The NanoStillery™ - Whiskey Distillery

The world's smallest fully automatic whiskey still built with safety as the foremost consideration.

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The world's smallest fully automatic whiskey distillery built with safety as the foremost consideration.

So why do we need to distill barley wine to produce concentrated alcohol? Apart from just getting drunk, the alcohol can be used sensibly as an extremely effective medicine for stress relief and a useful aid for social integration. The alcohol produced has a very pleasant & subtle 'barley' taste & can be infused with herbs & berries to produce more specific medicines or drinks rich in antioxidants etc. For example, whiskey infused with hawthorn berries is a well known heart tonic.

Other more esoteric uses include the use in shamanic rituals where alcohol facilitates the trance like state required to travel to other spiritual dimensions.

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Features :

1. Alcohol sensors for detection of leaks / process errors.
2. Internet graphical user interface (GUI) via GPRS.
3. Intelligent Data to Voice (D2V) interaction - the machine describes to you what is happening at any given time with it's own intelligent 'robot' voice.
4. Fully hackable Arduino code.
5. 'Below floor' electric heating for safety compliance
6. Air cooled condenser - no cold water supply needed.

Here's the NanoStillery™ in action (Long version)

Historically, in Europe at least, it used to be very common for enterprising folk to travel around the land with their distillation equipment strapped to the sides of their donkeys providing a valuable service for owners of orchards and fruit bushes who wanted the produce turned into alcohol rather than having it wasted or eaten by birds and rats. In modern times, due to the advances of science, the equipment necessary for the process is much more sophisticated, but could, in theory, still be strapped to the back of a donkey.

It's not an old wives tale - The process of distillation used to be rather dangerous, often involving the lethal combination of naked flames, self intoxication and explosive alcohol vapours. Now, thankfully, there is much more awareness of sensible drinking and the potential dangers of industrial processes.

For me, the challenges are to automate the machine and make it as safe as reasonably possible, giving us lots of scope for using all kinds of weird and wonderful gadgets and sensors to monitor the process and minimise the risk of explosion.


  • Distillation of alcohol is illegal in many parts of the world so check out your local laws. Often, there is also a tax to pay on the product.
  • Alcohol vapour is potentially explosive. Explosions can be triggered by naked flames, relay switch contacts, hot surfaces, cigarette smoking, mobile phones etc.
  • This design uses 240 v power and should be wired up by a qualified electrician.
  • Most beer and wine contains small quantities of methanol which need to be removed during the distilling process. Methanol is a neuro poison that causes permanent nerve damage with symptoms such as blindness.
  • Always drink in a responsible manner. Don't make your own spirits if you're prone to alcohol addiction.

How it Works:

Home made barley wine (beer with no hops) or cider is pumped into the boiler and then rapidly heated to about 85 degrees C after which the power is reduced and the alcohol starts to boil off. Vapour travels into an air cooled condenser and then trickles out the other end into an inline hydrometer.

The hydrometer is connected to a pressure sensor which detects the level of fluid at any given time and a solenoid 'dump valve' at the bottom of the device allows the product to be dumped into a separate container to separate out the methanol.

The rest of the product goes into the conical flask and the process finishes when the boiler temperature hits a preset level controlled by a potentiometer on the control panel.

All processes are monitored graphically through a web page via a GPRS data transmitter in the control panel:You can see the results for the last batch, or even the current one, here:


Electrical schematic

Adobe Portable Document Format - 2.33 MB - 04/11/2017 at 13:26



Boiler part 1

DWG Drawing - 41.53 kB - 04/11/2017 at 13:26


Boiler part 2

x-zip-compressed - 134.27 kB - 04/11/2017 at 13:26



Boiler part 3

DWG Drawing - 47.03 kB - 04/11/2017 at 13:26



Boiler part 4

DWG Drawing - 49.03 kB - 04/11/2017 at 13:26


View all 7 files

  • 1
    Step 1

    A great deal of the work involved was in making the boiler. The 3D image above hopefully should show how it is put together.

    Boiler Parts:

    The boiler is made from a stainless steel beer keg, some custom laser cut stainless rings and plates and the electric heating element from a standalone electric hob.

    I did consider making my own heating element or even using an inductor coil, but the desire for a simpler life got the better of me. The same is true of using the smart looking stainless keg. The boiler needs to have an access lid large enough to get your hand in for cleaning the inside and the heating elements must not protrude into the keg so need to be underneath or around the sides or both. Protruding elements would be far easier but they are dangerous as if they are not fully submerged in liquid they can glow red hot and ignite the alcohol fumes - AVOID!

  • 2
    Step 2

    Boiler Fabrication - Keg and Outer Skin

    The boiler is double skinned to provide some degree of insulation. The bottom of the keg is removed, the outer cylinder has a flange welded onto it to connect to the top of the keg and the keg has a hole cut in it at 45 degrees to accept the 2" socket.

    The 10 litre keg, though of very high quality manufacture, is made of very thin stainless steel which makes it very difficult to weld without over heating it and forming a large hole. I used a combination of MIG and TIG techniques and it probably took me about 2 days until I got it leak proof.

    The boiler was tested for leaks after the reflux pipe was finished and attached. This made it easy to attach a compressed air supply and pressurise the whole thing to about 30 psi. A bit of soapy water sprayed on the outside revealed the leaks when it formed bubbles.

  • 3
    Step 3

    Boiler Fabrication - Weld in the 2" SocketThe brass connector is screwed into the 2" socket to prevent distortion and splatter on the threads during welding.

View all 16 instructions

Enjoy this project?



Dennis wrote 06/22/2017 at 00:55 point

Awesome project! Congratulations on moving on to the finalist

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Capt. Flatus O'Flaherty ☠ wrote 06/22/2017 at 08:01 point

thanks Dennis

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hTo137 wrote 05/02/2017 at 22:07 point

Nice project and quite useful.

I'll make one if I can distill Tequila with it!

Oh BTW, ethanol may be a source for hydrogen in hydrogen powered vehicles, add water and some other catalysts and you can get H an CO2. Chinese doing this with methanol and ethanol is their next target. So you could create your own fuel. Just make a bigger one.

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Capt. Flatus O'Flaherty ☠ wrote 05/03/2017 at 08:55 point

You can definitely make Tequila with it though I'm not sure what the recipe is. I'd have to do some Tequila tasting / googling.

This machine is more of an 'artisan' still rather than for making ethanol. A lot of the products are complex flavour compounds and it would be a bit of a waste to burn it in an engine. Tall column stills are used for ethanol rather than this short squat one.

PS. Still struggling with the cell phone signal booster project. In theory the LimeSDR should now work, but my phone does not respond. It's hard to know what's going on without a second LimeSDR to use as a spectrometer :( I'll be working more on the hardware based solution when it rains again.

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Kirschner Christoph wrote 04/17/2017 at 17:01 point

Looks cool!! :)

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Capt. Flatus O'Flaherty ☠ wrote 05/03/2017 at 12:41 point


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