More Safety Tips
This is a follow up to our previous blog post on distilling safely: distillation safety tips
Safety Measures During Distillation
Safety is of the utmost importance to anyone who does distillation, regardless of their experience. There are real dangers that are involved in home distilling, including risk of fire, lead and methanol poisoning, and production of poisonous fumes. Implementing basic protection safety measures during distillation can significantly reduce these risks.
Here are important safety measures while undertaking home distillation:
- Only use a moonshine still made from pure copper and assembled with lead free solder. Avoid stills assembled with sheet metal, plastic barrels, old radiators and other such questionable materials. Moonshine stills are only made from one of two materials: copper or stainless steel. Stills assembled with lead solder or other contaminated metal can cause lead poisoning.
- Avoid Using Open Flames Indoors. Never operate a still indoors. No matter how experienced of a home distiller you are, mistakes might happen leading to a dangerous situation that you haven’t planned for. Distilling outdoors ensures that your moonshining session doesn’t turn into a fire drill, causing you losses and embarrassment.
- Use a glass collection container. Some types of plastic might melt or dissolve in alcohol. But there are also quality plastic and metal vessels out there that you can use.
- Don’t fill your pot still while it’s on the heat source or near it. Filling a pot while it’s on the stove or near a heat source can be extremely dangerous. It only takes a few drops of spilled alcohol to reach a hot plate to cause an explosion.
- Place the collection container low on the floor, away from the heat source. The receiver should always be placed away from the flame to avoid a potential disaster. It’s also advisable to utilize a small-necked receiver to minimize the risk of fire. Of course, it’s quite easy to extinguish a small-necked opening compared to a wide-necked container.
- Don’t store uncut alcohol around the house. Stored uncut alcohol is a ticking bomb. Any nearby heat source or increase in temperatures could lead to an explosion. If you’re storing alcohol in plastic containers, make sure the amount is not higher than 15% of the container.
- Take all possible measures to control vapor. Always ensure optimal ventilation. Like gasoline, alcohol easily diffuses in the air and can cause on explosion if it comes into contact with flame or spark. Also, make sure there are no vapor leaks, especially where the tubing enters the receiver. You could wrap a damp cloth loosely around to keep the vapors in. If leaks develop during distillation, use floor paste to seal the leak and make sure the still is repaired with some solder after use.
- Don’t leave your still unattended. An unattended moonshine still is an accident waiting to happen. The receiver might overflow, or a hose line could fail, causing dangerous vapors to spread around. So, if you’re one of those people who feels like running around after a few sips of the good stuff, you should never drink it while distilling it.
- Keep a CO2 fire extinguisher handy. Although you may be very careful with your distillation, mistakes do and can happen. The collection container might be knocked over, the heat source could malfunction, anything could happen. But when you’re well prepared you will have a much better chance of stopping a potential disaster.
- Clean your still immediately after use. Lastly, clean your still and rinse it thoroughly immediately after each distillation, while it’s still warm. Don’t forget to flush out all of the tubing with clean water.
Most moonshine stills are made out of copper or stainless steel. All our moonshine stills are 100% made of copper. Copper is more expensive than stainless steel, but it’s worth it. Firstly, copper makes your moonshine smell and taste better by removing sulfur from yeast through a chemical reaction with the copper, which also improves the aroma and overall quality of the moonshine. The copper has antimicrobial effects which prevent the production of toxic substances and destroys many viruses and bacteria (again, making it taste and smell better). Stainless still has none of these benefits and the quality and aroma of the resulting distillate can suffer. This is why so many steel stills have a reflux design which yields a higher proof, tasteless distillate. Another problem with stainless steel is it's poor heat conductivity. Copper doesn't suffer from this; the electrical conductivity of copper helps distribute heat evenly throughout the still.
Copper has a history of use that is at least 10,000 years old. Copper is extremely hard to erode, even under extreme conditions, yet it is malleable enough for master craftsmen to cut and pound into whatever shape they so desire. Copper has been widely used for centuries in plumbing, architecture, and as currency, and is widely used today in electronics and electrical wires. Old moonshiners in the Appalachian hills used copper and commercial distilleries use it today. And, of course, copper looks great! Steel or aluminum moonshine stills just can’t compete with copper stills aesthetically. Our moonshine stills are truly works of art.