The T500 Turbo Still (by Still Sprits) has become the go-to choice for novice distillers around the world, looking to better their craft – and for obvious reasons too.
This still has all the features of a larger (and more expensive) distillation column, packing into a counter-top size and at an affordable price.
However, before you bite the bullet and get one for yourself, it’s worth understating exactly what the T500 Turbo Still can and cannot do.
Here is our honest review of the T500:
The Turbo Still can be also be used for distilling Essential Oils, Water, and bio-ethanol, however, for this guide, we’ll stick to talking about making alcoholic spirits for drinking!
What’s in the box?
When you open the T500 box, you’ll find plenty of extras, as well as the obvious boiler and column. Here’s a full list of what’s in the box:
- 25L boiler with 2kW electric heating element
- Reflux or alembic column (more on that later)
- Flow controller (optional)
The product comes with a one-year manufacturer’s warranty.
The turbo still is advertised as “
Easy to use. The ultimate home distillation unit. Stops producing when alcohol exhausted. Effectively self-contained. Produces 95% yield at 93% purity
Here’s a video of the T500 unboxing which shows you exactly what to expect
The T500 boiler is the same across all product variants.
It’s a tea urn style stainless steel can boiler, which is conveniently the same size as other popular brewing hardware like the Robo-brew and Grainfather.
The boiler has a 25L capacity (6.6 gallons) and a 2000W (2kW) electric heating element. Note: This is 1600W for the 110V US/CA versions.
The element has a boil dry reset, thermal cut-out fuse, the boiler also has a waste discharge tap.
The boiler design is simple and effective. Its lightweight construction and large orifice makes it super easy to clean, which is one of the biggest flaws with popular ‘beer keg’ based boiler designs.
The 2000W element is adequate, though we would be dubious of the heat-up times on the lower-powered 1600W version.
Tip: DIY yourself an insulative wrap for your boiler to improve efficiency. We used layers of an old woolen blanket cut to size. We estimate that we were losing around 500W alone from the heat losses, so if we can stop that we can speed up heat up times by 25%. Worthwhile!
The dinky plastic tap is fine, although we’ve heard this is a common point of failure as the repetition of heating and cooling causes it too brittle over time.
It’s also quite a narrow bore which means it can block up if you’re dumping grains or a large number of botanicals.
Tip: You can easily replace the tap with a weldless 1/2” stainless steel ball valve like this one.
Choosing a reflux column or pot-head
There are three column or pot head options that can be purchased for the T500. The standard model is the stainless steel reflux head, but there’s also a copper version and a copper alembic pot head that can be bought.
We’ve broken down our recommendation based on what sort of spirit you want to make
T500 Water Flow Controller
The T500 is technically speaking a CM or cooling management reflux column, which means that you control the reflux ratio by adjusting the cooling input.
There are pros and cons to this, which is another topic altogether. But, what we will say, is this means you need to be extremely careful about the flow and temperature of the cooling water going into the still as this is proportional to the hate the condensers will be able to remove.
The T500 comes with a flow controller technics onto a domestic tab all faucet end has a small needle valve which allows you to adjust the flow of water. this would fit a female threaded tip fitting which is the standard thread on most apps once you unscrew the aerator disc.
There’s another option to buy a separate flow controller module which is a small water reservoir with a submersible pump that plugs in via a wall adapter (supplied). This is an essential add-on if you experience water pressure fluctuations in your house. For example, if someone uses the toilet, or takes a shower, you’ll find the pressure drops and the distillation column falls out of equilibrium.
A few options:
- most hardware stores will sell BSP or NPT adapters that you may need to install to get the flow controller to fit
- alternatively, you could now use a rubber hose over the faucet however this means you’ll need to control the flow of water with the tap congratulations because the back pressure further down the line will make the hose pop off
- finally, some people like special to purchase an aquarium pump or similar I’m sorry so you can recirculate the water. this is particularly pragmatic in areas where water is expensive or when facing water restrictions. If you choose to go down this route we recommend finding a large reservoir like a bathtub or 44-gallon drum because the water will gradually heat up overtime research and this will change the cooling balance of the still.
The Price & Cost To Run
The reason why the T500 has done so well in the market is because it has exactly what you need to start distilling, at a very affordable price.
A complete setup, including the basic stainless steel reflux column, can be purchased for $529 on Amazon, or usually a little more from your local brew shop.
Most people opt the upgrade the basic stainless steel reflux column to the more expensive copper variation. Not only has coper got better thermal properties, but it also plays a key role in purifying your spirit by reacting with sulfides in the vapor path.
The copper column head can be purchased for $313 here on Amazon.
- Prepacked Copper Column, PVC and PE Tubes
- Digital Thermometer
- Distilling Conditioner (Ingredients: water, silicone antifoam, Ceramic Boil Enhancers
- Water Flow Controller with kitchen, garden and laundry tap adaptors
- Instructions Booklet
How much does it cost to run the T500 Turbo Still?
The running cost of the Turbo 500 will vary depending on the ingredients, will vary the operation time but between 4-5 hours is the general rule with a full run.
Let’s take an average of $0.14/kWh which is the average price of electricy in the USA.
This tells us that over the full 5 hour run we can expect to pay ~$1.40 in power consumption to operate.
Of course, this is the figure for one run, and to make most products it will take more than one run.
If we take making a neutral spirit for example, it will probably take 3 stripping runs, and 1 or 2 reflux runs to get our final product. So let’s multiply the cost by 4 to get a total cost of $5.60.
How much does a bottle of spirits cost to make with the T500?
Alright, how long is a piece of string? This is such a difficult question to answer because the cost varies so much between the price and quality of ingredients, and what sort of spirit you are trying to make.
In general, you can expect to pay anywhere between $3 and $10 to make a litre of spirits.
Below is our breakdown of a simple vodka (neutral) recipe to work our the costs.
We’ve assumed you’re making a 60L of 12% wash. This would take 3 consecutive stripping runs, to yield 7.2L of ethanol, which we’ll cut back to 18L at 40% ABV, redistil, and dilute again. After cut’s we’ll probably get around 15 bottles.
This figure has been fully aggravated to consider all aspects of cleaning, fermenting, distilling, and blending of your drink.
Build Quality & Construction
This impressive T500 Turbo features three major parts; the water control mechanism, distillation unit, and boiler. This stainless steel boiler features a 2Kw element that`s sealed off. This element is quite powerful, and it does not touch the liquid. What`s more, for it to work at its best, we had to use ceramic beads.
The distillation unit comprises two crucial parts; the condenser and reflux column. The water control mechanism offers you utter control of the cooling process. This is regardless of connecting the needle valve to the water tap or having an extra water flow regulator.
Furthermore, this system comes with a pack of ceramic boiler beads, which come in handy to develop a surface area for the fumes to accumulate and get out before they build up excessively. This aids the wash boil steadily. If the wash boils rapidly, it will result in huge bubbles known as surges that can block the reflux column and lead to the production of unusable spirit.
The kettle works excellently in creating an all-grain wash for your distilled artisan whiskey and BIAB beer. For those who don’t know this preparation aspect, it is slightly different from the kettle that forms the central part of the “grain-father” brewing mechanism, which is pricier and is capable of much more.
The bottom part is flat and features enclosed heating elements. However, it does have a drain outlet. This is a protrusion on the interior portion of the kettle, which was a bit of a problem. Nevertheless, using the T500 Turbo is straightforward; plug in and turn it on, and it immediately starts heating up.
Overall the T500 from Still Spirits has an impressive construction, and the build quality is impeccable. In addition, the incorporation of plastic and stainless steel works incredibly.
How To Use The T-500
As mentioned above, we found using the T500 Turbo to be relatively easy; Put the boiler on a level surface where the waste can get out into a sink or drain. Ensure that it is not tilted; otherwise, the condensate won`t reflux properly.
Pour the wash inside the boiler, but do not fill above the maximum level indicated. If the wash foams when boiling, it could access the column, interrupt the reflux action, and produce low-quality alcohol. To prevent foaming, add 3ml of distilling conditioner. This lessens the risk of foaming and boosts the distillation conditions. Again, put the ceramic beads inside to prevent surges.
Position the column and lid on the boiler base. Make sure the thermometers are legible. Close the boiler using the four clips on the cover. Link the inlet tube to the flow regulator and put the water outlet tube in the drain or sink. Finally, position the alcohol tube into the container you intend to collect your product.
Plug in and switch on the power. It will take approximately an hour and a half to reach boiling temperature. Before it starts boiling, turn the cooling water on. Use the time to modify the flow to about 530mls per second if the cold water is above 250C.
Change the water flow-out to reach an outlet temperature of 56 to 66 degrees. Then, check and modify the water flow during the entire process.
Once the distillation process is finished, turn off the power and pull the plug from the power source. Also, turn off the cold water supply. The wash remaining is quite hot; thus, let it cool before emptying it. Remove the boiler lid and column and wash the boiler carefully so as not to remove the ceramic boil boosters for next time.
It should be noted that a reflux will only increase the concentration not change quality the product is, high quality product in equals high quality out. Low quality yeasts and sugars can create compounds that produce undesired substances that have very close boiling points to the ~78°C in addition to high levels of metho ~65°C that can carry across and can fool the reading equipment used to test % of product. Spirit Hydrometers work on density and are only accurate when measuring pure spirit and water.
How The T-500 Works
The reflux condenser of the T500 Turbo applies the column ceiling temperature principles. This means it is engineered to stop the processing of chemicals above specific boiling points. Instead, this condenser concentrates more on the water flow and regulates the water flow`s temperature.
For instance, if the water`s temperature is steady, it can develop a ceiling onset temperature based on the water flow-out. This fantastic equipment was created by remodeling the reflux column, thus making distillation and general use effortless. We set it and left it, as it worked tirelessly, to produce high-quality spirits. It requires an easy setup with water flow and turning off once the distillation process is over.
How Do You Make The Base Alcohol Before Distilling?
This is called the wash and is essentially a wine or beer designed to be distilled.
Alcohol is a by-product of yeast feeding on sugar in a body of water. There are other compounds made during the process, like CO2, different forms of alcohol and methanol, but we focus on the beverage alcohol produced which has the boiling point of ~78°C as discussed. This process is called fermentation and is performed in a food grade fermenter (also known as a barrel), taking depending on the ingredients used and environmental factors between 7-12 days.
Check out our guides on some great wash recipes; such as:
What Yeasts To Use?
When purchasing the T500, you may have been ‘upsold’ to buy a collection of Still Spirits yeast products, such as Turbo Yeast, Turbo Clear, and …
To be frank, we recommend throwing out the turbo yeast that comes with the still.
(or at least putting aside until you learn when and when not to use it)
You can read more on if turbo yeasts are any good here.
Instead, buy yeast that’s designed to make good tasting products, rather than simply as much alcohol as quickly as possible.
Check out some of the articles we’ve written below to help you decide the best yeast for your project:
- The best yeasts for making vodka
- The best yeast for making tequila
- The best yeast for making rum
- The best yeast for making whiskey
Spirits you can make using the T500 Turbo.
The T500 can be used to make any type of spirit depending on what attachments you use. The alembic copper pothead is what you need if you want to make tequila mezcal rum or whiskey, while the reflux head is a better solution for neutrals like vodka or as a precursor to gin
the T500 doesn’t have a very good option for a botanical basket if you’re looking to make gin however if you’re not interested in vapor infusion and only want maceration style gins thin the Olympic Park copper pothead will be fine.
Pros and Cons of the T500 Turbo
TLDR? Didn’t read the rambling above? Here are our pros and cons to sum up our experience with the T500.
- The compact build makes it easy to store and fits on your kitchen counter
- Easy to put together and use.
- Easy to clean and sanitise
- Produces high-quality spirits, typically about 190 proof with the reflux head.
- Good pot still with the reflux head
- Tricky to adjust because the needle valves are extremely sensitive
- Requires a flow controller to run smoothly
- Uses plastic tubing in the hot vapour path.
- Plastic tubing in the take off.
Who’s it for?
This product is ideal for beginners who are on a budget. In addition, the easy-to-use column can be utilized with boilers from other popular home brewing boilers such as the Robobrew and Grainfather. therefore; it may not be necessary to purchase a separate distilling boiler! Great!
The T500 is pretty good, but there’s a few simple DIY mods that you can make at home to make your experience with the Turbo Still that much better.
- Swap out the drain tap for a weldless stainless steel ball valve.
- Get a triac-based power controller.
- Add a proofing parrot to the product side.
- Eliminate the plastic tubing in the vapor path by switching to silicone tubing.
The T500 Turbo Still is a great option for novices who want an off-the-shelf product that’s easy to use, and good enough to produce reasonable quality spirits.
- If you’re on a budget, the base kit complete with stainless steel reflux column is a great option.
- If you’re hoping to make vodka/neutral then the copper reflux column is the best option for you
- If you are more interesting rums, tequila, or whiskeys then grab yourself the copper alembic head instead (or as well!).
As we’ve outlined above, the biggest factor over the quality of your output is the quality of your input. So throw away the turbo yeast, and spend the extra time and money to make a wash that tastes create before you distill it.
Well, there you have it, the T500 Turbo review.
Let us know if you agree or disagree with anything we’ve said here. Do you have any tips or modifications to get the best out of your T500?