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All stills are not created equally. There is a big difference between copper and stainless steel stills. There can also be a significant difference between different stainless steel stills.
If you're looking to buy a stainless steel still there are a few things you'll want to consider. Below is a guide to stainless steel distillation equipment. We're going to shamelessly focus on Clawhammer Supply's 8 gallon stainless steel still for a reference point. Hope you don't mind.
Read on for some pros and cons of the material itself as well as a list of features that one should expect to find in a high quality stainless steel unit.
We'll start with some of the pros and cons of the material itself.
Stainless Steel Drawbacks
- The material itself isn't that great of a conductor. As such, heating with propane or over a fire can take longer and be somewhat wasteful.
- Stainless is significantly more difficult to work with than copper because the material is not as malleable and it requires higher heat for brazing.
- Stainless doesn't remove sulfides from alcohol during spirit production runs.
Stainless Steel Benefits
- Stainless is very durable
- Stainless is very easy to clean
- Stainless is less expensive than copper
- Stainless stills often seal better than copper stills, depending on construction, which makes them more appropriate for producing ultra high proof alcohol for fuel, vodka, etc.
What Can Stainless Stills Produce
Stainless steel stills can be used to produce the same products that are produced by copper stills. However, stainless stills are a bit better for producing ultra high proof alcohol, such as fuel alcohol, and high proof spirits for vodka, rum, etc.
The reason stainless stills are better suited for producing ultra high proof spirits is their construction. They're built to contain at least a slight amount of pressure, which is created when bubble reflux plates. These plates increase proof at a much faster rate than simple copper scrubber packing does.
Here's a list of some the items that can be made with stainless steel stills, but it by no means includes everything:
- Distilled Water
- Fuel Alcohol
- Essential Oils
Clawhammer's 8 Gallon Stainless Steel Still
Clawhammer's brand new 8 gallon still includes many of the same features found on other commercially available stainless units. We're also very familiar the the design of the still (because we created it). So we're going to describe these features and we're going to explain why they're useful. We hope this will teach you, the reader, a bit about stainless steel still construction and use.
Essentially, if you're going to purchase a stainless steel still, you want to make sure it includes, at a bare minimum, the following features.
- 100% food grad 304 stainless construction.
- An electric heating element port in the boiler.
- A thermometer port in the boiler.
- A pressure relief safety valve.
- A port for a pressure gauge.
- A port for a column thermometer.
- A reliable condenser with 5/8" ports.
- Features for easy transport and storage.
- A sturdy, heat resistant discharge hose.
As a visual reference, here's a picture of Clawhammer's new 8 gallon stainless unit, which includes all of the features listed above: