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Equipment & Related Costs
The cost for 1 liter of 40% vodka is approx. the cost of one kilo sugar + the cost for activated carbon needed, from 500 - 1000 grams for 5-7 liter vodka, depending on the distillation speed and whether or not distillation is done twice. There is also yeast for fermentation, electricity for heating, and water for cooling, but this cost is only marginal.
Equipment costs can vary from next to nothing to US$ 1000. First one needs ordinary wine brewing equipment like a fermentation vessel, fermentation lock and a syphon.
The still is more costly. One can buy a new stainless steel still from Europe, which is costly. If one can weld or hire a welder it is much cheaper. The boiling vessel can be made from 2 stainless steel thin (made in Taiwan) kitchen pots, which are very cheap. The welder must be a pro, must (probably) silver weld those as they are too thin for TIG welding. Important:all welding must be of food grade quality: no lead welding.
If one is lucky, the material for the column and the condenser, stainless steel tubes and milking machine connector may be found by a metal recycler for a small amount. They often dismantle diary farms and food industries ... stainless steel keeps new even if it is 20 years old. For the screen at base of column one can use a stainless steel kitchen sink drain screen. which costs only a few dollars. Rashig rings, food grade plastic tube and a thermometer must usually be bought new, but they are a one-time expense ... as is the rest of the still. A stainless steel still (or one of copper) last a lifetime.
After distillation, a large funnel and a tube or pipe is needed for a special (70% better) process to purify the alcohol, using activated carbon. One also needs a hydrometer to check that the mash/wash has fermented the sugar to alcohol before distillation, and an alcometer to measure the strength of the alcohol. This also is a one-time cost.
Fuel Alcohol Still: While Robert Warren's still is a lot more expensive to build than most small home distillers will want for drinking whiskey, it is a perfect laboratory still. With its automatic control valve, you can produce precisely the proof level you want. For ethanol fuel, you want to make 160 to 190 proof, which you can make with this still on the first run, as it is 3 stills in one, really. It also removes the fusil oils and produces extremely pure alcohol. http://running_on_alcohol.tripod.com/ethanolfuel/index.html