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North Carolina High Country Copper Moonshine Stills
A recent episode of the TV show Moonshiners (on Discovery) featured a "North Carolina High Country Still," which is nothing more than a traditional pot still with a thump keg (or thumper) and a coil condenser (or worm). A lot of folks ask us how our copper "moonshine still" brewing and distillation parts kits are different from traditional pot stills. The answer to the question is, "not a lot." Clawhammer parts kits were actually modeled after traditional pot stills, such as the North Carolina High Country style shown in this picture.
We love traditional copper stills. Copper looks good and it's easy to work with. However, the best characteristic of copper is that it reduces sulfide content during the distillation process, as alcohol vapors react with boiler, vapor cone, and condenser walls. As a result, the final product should taste better, it will smell better, and you'll feel better the next morning. These are the primary reasons our still kits are made from pure copper.
Another big difference between our stills and North Carolina high country pot stills is the condenser. Clawhammer stills use an inline liebig condenser on the drip arm to turn alcohol vapor back into liquid. Traditional pot stills use a copper coil or a "worm." Although the worm looks really cool, it isn't necessary and is a fairly inefficient way to condense the alcohol vapor. The addition of a worm requires another vessel for water storage, it uses a lot of material, and it isn't as easy to work with as a liebig condenser. Clawhammer inline condensers are compact and effective. Simply supply the lower side input tap with cold water using a garden hose (straight from a spigot, or from a cool body of water using a small pump) and drain from the top side tap. Trickling water through the condenser is enough to do the trick.
The difference between Clawhammer stills and high country stills lies is the way our stills improve purity and then condense alcohol vapor back into a liquid. Traditional copper pot stills use a thumper or thump keg to increase proof (improve purity). In the thump keg, the liquid is essentially re-distilled before it is condensed back into a liquid. Because the addition of a thumper effectively distills alcohol twice during one run it's sometimes referred to as a "doubler." Clawhammer stills produce the same effect as a thumper they do so using a different method. Our stills utilize a column that gets packed with pure copper scrubbers. The addition of the scrubbers causes liquid with a higher boiling temperature (i.e. water) to condense out of the vapor before it reaches the top of the column. This means, that as alcohol vapor moves up through the column, it is further purified by the removal of water caused by the temperature difference of the copper packing material.
We should preface this entire article by saying this: Clawhammer stills can be used for the production of distilled water and essential oils without the need for any federal permits. Production of fuel alcohol requires a federal fuel alcohol permit. They're free and easy to get. Production of distilled spirits requires a federal distilled spirits permit. Also, each state has its own rules on use and permit requirements. Be sure to research your particular state's rules and comply with all legal requirements.
Here's a video on how to distill using one of our still kits which highlights all of the similarities between traditional copper stills and our copper column stills.