As any moonshiner or ancient Greek would know firsthand, copper was identified as an ideal material for a variety of activities related to alcohol distillation, water storage, and transport centuries ago because of its unique characteristics and properties. Not just a beautiful metallic accent in the kitchen, this non-ferrous metal has proven itself over and over for commercial and industrial purposes. Here is a brief explanation behind choosing copper for distillation equipment and other industrial purposes.
The thermal and electrical conductivity of copper is very high relative to other pure, ductile metals. In fact, it ranks second highest among pure metals at room temperature and is four times as thermally conductive as its closest rival, stainless steel. This makes it an excellent material for electrical wire and cable. Pure (100%) copper is extremely soft and malleable, so most useful copper products include a very small percentage (<1%) of another metal such as zinc for strength and durability.
Copper is especially valued in water storage and transport because it is antimicrobial. According to Sam Kean, author, and reporter at Science Magazine, “If certain bacteria, fungi, or algae inch across something made of copper, they absorb copper atoms, which disrupt their metabolism (human cells are unaffected). The microbes choke and die after a few hours.” Aside from its biological and healing purposes, the use of copper for pipes, sinks, and water jugs has been reducing the risk of dangerous pathogens in the water supply for centuries.
Using copper for distillation equipment is especially appropriate because of its ability to latch onto and remove sulfur-based compounds from alcohol that would make for an unpleasant tasting experience. Traces of copper in a still slowly erode along with the undesirables in alcohol, requiring copper stills to undergo repairs every eight years, or so.
Because copper is 100% recyclable without loss of quality, it is estimated that 80% of the copper ever mined is still in use today! It’s exciting to think that your new hand-hammered copper kitchen sink could be the same exact copper mined from Cyprus and used in ancient Greek and Roman ages!