This blog provides information for educational purposes only. Read our complete summary for more info.
Before we get started, a reminder: Distilling alcohol is illegal without a federal fuel alcohol or distilled spirit plant permit as well as relevant state permits. Our distillation equipment is designed for legal uses only and the information in this article is for educational purposes only. Please read our complete legal summary for more information on the legalities of distillation.
Will the Lead Free Solder on a Copper Still Melt When Heated with a Propane Burner?
We get a few emails each week asking this same question. The short answer is no. Heating a still, which has been built with soldered seams, on a propane burner, fire, or an electric hot plate will not cause the solder to melt. However, the still must never be completely emptied during the distillation process. There always needs to remain some liquid inside of still during operation. Operating a still without liquid inside is called "dry firing" which will cause the solder to melt. Also, if an electric heating element is being used, dry firing the element will destroy it.
Even though a fire or a propane burner won't melt the solder on a copper still we always recommend using an electric heat source. There are a few reasons we prefer electric:
- It is easier to regulate the amount of heat being applied to the still with an electric heat source. It is possible to fine tune the electric output to get the perfect amount of heat on the still. It is a lot more difficult to dial in the exact amount of heat needed with a propane burner.
- It is safer to use electric because there is not an open flame as there is with a propane burner.
Always check the label on the solder to verify the melting point, that it is lead free, and that it meets the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
**Always use lead FREE solder and water soluble flux when assembling a copper still kit**