How to Make a Still

You can distill alcohol from wine or beer using a homemade still. It's important to note that distilling alcohol without a permit is illegal in the United States. Furthermore, the alcohol that can be distilled in a homemade still should not be consumed unless you are sure it is ethyl alcohol (ethanol), not methyl alcohol (methanol). Methanol boils at 148.46 degrees Fahrenheit (64.7 degrees Celsius) and ethanol boils at 173.12 degrees Fahrenheit (78.4 degrees Celsius). It's possible to attempt making ethanol but wind up producing methanol, which can cause blindness if consumed [source:

World Food and Wine].


To create a still, you need just a few household items [source: World Food and Wine]:

  • 5-quart (4.73-liter) pot -- copper bottomed is best
  • Large wok
  • 5 pounds (2.27 kilogram) of ice
  • Heat-resistant glass, e.g., a Pyrex jar
  • Fire extinguisher, just in case

Here's what to do:

  1. Put the pot on the stove and place the glass in the center of the pot.
  2. Pour a few inches of wine or beer in the pot around the glass.
  3. Cover the pot with the wok so that the bottom of the wok is on top of the pot. Make sure there's a gap between the top of the glass and the bottom of the wok.
  4. Put one-fifth of the ice in the wok.
  5. Heat the pot over a low heat so the alcohol boils off and is deposited on the bottom of the wok. The cold from the ice will cause the vapor to condense into liquid and drip back into the jar. This is the distilled alcohol.
  6. Replace the ice in the wok as it melts.

Many stills use copper tubing through which the methanol (or "head") is discarded. Later the temperature is raised to the boiling point of ethanol to create the "tail." Alternately, because methanol is produced first, the first 1.7 ounces (50 milliliters) of distilled alcohol collected can be discarded, and the rest of the alcohol in the batch is likely to be (but is not assuredly) ethanol [source: Ackland].