consume less in the nature of finished products and do/create more, we're not going to make too much of a dent on our spending unless we either (a) drink less or (b) make our own booze. And since option (a) likely isn't going to happen, option (b) seems only logical. And it's not really a concern of ours if we end up spending almost as much making the booze as we would buying it from the store, that's not really the point. The point is just to slowly break ourselves of the consumer-first mindset. And we've already found that people absolutely love getting homemade gifts, especially the booze-y kind--"that's so adorable that you all do that!", they say (or, "Bless your heart!"--the southern way of expressing condescension).

Hristo Botev
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Re: Making your own reflux still?

Post by Hristo Botev »

Also, this guys' videos are pretty information (just a bit long winded): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCatCie ... eKXzBomVMQ

Hristo Botev
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Re: Making your own reflux still?

Post by Hristo Botev »

Huh, I know I'm just having a conversation with myself at this point, but at minute 11:30 he talks about how to adapt a pressure cooker into a still. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OE60_7F ... ib&index=2

Hristo Botev
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Re: Making your own reflux still?

Post by Hristo Botev »

Well, as an attorney I guess I should have started here: https://www.ttb.gov/distilled-spirits/p ... distilling. So, consider this a PSA: don't distill alcohol at home for consumption!

Gilberto de Piento
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Re: Making your own reflux still?

Post by Gilberto de Piento »

I'd like to think there are a few people reading this who do have a still but won't post because they don't want to be outed to the ATF. ;)

Hristo Botev
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Re: Making your own reflux still?

Post by Hristo Botev »

It all makes sense now why there’s so little DIY information out there as compared to brewing beer and wine.

Stupid Internet search history; serves me right.

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Sclass
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Re: Making your own reflux still?

Post by Sclass »

Kind of odd that the law takes this so seriously today. It’s so easy to buy a bottle of gin on any corner. Makes me wonder why it is so illegal. I thought people sold these rigs online.

Sounds fun. I had a couple of friends who did this. It didn’t seem like rocket science. My key takeaway according to the guy making drinkable alcohol was precise temperature control was critical...which can now be done with any cheap PID process controller. The other guy made ethanol for e85 fuels. He intentionally messed up his process to make his alcohol denatured. It was plausible deniability I guess. He was an engineer and may have been fooling himself as far as his defensibility went.

The hardware looked like copper plumbing stuff from Home Depot.

Good luck. Sound like a great project. It has come up on and off here over the years.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Making your own reflux still?

Post by Hristo Botev »

Sclass wrote:
Wed Sep 30, 2020 10:13 pm
Makes me wonder why it is so illegal. I thought people sold these rigs online.
My guess, excise taxes. As for the rigs, as I understand it it's legal to sell the rigs and own the rigs, and apparently it's even legal to use the equipment (I'm speaking not as a lawyer here but just as someone who looked at a Wikipedia page). And if you put the finished product into a motor as fuel = legal. If you but the finished product into a martini glass = illegal. But, seems a bit crazy to me that you've got no shortage of interstate sales of products clearly being sold as moonshine stills, etc., with YouTube videos explaining what the still's purpose is. Also crazy to me that it's illegal to take this little countertop distiller and run a sugar wash through it (https://milehidistilling.com/product/mr ... ine-still/). The US government issued one of these things to me when I was in the Peace Corps, as a water distiller, and if I'd had any sense I'd have taken it back to the US with me when I left (not sure if that's legal to do; also, as I recall there was like a $50 penalty if you didn't return the distiller to the Peace Corps office when you finished your service--that would have been worth it). Me being me, the thought never even crossed my mind to distill spirits with it. When a buddy of mine from the village (an engineer) walked into my apartment for the first time and saw the distiller sitting there, he got really, really excited. I asked him why, and I had the language but not the basic understanding of chemistry to understand what he was trying to tell me we could do with the distiller, other than cleaning up the tap water (which, BTW, was perfectly fine to drink without distilling).

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Re: Making your own reflux still?

Post by jacob »

It is legal with the proper truckload of permits. Acquiring those usually make up at least 1/3 of the typical micro-brewer/distiller stories. It does require practice since accidentally making methanol is a potentially fatal risk. People practice making non-drinkable things like fuels and tinctures.

Methanol boils at 65C whereas ethanol boils at 78C, so getting the temperature wrong could kill anyone who doesn't know what they don't know. It only takes 10mL of methanol to destroy enough of the nervous system(*) to make a person blind or even kill them. This is also why ice-distillation, which freezes and removes the water but leaves everything else including methanol more concentrated, is a risky way to go. I don't recall whether that's illegal too (it very likely is) but it carries similar hazards.

IIRC, the only reason home brewing of wine and beer is legal is because of wide popular pressure back in the 1970s to make it so. There's even a limit to how much wine/beer one can make as a private person per year but it's enormously high (very many gallons). Otherwise, governments really really like to keep the revenue that can be generated from any addictive drug businesses for themselves. So as a general rule: If it's addictive, it's illegal to DIY.

(*) Word of the day: Jake Leg. Look it up.

Riggerjack
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Re: Making your own reflux still?

Post by Riggerjack »

Search term: bokakabob.

The permit to distill alcohol as fuel or antifreeze runs $50/yr.

The taxes collected on alcohol at the producer end is higher than all other costs of materials.

Just as Pfizer uses the FDA to eliminate competition, and the Medellin cartel uses the DEA to eliminate competition, Beam Suntory uses the IRS.

If one wants great profits, one needs to erect great barriers to entry of competition. Maintaining those barriers is done most cheaply using taxpayer dollars.

With that in mind, the severity of the consequences for minor infractions in these areas are calibrated to crushing black market competition. Fines are big, sentences are severe, and examples need to be made. Paying the tax is just going to be so much easier, but to each his own.

If you really want to go big, search craft disterillery, and read some stories. The theme runs that you might make some money, but long before then, the IRS will make their money.

I was interested because I needed a lot of ethanol as antifreeze. I ended up using SD40, a perfumer's alcohol. Denatured with a bitterent, rather than isopropyl or something equally nasty.

Methanol is a hazard. Learn about heads and tails. But we can use the eyeball test for methanol detection. Catch a small amount of distillate in a shot glass. Hold up to your eye, so you are looking down through the glass, and the rim of the glass seals against your face. You will feel a burning irritation in your eye if methanol fumes are present. Calibrate your tester using the cheapest stuff at the liquor store.

I believe there is a episode of "dirty jobs" based in a distillery demonstrating the eyeball test.

But again, I would recommend just buying the booze, and then making your cordials, or what have you.

Stay safe!

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Sclass
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Re: Making your own reflux still?

Post by Sclass »

Riggerjack wrote:
Thu Oct 01, 2020 9:59 am
Hold up to your eye, so you are looking down through the glass, and the rim of the glass seals against your face. You will feel a burning irritation in your eye if methanol fumes are present. Calibrate your tester using the cheapest stuff at the liquor store.

Stay safe!
Thank you. This is an excellent tip. We hear all those sensational stories about tourists dying at third world resorts. Wonder how many of those are just bad booze. When you think about heads and tails you really have to trust the source.

Riggerjack
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Re: Making your own reflux still?

Post by Riggerjack »

Methanol is nasty stuff. And it's a product of fermentation. Eliminating methanol from the distillate means either throwing out the heads and tails (loss of ethanol, acceptable at personal scale, less so at industrial scale), or recycling the heads and tails into the next batch, to recover more of the ethanol.

Or, serve it to drunk tourists. At small concentrations it just magnifies the hangover.

Mescal, anyone?

Campitor
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Re: Making your own reflux still?

Post by Campitor »

https://sciencing.com/test-alcohol-meth ... 14279.html

Alcoholic drinks containing methanol will sometimes have a pungent odor and will produce a yellow flame when lit on fire. For a safer test, you can apply sodium dichromate to a sample of the beverage.

https://www.neogen.com/solutions/adulte ... -methanol/

Alert® for Methanol is a screening tool for the rapid detection of potentially harmful methanol contamination in spirits, beers and wine. It is a 10 minute color change field test which can detect methanol levels as low as 0.35% v/v.

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