Stainless steel has the advantage of being very strong and durable as well as being easy to clean (especially when of the polished variety). It is less expensive than copper and because it is so much stronger it can be used in a thinner gauge, resulting in a significantly lower cost overall.
The problem with stainless is that it is a poor conductor of heat. This is not a problem with direct heat applied to a boiler, but presents problems in any column where you are looking for naturally generated reflux as the steam vapors rise through the column. Stainless also contributes nothing to the breakdown of esters and sulphuric compounds which is necessary to produce high quality spirits.
There are several manufacturers who build all stainless small scale distillers. They typically concentrate their efforts on forced reflux designs that produce high proof tasteless alcohol. This is the only way they can avoid most of the foul tastes resulting from the absence of any chemical catalysis occurring in the still.
Copper is the traditional material used in commercial still construction and for good reason:
- Copper catalyzes the breakdown of esters and sulphuric compounds in the steam vapors. These volatile compounds are produced during the fermentation process and are highly undesirable in the distilled spirit.
- Copper avoids the production of ethylcarbamide which is a toxic substance formed from cyanides. Again these are nasty chemicals you don’t want in beverage spirits.
- Copper improves the quality of the final product when the mash is not biologically perfect.
- Copper improves the aroma of the final product.
- Copper is a great conductor of heat. This allows for good natural reflux production in a still column as well as very efficient condensers.
It would seem that copper would be the ideal material for the entire still and that may be true if economics were not a concern. The problem with copper is that it must be used in greater thickness to be strong enough, which drives costs beyond the budgets of most hobby distillers.
MoonshineStillPro Pot Stills
, we have combined the use of the two materials to produce stills that are the best combination of functionality, durability and cost. Our stainless pots are durable, easy to clean and economical. Our designs use all copper domes and columns to maximize the contact with the steam vapors to achieve the full chemical reaction that copper offers. We think you will agree that our stills are the best available for the hobby distiller.
This blog is for educational purposes only. All “moonshine” stills featured on the site are non-functional props. All discussions, including recipes and “how to’s” are theoretical in nature. The blog posts are in now way an endorsement or encouragement to break the law. Products sold are intended to be used in accordance with the proper licensing or permitting procedure of the respective jurisdiction of the user.