If you want to know how to make a whiskey still with a beer keg, you must first understand a little about how distilling works. The art of distilling is all about taking advantage of the different boiling points of alcohol and water. To make whiskey, you cook your alcohol-bearing fermented grain mash at just the right temperature so the alcohol vaporizes while leaving the water in the mash. Once the alcohol has vaporized, it can be collected. The problem with building homemade whiskey stills is coming up with the right components. Some mass market whiskey-makers use stainless steel kettles for their stills, which is why using an old beer keg in a home still is such a good idea. Beer kegs are made out of stainless steel and with a few modifications they essentially become big cooking pots.
- Stainless steel beer keg
- Reciprocating saw or Dremel tool with metal-cutting blade
- Pocket knife
- Rubber stopper
- Camping cookfire stand
- Coiled tubing (glass, copper or laboratory-safe plastic)
- Glass jar
- Cut out the nozzle from the top of the beer keg with a Dremel tool or reciprocating saw with metal-cutting saw blade. Saw around the perimeter of the nozzle where you would ordinarily plug in the beer tap. The central tube inside the keg is attached to this part, so once you cut the nozzle free you can pull the tube out too, leaving a hollow stainless steel pot.
- Whittle down a rubber stopper with a pocket knife so it fits snugly into the hole you just cut into the top of the keg. The fit should be tight enough that you need a rubber mallet to drive the stopper in. Then drill a pair of holes into the stopper. One hole is for your tubing, while the other is to insert a thermometer into the stopper for monitoring the temperature in your beer keg still kettle.
- Set the beer keg still kettle onto a camping cookfire stand. You need to put a heat source under the beer keg kettle, either in the form of a gas burner or a fire, so some elevation of the kettle is necessary.
- Drill a hole in the lid of a glass jar for the other end of the tubing.
- Install the tubing into the keg's rubber stopper on one end and into the collection jar on the other.
Tips & Warnings:
- Given the combination of open flames and alcohol vapor, always set up a still of this kind in a well-ventilated place, preferably outdoors.
- How much tubing you use depends on how you intend to cool and condense the alcohol vapor. If you want to put a sleeve on the tubing and fill it with ice water, you only need a few feet of tubing. If you intend to let the alcohol vapor cool and condense using only air temperature, you need several feet of tubing.
- Alcohol boils at 172 degrees while water boils at 212 degrees. Since the thermometer in this beer keg still is not in the best location for precise measurements, keep the temperatures in the beer keg still closer to 172 degrees than to 212 degrees.
- Five gallons of fermented corn mash is needed to make three quarts of whiskey with a 40 percent alcohol content.
Owens, Bill, Alan Dikty & Fritz Maytag. "The Art of Distilling Whiskey and Other Spirits."