I make a lot of gin, and to make gin you need vodka first.
Over the last 10 years, I can pretty confidently say I’ve mastered making Vodka/Neutral spirits. Yeilding a smooth high-quality spirit that serves as a base to experiment with different botanicals for a smooth final product or simply to enjoy as a sipping vodka.
But the secret to making good vodka is choosing the right still, and finding a still to achieve the desired level of purity, batch size, and throughput can be tricky.
Many novices try to make vodka in the wrong type of still – which is like pushing sh*t uphill
In this post, I’ll recommend 4 of the best vodka-making stills I’ve used and a few considerations to keep in mind when buying one.
Table of Contents
Quick Summary: The 4 Best Stills For Making Vodka
Column stills are best for making vodka. They produce a high-quality neutral spirit that you can use as a base for vodka, gin, or liqueurs. This is achieved by providing continuous reflux action within the column, which helps to separate any impurities and congeners for a clean and smooth neutral-tasting product.
Here are my top picks for vodka-making stills.
- Best Overall Choice: The T500 Turbo Still
- Best Budget Option: Vevor Still With Rectification Tower
- Best Mid Range Still: Yuewo Plated Column Still
- Best Premium Still: iStill
The T500 Turbo Still (Best All Round)
This is one of the most popular stills amongst home distillers. And for good reason. It’s durable, easy to use, and budget-friendly. And it’s great for all levels of distillers. The T500 is designed to produce up to 95% alcohol by volume (ABV).
- 25L stainless steel boiler
- Water cooling system
- Built-in thermometer
- Water flow controller
- Boil dry reset
- Thermal cut-out fuse
- Any change in water flow alters the output pressure.
- Short column, which makes it challenging to achieve the desired ABV.
- Purchase a water control module for continuous water flow.
- To achieve near-perfect purification (and high ABV), insert high surface area packing material like pure copper scrubbers within the column.
Vevor Still With Rectification Tower (Best Budget Option)
The Vevor with a rectification tower is another one of my favorites, especially if you’re on the market for great value-for-money options. It’s relatively compact and light and can fit into small spaces.
- Up to 70L stainless steel boiler
- One-way air evacuation valve
- Built-in thermometer
- Ceramic balls inside rectification tower for efficient filtration
- 2-stage condensation for better cooling
- Compatible with various heat sources
- Needs constant temperature monitoring and adjustment to achieve desired results.
This mainly occurs when you’re using it for the first time. Works brilliantly once you’ve learned how it works
- Short water tube.
- Consider investing in another thermometer to use as backup in case the built-in one becomes faulty.
- Buy another hose and some clamps to keep the condenser cool.
Yuewo Plated Column Still (Best Mid-Range Option)
I found this still to be an excellent option for the intermediate distiller. It’s a semi-advanced system that includes a 22-litre stainless steel boiler and a stainless steel reflux column with 4 copper bubble plates. This hybrid still allows you to produce both flavored and neutral spirits.
- 4 layer distillation column
- 22L stainless steel boiler
- Modular design–you can operate in pot or reflux still mode
- Sight glass
- Not compatible with an induction stove.
- Hose connections might leak.
- Use on electric stoves (more on this below).
- Invest in silicone gasket sealers to prevent leakages.
iStill (Best Premium Option)
The iStill Mini is a versatile option that uses advanced technology and automation to produce spirits. It’s apt in that you can wash, ferment, and distill in the boiler, eliminating the costs associated with pre-distillation equipment.
An aspect I found very convenient is that I can set and forget when cuts need to be made, and then be notified once that process is complete.
It’s designed and tested to scale up to larger production units, making it an ideal choice for small-scale and large-scale distilleries.
- 10L stainless steel boiler
- Power and reflux management
- Stillcontrol probe and app
- Instant access to iStill University
- High price tag
- Long waits to order and often out of stock
- Complicated to use
Despite its premium price, I highly recommend this still for its ease of use and quality. Its flexibility also makes it an ideal choice for both beginner and advanced distillers looking to transition into the professional side of the craft.
|T500 Turbo Still
|25L (6 gallons)
|Water cooling systemBuilt-in thermometerWater flow controllerCondenser Boil dry reset Thermal cut-out fuse
|Changes in water flow affect output pressureShort column
|Vevor Pot Still With Rectification Tower
|Up to 70L (18 gallons)
|One-way air evacuation valveBuilt-in thermometerCeramic balls inside rectification tower for efficient filtration2-stage condensation for better cooling
|Requires constant temperature monitoring and adjustment Short water tube
|Yuewo Plated Column Still
|22L (5 gallons) stainless steel boiler
|4 layer distillation columnModular designSight glass
|Incompatible with induction stoves Hose connections might leak
|10L (2 gallons)
|Power and reflux management Stillcontrol probe and appInstant access to iStill University
What to Look for in a Vodka Still
Pot vs. Column Stills
Pot stills comprise a simple design–boiler, short column, and a condenser. They are an excellent option to produce whiskey, rum, or brandy because they retain some of the congeners from the wash.
Since you’ll be making vodka, your best bet is a column still. Similar to a pot still, they come with a boiler and condenser, but they have a taller column that increases the surface area for better reflux. They effectively strip away all the flavor from the wash, resulting in a neutral spirit with a high ABV.
What Size Boiler Do You Need?
If you’re still trying to get the feel of the craft and learning as much as possible, a 25L boiler is sufficient. Just don’t expect a large yield from that. Stills of this capacity are generally cheaper, simple to use, and more efficient. They boil heat up and boil up quickly, too. Most small stills don’t offer enough reflux and separation, so you might not get a completely neutral spirit.
Medium to large boiler
As you get comfortable and confident in making a couple of batches, you might want to scale up and get boilers with a capacity of 50L and more. They are more versatile, consistent, and efficient, and produce a decent amount of spirit per batch.
Because they tend to have taller columns, there’s enough room to insert packing material for better reflux action. This means you’ll wind up with a smoother and cleaner vodka that packs a punch.
Copper vs Stainless Steel
The debate about the effectiveness between copper and stainless steel continues.
Plenty of distillers believe having a copper column is the way to go. It effectively conducts heat and has antibacterial and catalytic properties. This helps to remove impurities and sulfides from the spirit for a purer vodka.
While I don’t disagree, I have to admit that copper doesn’t come cheap.
My suggestion? A combination of copper and stainless steel.
Stainless steel, especially durable ones like 304, makes fantastic stills. When going this route and wanting to prevent impurities from transferring into your spirit, you can insert copper scrubbers or mesh in the vapor path. They’ll work as effectively as a copper column.
Bubble Plates vs Packed Column
These hollow metal discs are stacked inside a column and they create bubbles of vapor that rise and collapse within the tube. This creates plenty of interaction between the vapor and the liquid. It purifies the spirit while stripping away most of the congeners and impurities. Leaving behind a refined and high ABV vodka.
The downside is that they require a taller column to achieve the same level of separation as a packed column. Sometimes the narrow passages can restrict vapor flow, especially if there are sediments in the wash.
A packed column is a tube filled with pieces of material, like copper mesh, raschig rings, or marbles. I found they are a better option because they create a large surface area for fantastic vapor and liquid exchange.
An electric stove is super easy to use. Just plug it into an outlet and flip a switch. You can control the temperature and power, so it’s precise and consistent. I love that it’s safe and clean with no flames or fumes.
But it can be expensive.
High electricity use means higher costs.
It also takes a while to heat up and cool down, which can lengthen the entire distillation process. And because it relies on electricity, it might not be reliable if there’s a power issue.
This is a budget-friendly way to run your still because it doesn’t use a lot of gas. It heats up and cools down fast, and It’s reliable too. You don’t have to rely on electricity, making it much more dependable.
You have to monitor the temperature continuously to prevent any inconsistencies.
Also, when using gas, you’re practically using an open flame. This can be a bit risky because the flames can interact with fumes or any leaking alcohol. Just be mindful of that when distilling.
Induction cooktops are user-friendly options too. Similar to electric stoves, you can easily control the temperature, are safe and easy to clean. A major plus is that they heat up and cool down quickly.
But they can be pricey and they’re not compatible with all stills.
Final Tips and Recommendations
Choose a proper still
If you want to make a high-proof and neutral spirit, you should choose a column still. It can produce up to 95% ABV at 93% purity.
Choose a boiler size that suits your skill level and production goals. If you’re a beginner, a smaller 25L boiler may be sufficient for learning the craft. As you gain confidence, consider going for larger boilers for better flexibility and consistency.
Consider your budget
If you’re mindful of your budget but still want a reliable still, consider exploring affordable alternatives like the Vevor Still with Rectification Tower. It’s cost-effective and doesn’t sacrifice quality. You can even make any of your favorite flavored spirits without having to invest in a new still. Win-win.
Invest in quality materials
Stainless steel is durable and you can pair it with copper scrubbers for effective impurity removal. Consider the long-term benefits and performance when choosing between copper, stainless steel, or a combination of both.
Heat source selection
An electric stove may be your best friend here. The simplicity of adjusting the temperature and power makes it user-friendly and perfect for a home distilling setup. It does have its drawbacks, like high electricity costs, and can be unreliable in case of power outages, but the absence of flames and fumes makes it a safer choice compared to gas.