Tabletop Moonshine Still


Distill your own hard alcohol at home

A couple of years ago, I spent a very enjoyable summer visiting local craft distilleries and tasting their yummy concoctions. It made me want to try my own hand at distilling. I was happy to stumbled upon the EasyStill here on Cool Tools and it has been a lot of fun.

But about a year ago, I found another alcohol still called TableTopStill, and I think it’s even better than EasyStill. Now don’t get me wrong. EasyStill works well: it distills alcohol and it is easy to use. But the problem is that it doesn’t really give the experience of craft distilling. Distilling involves slowly heating a low alcohol content solution (called mash) so that the alcohol vapors boil off. And then you cool those alcohol vapors back into liquid alcohol, resulting in a much higher alcohol content.

With craft distilling there is always a separate boiling pot to heat up the mash and a separate cooling mechanism to cool down the resulting hard alcohol vapors. With the EasyStill, the heating and cooling are all contained in one unit. You just flip a switch and don’t have any control over it. Kind of like plugging in a Mr. Coffee maker. The TableTopStill gives more of the experience of craft distilling because it separates out the heating and cooling functions. It uses a boiling pot to heat up the mash and a separate cooling pot to cool down the vapors. Similar to the way they do with at any traditional craft distillery.

There are many alcohol stills on the market that do the same — i.e., separate the boiling and cooling functions. (Simply Google “moonshine still” or “alcohol still” to see a huge array for sale.) But all of them require some sort of complicated running water hookup. You have to find a coupling to hook up to your faucet. Or you have to use a pump mechanism for the running water. That’s a big hassle and takes a lot of extra time to set up and run. This is where TableTopStill is so nifty — the cooling pot takes ice cubes straight from your kitchen freezer. No need to use a separate pump or find a coupling for your faucet. I can get the experience of craft distilling without the hassle and pain of the typical alcohol still that needs running water.

For some people, a downside will be that TableTopStill is small. The boiling pot has a ½ gallon capacity which produces about 6 to 7 ounces of hard liquor. (Perhaps 50% or 60% alcohol.) For me that works out fine — it’s perfect for a few drinks with friends. But if you want to produce a lot more than that, you should look at larger stills on the market. However, keep in mind that distilling is an inherently slow process. So the upside of TableTopStill’s small capacity is that the distillation run is quite short — a run takes about 45 minutes. If you had a large capacity alcohol still it would take correspondingly longer. For example, a distillation run with a five gallon still would take about 7.5 to 8 hours. With TableTopStill, I’ve gotten a great feel for what craft distilling is all about. But without the hassle and trouble of running water hookups required by other stills and without a huge time commitment. I just open my freezer, take out my ice cube trays, and I’m ready to make some liquor. 45 minutes later I have a nice batch.

[The hot plate in the photo is not included.]

-- Josh Richardson 01/31/17

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