Copper moonshine stills are equipment used to distill alcohol, typically moonshine or other homemade spirits.
They are called “moonshine stills” because the word “moonshine” historically referred to illicitly distilled alcohol, often made in secret, under the cover of darkness (“by the light of the moon”).
Copper is a popular material for making moonshine stills because it is an excellent conductor of heat, and it also has antimicrobial properties that can help keep the distilled alcohol free of impurities. Copper also reacts with sulphur compounds, which can produce undesirable flavors in distilled spirits, removing them from the final product.
During the distillation process, sulphur that originates from the yeast binds to the copper and forms hydrogen sulphide. This in turn, produces copper sulfate which attaches itself to the inside of the still. Once distillation is finished, a thorough clean of the copper still is done and the copper sulphate is flushed away, not ending up in the whisky like other stills produced from different metals.
Copper moonshine stills come in various shapes and sizes, from small, tabletop models to large, industrial-grade setups. They typically consist of a boiler or pot where the mash is heated, a condenser that cools the vapours produced during the distillation process, and a collection vessel where the distilled alcohol is collected.
It’s worth noting that in many parts of the world, it is illegal to distill alcohol without a proper license or permit, so if you’re interested in making your own moonshine, be sure to research the laws in your area and obtain any necessary permits or licenses.
Building a still out of copper is considered the optimum choice for giving distilled spirits flavor. As per Broadslab Distillery, both stainless steel and copper are great at dissipating heat evenly and therefore result in a more consistent distillation. Furthermore, neither of these two materials will introduce undesirable chemicals into the finished product. Yet, copper has an additional benefit over stainless steel in that whisky produced in a copper still is tastier. Copper’s molecular structure reacts with the sulphur created by the yeast during fermentation and cancels out the sulphur’s unpleasant taste, making the whisky smoother.