Making moonshine is a very enjoyable and, if you do it properly, tasty hobby! It does not take very long to learn, produces great liquor of a kind that you cannot buy in any store, and connects you to an old American tradition! If you want to get even further into distillation than just making moonshine, you can even use a still to produce alcohol for other purposes, like making your own ethanol fuel. (Search the Internet for articles on how to modify small engines to run on ethanol. Imagine being able to distill your own fuel for your lawnmower!) Once you have your initial distillery set up, it is not a particularly expensive hobby, either. The only major expense is in the initial setup. This is where you have to choose carefully, because what you buy at the onset will determine the quality of your liquor from then on. The better the quality of your initial setup, the better the quality of your liquor will be.
Some people try to make moonshine without a still at all, by simply fermenting it in jugs. The result of this will taste absolutely terrible because the mixture will be extremely impure and contain a lot of “off flavors” and unhealthy toxins. It will also not have a very high alcohol content. Using this method of producing moonshine will produce a mixture of around twenty to forty proof, which is very weak indeed. Some people will try to improve this mixture by using what is called “freezer distilling,” freezing the mixture to help separate the alcohol from the water. This will increase the proof slightly, but it will do little to improve the taste.
A lot of people try to save money by building their own stills. This almost never works out well. It is not easy for someone with no experience in distilling to build a properly working still. If you don’t understand the internal workings of a still and how it works, you will have a hard time creating a good still even working from a set of plans. It also requires a good working knowledge of welding to join all the various metal parts together and ensure that it will be leak proof for a long time to come. It is possible to solder the parts together, but lead solder is toxic and should not be used in a device that is used to create potable mixtures. And even if you know how to put together a good, properly-working still, you will probably not save enough money to make it worth the enormous effort it takes to make one, because you will have to use brass components to make it safe to use. The best copper stills remove more of the sulfides that come from distillation. A lot of online guides found on the Internet will tell you that stills can be made from steel, but this is not advisable because steel can rust, and that can expose you to the risk of tetanus.
So do things right the first time! Buying a high-quality, professionally-made still will make your hobby much more productive and enjoyable.