Many connoisseurs prefer to make their own alcohol. In the U.S. it is illegal to distill alcohol, but in countries like New Zealand, Italy and Austria, one is free to make different kinds of alcoholic beverages. This is where a working still becomes important. It is a simple device that separates the components one by one from a mixture of different components. For instance, it can easily separate beer and whisky, and wine and brandy.
A still works on the principle of distillation whereby the mixture it gently heated and the substance with the lowest boiling point moves out first. For example, if coke is distilled, then water will be the first item to evaporate, leaving behind sugar and other additives. It should be noted that no new substance is formed during distillation; only different elements of a compound are dethatched from one another.
The materials that will be needed to build a still are as follows:
- A cooking pot that can hold at least 1-gallon of water
- A bowl with round bottom; flat bottomed bowls should not be used because it becomes difficult it collect the distillate
- A small weight to keep the bowl in place
- A magnet to prevent the collection glass from moving around the pot
- A cooking thermometer to measure the temperature of the liquid
- ½ gallon of red wine
- 8oz of water
- Few ice cubes
Put the cooking pot on the burner and pour ½ gallon of red wine into it. In the center of the pot, place the collection glass. To ensure that the glass stays in position, place the magnet into the glass. Cover the pot with the bowl and place weight on it. The bowl should be able to seal the pot completely. A small gap would affect the process adversely. Don’t forget to place a few ice cubes in the bowl.
Turn on the burner and constantly check the temperature. When the temperature reaches 120o Fahrenheit, turn down the flame. As the temperature slowly rises, methyl alcohol is the first to escape at the temperature of 148.5oF. It is followed by ethyl alcohol at the temperature of 173oF and water at 212oF. As the temperature of the pot reaches 212oF, shut off the heat.
Use the device called hygrometer to check the proof of alcohol. For novices the reading as high as 20 proof is good enough, but experts should try to obtain something like 80 proof which is 40 percent of alcohol by volume.