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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
Everything has its pros and cons. Stainless is a great material choice for a still, but it comes with a few 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 also offers some benefits over other potential material types.
- 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 (fuel alcohol, vodka, rum, etc.) because they're built to contain at least a slight amount of pressure and are compatible with bubble plates. Plate systems are much more effective at increasing proof than simple copper packing and thumpers.
Here's a list of some (but not all) of the items that can be made with stainless steel stills:
- Distilled Water
- Fuel Alcohol
- Essential Oils
Clawhammer's 8 Gallon Stainless Steel Still
Clawhammer's 8 gallon stainless steel distiller can be used to produce all of the items listed above. It utilizes a simple and compact design, but includes a ton of features and only takes a few minutes to set up. Here's a time laps video of the setup.
If you want a complete overview of the still, watch the following 15 minute video. We discuss, in detail, all of the features of our still.
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: