How To Make A Moonshine Still
When SHTF, you need to be prepared for anything so learn how to make a moonshine still and know why you need one at home or for survival!
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How to Make a Moonshine Still | A Step-by-Step Guide
What Is a Moonshine Still?
A moonshine still is a device you use to distill liquid mixture by a process of heating, then cooling, thus separating or purifying the liquid through the vapor collected.
Moonshine is actually what you call the liquor produced at a time when it was illegal to do so. A moonshine still, then, will not only produce distilled water but liquor too, which is handy in survival situations.
While we have the process of purifying water in mind in making this still apparatus, it doesn’t hurt to know you can make high-proof liquor with it, too.
Liquor, which may be handy for preserving food, medical purposes, and a little sip every now and then when the going gets tough in an SHTF scenario.
Reminder: This is not an electric moonshine still.
What You’ll Need:
- Aluminum pot with an aluminum lid (we used a tamale steamer from a place that rhymes with Target…Doh!)
- 5-Gallon bucket
- 1/8 inch drill bit
- 3/8 inch drill bit
- Cooking Thermometer
- Teflon Tape
- Hot glue gun with high-temperature hot glue sticks
- Metal File
- 3/8-inch to 3/8-inch compression adapter (found in the plumbing section)
- 20 ft. Refrigerator coil
- A stove or other consistent heat source (when using the still you need to keep whatever you are boiling at a very even temp)
Step 1: Start With the Cover
Drill a 1/8 inch hole into the lid of the aluminum pot for your still. Throw the lid over a piece of scrap wood to make it easier and drill a hole a few inches back from the edge of the lid.
Step 2: Prepare Thermometer
Wrap the thermometer with Teflon tape. Originally, we were just going to wrap the thermometer with Teflon tape to create an airtight seal. But, we decided we wanted to secure this thing in place even more with some hot glue (rated for high temps).
You can probably get away with just using hot glue at the end of the day and ditching the Teflon.
Step 3: Set up Cover and Thermometer
Slide the thermometer in the hole. Thread your cooking thermometer through the hole so it sits nice and flush on the top of the lid.
Step 4: Secure Thermometer
Secure the thermometer with hot glue. For those concerned that hot glue is a bad choice for this project (since it will be in direct contact with hot steam), it’s important to note that high-temperature hot glue sticks have a melting point well above the melting point of water (100 °C).
This is also true for the melting point of “other liquids” (78 °C). There are other adhesives you can use, including high temp silicone and even high temp resins.
Just make sure whatever you use is rated for heat well beyond what steam your liquid will be creating.
Step 5: Drill Another Hole
Drill a 3/8 inch hole in the pot lid. Begin by drilling another 1/8 inch hole in the lid. This will act as a starter hole for the much bigger 3/8 inch drill bit.
Put it roughly opposite from the thermometer across the lid. Drill a 3/8 inch hole with the 3/8 inch drill bit.
Step 6: File
If there are any burrs, this can cause some problems when inserting the compression fitting. Take a file and grind the burrs down until they are gone.
Step 7: Set up Compression Fitting
Insert a compression fitting into the lid of the still. Insert the male threaded nut of the compression fitting into the hole by twisting it through from the bottom of the lid.
The fit won’t be perfect, but don’t worry if it jiggles around a little bit.
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Step 8: Seal Fitting
Seal the fitting with hot glue. This seal needs to be airtight to prevent steam from leaking through it. It’s time to bust out that trusty glue gun again! Make sure you put hot glue on the other side as well, working well around the seams.
Step 9: Attach the Copper Coil to the Lid
Take the female-threaded nut that came with your compression fitting, then attach it to one end of the refrigerator coil. This end of your compression fitting has a part called a “ferrule” that comes with it.
It’s a small circular ring that looks kind of like a grommet. The ferrule helps create a tight connection between the female and male ends of your compression nut.
Screw the female-threaded nut onto the male-threaded nut protruding from the lid of your still.
Step 10: Drill a Hole Into the Bucket
Drill a 3/8 inch hole in the bucket. Use a 1/8 inch drill bit to begin a pilot hole in the 5-gallon bucket. Put it about two inches above the base.
With a 3/8 inch drill bit, drill a 3/8 inch hole where the pilot hole is.
Step 11: Insert Second Compression Fitting
Insert second compression fitting into the bucket. Screw the male-threaded nut of the other compression fitting into the bucket.
Step 12: Make the Seal Watertight
Make the seal watertight with the hot glue gun. Just like you did with the lid, seal this dude nice and tight with the glue.
Step 13: Tighten Refrigerator Coil
If needed, tighten the refrigerator coil. If your coil is currently too big to fit snugly in whatever bucket you are using, you want to close down the coils first.
Use something cylindrical to help you reshape it, like this coffee that can be grabbed from the kitchen. Anything with a cylindrical shape will do the trick.
Work fairly gently so you don’t ding up your tubing, pressing down on the coil rings to collapse the system to fit. Lastly, attach the coil to the bucket to finish up your DIY moonshine still.
Watch this video by Jake Foster on how to build a homemade moonshine still:
Now you know how to make a moonshine still, you’ll have an alternative in case you run out of water heating options. Sure, a homemade still will require a handsome amount of materials, but having one at your disposal will definitely come in handy.
Have you tried making a DIY moonshine still before? Share your experience with us in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in February 2019, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.
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May 15, 2014 at 8:39 PM
Judging from the orange color and the white block lettering saying “Let’s Do This” on the side, I’m going to assume that is a Home Depot 5 gallon bucket.
These buckets are not made out of food grade plastics and therefore should NOT be used in connection with anything you plan on ingesting, be it food, liquid or otherwise.
May 28, 2014 at 7:34 PM
The bucket holds the water used to cool the liquor, not the liquor yourself. Way to go Einstein.
July 11, 2014 at 9:04 PM
Plastic molecules will leach into the fluid whether it is liquor or water, hot or cold.
May 16, 2018 at 9:34 AM
Not in that configuration. The steam/liquid product is contained in the copper coil and never comes in contact with the ice bucket or its contents. That configuration is totally safe (if you plan on drinking it – GET EDUCATION or you might end up dead/in prison.
May 16, 2018 at 10:41 AM
Will the plastic molecules leach through the copper tubing?
March 10, 2019 at 1:43 PM
November 7, 2014 at 5:14 PM
You are correct. However, the copper coil goes into the bucket and ice or very cold water is added to condense the vapor. The bucket is a cooling receptacle.
However, I have been advised NOT to use aluminum pots as the alcohol will cause pitting and could lead to off flavors. Stainless and copper are the only choices. They are pricey when new. Look online for restaurant supply.
I will be adding my take on still making soon. Maybe this weekend. This will be my second still. It will be somewhat more professional than the last.
May 16, 2018 at 5:49 AM
Joe, I was the plant manager at Leaktite corp, Leominster Mass. We made ALL the Home Depot orange buckets nationwide, and yes, they are ALL made from food grade HDPE.
May 16, 2018 at 10:12 AM
The bucket hold ice that’s used to cool the coils. NOT to hold any ‘shine.
May 16, 2018 at 1:56 PM
the liquid is in the copper tubing not in the bucket
July 10, 2014 at 2:17 PM
Would really be nice if the link to the rest of the project worked. “Error 404 Not Found” When the link is clicked. Any help guys? And thanks
July 10, 2014 at 2:32 PM
We’re working on the solution! Should be up momentarily. Thanks for letting us know about the issue, Jim. Should be fixed now!
July 11, 2014 at 2:12 AM
Eh eh. Fancy having a go at this. Plenty how tos online. Ruddy show on discovery. Not sure on high proof or the fact you end up wearing dungarees with an iq enough to make shine and breathe, but eh,,, let’s get blasted.
July 11, 2014 at 9:35 PM
I still can not get a link to the full instructions. The link now takes you to the DIY site, however, can not locate the still project. Any chance of just getting the complete instructions here or sent via email to a person to peruse? Thanks Jim
July 12, 2014 at 2:17 PM
Aluminum puts and leaks metaloids and brass contains poisonous metaloids this could be dangerous. Always use copper or stainless steel! Learn befor e you teach
July 14, 2014 at 3:03 PM
Ice……??? What are the chances of having ice in a SHTF situation??
April 17, 2018 at 5:37 AM
That happens when it is cold outside
May 16, 2018 at 9:38 AM
And does not happen the other 6 to 9 months out of the year. ‘Cold’ water also works – put a drain valve at the bottom so you can change it when it gets warm.
May 16, 2018 at 10:18 AM
Cold water from a stream or lake.
August 1, 2014 at 3:16 PM
You need to either change the title of this post or change the item listed because you are going to kill someone by using an aluminum pot to distill moonshine. Aluminum leaches toxic chemicals when you cook high alcohol content in them. The safest materials to use as your cooking pot are copper, glass, or stainless steel. Not aluminum or stainless steel coated.
May 16, 2018 at 9:39 AM
Moonshine is illegal, alcohol is not. Make sure you denature your alcohol unless you are a.) educated in the process and b.) licensed.
May 16, 2018 at 9:40 AM
I agree that the title could lead to a bit of legal challenge.
January 13, 2015 at 5:26 AM
If you are interested in making moonshine you should checkout
May 29, 2015 at 8:28 PM
This is the kind of post that gets people hurt. Alcohol vapor will leech heavy metals and other toxins out of aluminum and slowly poison anyone drinking your product. All brass produced in the U.S. today has a small lead content to make it more machinable, another heavy metal toxin leeched out by alcohol. Hot glue will melt and leak alcohol vapor ruining your yield and creating a fire hazard.
You can safely distill at home with minimal equipment but not with a rig like this.
July 16, 2015 at 3:37 PM
can you tell me how
May 16, 2018 at 9:46 AM
Lots of articles and videos (Youtube) available, Estelle. If things go bad, alcohol will be an in-demand product but do your homework. If you’re really, really interested, get hold of ALCOHOL CAN BE A GAS! by David Blume. You could find yourself in a whole new career field.
July 15, 2015 at 2:32 PM
Do not drink whatever comes out of this
now if your looking to make some molatov cocktails well by all means
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Timothy T storey
May 16, 2018 at 7:35 AM
Temp for alchol to run is 178 degrees is best temp no where close to 212
May 16, 2018 at 11:41 AM
It is against federal law to build a still!!! So unless you have no problem going to prison have at it.
June 28, 2018 at 3:12 PM
Try typing stills for sale into a search engine. Lots of manufacturers out there selling them on the web.
March 3, 2019 at 12:33 PM
It’s not illegal to own/build a still. However, the illegal part comes into play when you try to SELL the product, without a license AND without paying taxes. The Feds want their cut.
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May 16, 2018 at 6:56 PM
First, all lots of folks here need to educate themselves! i have lived in south Alabama all my life! i am very familiar with moonshine and how its made!
#1. you7 Don’t use Aluminum or brass! they will poison you! just as brewing shine using Radiator from a car or truck as a coil! IT WILL GIVE YOU LEAD POISONING AND KILL YOU!!
#2. it is not illegal to build a still! It is not illegal to use a still!! it is very legal to produce Liguire from a still in your home or property as long as it is for personal consumption and in limited quantity!! IT IS! illegal to distill liquor for sale or distribution without a license!!
AND THEY CALL US FOLK IN ALABAMA IGNORANT!
March 3, 2019 at 12:36 PM
Most of us SOUTHERNERS know that, or at least those of us that are old enough to remember, research before opening your mouth.
May 17, 2018 at 8:00 AM
I built the same device in 1976 while working in a foreign country where alcohol was banned by religion!
Used a large pressure cooker,copper coil attached to the lid in the same manner. The coil was placed in a sink and covered with ice. condensed liquid was captured in a bottle. Used sugar and yeast to make the base. The liquid came out around 160 proof. Had to cut it in order to drink it! It was called Sadeke!! WE would add different fruits to it to get different flavors. For Gin we added juniper berries!!
May 23, 2018 at 12:39 PM
how much sugar and yeast
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March 3, 2019 at 1:53 PM
Um only a moron would use a plastic bucket for a thumper. The mist coming out of the cooker HAS to be at a minimum temp of 175 degrees (any hotter and you ruin the product and any colder and it wont turn into mist), and that is far hot enough to melt the plastic. Second the “cap” must be SEALED to the cooker or all the steam is going to escape and you are left with nothing. Third the thumper MUST have a constant run of cold water. You cannot use ice as it will melt nor can you just fill the thumper with water and expect it to be cold enough to cause the mist to condense into a liquid. Fourth you CANNOT use steel for this, it MUST ALL BE COPPER as steel, even stainless; ruins the product and gives it a metal taste. And finally the most important is the first quart is called the head, and you CANNOT drink that as it will kill you. That has to be thrown away or be used to start your car with. Then you have to have something like cheese cloth to put over the funnel and something like charcoal to let the end product run through. Otherwise its going to be, as my moonshiner grandfather used to say “this is the meanest cough syrup I have ever run into, and no the taste does not get better with the second drink, in fact it gets worse.”
These directions will do nothing but hurt someone or kill someone. So why did you bother to even post them? And yes I know what I am talking about as my family on my fathers side have been making moonshine for over 200 years in Alabama and Georgia and southeastern Tenn. So I do think I know a little more then you do on this subject.
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June 15, 2019 at 4:20 AM
I have a large stainless steel pot that I’m planning on using for my still. Would I be able to use a high temp RTV (RTV106) for sealing the lid to the pot or will it potentially be dangerous to use. And if so what would be recommended to use? I’d like something that I can easily cut or scrape off when I’m done and reapply for the next batch
July 3, 2019 at 12:18 PM
Distilling in any thing that isn’t stainless or copper can be poisoness or deadly
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February 13, 2021 at 6:49 PM
DO NOT USE ALUMINUM!!!! This will cause you physical harm. Only an idiot would recommend this. I have been making liquor for 25 years. Trust me. Only use stainless steel or copper! Use aluminum at your own peril – and want to develop Alzheimer’s.
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April 26, 2021 at 12:52 PM
Dan, Thanks. I haven’t used a still since college Chemistry. Came across instructions almost identical to this article about 1 1/2 years ago. My mind balked at them, citing most of the same issues you addressed. Plus, I want to distil water – higher temps, even more for Super Heated Steam. Would use same procedure you outlined: discard Head (Devil’s Due?), and filter rest: even with water.
For Sebastian, There’s a cooking technique you might try to seal your kettle. It’s usually used when baking in clay. Make a salt (and flour) dough and pinch it around the rim of your lidded pot (your kettle), both above and below the rim. Overlap the ends and seal them together with a little water. The heating of the cooking vessel cooks the dough in place. Dough must be broken off to unseal pot. If you decide to try this, watch pot carefully and be prepared to extinguish fire in case technique not suited to use with heating method. As I said, this is usually used in baking, i.e. roasting.