With so many whiskey-making stills on the market, choosing one that will cater to your needs can be a daunting task. Especially if you’re simply looking to experiment or are on a tight budget.
I’ve unboxed several stills throughout my craft. Only a handful have made it to my go-to list.
In this post, I’ll share 4 of the best stills for making whiskey at home and a couple of tips on what to look for when purchasing one.
Table of Contents
Quick Summary: The 4 Best Stills For Making Whiskey
Pot stills are fantastic for whiskey making. They’re designed to separate alcohol fractions while retaining the wash’s flavor, resulting in a rich and complex spirit. You’ll want a good level of heat control, a copper condenser head and the right size boiler for your batch size.
Whether you’re a beginner, upgrading to one with robust features, or are on the market for budget-friendly options that don’t compromise on quality, here are 4 of the best stills for making whiskey at home.
- Best Overall Choice: The T500 Turbo Still with Copper Alembic Head
- Best Budget Option: Vevor Pot Still With Thumper
- Best Mid Range Still: Hoolo D15 Distiller
- Best Premium Still: iStill
1. T500 Turbo Still Copper Alembic (Best All Round)
The T500 is excellent for beginners and experienced distillers alike. It’s simple to assemble, operate, and clean. You can run a 25L wash and yield about 6 liters of a smooth and complex whiskey.
- 25L (6 gallons) boiler capacity
- Copper alembic dome and condenser
- Digital thermometer
- Faucet adapter
- Water flow controller
- Boil dry reset
- Thermal cut-out fuse
- Requires a large amount of water for cooling.
Consider adding a water pump to help conserve water during the process.
2. Vevor Pot Still With Thumper (Best Budget Option)
This is a good choice if you’re new to the craft and not looking to spend a lot of money. It’s compact and sturdy, with an 18L (5-gallon) boiler capacity. You can create various spirits and essential oils.
- 18L (5 gallons) boiler capacity
- Stainless steel pot still
- Built-in thermometer with dual scales
- Copper condenser
- Silicone tube
- Water saving pump
- Multiple heating methods
- Prone to leaks.
- The condenser and thumper keg aren’t the best quality so you may need better upgrades if you’re really serious about distilling.
- Thermometer tends to be faulty and could give wrong readings.
Consider investing in higher-quality parts, especially the thump keg, to improve the still’s performance. You might also want to get a backup thermometer in case the built-in one packs out.
3. Hoolo D15 Distiller (Best Mid-Range Option)
The Hooloo D15 is a high-quality still designed for making a variety of distilled beverages. It comprises a copper helmet, thermometer, bend tube, condenser tube, and vacuum liquid outlet. It has a tall column that allows you to add packing material–if you decide to make a neutral spirit (vodka).
- Multifunctional Design
- Built-in Thermometer
- Copper Helmet
- Stainless steel boiler
- 12L (3 gallons) boiler capacity
- Multiple Heating Methods
- Assembling takes some time.
- You might need to buy extra parts separately to cater to your needs.
I highly recommend it for both newbies with a serious commitment and experienced distillers looking for beautiful and efficient distillation equipment.
4. iStill Mini (Best Premium Option)
The iStill Mini is a perfect choice if you want to make top-notch spirits with more precision and convenience. You can wash, ferment, and distill in the boiler, so you don’t have to worry about the costs that come with buying additional equipment.
It’s also fully automated, making it easier to monitor and control the entire distillation process. I also love that I can set when cuts need to be made and be notified once the process is complete.
- 10L stainless steel boiler
- Power and reflux management
- Stillcontrol probe and app
- Instant access to iStill University
- It’s expensive.
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.
The fact that you gain access to the company’s university makes it a valuable investment for any distiller.
|T500 Still Copper Alembic
|Vevor Pot Still With Thumper
|Hoolo D15 Distiller
|25L (6 gallons)
|18 L (5 gallons)
|12L (3 gallons)
|10L (2 gallons)
|Stainless steel, copper
|Stainless steel, copper
|Stainless steel, copper helmet
|Stainless steel, copper
|Digital thermometerFaucet adapterwater flow controllerBoil dry reset
|Built-in thermometerThumperSilicone tube water saving pump
|Built-in thermometer, copper helmet, multiple heating methods
|Power and reflux managementStillcontrol probe and appAccess to iStill university
|Requires large water for cooling
|Potential leakage issues
|Lengthy assembling time
What To Look For In A Whiskey Still
Pot vs. Column Stills
Pot stills are perfect for making whiskey. They have a simple design–a boiler, a short column, and a condenser. Most stills have a dome-shaped head for effective copper-to-vapor interaction. This helps retain some congeners, which lend whiskey its rich and complex flavor.
If you’re looking to make vodka, you should opt for a column still. It also comes with a boiler and condenser, with the main difference being a taller column for better reflux.
This action helps separate water, alcohol, and impurities much more effectively.
A clean, potent, high-alcohol spirit devoid of flavor and odor.
Thumper or no thumper
When I’m looking to create a pronounced and potent spirit, I turn to my thumper. These tools act as a second distillation by purifying the low wines. You can add any flavor of your choice–herbs, spices, fruits–to the liquid in the thumper, which infuses the vapor and gives the whiskey a unique character.
A thumper is not necessary, but it can be a useful and fun addition.
The downside is that it adds complexity and maintenance to the process. You’ll need to monitor and adjust the liquid level and temperature.
What size boiler do you need?
If you’re still getting the feel of the craft and learning as much as possible, a 10-25L boiler is sufficient. Just don’t expect a large yield from that.
Stills of this capacity are generally cheaper, simpler to use, and more efficient. They heat up and boil quickly too.
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 between 25L and 50L (or more). They are more flexible, versatile, consistent, and efficient. And can produce a decent amount of spirit per batch because they have enough reflux and separation.
Copper vs stainless steel
Copper continues to be a popular material for stills. It effectively conducts heat and has antibacterial and catalytic properties. This helps to remove impurities and sulfides for a smoother whiskey.
But copper stills don’t come cheap.
Which brings me to my next point: 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.
Different pot still head designs can produce different flavor profiles and characteristics of the whiskey. To take the complexity a step further, you can age your whiskey. Here are common pot still head designs you’ll encounter.
These simple, straight tubes go from the boiler to the condenser. The vapor passes through the chamber quickly, with little interaction with the copper. The result is a richly flavored and highly aromatic whiskey with more congeners and potentially, more impurities.
Also known as alembic heads, these oval or dome-shaped chambers sit on top of the boiler. They create more reflux and surface area for the vapor to contact the copper. This removes some of the unwanted compounds and produces a smoother and cleaner spirit.
Lyne arms are cylindrical or conical chambers that narrow at the top, forming a neck that connects to the condenser. They effectively create reflux action and allow for more copper contact.
But not as much as their onion counterpart.
This design can produce a balanced and complex spirit.
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.
I lean towards an electric stove. The simplicity of adjusting the temperature and power makes it user-friendly and perfect for a home distilling setup. It does have its drawbacks. But the absence of flames and fumes makes it a safer choice compared to gas.
Final Tips And Recommendations
Making whiskey continues to be one of my pastimes. And using pot stills is the way to go to achieve an authentic and tasty spirit.
- Whether you’re starting or already experienced in the craft, I recommend the T500 Turbo Still Copper Alembic. It’s easy to use and cleans up well, giving you smooth and tasty whiskey.
- For those on a tight budget, the Vevor Pot Still With Thumper is a good pick. It’s compact, strong, and very versatile.
- Once you’re comfortable and are looking to scale–at a reasonable price–check out the Hoolo D15 Distiller. It’s excellent quality and multifunctional.
- The iStill is a fancy and super precise option. It lets you do everything in one place, and works for both newbies and pros. It’s pricier, but the quality and flexibility are worth it.