PicoStill Hands-On: Home Distillation Made Easy

Beer before liquor? Or liquor before beer? That's the choice my colleague Sherri and I had to make when we were checking out PicoBrew's latest innovation, the PicoStill.

Credit: PicoBrewCredit: PicoBrew

PicoBrew, for those who don't know, is a company that makes self-contained home brewing machines (its most popular, the Pico C, sells for $299 apiece). Simply insert a packet that contains hops, yeast and grains, then add water, and the machine largely does the rest. Think Keurig, but for beer.

Now, PicoBrew is selling the PicoStill, a $249 attachment that lets you distill spirits and other essential oils. Sherri and I had a chance to see both the PicoBrew and PicoStill in action, and taste the delicious, delicious results.

Credit: Tom's GuideCredit: Tom's Guide

In order to use the PicoStill, you'll need a PicoBrew Pico C, which attaches to the still and funnels hot water through to heat the liquid you want to distill. The company is currently selling both the PicoStill and the Pico C as a package for $524.

MORE: PicoBrew Freestyle Lets You Craft Your Perfect Beer

The PicoStill is a vacuum pot still, which lowers the pressure inside the pot, allowing you to use lower temperatures when distilling alcohol. For instance, the boiling point of ethanol — the good stuff — is 173 degrees Fahrenheit at sea level (14.7 psi). However, the PicoStill reduces the pressure inside the pot to about 3.5 psi, which lowers the boiling point to 112.5 degrees F.

Credit: Tom's GuideCredit: Tom's Guide

Temperature sensors — both inside the still, and at the top and the bottom of the condensation pipe — show up on the PicoBrew's small LCD display. As the alcohol evaporates from the pot, it travels up through a small chamber where you can put botanicals (such as juniper berries if you're making gin), some other flavored alcohol, hops or citrus oils.

Then, the vapors travel through a condensing coil and down into a mason jar, which fills with liquid goodness. Even smarter is a smaller container that collects methanol — that's the alcohol you don't want to drink — so that you don't have to worry about it contaminating the rest of your batch.

To be clear: PicoBrew says that the PicoStill should only be used to distill liquor where allowed by law. However, the company also touts it as a way to make infusions, and for approved distilleries to experiment with small batches.

MORE: Best Smart Kitchen Gadgets for Home Cooks

Sherri and I had some vodka and gin made from the PicoStill, and we found both to be quite enjoyable and smooth. The flavors and aromas from the gin were intoxicating (as was the liquor itself); we could easily see ourselves sipping a nice G&T or martini from this machine.

PicoBrew is leaving us a PicoStill to review; we'll report back on how easy it is to use, if the revenuers don't catch us first.

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