This blog provides information for educational purposes only. Products sold are intended to be used in accordance with the proper licensing or permitting procedure of the respective jurisdiction of the user. Read our complete legal summary for more info.

November 14, 2012

Copper High Country Moonshine Stills

North Carolina High Country Copper Moonshine Stills

north carolina high country still

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.

  • NOT SURE WHY YOU WOULD WANT A COPPER THUMP KEG UNLESS IT HAS AN EXTERNAL HEAT SOURCE. cOPPER IS A VERY EFFICIENT HEAT CONDUCTOR SO ALL YOU ARE DOING WITH A NON-EXTERNALLY HEATED THUMPER MADE OF COPPER IS CONDUCTING THE HEAT INTRODUCED BY THE DISTILLATE VAPOR OUT OF THE SYSTEM WHEN THE HEAT IS NEEDED INSIDE THE THUMP KEG FOR THE SECOND DISTILLATION PHASE THAT OCCURS IN THE THUMPER. yOU REALLY ONLY NEED, OR WANT, EFFICIENT HEAT TRANSFER IN TWO PLACES IN A STILL: bURNER TO BOILER (POT) AND CONDENSER TO COOLANT MEDIUM. tHUMP KEGS WERE TRADITIONALLY WOOD BARRELS TO KEEP THE HEAT INSIDE THE THUMPER. cOPPER FOR A THUMP KEG IS COUNTER PRODUCTIVE AND A WASTE OF MONEY. yOU COULD HEAT THE THUMPER EXTERNALLY, BUT WHY? iF IT’S CORRECTLY DESIGNED AND SIZED THE HEAT FROM THE INCOMING DISTILLATE VAPOR SHOULD BE ADEQUATE WITHOUT THE WASTE OF ADDITIONAL ENERGY TO HEAT IT EXTERNALLY. iF IT’S EXTERNALLY HEATED, i WOULD CONSIDER A SECOND INLINE BOILER POT, NOT A THUMPER ANYWAY.

    Posted by Somebody somewhere on February 08, 2018
  • will a20 gal pot work on my 10 gal pot thumper an worm

    Posted by charles cooper on September 07, 2017
  • I’m would like to know the price of a 20 gallon still I already make my own beer I’m ready for something else. Thanks

    Posted by ercel landrus on December 30, 2014
  • thanks for good shine site

    Posted by joe on December 07, 2014
  • I like the still at the top of your web page. The all copper still thumper and worm. Im looking for just tha with a 20 gallon still. Do you make that and how much would it cost with shipping to auburn, wa 98002

    Posted by sean on September 28, 2014
  • Interested in a 50 gallon North Carolina style rig……need a price please…Thank You……….

    Posted by Danny on August 11, 2014
  • what is the time line of a complete set up.. and cost??

    Posted by James L on March 28, 2014
  • Want a 10 to 12 gallon still

    Posted by Bobby i on January 29, 2014
  • interested in a 20 gal complete set up.

    Posted by larry on January 06, 2014
  • would love to but a thump keg copper like you show in your advertising page! a true copper pot, worm and thump …all copper!
    Bob

    Posted by Bob on December 28, 2013
  • I am interested in a 10 gal High Country Still Kit. Please email me price and estimated time frame.

    Posted by Bo Bocook on November 19, 2013
  • Im starting off and would like to know if I could some measurements on a still that I can make 5 to 10 gallons a run and how thick of copper and all the stuff I would need thanks
    Im in va out of hanover
    Just seeing what I can do hell it turn out good I dont have nothing else to do im 34 had a kidney transplant and need a hobby

    Posted by lance morris on November 13, 2013
  • could you please send me some sizes and prices? also shipping costs. thank you

    Posted by Georgia Boy on November 05, 2013
  • Hey Kyle, how are things? Hope all is well. I don’t want to take up too much of your time because I know your a busy man, but man it would sure be nice to sit down around a camp fire and just kick it. I think you are one of the best out there, bar none. Anyway Im on a mission to make my second still, and I have look all over the place for different ideal to make sure it is perfect this time. I would love buy one of yours but my money is tight. I ran across one ideal I like but I don’t how useful it would be. It’s a pot still design with a inline thumper and a water jacket instead of a worm. What I mean by inline thumper is that it has a mason jar between the copper line coming off the still and the water jacket.. To be honest I got the ideal from the worst place a shiner could, it comes from stilldrinking.com, and we all know these guys are a joke! So my question is this, will this work or is it just a waste of time. Thank you and sorry for the long email.

    Posted by Troy on October 09, 2013
  • I am thanking to order all copper 30-50 gallons pot still what is the price in $$

    Posted by Alfred Viassy on September 14, 2013
  • if I apply for an APPLICATION FOR AN ALCOHOL FUEL PRODUCER, can I then sell my fuel to others legally?

    Posted by Jeffrey Eubank on August 02, 2013
  • In your advertisement photo of the high country still what is the price of the kit pictured and how many gallons
    Thanks :

    Posted by barry on July 18, 2013
  • When running the shine do you need to filter it through charcoal or clean cloth if so what kind thank you woodsman2013

    Posted by woodsman 2013 on May 19, 2013
  • Was thinking bout ordering a ten gallon from ya but was wondering what size and length the column and condensor was.thanks…..

    Posted by mickey t on April 18, 2013
  • I want to get a small complete 10 gallon still turn key prosess ready to go just put together!

    Posted by Lincoln Blankenship on March 20, 2013


Leave a comment

Please note, the design of our website does not allow us to respond directly to blog comments. Please email us directly regarding questions about products. We don't answer questions about recipes, procedures, etc. However, feel free to leave a comment or respond to comments made by others!