Glass is really the best material to use for making small-scale stills, being inert, clean and transparent. One can see exactly what is going on inside and it is aesthetically pleasing. For those fortunate enough to have access to a glassblower, either at a university or research institute, and are willing to pay the fairly high cost, the construction of a glass still will be described later.
For the majority of people the choice will have to be metal and the only decision left to make is whether the metal should be copper or stainless steel. Either will do an excellent job. In using metal the reader should appreciate that its only shortcomings are: a) that it lacks the aesthetic appeal of glass and b) you can't see through it. Large commercial stills are made of metal so it is obviously satisfactory.
The advantages of using copper are that it is relatively inexpensive, it can be purchased from any hardware store and, most importantly, it can be worked and soldered easily by amateurs. Naturally, doing the work yourself will reduce costs enormously. Copper also has a high thermal conductivity, a useful attribute for cooling coils. If there is any concern about copper being attacked by the vapours involved in distillation it is worth remembering that commercial whisky distilleries in Scotland have used copper stills for centuries.
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