VII. Final assembly of your Moonshine still
Ok. Now for the fun part. The part where it actually starts looking like a still. Clamp the reflux column in the vice. Get a 3/4″ 90 degree elbow and a 1 1/2″ length of 3/4″ pipe and prepare the reflux column for mounting the condenser column to it. It will look like this:
Next, slide the condenser column into the 90 degree elbow. You will need to support the bottom 1/2 of the condenser column until we get it soldered into place. I used a package of steel wool for this step. Moonshine still tip – condenser column is also called a heat exchanger.
You will need to orient the condenser column so that the outlet pipe is pointed 180 degrees away from the reflux column. Pay very close attention to the alignment of the 2 columns . the should be 100% parallel in both directions (up and down and left and right). It should look like this:
Now you can solder it in place. After you’re done, let is cool down for a few minutes before you try to move it. You don’t want to break the joint you just made. Insert a 2″ length of 1/2″ copper pipe into the bottom 1 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ x 1/2″ tee. On the other end, slip on a 1/2″ x 1/2″ female adapter. This will be the coolant outlet.
Solder those two joints. Having fun yet? I am. 🙂 Almost done. Let’s move up to the coolant inlet. Assemble a 1/2″ tee, 1/2″ 90, and a 1/2″ x 1/4″ with a few 1″ lengths of 1/2″ copper pipe and slide them onto the condenser like this:
Be sure you align the assembly with the condenser as best as you can. Now solder it in place. This next step is sort of tricky. You’ll need to lay out the parts before you solder. How tightly you wrapped your 1/4″ soft copper will dictate the length of one of the pieces of 1/2″ pipe. You’ll see in a second – just read on. Assemble the 1/2″ valve, the 1/2″ tee, and a 1/2″ x 1/4″ female adapter with a few pieces of 1″ long 1/2″ copper pipe. The prepared assembly will look like this, minus the piece of 1/2″ pipe (circled in red) that connects the two tees together. You’ll need to GENTLY bend the 1/4″ pipe into place so that you can measure the length that you’ll need to cut. Look at the following picture to get a better idea of what the hell I’m talking about:
In the next step, we will be screwing in the 1/4″ compression fittings into those 2 1/4″ female adapters. You’ll need to allow enough room between the 2 to make that work out. Again, before you solder anything, make sure it all fits!
AFTER you are sure about what you’re doing, solder everything into place. Now connect the 1/2″ x 1/2″ female adapter into the remaining end of the 1/2″ tee with a piece of 1/2″ pipe like th
Wrap the threaded end of the 1/4″ compression fitting with teflon tape. Now screw the 1/4″ compression fittings into the 1/4″ female adapters. Tighten with a wrench. Gently bend the 1/4″
pipe so that it can be inserted into the compression fittings. Use BIG graceful bends. Be very careful not to crimp the pipe when bending. If you do, water won’t flow through it.
Use your hacksaw to trim off an excess pipe to make it fit.
Moonshine still tip – use a mini pipe cutter for easier fit into the compression fitting
Connect the 1/4″ pipe into the compression fittings. Tighten with a wrench. It will look like this when completed (note: NO crimps!):
Moonshine still tip – using a pipe guide bender or pipe spring bender makes it easier to make your moonshine gas condenser coil without kinks.
Next, wrap the 2 garden hose fittings with teflon tape. Screw the female into the top (by the valve) and the female into the bottom. You’ll need to tighten these with a wrench.
Well, we’re almost completely finished. Hook up your two hoses and water test this puppy. If you have any leaks, you’re screwed. Just kidding. 🙂 Note any leaks you may find, drain all of the water, re-solder the joint(s) and then retest. Repeat until all of your leaks are fixed.
When you’ve ensured that the soldering is done, wrap the treads of the thermometer in teflon tape and screw it into the 3/4″ x 1/2″ female adapter at the top of the column. Then you can do
the same for the sink strainer. Guess where that goes. That’s right, the 1 1/2″ female adapter a the bottom of the still. Slip the cap onto the top and viola! You’re done constructing! Oh, don’
solder the cap on. You need to be able to remove it for cleaning and it acts a s a safety valve. If your outlet gets plugged up, the cap will pop off and release the pressure as opposed to blowing up your whole still.
Only one thing left to do: make it pretty. Use any metal polish you can get your hands on and shine the hell out of it. Mind that this step is completely optional. I like to do it because
it makes the still a show piece. Now, ENJOY!
Moonshine still tip – Moonshine stills are only an open, not pressurized system. CAUTION – Do not solder cap onto pipe. Soldering the cap creates a pressurized hazardous condition and prevents cleaning access. You need cleaning access to make quality product, that’s why you want a still, right? You have been warned.
I. Additional images
Screwing on the sink strainer (note that you should use teflon tape to ensure a tight seal)
The still can then be mounted onto any boiler via hole cut into the lid and the sink strainer mounted in through the hole. Here you can see one mounted to a 1/2 keg boiler via dog bowl. After the strainer is mounted, you can screw the still onto it. This make assembly and disassembly a snap!
Your 1/2″ outlet pipe accommodates a 7/8″ outside diameter (OD), 5/8″ inside diameter (ID) vinyl tube perfectly like this.
Another detailed shot of the cooling coil. It should be noted that this still can be built without the coil altogether. Simple install the water inlet fitting (the female garden hose fitting) onto the 1 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ x 1/2″ tee directly.
Moonshine still tip – the five foot coil to the right is the secret adjustment to be able to finely tune the still condensation process. With practice, slow processing, and careful attention to the top condenser gage, will enable competent control of heads and tails -> key to awesome moonshine.
This is a stainless steel dog bowl that was used on a 1/2 keg boiler. Note the additional thermometer that has been installed for additional temp readings.
This is a 1/2 keg with an 8″ hole cut in the top. The dog bowl sits directly on the rubber/cork gasket to seal the whole thing up. You can find gasket material at your local automotive supply store.
The dog bowl on the keg. It needs to be clamped on to make a proper seal. See the pictures above.
The keg is heated by a propane turkey fryer burner. Electric heat is safer, but propane is faster. I like faster. 🙂
This is an abstract sketch of the layout of the still. The purpose is to help you understand how the still is constructed and operates. It’s not intended to be used as a guide for building it but rather a visual aid so that you can better see how the parts should interact.