Copper is a very popular and even essential metal in distillation equipment. Some stills are made primarily of stainless steel but contain a copper coil, whereas others are entirely made of copper There are quite a few reasons why so many whiskey brewers prefer stills that are fully made of copper, such as the following;
- Copper is very durable and can easily last well over 100 years
- The material is relatively easy to mold and is resistant to corrosion
- Copper is aesthetically pleasing – one of the biggest reasons whiskey makers prefer these kettles
- Copper is known to remove sulfur from the spirits and also increases the quality and taste of the final product
Despite all of these wonderful benefits of owning a copper still, it still has one drawback.
It can be quite challenging to keep your still shiny and beautiful because copper naturally reacts with oxygen to produce oxide – a green layer on top of the copper that protects the material from corrosion.
If you purchased your still with visual intent in mind then you probably want to keep it as shiny and bright as possible. That red gleam certainly does offer a charming effect in your whiskey chamber. In this guide, we are going to share exactly how to make copper shine so that your still will look brand new in no time at all.
How to make copper shine
Copper is a highly durable material but it is still always best to use non-toxic cleaning products to make copper shine. With natural cleaning products you never run the risk of contaminating your spirits and your copper materials cannot be discolored due to extreme chemical exposure.
Give your still a good wash
The best way to remove copper oxide and other buildups from your still is by giving it a good wash using a natural acidic paste. Here are the ingredients and steps to properly clean your still
- ¼ cup flour
- ¼ cup salt
Step 1 – Mix your salt and flour in a small bowl. Add vinegar until a thick paste forms
Step 2 – Grab a soft cloth and rub the paste all over your still. Allow the paste to dry on the still for about 30 minutes
Step 3 – Rinse the paste off the still in warm water.
Your copper still should be much brighter once the paste has been properly washed off. If you are happy with the result then you can simply dry off your still and put it away. If you desire more shine or want to preserve that glow then you can continue to wax and polish your still.
Why you should wax and polish copper?
Waxing and polishing copper enhances the natural shine or glow of the metal. The wax also adds a protective coat over the still. This protective coat protects the metal from tarnishing and also forms a layer between oxygen in the air and the copper materials. This prevents the oxidation process and the still will remain deposit free for longer.
How to wax and polish copper
To treat your still, you need a proper wax or copper cream. You will also need one of the following polishing tools;
Microfiber cloth – To manually polish your still, apply the polish and start working the wax into the metal until the still shines.
Polishing machine – These machines are much quicker and make the polishing process much easier. Apply your wax and use the polishing machine to buff and shine the still.
Angle grinder – Angle grinders with a polishing pad can also be used to polish your still. Add the wax and keep buffing with the polishing pad until the still gleams.
Once your copper still is beautifully shiny, you can choose to apply copper lacquer.
Why should you apply copper lacquer?
Applying copper lacquer is optional. Many do prefer to apply a coat of this air-dry polishing finish because it provides a more durable finish. When your still is treated with copper lacquer you won’t need to repeat the polishing and waxing process anytime soon. The copper metal will be resistant even if the metal is exposed to intense heat.
How to apply copper lacquer?
Before you can apply this protective coat you need to ensure that all wax is properly buffed and shined into the copper. Apply the lacquer in an even but proper coat. Copper lacquer is an air-dry product which means you won’t need to apply additional heat or treatments to finish the process. Simply let it dry all on its own and it will be ready for use in no time at all.
Remember to give the inside of your still a good clean
Before you get started on the still exterior, you might want to give the inside a proper clean.
This is especially important if you built your own still since there could be lots of excess materials built up and left inside after the construction process.
Your still should always be properly cleaned before running your first mash. All flux, solder bits, carbon deposits and other contaminants should be properly removed from the still before you use it.
Cleaning a freshly manufactured still can be challenging. But if you bought a readymade still then the process is quite simple.
Here are the steps;
Step 1 – Fill the boiler with vinegar until the internal element is fully covered in the liquid.
Step 2 – Turn on the still and boil for 30 minutes. You can leave the condenser turned off so the acidic steam can clean the condenser as well.
Step 3 – Run the condenser as you normally would. A liquid should exit the condenser. Allow it to run for a while and shut it off.
Step 4 – You can now rinse the still with warm water
Polishing and shining the inside of the still isn’t necessary. The inside of the still doesn’t react as much to cause oxide buildup and this cleaning process should effectively remove buildup from the still and condenser. The still will be clean but won’t gleam as much compared to freshly polished copper metal.
Giving your still a proper clean and polish won’t just make your whiskey making equipment look fantastic. The right protective coatings can also protect the still from tarnishing and ensures that your products are clean and in great condition for as long as you need them.