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Writing publicly about one’s still is a lot like writing about one’s bong. You must be careful, since having one and using one could be on different sides of the bounds of legality. Distillation of alcohol for drinking, like growing weed, is strictly illegal.

I don’t know anything about bongs, but I must say, I really enjoy using my still. (Note to Feds: I use it strictly for distilling legal, natural essences.) The still set-up is basically a boiling flask connected via a long glass arm to a water-filled condenser unit. Although the micro-still is very small, having a boiling capacity of about a quart, I find using it to be a lot of fun. It’s amazing how proficient one can get in a short time. Making ethanol from grain and sugar is a fairly simple process, and reasonable success comes quickly, but getting really good at it can take years.

Producing high-proof alcohol is possible because of two wonderful scientific truths. The first is that yeast ferments sugar; that is, the tiny yeast fungi feed on sugar and convert it carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol. The second is that alcohol and water boil at two different temperatures.

It’s the second item, separating liquids based on differing boiling points, for which a still is useful. United Nuclear sells an excellent micro-still set up. The components are all glass (no lead poisoning worries) and the connections are 24/40 ground glass joints. (That means the connections between glass components fit tightly.)

Salut!


Bio: Bill Gurstelle is a contributing editor for MAKE. He has a new book, The Practical Pyromaniac. Visit him at www.thepracticalpyromaniac.com
William Gurstelle

William Gurstelle

William Gurstelle is a contributing editor of Make: magazine. His new book, Defending Your Castle: Build Catapults, Crossbows, Moats and More is now available.


  • Anonymous

    “Note to Feds: I use it strictly for distilling legal, natural essences”
    uh huh. And I use my bong just for smoking tobacco. 

    note to feds: I’m just kidding. I dont smoke anything at all.

  • http://eclecti.cc nrp

    My friends and I designed a 4-5 quart stovetop pot still that can be built for a decent amount cheaper than that United Nuclear one.  It is also completely food safe.  The design doesn’t allow for much reflux, but that makes it work nicely for stuff like rum.

    http://johngmartin.wordpress.com/2010/01/18/diy-still/

  • http://www.facebook.com/tekromancr George Griffin

    I only use my bong for distilling natural, wait, what?

  • http://www.facebook.com/tekromancr George Griffin

    I only use my bong for distilling natural, wait, what?

  • http://www.facebook.com/bernard.darnton Bernard Darnton

    Move to New Zealand. There’s none of this “Feds” nonsense and you can distill away to your heart’s content. (And your livers’ discontent.)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4A2ZL3BJQUFWXK6WDWIZ6C4Y5U DARK M MATTER
  • Sean Chitwood

    If you’re going to do this, I would recommend trying vacuum distilling, more equipment involved but you don’t have to worry about fires or explosions.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacuum_distillation

  • Sean Chitwood

    If you’re going to do this, I would recommend trying vacuum distilling, more equipment involved but you don’t have to worry about fires or explosions.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacuum_distillation

  • Sean Chitwood

    If you’re going to do this, I would recommend trying vacuum distilling, more equipment involved but you don’t have to worry about fires or explosions.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacuum_distillation

  • Sean Chitwood

    If you’re going to do this, I would recommend trying vacuum distilling, more equipment involved but you don’t have to worry about fires or explosions.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacuum_distillation

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1210335479 Bob Darlington

    Eeek, fire has very little place in a laboratory, and certainly never near a distillation apparatus!  This is extremely dangerous. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1210335479 Bob Darlington

      I probably should’ve followed up with the correct method.  Heating mantles connected to autotransformers.  Vacuum distillation doesn’t make it any safer if you’re using fire, however it will lower the boiling point considerably.  Also, you’d probably want to pickup an azeotroping apparatus since alcohol and water tend to come over together (they pretty much refuse to let go of each other when dissolved into each other).

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1210335479 Bob Darlington

      I probably should’ve followed up with the correct method.  Heating mantles connected to autotransformers.  Vacuum distillation doesn’t make it any safer if you’re using fire, however it will lower the boiling point considerably.  Also, you’d probably want to pickup an azeotroping apparatus since alcohol and water tend to come over together (they pretty much refuse to let go of each other when dissolved into each other).

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1210335479 Bob Darlington

      I probably should’ve followed up with the correct method.  Heating mantles connected to autotransformers.  Vacuum distillation doesn’t make it any safer if you’re using fire, however it will lower the boiling point considerably.  Also, you’d probably want to pickup an azeotroping apparatus since alcohol and water tend to come over together (they pretty much refuse to let go of each other when dissolved into each other).

  • http://twitter.com/jaycollett Jay Collett

    Any chance you could enlighten us on the specifics of using this to extract essential oils from plants?

  • http://twitter.com/jaycollett Jay Collett

    Any chance you could enlighten us on how to use this setup in more detail? Specifically, how to extract essential oils from plants? I’ve always been intrested in the whole distilling process.

  • http://twitter.com/jaycollett Jay Collett

    Any chance you could enlighten us on how to use this setup in more detail? Specifically, how to extract essential oils from plants? I’ve always been intrested in the whole distilling process.

  • http://twitter.com/jaycollett Jay Collett

    Any chance you could enlighten us on how to use this setup in more detail? Specifically, how to extract essential oils from plants? I’ve always been intrested in the whole distilling process.

  • http://twitter.com/jaycollett Jay Collett

    Any chance you could enlighten us on how to use this setup in more detail? Specifically, how to extract essential oils from plants? I’ve always been intrested in the whole distilling process.

  • http://profiles.google.com/roggesound Dave Rogge

    Bill, is that the 500ml or 2000ml still? I assume that number is the input capacity… how much can you get out of it?

  • Anonymous

    You know, for not too much more than what United Nuclear is charging, you can get a real still.  Like one of these:  http://www.milehidistilling.com/Alcohol_reflux_still_moonshine_pot_distillers_s/2.htm

  • Anonymous

    You know, for not too much more than what United Nuclear is charging, you can get a real still.  Like one of these:  http://www.milehidistilling.com/Alcohol_reflux_still_moonshine_pot_distillers_s/2.htm

  • http://telus dan

    labortory booze still.

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  • corey

    They dont actually give a shit if you drink it. They give a shit if you sell it, give it to your friends…Basically not pay your taxes. I grow cannabis, to smoke hash oil, I distill alcohol, to clean the equipment…And yes it is legal to do both here in colorado.

  • Clayton Ross

    alcohol from a all glass still , Blaaa sulfur!! to make palatable “natural essence” you need to add some copper packing in the tube, even the guys with Stainless have to add copper to the vapor path. use this http://www.milehidistilling.com/pure-copper-packing-1-pound/