Building the boiler of a potstill

For the boiler, I use an old warm water boiler (15 liter/3.95 gallons) which is normally fitted under the kitchen sink. These boilers are available up to 120 liters and even 150 liters (obviously wall mounted). These old boilers are normally easy to obtain for a limited amount as they are usually treated as scrap metal and the price is linked to the weight of the copper boiler inside.

The base material

Check your local plummer or scrap metal yard, they have them usually available.

This is an example of a small 10 liter boiler.
(Thanks for the picture! Is it Dutch?).

Another example of a hot water boiler,
a 80-100 or maybe even a 120 liter version.
Hot water boiler

Once you have managed to find a boiler, you need to remove the metal cover and insulation material, usually foam. Be carefull that you do not dent the copper boiler inside. Some of the piping which is left can be used at a later stage for emptying the boiler after a batch, the others can just be closed.

Stripped boiler

Various styles of Potstills

Building a potstill is not very complicated and a great learning experience. Many different available boilers can be used as a basis for the boiler, for example beer kegs, turkey fryers, stainless steel tanks, drums etc.

The material must be either stainless steel or copper. I would not recommend to use Aluminium pots as they might release some unwanted materials into your alcohol.

I personally prefer copper as base material as it is well known that copper has a possitive influence on the quality of the alcohol. Next to this, it is relatively easy to work with and it just looks great.

The downside of copper is that it is less easy to find copper tanks or boilers. In several countries, hot water boilers have a solid copper tank, which can be easily stripped form insulation and used as a basis.

 

Preparing the boiler

Step 1

All insulation foam has been removed from the copper tank.

Now remove the screws from the lid. The electric heating element is connected to it.

As you can see, I made a big dent in the tank as I was not cautious enough when removing the insulation foam.

It is not a problem as copper is a rather soft metal and dents can be gently removed with a hammer.



In case you want to have a boiler with a flat bottom, you need to remove the dome and solder a flat copper sheet to close it again. It is not required. Use a regular electric saw and cut the bottom of the boiler.

 

Again, it is not required to have a flat bottom, but in this case , a sheet of copper will be soldered as a new flat bottom. This will allow to use a regular gas stove as a heat source without having to make a seperate frame to support the boiler..

 

I have decided not to go for electrical heating as gas is much easier to regulate and it allows me to distill grain based mashes much easier without scorching the element due to grain particles left in the wash.

You can also leave the original bottom in place, but I find a flat bottom more practicle.

The inside of the copper boiler looks terrible at first sight but it can be cleaned quite easily with a light acid solution such as vinegar & water. Looks terrible, but no worries, it can be cleaned quite easily.. just some elbow grease is required.

 

 

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