How to Make Moonshine

By Philip Brewer on 25 September 2007 (Updated 8 June 2011) 911 comments

It has been legal to make wine at home since the end of prohibition, and legal to make beer since 1978, but it's still illegal to distill spirits for beverage purposes without going through so much fuss and bother that the government admits flat out that it's "impractical." That's too bad, because homemade moonshine is incredibly frugal. (See also: 21 Great Uses for Beer)

Making moonshine is easy. In one sense, making any alcoholic beverage is easy, because the yeast do all the work. But moonshine is especially easy because running it through a still makes all the delicate balancing of flavors that mark a great beer or wine irrelevant.

I learned most of what I know about moonshine from the classic book Possum living: How to live well without a job and with almost no money by Dolly Freed. (A great book and well worth reading.)

[Updated 2010-01-14 to add:; I've just learned that Tin House books has reissued Possum Living! It's wonderful to see this classic once again available a reasonable price.]

Alcoholic beverages all start with yeast and with sugar for the yeast to eat. The sugar for wine usually comes from grapes (although other fruits are used, especially for homemade wine). The sugar for beer usually comes from malted barley (although other grains are also used). The sugar for commercially produced spirits can come from almost anything — corn for bourbon, barley for scotch, rye for rye, sugar cane for rum, and so on. For moonshine, what you want is the cheapest sugar you can find. Dolly Freed found that the cheapest sugar she could find was white granulated sugar. Nowadays, corn syrup might be cheaper.

Let me take a moment here to praise yeast. I'm a huge fan of yeast. They work tirelessly to make our bread and our booze, then uncomplainingly give up their lives that we may eat and drink. If there were an American Yeast Council, I'd want to be their spokesman.

The main difference between brewer's yeast and baker's yeast is that brewer's yeast has been bred to survive a higher alcohol content. That lets wine makers work with natural fruit juices that have a high concentration of sugar and get a higher concentration of alcohol before the yeast die of alcohol poisoning. If you're going to make your own sugar solution to grow the yeast in, though, you can just make the sugar solution's strength match what the yeast can convert before they die. It all comes out even with no waste.

According to Dolly Freed, it is a happy coincidence that 5 pounds of sugar in 3 gallons of water works out just right for ordinary baker's yeast.

[Updated 2007-12-30 to add:

A lot of people have asked how much yeast to add. I answered that in comment #16 below, but that's an obscure place to look for the answer, so I'm copying what I said up here.

I'd add one packet.

Since the yeast reproduce, it almost doesn't matter how much you add — after 20 minutes you've got twice as much, so if you add half as much it changes your total fermentation time from 10 days to 10 days 20 minutes.

All you need to do is add enough that your yeast overwhelms any wild yeast that happen to get in. (There are wild yeast in the air everywhere, so you really can't avoid them.)]

There are lots of good books on making beer and making wine. Any of them will describe the fermentation process, but very briefly you just:

  1. add sugar to the water
  2. bring to a boil (to kill any wild yeast in it and make it easy to dissolve the sugar)
  3. wait until the temperature comes down to 110°F (so you don't kill your own yeast)
  4. add yeast
  5. wait

The fermenting liquid is called the "must." You want to leave it loosely covered to keep other things from getting into it (wild yeasts, mold spores, etc.), but the yeast produce carbon dioxide as well as alcohol and you want to make sure the carbon dioxide can easily escape. If you seal it up tightly, it could explode.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW

Give it 10 to 25 days (depending on various things, but mainly how warm it is). You'll know its done when it:

  • quits bubbling
  • begins to turn clear
  • no longer tastes sweet

Now, if you were making beer or wine you'd have several more steps: bottling, aging, etc. Making moonshine, though, all you need to do is distill the stuff. For that, you need a still.

moonshine still

You can buy a still, but you probably don't want to. (They cost money, and the federal government — which scarcely polices this activity at all — probably does keep tabs on people who buy stills from commercial outlets.)

A still, though, is just:

  • a pot with a lid with a hole in it
  • a tube, closely fit to that hole, running to a jar
  • something to cool that tube

You bring the pot to a boil, the alcohol evaporates, the vapor goes out the hole, into the tube, and the condenses back into liquid alcohol.

Conveniently, an old-fashioned pressure cooker is a pot with a hole in the lid. Modern pressure cookers won't work as well, because they have a fancy valve to release the pressure, but with an old-fashioned one you just remove the weight and then fit the tube to the valve.

If you've got some room, you can just make the tube long enough and you don't need to do anything extra to condense the alcohol. Using a tube that coils some can save space. Alternatively, you can run your tube through a sleeve and run cold tap water through the sleeve. (Dolly Freed has a diagram of just such a setup.)

The things to be sure of here are that your entire set-up needs to be of food-quality materials: copper, aluminum, stainless steel are all fine. Plastics are iffy as some may leach stuff into the alcohol. Lead is right out, as is putting the pieces together with solder that includes lead.

Make sure the hole can't get plugged up, which could lead to your still exploding.

Set up your still and bring it to a light boil. Pretty soon you'll have almost pure alcohol dripping into your jar. The water content of the distillate will gradually increase. At some point a sample taken from the tube will no longer taste of alcohol, and you're done.

As I said, it's too bad it's illegal. Otherwise you could make some pretty good booze (well, let's say barely drinkable booze) for the price of a few pounds of sugar.

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Guest's picture
Wallace

Zorcy,

That's quite alright. Without a brewer store around, I'm forced to hunt the web. But thank you. Not a bad idea for a new business venture in my area though. I'll have to look into it! Haha. I'll start my own little yeast colony in the fridge, thanks for the advice (yet again)

Mr. Brewer,
Thank you as well. I followed your recipe to the tee on my first batch. I'm anticipating (and hoping) it to be ready to distill this weekend. The waiting game may prove to be longer though. Got my fingers crossed...
As for wasting sugar, thanks for the words. Even though it's pretty inexpensive, a dollar is a dollar is a dollar. I'm anxious to compare my first batch with the bakers yeast to that of a high alcohol tolerant yeast. I assure you, I will keep you both updated...

Guest's picture
willieboy

wallace,
23 pound of sugar to less than 5 gallons can't be right, surely? At 2 pound to the gallon it would give 10 percent alcohol. (imperial gallons, not US gallons). At 4 pound to the gallon, with a high alcohol yeast, you'd be looking at 20 per cent. 23 pound to about 4 and a half US gallons is about a 25 per cent fermentation. Great if you can get it! MUST be a turbo yeast job, though. Bakers yeast won't really ferment a lot more than 10 or 12 per cent. And Zorcy.............The universe is like an atom???? Or the solar system. with planets revolving around the sun, like electrons around a nucleus? Oh, and I opened a bottle of the "oak-aged" stuff. MY uncle died and we had a wake.Every damn poteen-maker in the county was there. Everyone thought it was a good scotch single malt whiskey. Even myself after a few jars! Thanks for your help.

Guest's picture
Wallace

Willieboy,

First and foremost, sorry to hear about your uncle.

But, yes, that's what I thought as well. I hope I am allowed to post brand names here, but the stuff I ordered, which arrived today is "Liquor Quik - Alcobase Extreme 23%"

4.7 gallons of water, 23 pounds of water. I am anxious to get it going. It contains dry yeast, some liquid kind of charcoal, a 'defoamer' and a clarifying agent to put in at the end. 8-10 days.

And Zorcy and I got a bit off topic talking about another book. Hence the universe / atom talk.

Thanks for the feedback!

Guest's picture
Zorcy

LOL,
Universe, galaxy or atom? Gets a little fuzzy for me. The more you drink, the more sense it will make.

Wallace,
There are ways to make yeast more effective. Yeast nutrients, dead yeast husk and other additives that makes it more friendly to yeast. When yeast are happy, they are stronger and can produce in a more toxic environment then they normally could. I had to look up the 23% yeast you mentioned. They took some strong yeast and added these nutrients. You can make a weaker yeast do 'similar' but not the same production. DAP is used a lot as well. Tannin can be used, just use cold tea.

Guest's picture
Wallace

Zorcy,

Holy crap, is there anything about the process that you don't know?
How long have you been doing this?

The 23%-er I bought was on a whim. It was eight bucks shipped. A far cry from the $1.07 baker's yeast I got from the grocery. Before I settle on a usual recipe, I just wanted to try a best case / worse case scenario. I'll post the yield results when they come. The batch with the 23% should stop bubbling middle of next week.

When you say cold tea... I am assuming you mean like Lipton?
Do you think it would be beneficial enough to throw a couple tea bags in the first batch (recipe on here) now, or should I just let it ride as is?

I am a big fan of simplicity, and the recipe here is about as simple as it gets. The whole process of the Alcobase Extreme was not bad, but the whole charcoal / defoamer / clarifier steps seem to be a bit extreme. But throwing a tea bag in the mix would be simple enough.

As always, Zorcy, thanks for the time and knowledge.
If you're ever in Central Florida, I'll buy you a beverage for all the help...

Guest's picture
Matt

Hi all, hopefully this didn't come through twice as I messed the first up. I am writing you for some advice. I have made appx 7 batches and have used the recipe on this site (8lbs table sugar, 5 gallon water, 1 tablespoon turbo yeast) every time. Every time I have had consistent results that I am very happy with. Unfortunately, the batch I attempted to make last night did not turn out NEARLY as strong as my previous 7 batches had. I have been used to getting appx 3-4 cups of very strong alcohol and then it gradually tapering. With the batch I ran through the still last night, the first (and remaining) that came out of the still was unbelievable weak?! It was literally weaker at start than when I normally stop my distillation of previous batches. I can't for the life of me figure out what I could have done to cause this as all the variable have remained the same (same quantiy/volume of sugar, water, yeast). I know that it was fermenting as I had bubbles/burping on my air lock. I did only let it ferment for 6 days which I know isn't long BUT it is turbo yeast AND the last batch I made I only allowed to ferment for 6 days. Any thoughts/ideas on what I could have done or what could have caused? Thank you for your advice!!!

Guest's picture
Zorcy

Matt
Without checking every item, I would think it to be one of two items. The yeast was having trouble producing or the still was not running at optimal.

Yeast: Was there any chance the water has changed? Was there any chlorine still in the water? You can heat it to boil, then let it cool down enough to pitch. Chlorine evaporates lower then boiling temps. Did you use the same supply of water? Distilled water has almost no nutrients for the yeast, whereas the ground water may have ideal nutrients in your area. That is why Kentucky is used in the states, the water. Was the temp correct when you pitched the yeast? If it was too hot, it could have killed or damaged the yeast and slowed it down. If it was too cold, it could have started to reproduce to slow, and other lil nasties started to grow and competed for the food supplies, sugar.

Still: If you run it too hot, the water will not condense out before it gets to the condenser unit. It will simply stay in vapour form until it drips out the tip.

I would suggest tasting the wash. If there is any sugar left, then its yeast. If it is dry, no sweetness, then check the still setup.

If you are using Turbo Yeast, you can set the recipe to make about 18% alcohol. If you have ideal conditions, you can tweak out about 20%. Try 13 pounds of sugar, 5 gallons water and pitch the Turbo Yeast before adding. You should get about 18%. That will give you, not quite, but close to double the output.

Guest's picture
Guest

What does "pitch the Turbo Yeast before adding. " mean ? in the above

Guest's picture
Zorcy

Guest
Pitching yeast is when you rehydrate it. You can pitch liquid yeast, too. You take the yeast you are given. It us dormant at the time. Add warm water and a little food. The food should be what you are using in your wart or mash. This will feed the yeast, start reproduction and encourage the yeast to grow that likes what you are feeding it, first. Since there are lots of yeast cells, not all of them like sugar the same. So the yeast that does like it, kicks in first and gets strongest. In 20 minutes, your yeast has doubled in volume. Now you have a growing yeast colony, ready to take on the wash.

Guest's picture
Matt

Zorcy: Per your reply: "Was the temp correct when you pitched the yeast? If it was too hot, it could have killed or damaged the yeast and slowed it down. If it was too cold, it could have started to reproduce to slow, and other lil nasties started to grow and competed for the food supplies, sugar.

I would suggest tasting the wash. If there is any sugar left, then its yeast. If it is dry, no sweetness, then check the still setup".

I believe it may have been a problem with my yeast as I am using the same water and still the exact same way I always have. I used your suggestion of tasting and yes, it was still sweet. My theories (based on knowledge from your feedback) is that I either put the yeast in when my mash was too hot (causing it to kill and ferment slower than I am used to) OR possibly leaving it in a room of my house that is appx 70 degrees all the time and producing slow.

As a follow up observation/question.....When I ran these batches through the still, they tasted very peculiar. It is alcohol (just not nearly as strong) but it has a different taste than I am used to. I really don't even know how to explain/describe it (not really good or bad, just different). Is it possible that as you said above that something else got in and competed with the yeast causing it to taste different? I know I have been warned of this possibly happening when I make beer and it getting contaminated?

Another question from your post below this one: "Pitching yeast is when you rehydrate it. You can pitch liquid yeast, too. You take the yeast you are given. It us dormant at the time. Add warm water and a little food. The food should be what you are using in your wart or mash. This will feed the yeast, start reproduction and encourage the yeast to grow that likes what you are feeding it, first. Since there are lots of yeast cells, not all of them like sugar the same. So the yeast that does like it, kicks in first and gets strongest. In 20 minutes, your yeast has doubled in volume. Now you have a growing yeast colony, ready to take on the wash"

I want to be sure I understand correctly. What is the difference in putting my yeast directly in my mash or putting it in sugar water for 20 minutes and then adding to my mash (which is what i took from the above response)? That seems like it would just give it a 20 minute head start on a 5-7 day process? \

Last question, I promise: A follow up to your reply "If you are using Turbo Yeast, you can set the recipe to make about 18% alcohol. If you have ideal conditions, you can tweak out about 20%. Try 13 pounds of sugar, 5 gallons water and pitch the Turbo Yeast before adding. You should get about 18%. That will give you, not quite, but close to double the output."

Sorry, I am a little slow. When you say 18%, do you mean 18% ABV OR I will get 18% of my 5 Gallons back as alcohol (or appx 1 Gallon).

Sorry again, I am new and you all are the only help I have. I am very grateful!

Guest's picture
Zorcy

Wallace,
You just need to make a quart of Lipton Tea and use that for some of the water. Don't worry about what you have. If you did not save some of the yeast, pull off some now before it drinks itself to death with alcohol. Put it in the fridge with a little sugar water added to feed it. You can use it for the next batch.

DAP is a fertilizer that is also added to cattle feed for nutrients. If it is food grade, its yeast grade. Central Florida has enough feed stores to find something like it, and cheep.

If you are in central Florida, you should have a vast supply of fruit. Even oranges and watermelons would be great! Find an old orchard, old trees, not picked for years. The fruit will not be fit for humans. The rough, woody fruit is super sweat. You can use that to ferment and distill. The who idea of alcohol, was to save the crops so you could use the carbs during the winter months. "Pillars of the Earth" explains how they used beer for breakfast. So use the free fruit. Watermelons grow great in the sandy soil. Spend $5 on seeds or just use the seeds from a watermelon. Plant them in a field, the woods or dry swamp area. Come back when they are ready. They should have enough sugar and water in them to ferment in a large trash can. You could tweak it by adding sugar to maximize your yeast, if you like.

I do travel to Orlando on occasions. From where, I can not say. Big brother is always watching you.

Guest's picture
anonimus360

Ok so im making my own wine, now i want to distill it to make a vodka of some sort. Im going to be using a cheap home made still from a tea pot with copper tube. and it will be my first time.
but im reading about this methanol from other places as well as on here, your blogs being the most informative. can you direct me to a link or tell me alot more, possibly everything i need to know to not produce methanol instead of ethanol and go blind? I have no books to go by, i just know what i know from the internet posts that i read.
thanks

Philip Brewer's picture

If you start with sugar and yeast, you're not going to make methanol.

The way people poisoned themselves with methanol wasn't by making a mistake in distilling moonshine. It was by finding laboratory or industrial methanol and drinking it without understanding what it was. (Or, probably even more often, by buying deliberately mislabeled industrial methanol from someone willing to poison people to make a buck.)

Guest's picture
Zorcy

anonimus360

If you have already made wine, you have spent time and effort in a fine product. I would not disrespect that effort with turning it to vodka. You CAN make it into vodka by stripping all the water (and flavour) out. But if you start with a nice wine, use a different process and make Brandy. Just a thought, but it would be nice.

Unless the tea kettle is 3-5 gallons, it will be long and tedious to make any sizable about of product. Lets say you have gallon size kettle, you can only fill 3/4 full. This allows the vapors to form in the top. With 3 US quarts of 10% wash, running perfect, would only give you about 9 oz. Of that, you have to toss out the heads and tails since you used fruit to ferment. Lets just say a total of an ounce for good measure. That leaves you with a cup of high octane. You can cut it to 100 proof, or 50% and makes a pint, 16 oz. The 3 quarts will take some time to heat up, so you have to take that into account. If you start with 5 gallons of wine, you have to do this 7 times. If you have a high BTU stove, you could heat it to the right temp in about 15 minutes. That is 105 minutes, 1 hour and 45 minutes just to get up to temp. If you had a 3 gallon still, you could do it 2 times, with a heat up time of about 20 minutes each. that cuts your warm up time in half. It will form vapors faster in a large volume, too. In short, use the tea kettle to test, tweak and play with recipes, but for any volume, you will need to move up in size. A stainless steal beer keg is ideal, but even I don't have one of those, yet.

Guest's picture
willie-boy

Zorcy, I've got a few pieces of well-seasoned apple wood, from an apple tree that a neighbour cut down a few years back. Is it any good for aging or flavouring, and if so what sort of flavour would it give? I imagine it'd have to be shaved or charred like you would with a a piece of oak? Or is it not suitable at all?

Guest's picture
Zorcy

willie-boy
You might try using it to smoke the grains before you steep them. It will be like using smoked peat moss. It would add some notes to the aroma. I have not seen to much on aging other then oak. White American is the most popular, but some require a French Oak. Not sure the flavours the French would give off. As with any hobby, you could and should experiment. Small batches with all different types of wood with different levels of chardness. Make small batches and mark the well. You can taste them at different ages to see what is ideal. Ask a home brewer and he will start to tell you about recipes he has played with to get a flavour that he likes. It can only waste it and not hurt you. I stick with oak though.

Guest's picture
willie-boy

anonimus360,
Like philip said, a sugar wash won't make methanol. Just think "fruits and roots". Potatoes, grapes, etc, produce VERY small amounts of it. Sugar won't. And Zorcy, I know what you mean; every website I've seen, or every poteen/moonshine maker I've ever spoken to always recommends american white oak. Hard to get hold of around here. Even English oak is scarce. And expensive. The last lot I made was with a piece of Estonian oak; tasted okay, like a good scotch. I'll experiment with the apple-wood and see how it goes.

Guest's picture
Zorcy

willie-boy
If you take a Jack Plane to a small piece of the oak, you get some great shavings. 6 oz of oak can go a long way when you toast it. I use about 2 Tbs in an imperial pint. I have about 1 oz that I have been using for some time now. I can not even tell it has been taken from yet.

I use the wood flooring left over from the house. I have about 300 pounds sitting in the hall still. Maybe if someone flies to the eastern hemisphere, you could talk them into grabbing a plank of untreated flooring for you.

Since you are on the other side of the pond, I would just stick to the French Oak. Soak it in some red wine for a few days first, then put in your product. Some nice notes come out.

Guest's picture
Guest

a Zorcy wantabe

080610

Approximately 23+ liters water 103.3 F

17+ pounds of sugar, well stirred in and dissolved.

1 package 4.75 oz (135g) 48 hour Mile High turbo yeast ‘tossed’ into a pot (1 qt. maybe) with some sugar stirred in and dissolved, water at about 100 F. Let set for about 15 or 20 minutes. The ‘foam’ doubled the original size.

I dumped the pot of yeast into the big bucket. I even dunked the pot in to get it all out. I mixed it throughly. I put the lid on with a tube running from it to a gallon jug of water and put the tube all the way in the jug of water. That is my air lock.

When all was said and done, I had 24 liters of mash cooking.

I wanted to try Zorcy’s method of giving the yeast a kick start before introducing it to the batch.

This yeast claims 14% in 2 days with 21 litres of water and 13 pounds of sugar, and 20% in 5 days with 18 pounds of sugar.

Trying to jump start the yeast and get the water below 104 F caused me to have to add cold water, and thus slightly more water than the recipe called for.

I will let you all know how it works out.

Guest's picture
Guest

080610

Approximately 23+ liters water 103.3 F

17+ pounds of sugar, well stirred in and dissolved.

1 package 4.75 oz (135g) 48 hour Mile High turbo yeast ‘tossed’ into a pot (1 qt. maybe) with some sugar stirred in and dissolved, water at about 100 F. Let set for about 15 or 20 minutes. The ‘foam’ doubled the original size.

I dumped the pot of yeast into the big bucket. I even dunked the pot in to get it all out. I mixed it throughly. I put the lid on with a tube running from it to a gallon jug of water and put the tube all the way in the jug of water. That is my air lock.

When all was said and done, I had 24 liters of mash cooking.

I wanted to try Zorcy’s method of giving the yeast a kick start before introducing it to the batch.

This yeast claims 14% in 2 days with 21 litres of water and 13 pounds of sugar, and 20% in 5 days with 18 pounds of sugar.

Trying to jump start the yeast and get the water below 104 F caused me to have to add cold water, and thus slightly more water than the recipe called for.

I will let you all know how it works out.

Guest's picture
Zorcy

080610
Very nice start. Sounds like a solid go already. By the time I read your post, you may have already started to distill. Hope you save a little living yeast for next time. Hope you have finished and ready to taste by the time you read my post today. Lets hear the great news.

Still waiting for someone to post how they did on a large scale. Something along the lines of a commercial size trash can, 55 gallon, with a tight lid. That will be my next step. I may add a large tap to the bottom to pull the wash off from it. About 6 inches from the bottom so as not to pull up dead yeast.

Guest's picture
willie-boy

Zorcy, the red wine bit?..............Should I soak the shavings in red wine, let them dry, and then char them? Or soak the entire block of oak in red wine, let it dry and use it to shave and char as required? Or even shave and char the untreated oak and then soak it in red wine before adding to the bottle? Have to admit, I'm a bit confused here!

Guest's picture
Zorcy

willie-boy
The idea is to make it age like you would in a used, charred, oak barrel. Shave it, char it, soak in wine then dry. The drying part is optional. Now it will be as if you poured your alcohol in an old wine barrel to age.

While researching for ideas of the wine barrels, I came across this reason for not using red oak. For our usage, I think it should work just fine. And it seems Spanish Oak is stronger in flavours then the American Oak. That could be worth a try. Be careful not to over flavour it though.
"red oak has good flavor too, it just needs to be used in chip forms because red oak barrels leak." And "if I added a few (6-10) black peppercorns to my aging process I would get a new appreciation! I did and it worked very well,"

Guest's picture
willie-boy

Zorcy, Boswell's "Life of Johnson", 1791. "The inhabitants of Inverary are the most impoverished and wretched creatures in all creation, having neither corn, nor wheat, nor barley. They subsist on Oats, from which they make both their bread and whiskey; it must be said that while their bread is well-nigh inedible, their whiskey is the finest I have ever tasted.".....................Oat whiskey??? Must be worth a try making it.

Guest's picture
willie-boy

Oh, and reading up on barrels...........Chestnut wood is widely used in the west of england for cider barrels; apparently it gives a sweeter flavour to the finished product. Might try a piece of that. Doesn't mention anything about charring it or so on.

Guest's picture
Zorcy

Willie-Boy
Here was an oat whiskey recipe: http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=4591
They do talk about using baby cereal for recipes too. Be careful, seems it ferments at such a high rate, it can spew out the top. http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=9879
The charring is needed to open the pores and the carbon cleans the alcohol.

Guest's picture
Zorcy

Found another good read. Amylase Enzyme

If you find yourself using a local, cheap supply of starch, you would benefit from this. It can be found in malted barley, but can be bought in pure form from a beer or wine supply store. It uses about 1 TSP for 5 gallons. Add it when you add the yeast. It will ferment aggressively. You could wait till your fermentation slows down. When you add the enzyme, it will start back up again. This will help if you have potatoes or rice as a starch supply. There is a mold that is used for the similar function in saki.

Guest's picture
Guest

Zorcy wannabee

Per my missive the other day, my Zorcy yeast pre-kicked turbo yeast was cooking real strong for 3 days. 24 liters in a tub that measured 85 degrees, with a laser temp gun, in a room of 74 degrees. Day 4 it dropped to 78 degrees and the bubbles slowed down. At the beginning it was constant bubbles in my gallon jug airlock. The bubbling gradually slowed down. Day 6 a little burb every 3 seconds. Day seven every 4 seconds. My question: is there a law of diminishing returns? Should I just kill it with the "Kleer" product, or let it go? If let it go, how long?

Guest's picture
Guest

LARGE VESSELS

A guy posts on Craigslist every so often. He has black, 60 gallon food grade, used pickle barrels. They have a tight screw off lid. They smell like pickles on the inside. I wonder if they would work? Put a spigot about 6" from the bottom to avoid the dead yeast etc, and another on the very bottle for clean out. Zorcy, why did you say "airtight" when you were talking about a large batch?
http://roanoke.craigslist.org/grd/1892256221.html

Guest's picture
Zorcy

Guest

You can stop it any time and start to clear it. An advantage to stopping early would be the off yeast flavours you could pick up from leaving it dead yeast too long. To avoid that and keep it going, you can pull off the trub. That is the dead glob at the bottom. Put in a new container and let it keep going. This will stir it up a bit and kick of for a while longer from the agitation. You can taste it at this time, too. If you taste sweet, keep going. If it is dry, then add some more dissolved sugar and see if you can tweak out another % of alcohol. The hardest thing at this point, is patients. If this is your first batch, you want to stop and distill. If it is not sweet, then do that. Next time, you can have all the time in the world, and try to get more out of it.

Large vessel,

Not so much airtight, as just a tight lid. It is hard to get airtight in large sizes that are easy to get, like a trash can. The idea is to keep all germs out. Moonshiners in the states would leave the top open, allow flies to land, and use the natural yeast in the air to ferment. That is fine, but natural yeast is slow and has a low tolerance to alcohol. It would die out at a low %. Since we have really good yeast available to us, keep the competing micros out, and give the yeast a chance to do more work. If you can get a pickle barrel, you are in great luck. It holds fermented veggies, so fermented grains or sugar will make no difference is safety. You will need to clean, clean and re clean to get the smell out. When you think it is gone, you will smell it when you use it again anyways. I use pickle buckets from delis. It takes about 4 cleanings with bleach or oxyclean to make is smell descent. It takes about 4 uses with a chance to air out in the heat between each use, to really go away. Anything delicate you try to brew, will still pick up the smell\taste. Since you are distilling, it should be ok after you bleach it enough. Hot sunny days in a sweltering shed will help, with no lid. With the size, you will need a large air lock. May i suggest the screw hole in top, with an adapter, to a 1 inch hose, submerged in a bucket of water? If you can imagine, 5 gallons of active yeast, blowing the stopper off a 3/8 inch hole, image 11 times the volume working the yeast!
Looking at the craig post, buy 2!

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Guest

Zorcy wannabe

Update on batch mentioned 4 or 5 posts ago and a question.

9 days after starting the brew, with bubbles still coming every 30 seconds, I pulled the plug.

I dumped yeast’s product thru a pillow case into another container. The pillow case caught almost nothing, but I stopped before pouring the thicker ivory cream in. I then saved the cream, maybe for food for the next batch.

For kicks, I took some readings of the wash:

The temp of the liquid was a measured 79 degrees.

I tried the alcohol meter and it read 7 percent. Not sure what that meant. Maybe the suspended yeast remains keeps the number low.

I tried the ‘sugar’ meter and it read 0-0. It almost sank out of sight. Don’t know what that means either.

I just put part A of the KLEER product in. Will update again, later.

QUESTIONS

Is the dead stuff at the bottom of the barrel food for the next batch of yeast ?

What do those readings mean that I took?

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Zorcy

Guest
Sounds like you fermented out all the sugar. You still had room to go if it was bubbling. If the reading is correct, you have 7% alcohol, which is like a beer. I am not so sure that would be the right reading if the sugar is all fermented. If all the sugar is gone, then you should have about 17.5% alcohol. Sounds like the sugar is gone if the meter fell all the way in. Try to turn the alcohol meter, see if there is another number to read. Did you take readings before fermentation? Did you taste to see if it is sweet still?

The stuff at the bottom is trub. It is dead yeast. There will be some live yeast in there, too. If you are careful, you can cultivate it and start the next batch. Lots of recipes call for using a pack of cheap yeast and kill it. You feed that to the expensive yeast to give it more nutrients. So keep it and use it all. Split it, start to cultivate part, and add the left over in the boiling water on your next batch.

All in all, it sounds great. Let us know how the distillation works for you.

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Guest

Zorcy wannabe

I didn’t take a sugar reading before starting. I should have.

When the bubbling had slowed down, it tasted rather tart. I guess you would say ‘dry’. I don’t take much stock in those readings, as the readings almost doubled after I Kleered it. I think all the solids floating around give false readings.

As you may remember, I started with about 17+ pounds of sugar and about 24 liters all together in the bucket. When the bubbling slowed way down, I had lost almost 2 liters somewhere. Maybe when all the gas is gone, or maybe alcohol takes up less space than sugar. I don’t know, but I had 22 liters of product to cook. Out of that 22 liters I got 4 ½ liters of 90% pure. The temps started twitching around (it had been a steady 174 degrees) bouncing down to 173 and up to 175, and I got another small amount. But it slowed down so much that I didn’t think it was worth the propane, so I quit.

One thing I have noticed after doing this about 4 times, depending on how hot you make the propane go, you get different results on the reflux tower.

This time I turned the heat up and once it started it was like a cow pissing on a flat rock. This time I also had the water supply moving thru faster than in the past.
When the temp got to 172/173 I took the heads. Then I started collecting. It was a steady 174 for an hour and I got over 4 liters of 90% pure. Then the temp started moving down to 173 and up to 175 and back down to 174. But I wasn’t getting much out of the exit hole.

In past tries I brought the heat up slow. I had the water just barely trickling thru and I got a slightly purer product. Maybe 92-94% pure, but a little less of it. I am not sure the extra 2 to 4 % is worth the much longer time having to watch it.

There’s a lot going on here, so good notes are required.

The next batch I am thinking of starting it off with baker’s yeast for a day or 2, then hitting it with the turbo stuff. What do you think?

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willie-boy

Guest,
An alcoholometer will only give a true reading of the amount of alcohol if what you're measuring is alcohol and water only. Like you said, the other suspended stuff in it, yeast and so on, will give a false reading. The hydrometer, or sugar meter, is the more reliable one to go by but you need to take a reading at the beginning to know how much alcohol to expect. And, yeah, when it drops to 1.00 it's done fermenting.
Zorcy,
I made a 30 litre batch about 12 months ago with a high alcohol wine yeast that ferments up to 15%. I siphoned it off to clear and bottled 2 litres of the yeasty sludge at the bottom and kept it in the fridge. I used a cupful of this in every batch after with great results until it ran out, when I repeated the performance all over again. The yeast seems to mutate, probably depending on what's been fermenting in it, (or maybe wild yeasts getting into it?) Some batches only ferment to around 12%; one particular batch that I had fermented to nearly 20%.Turbo yeast to me doesn't seem to justify it's expense. Can't buy it over the counter here in a home-brew shop; just drawing attention to yourself ordering it on the internet. Nobody is going to make a 25% alcohol BEER!!!Wandering off the point here a bit. What I was going to ask was, has anyone out there managed to cultivate a turbo yeast for re-use? Everyone I've spoken to all agree that a turbo yeast seems to be a one-off job and dies stone-dead at the end of the fermentation. Why is this? If we could grow our own it'd be a damn sight cheaper; maybe even develop higher strength mutant strains!

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Zorcy

Guest
It seems like a nice run. Unless you are trying to make some ultra pure alcohol, I would have to agree with speed over quality when it's that close.

Great job. Let us know about the taste, too.

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Zorcy

willie-boy
I think you will find Turbo to be multiple yeast. A fast, low alcohol and a slow high alcohol. The high alcohol at the end kills the rest and you are left with something so slow, its not practical. It could be so slow as to allow other lil meanies to grow and choke it out. One way to get high octane is to make sake. It uses yeast and koji mold. You can find yeast balls at herbal shops. They come with yeast and koji. Double check with the clerk. For about $10-$20 you can make a nice sake, 20 US gallons! I intend to make a batch, for educational purposes. If it does not work out well, I can distill it. Sake usually is very high % drink.

This is the post I read, sounds great! http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=5368
"I brought about 45 liters of water to a boil. I added an 8kg bag of rice and let it boil for 10 minutes or so. Then I shut off the heat and let it sit for an hour. I then added another 10 liters or so of cold water, and put the pot outside to cool to strike temperature 66°C. It never took long as the tempertures outside are close to - 20° C right now....Burrrrrrrrrr!!!

At 66°C I added 4 tlbs of alpha amylase and put the lid on and let the conversion happen for about 90 minutes. The sg had the potential for about 6-7% AV. I added 10 lbs of white sugar and put the mixture to cool. When temperature reached 30-35°C I threw the yeast and added 4 tlbs of gluco amylase and aerated the crap out of it. Put it all in 2 fermenters and put it away to do it's magic.

I used 2 packages of EC 1118, which I hydrated and then started in a mild sugar water a couple hours before hand."

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willie-boy

Zorcy,
What most people around here make is poteen, which I suppose is a potato whiskey rather than a vodka; pot-still job, distilled down to drinking strength, (about 50% abv), rather than high-strength and then cut with water. It's usually made with bakers yeast or a beer yeast, the reason being that the potato starch takes a while to break down into sugar. A batch usually takes 2 to 3 weeks to ferment. Potatoes are hard to break down into sugar, so the usual recipe calls for equal amounts of white sugar and potatoes, to kick-start the process. Thats why a turbo yeast is no use for poteen really; the sugar would have fermented right out before the potatoes had time to break down.I've never really heard of this alpha amylase stuff before, though I seem to recall someone saying it was used to clear hazy wines. It doesn't seem to be on sale in home-brew shops here, except for this purpose, and then only in very small packets. But have I got this right here?............If I were to make a wash consisting solely of potatoes (and maybe a few yeast nutients), and added this alpha amylase, the amylase would convert the potato starch to sugar near enough right away, without needing to add an equal amount of white sugar, or indeed any sugar at all? The one thing we have PLENTY of here is potatoes!!And if this was the case, it would be possible to use a turbo yeast then, because the starch to sugar waiting time would have been eliminated. Is this amylase sold under a brand name?

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willie-boy

Zorcy,
Alpha amylase???? I've only ever seen this stuff in small packets in homebrew shops here. It seems that its main use is for clearing hazy wines. Around here, the main moonshine is poteen; I suppose it's more of a potato whiskey than a vodka. Made in a pot-still and distilled down to drinking strength, usually about 50% abv. What scotch manufacturers would call "cask strength". As opposed to distilling it to up to the 90% region and then cutting it back with distilled water.The thing with potatoes is that they don't ferment too good on their own; the starch takes a while to break down. This is why a turbo yeast isn't really suitable for poteen. The way we do it is to brew a wash of equal amounts by weight of sugar and grated potatoes; the sugar kick-starts it into fermenting. Most people use a bakers yeast or a beer yeast. It can take 2 or 3 weeks to ferment right out, giving the potatoes time to break down. A turbo yeast would just ferment all the sugar out in a day or 2 without giving the potato starch time to convert.
So.......have I got this right? If I put a few spoonfuls of this alpha amylase in a wash made completely of potatoes, (and a few yeast nutrients thrown in), I won't need to put ordinary white sugar in with it? the amylase will convert all the potato starch in to sugar near enough right away? In which case a turbo yeast will become a viable option? Potatoes are the one thing we have PLENTY of here!! I've seen on the internet that there's a beta amylase as well; what's the difference between the two of them? And how long would it take to convert, say, a 20 gallon wash of potato starch only, (with a potential alcohol of around 15%), into a wash in which the starch has been converted into sugar and ready to go? Sorry if I'm bugging you with too many questions!! And this post vanished into thin air the first time, before I had finished writing it; wouldn't be surprised if it turns up here twice..................

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Zorcy

Willie Boy
From my research, the first enzyme breaks up long strand starches. That would tend to be solid or mash, to a hazy thick milk like substance. The second enzyme is for short strand starch, liquid. So the 1 2 punch would break down from solid to liquid to fermentable sugar. I see they did use some sugar to start it off. More then likely for a similar reason. It also seems the thick congealed rice gel they created, breaks down to a white liquid in a short time. I see the enzymes on line and I intend to buy some to test with. You can use malted barley for one of the enzymes, but I think it is the 2nd one.

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Zorcy

Finally ran the sweet feed recipe. OMG! I will not attempt that again. The sweet feed was not the same as I grew up using to feed the horses. It was pellet formed and not very sweet smelling. The smell had a lot to be desired. Thinking this could be due to the unique nature of the mix, I let it run. Knowing some starches take longer to ferment, I gave it lots of time. The smell was that of a damp garbage can. When I tried to run the still, it did not smell as bad. Hoping against hope, I kept running it. The temps came up way to high and way faster then expected. The product that came out was almost pure water. Not sure what was created in the fermenter, but it was not alcohol. I think I will try for some corn next time. The new column and condenser I just made, worked way above my expectations. I do have an idea for a stacked bubble column. But it's way off.

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willie-boy

zorcy,
So what happened to the alcohol? Looking up "sweetfeed", it seems that the pelleted stuff contains a lot of molasses. Should have fermented, surely? The equivalent stuff here, I think, is some sort of pulped and dried sugar-beets. Sold in hundredweight bags.I might check out the price of that and give it a try. Could be cheaper than sugar.

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Zorcy

Willie Boy
The pellets are very NOT sweat. I used to love the smell and feel of the old feed. This tends to have more husk and filler then anything else. Maybe a couple cambden tabs would have been nice to kill any germs that may have been there.

I have a pear tree available to me, I think it's time to start picking. Make some bubbly peary.

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Zorcy

So you just came across 10 pounds of used crushed grapes some had made wine from? So did I. I added 10 pounds of sugar and enough water to make 5 gallons of wash. With the added sugar in the grapes, I expect a little over 14% alcohol. At 5 gallons, I should be able to pull off about a half a gallon of 140 proof, or 70%, alcohol. After fermenting it, you can try to pull the alcohol out of the skins, but I will just squeeze them and distill.

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Matt

Hey guys, is it possible to contaminate shine like beer? I have had a few batches that have had a very "unique" taste (hard to describe). Not horrible but not necessarily great. I gues maybe a little more sour than others. Probably not the best description but tough to describe. I made (2) 5 gallon buckets with same sugar supply, water supply and had them set next to each other sealed with air locks. One tasted perfect (as normal) and one had this "funky" taste. Contamination is the only thing I can think of considering all other variables to be the same. IF this is the case, is it ok to drink? Considering I usually flavor it, the flavor I believe will mask the difference in taste. Thanks for your input!

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Hammy

Hi all,

Well after 6 days I have read all the comments and I feel much better for doing so due to the fact i am about to try to distil for the first time very soon (I have 5.5 Imp Gallons of must bubbling away like mad).

However, I am thinking of trying something to distil my wash that hasn't been mentioned anywhere that I can find but I think it will work well.

Being British, I am thinking of buying a second hand Tea Urn like this one http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=180568694708&ssPage...
I think it has all the attributes of a great still without the danger of alcohol vapours and gas flames.

I was however wondering why I had not heard of these being used and if there is a reason why I shouldn't try it that I haven't thought of.

My mush is made up of 21L Water, 17.5 pounds sugar and turbo yeast (up to 20% in 5 days), on the packet it says not to use an airlock but I am using one anyway cos I am a home winemaker and know all to well about the problems that can arise from not using one.

Thank you for all your advice on this subject and even right to the end of the comments there is always something that has helped me to become better informed about this beautiful dying art.

I will keep you informed as to the progress of my shenanigans.

Guest's picture
Zorcy

Matt
Contamination is always a challenge. It does sound like that was your issue here. I would not drink it myself. If you had many years of experience, where you could tell my the smell or taste, what type of contamination you have, I would be wary. If you go ahead and distill it, see if the smell carries over. Be careful on doing your cuts, from methanol to ethanol. You could have a lot more methanol in that batch. There are lil beasties out there they add to wine to make vinegar, so distilling vinegar would not be any good. This could be similar to that. Always sanitize your dishes, boil the water and don't let anything touch the liquid or surfaces once you've done that.

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Matt

I actually didn't notice much of a smell difference in my mash, it wasn't until I distilled it that I noticed the taste difference. If you suggest not to drink than I will take your advice! Can you be more specific on what you mean by "be careful on doing your cuts, from methanol to ethanol"?

Thanks

Guest's picture
Matt

@ Zorcy: Thanks for your reply on the contamination question. I will heed your advice and not drink. Can you be more specific on what you mean by "Be careful on doing your cuts, from methanol to ethanol. You could have a lot more methanol in that batch".? I'm not sure I follow you. Thanks again!

Guest's picture
willie-boy

Hammy,
A tea urn will make an ideal still. My own still is a king-sized tea urn, one of the old "Burco" boiler types, (you know, the ones that have 3 legs on them?) You'll need to remove the handle from the centre of the lid and cut a 2 inch hole with a tank-cutter and put a 2 inch copper pipe there instead. The brass fittings that you can buy in Wickes or B&Q will hold it in place.Just attach a taper joint to that to bring it down to a 1 inch or 3/4 inch pipe for your worm/ condenser. I just use a pot-still, but if I was making a new one I'd go for a reflux job. How are you proposing to hold the lid in place when using it? I fitted a rubber sealing ring (from Tefal pressure cooker spares) and hold it in place with half a dozen small G-clamps.let us know you get on. Cheers!

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Zorcy

Matt,
When you are unsure of what is in your wash, you have to watch what you make. If there are different alcohols in there, you have to desperate them. When you ferment fruits and veggies, you get oils, methanol and ethanol. The methanol is bad for you. The oils are nasty. Since the boiling point of the 2 alcohols and oils are not the same, you can collect the product according to temps. You will start with heads coming off the still. They will smell and taste bad. If you have a small still, collect them one shot glass at a time. You can save it for the next batch, or just toss it. When the bad smell and taste goes away, start collecting. As more ethanol is separated out, you will start to get more water vapor. You can collect it, but it dilutes your product. Eventually, you get tails. You can collect them and reuse it next fermentation. It dilutes your product a lot if you use it. So take it out.

Hope this helps.

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Zorcy

Hammy,
That is a beautiful boiler/tea urn! You could secure the lid with a few strong bungie cords and seal it with flour paste. I use my old bread, add some water and make a dough. Seal it well and let it dry some before turning on the heat. I can not believe the price for the urn. I would buy 2 or 3 at that price. At first, I thought it would be aluminum and would be a problem, but it seems to be ok.

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Zorcy

Matt,
Gave it some thought when I re-read your post. Was it clear when you put the wash in the pot? Did you have any chunks? If the wash was fine and the product was not, you may have scorched the bottom. Sediment would burn and large amounts of yeast can give off a nasty smell and taste. The bad thing is, there is almost no way to recover from it. No matter how many times you run it through again and again, the smell and taste remain.

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Cannonman

Its been a long time since I have been on here. All looks good from here. I tried the "Black Beards Rum" reciept and had good results. All my Reenactor friends just hate it so much, one time I forgot to bring it to an event for the night campfire festivities, OH I cought HELL..... That won't happen again. Now I am looking for a reciept for a good corn whiskey. I have a grain store where I can buye whole dried corn and then I can remove the corn with a corn sheller I have. I have a 12 Qt. stock pot to still off from that I have used in the passed. Anyone have a good reciept????? I would like to get started on this soon. Tips on getting started are always welcome...

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Zorcy

Cannonman
You could malt the corn. Get it damp and let it sprout. Then lightly toast it to kill the budding plant. This is the recipe from Popcorn Sutton, great read and videos on him.
"25lb coarse ground white corn meal — 1/2 volume of your barrel/container
50 lbs of sugar — 1lb sugar per gallon of water of total volume
1 gallon of malt — can be corn, barley, rye or combination. A gallon container of corn is about 6.5lbs. Might be different for barley or rye. I use a gal ziplock freezer bag full.
(variation on this recipe includes the addition of a couple gallons of wheat bran to cap it off) I didn't mention the water amount because it's basically measured by how full the barrel is. It's slightly short of 50 gals because you have to leave enough room in the top so the 50lbs of sugar won't over fill it. But, if you are making "less" than 50 gals of mash, you can just use the full volume of water cause you will have room. The impact of this on the recipe is negligible.

Boil the water and pour it over the cornmeal to cook it in really good. When it cools enough that you can hold your hand in it (about 140-150f) stir in your sugar and malt and stir it up really good. Leave it for a day..then check it to see if its working. It should have capped up and be sizzling/frying on the top. Then you stir it in one last time and leave it to work off. "

Its just moonshine, use corn if its cheap. You can get by with sugar if it is not. I think rye is a great addition for flavour. If you reenact, what battle?

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Cannonman

Thank you again Zorcy,
Ok, I get the rest of the reciepe but, I have no idea on how to sprout all that dry whole corn. I have no access to a garage to lay the corn all out on a wet blanket. Any other ideas. The evenings are getting pretty cool around her now too. Grinding it is no problem, I have a course corn meal grinder. I have two four gal. buckets for freminting. I see there is no yeast in this, i guess the malt is replacing that. How long do you let this work. And then you still it like shine RIGHT... Can I add some chared oak to the final product for color and flavor??. Any other tips???

Guest's picture
Zorcy

Cannonman,
They did not use yeast. The flies would land on it and carry the natural yeast on their legs. Natural yeast gives it a unique flavour to your region. That is why sour dough bread in San Fran taste so unique. I would use a high % yeast. You can sprout the corn in a bucket. If you have access, you can use a smoker to stop the sprouting, like they do in Ireland. It will add some flavours, too. Corn will turn after a good while. Keep pushing down the cap, the floating chunks. This will keep it from molding and makes sure more grain gets a chance to ferment. There are some enzymes that will speed everything up. If you don't use it, then this can take a few weeks. Alpha, beta amylase are good. There is a pectin enzyme that will help as well. I like to add Bean O to everything. When the cap sinks on its own, it is ready. You can always pull off the liquid and let it set a few more days to clear. Matt was having some smell issues that could have come from floaters in the wash.

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Cannonman

Zorcy
After all is done and the head sinks like you said, drain and then still it right?? I want to make a good whiskey not something that tastes like paint thinner. LOL What about color. This will be clear, right. Can I add some wood chips to the end product for color and flavor?? How long do I have to wait before it is consumed?? Sorry for all the questions. Instead of sprouting the corn can I just gring the dry corn and go from there??

Guest's picture
Cannonman

Zorky
Thanks for all your help. I will have to do some math on this though. I have a three gal bucket for ferminting. No way a can do 50 gal, my wife will kill me..... LOL
Reenating Civil War. Artillery... What a hoot... All that wool and period tents and food. I love it.

Guest's picture
willieboy

Zorcy,
Just made a few gallons of corn whiskey here. Okay, maybe the traditionalists and purists out there would crucify me me for even calling it corn whiskey, but it tastes damn good! Boiled up a load of polenta, the cheapo maize stuff you get in the bargain tubs at the discount store, a few bags of white sugar, and a couple of pounds of barley malt from the homebrew shop, (just for the beta amylase to break down the corn starch).Got a fermentation to around 18%. But what I want to ask is......sour mash??? Do you just save the yeast from the bottom of the wash for the next brew, like making a sourdough bread, to get a consistent flavour from the yeast? Or do you re-use the wash over and over again, just putting in more sugar/ corn/ whatever , and NEW yeast in it and aerating the bejasus out of it to start it off? Or do you save both the old wash AND yeast? And just by the way, that "Georgia Moon", (guaranteed less than 30 days old) white whiskey, that seems to be advertised everywhere lately,seems to be worse than anything anybody here has made, according to the reviews of it!! Sold in a mason jar as well!

Guest's picture
Zorcy

Willie Boy
Normally, they would take what was left over when they pulled off the wash. It would have lots of grain, yeast and some liquid left. Add some water, the left over from the still and sugar. It would kick off again and start a new batch. You can only do this so many times, but I think it was somewhere near 4-6 times. There is a small noticeable change in flavour each time. Would be a good idea to blend the liquor when you are done with several runs. I think it is always a good idea to have a fresh couple handfuls of barley to form a cap. The enzyme runs our each time.

I have heard the same review of George Moonshine. To bad.

Guest's picture
Zorcy

Cannonman
Yes, it will be clear, if its cloudy, you let some oils get into the end product. You can skip the sprouting, but you will need malted barley or let it set for a long time, about 2 weeks longer. I would go for the barley for added flavour.

It will taste like paint thinner if you let it get dirty from the still or leave it to strong. When you over boil, it will splash wash up the tube and land in the collection jar. If it is too strong, its shy of poison. Distill it out clear and cut with water. If you are going to the hills, say in Kentucky, you will have perfect water for this. I would suggest leaving full strength, in jars or jugs, until you go camping again. then you can mix it 50/50 in their cups. It is easier to carry 1 gallon then 2. The creek water will add some minerals and flavours unique to the area. That is why major distillers are there. To be more authentic, I think Apple Jack would be more to the era. You could make it hard cider by distilling it. Use a thumper and put the Apple Jack in there too, to carry the flavour over with.

Guest's picture
Guest

Zorcy WanneBee
It's been a while now, and several experiments later. I am making good smelling, good tasting product in a reflux.

Only problem is visual. CLOUDY when cut with distilled water.

I cook at 174. 30 qt pot. It flows fast. Steady stream.

Could this come from too much heat and cooking it too fast?

How do you know when to change the copper in the tower?

Guest's picture
willieboy

Zorcy,
Thanks for the info on the sourmash. I'll give it a whirl and see how it goes. cheers.

Guest's picture
Zorcy

WanneBee
More then likely, you are cooking way to fast. You can turn down the heat and use a thumper. If you hear the wash boiling hard, it is to hot. It should just barely simmer.

Devise a thumper. Take a direct pipe from the pot top to the thumper. This will catch a good bit of the oils.

Guest's picture
Zorcy

Wannabe

Just a question, are you using reflux column? How close to the bottom of the column is your copper packing? (That is why you asked when to replace it?) It should not need more then a flush with a water hose. If it is to close to the bottom, then it gets dirty. Give it some room to breath. On your column, so you use water to pre-cool the packing, just a little? With the size of pot you have, you will need to cool it just a bit so the oil will fall out. Check your temps at the take off point of your head. That can be important if you are running really fast.

Guest's picture
Guest

Yes it is a reflux. Yes the copper is at the bottom of the tower and rachin rings above. I take the temps at the top of the tower. I would let the temp go to 172 and took 1/2 pint of heads. It goes to 174 and I give it just enough cooling water to keep it there. But my stream is robust. I get close to a gallon or more of 92-94%, then the temp starts jumping around...up a little then down a little...Then the temp starts climbing and I collect the tails. Seems like another gallon or so before the percent drops to 50ish. Like I say, taste seems just fine. It is real clear before cutting.

As an aside, when the product drops into the collector little bubbles (beads?) scatter across the top. What is that telling us?

Guest's picture
Zorcy

Guest
Not sure about the drops playing on the surface. I have never paid that close attention. Everything sounds fine. Try cutting it with some distilled water and see if that changes it. You could have something in the water that turns it cloudy. The surging can come from electric heaters. They get full power and then no power. You have to have a circuit that will allow it to work in steps. 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% power so it will come up slowly instead of blasting. If you use gas, it will naturally climb up and hold at what he fire is set for. It could surge like that from the tower not being controlled right. Every set up and column is different and will take a learning curve to control it. Turn the water down to just enough that the product is not too hot to drink. See how that does, then try a little higher, then lower and keep records of you cooling water run off, product run off and temp fluctuations. You will get a feel of it before you could get enough advice to change it.

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Guest

i heard you can tell if its poinous or not by the color the flame burns while it doesnt exactly clear up weither it contains methanol or not, as they both burn blue and ethanol light blue if the flame is even visible and smokeless, they also say you can proof it by puttin 'a little' gunpowder in a spoonful and lighting it and if it burns it doesnt contain alot of water, also if you shake it around in a jar, the less bubbles the better the shine, just stuff ive heard, do your resarch if you wanna know fact.

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Zorcy

Guest
The colour test was thought up to detect lead in the still. Since we make our own stills and use lead free silver solder, we don't worry about that. Fusel oils will show, but you can just smell that. Methanol burns blue, since it is alcohol. This can be smelled and tasted as you are making it. The easiest way, is to measure and take readings. If you know that you have only sugar, you wont get enough methanol to worry about. You can take off the first bit, very small %. Just to be safe. Know what proof your wash is, and you can figure out the output. From the known output, you can figure the projected heads and tales. Old school is to smell and taste it.

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Guest

ON LETTING the WASH JUST SET, to clear, AFTER YEAST STOPS WORKING

The last time, I did (2) 5.5 gallon washes. I cleared with a clearing product. After I siphoned off the 'goodie', I put the cloudy stuff that sank, into a jar. After it sat for a month or so, 1/2 the volume became clear.

1. Can I reprocess that clear stuff?
2. I remember seeing reports that leaving the wash with the sediment in it too long would badly flavor the alcohol.
a. is that true?
b. I use a reflux still, doesn't that get rid of most all tastes?

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Zorcy

Guest
There are some flavours and odors that will not clear out, no matter how many times you run it through. You can reprocess it. Us the yeast to start off the next batch. The yeast will evolve each batch you reuse it. You will start to detect a taste difference after about 5 uses. The left over wash in the still, after you pull off the alcohol, can be cooled and added back to the yeast with more sugar, too. Make sure its not so hot that it kills the yeast. If you are using multi-stage yeast, I think turbo yeast is like that, then one strand of yeast may have died off with the high alcohol content. It could be slower then expected. Remember that it takes time to re-distill, so don't skimp on something simple or cheap just to waste your time and petro to distill a bad batch. Just to have to use it for cleaning paint brushes.

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Hammy

Hi All,

Well, I have now built my still and she is a beautiful thing too, a 5' high reflux made out of a 3 gallon tea urn with 54mm copper pipe rising then going down to 22mm copper pipe inside 35mm pipe used as a condenser with a small pump continuously pumping iced water round from the sink.

I can get 1.3 gallons of 65% shine from 5.5 gallons of 18% turbo yeast wash in about 1.5 hours.

I have reduced it to 50% with distilled water and put oak chips in with 4 litres of it to hopefully get some sort of whisky, I have also bought some flavourings to make it slightly more palletable but they are yet to arrive.

I need to thank you guys for all the advice you have given to everyone which has helped me to achieve this beautiful product.

Oh as a note, it takes me longer to distill water (to cut with) with it than it does to distill the alcohol, any reason for this?

Cheers

Hammy

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Zorcy

Hammy,
If you heat up 5 gallons of water, you have to heat all the liquid to 210 deg F to get it to evaporate. With alcohol, you have to heat it to about 175 deg F. The harder you heat it, the faster it will separate. You only need to drive off the 18% of the volume. With water, you are always pushing the 100% of the volume to go faster. Just buy it from the store in a gallon jug, if you can. Experiment with your local water. In Kentucky, in the States, they use stream water, it is high in minerals that give it unique flavours. Who knows, you may have great water for that too!

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willie-boy

Yeah, Hammy, alcohol will distill quicker than water, because it has a lower boiling point and evaporates sooner. Have you got american white oak chips? I finally managed to get hold of some. Toasted them under the grill and added them to my corn whiskey. Even after just 3 weeks the the taste is beautiful. European oak isn't a patch on the american stuff. beautiful colour and flavour. You won't be needing the artificial flavours if you have american white oak.

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Guest

Does it make any sense to add oak to sugar wash alcohol from a reflux, or is it just for corn whiskey?

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Zorcy

Guest
The oak will mellow the flavours, add colour and complexity to any product. In short, yes, it is good to add it.

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Gator

willie-boy,
it has been some time since i have posted here, you where the one whom had helped me with my "shine" i think my posts are on page 4 or 5, but i asked this,...... so, in short and theroy, one could easily take 1 u.s.gal of water and 1.68lbs. of sugar, heat it to boiling, then reduce temp to below 140F. add 1 packet (8.75g.) yeast.stir. wait 10 to 20 days, freeze it overnight and take off ice and are left with "shine"...right?, can it be that simple? ....... and i also tried adding grape coolade to a batch, well ill have ya know it all turned out just fine, it retained the grape color and flavor, i have a 2 liter bottle still setting.."ageing" to see if it gets better with time, i opened one last month and ,in my opinion, it seemed close to 15% alcahol by volume, comparing to MASS PRODUCED liquer, where i do not have a hygrometer, just going by the way it feels,..thanks again for your help earlier this year,
oh, by the way, ive made nearyl a total of 30 gallons...roughly, 114 liters..and have JACKED it all, but i am looking into making a small still in the future
good day,
gator

REPLY

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willieboy

Gator,
nice to hear from you again, man. Thanks for the appreciation, but, credit where it's due, Zorcy is the REAL expert here. But we can all learn a little bit from each other, I suppose. You have gallons upon gallons of jacked stuff stockpiled? You REALLY have got a head-start on it whenever you build a still........! Cheers, mate!

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Zorcy

Gator,

You can increase your % a bit by re-freezing. It can be further refined by freeze-thaw-freeze-thaw many times without separating the ice each time. It will create layers of purer water on top and Jack on bottom. There is a salad spinner on the market that has a spinning strainer for getting rid of water on lettuce, when you clean it. Some cheese cloth to line it, and you can really get the alcohol out of the ice crystals! This is a time where the quality of juice you start with is very important. Kool Aid is ok, but nothing like some fresh fruit juice. 30 gallons is a great party in the making! Northern hemisphere is coming on to winter, good time to use the free cooling to jack some cider, eh? If you can freeze off another 20% of the 30 gallons with ice, you will have a great start to use on the still. It will produce much faster that way.

Thanks for the bump Willie-Boy :)

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willieboy

Zorcy,
A lot of people on here have came up with the same problem, their moonshine turning cloudy or hazy after being cut with water. Been reading up on Scotch whiskey. Google "chill-filtering", and check it out. Apparently the haze is a common effect, depending on your recipe; the way to eliminate it is to chill your whiskey to a sub-zero temperature, (it won't freeze) and then filter it through coffee-filters and charcoal. There's some molecular things called esters that cause the cloudy effect; they can be filtered out below the freezing point of water. Sounds a bit of a laborious process, admittedly, and the jury is still out on whether or not it improves or actually detracts from the flavour.

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Zorcy

Willie Boy,
Esters can be cut out by watching the power you distill and keeping a close eye on your cuts. You can smell them when you pull it off the still. Try an experiment. When you are distilling, cut your heads and save for the next batch. From there on out, save about half a liter in each glass jar. Line them up and compare. They will get cloudy as you go along. Use room temp, distilled water and see if it helps. Esters, will dissolve in alcohol, a strong chemical. But when you lower the alcohol content with water, it no long can suspend the esters. It is worth the effort to get rid of the esters. They are the things that help cause hangovers, but also give it flavour. I like mine clear, clean and almost tasteless. It will not 'hurt' the alcohol. So you wont have to worry too much.

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Guest

ON CLOUDINESS
I tried freezing and coffee filters and the brita. It looked slightly better...maybe. I refroze it and ran it thru the brita again. Maybe clearer. Maybe not.

I think, while the taste is fine, I will cook it slower the next time, in my reflux tower.
The last time it came streaming out. Almost like a cow pissing on a flat rock!

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willieboy

Happy Christmas dudes!
Time to open some of the good stuff we've been keeping for special occasions? Cheers!

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Zorcy

Just made some spiced pumpkin ale. I can enhance it from some of my product later. That is in keeping the holiday spirit!

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Just4Kicks

It has been great reading all the post here.
Zorcy is there anyway that I could get your email or if you can send me one so I can talk with you in more detail. I am not in the States no more as I live with my wife and my son in my wifes country and making booze is legal here even moonshine. I have done wine when growing up on the farm in Oregon as we had lots of apples and other fruits laying around. With that being said I would like to pick your brain from A-Z on the making of my still to the creating different types of spirits. My favorite is vodka but would like to get making other types and flavors.

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Zorcy

No one on this site should share that kind of information. Even the country you live in. I am close to the States, but not in them. But I can not share that kind of info, sorry. We can discuss what ever you like here. Maybe you will have a question someone has not asked yet. I would not want them to miss out on the knowledge that could be shared.

Sorry again Just4kicks

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Guest

the only issue i have is obtaining a still large enough to make enough product to last me a few weeks at least instead of having to make a mash every couple of day, any tips on making a larger still while still keeping the cost of it to a minimum

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Guest

hey, keep up the work guys :) this site has opened up alot of information for people to get their hands on and im glad u guys keep coming back to help, so thanks.

anyways i have a quick question, i was thinking about running a seperate copper pipe down the bottom half of the pipe that runs up from the boiling pot, then at the bottom bending it so the water would run off the side into a water tank (which would also be pumping fresh cold water back into the top of that copper pipe)

the theory of this would mean that the colder vapors (mostly water since it evaporates at a higher temp so i would assume that the ethanol vapors are hotter) condense before exiting the pipe and drip back down into the boiling pot meaning that this attach pipe would act as almost a 2nd distiller and the end quality after a single distill would be higher alchy %

also ive heard of the same theory being used by stuffing glass marbles into the pipe itself and the vapor condense on them before dripping back, but potentiall creating a clog sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.

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Zorcy

Guest,
The column is the same for a 5 gallon still as it is for a 55 gallon still. There is no change in the cost for that. A 5 gallon lobster pot will cost you a hand full, but you can pick up an old stainless steel beer keg for about 5-10 times the cost. You will have to have a larger stand and burner, just for the sheer size of any larger still. This is not very much more.

This is all assuming you are using a column and not just the coiled piece of tubing off the lid.

I think you will find it works fine for the price. You could also consider making a large batch of mash and only distilling some at a time. There is a shelf life to it, so only make enough that you could use in a short amount of time. You could keep it cold and extend the life, but its a living beast that can turn on you if its unhappy, so be careful.

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Zorcy

Guest,
There are several column and head designs out there. Stuffing the column with marbles works, and with a 2 inch pipe, clean mash, no grains in the pot, you should not have a problem. Bokakob still head is something you are talking about,,,, I think.but the cooling is at the top. Google a picture and see if that is what you are talking about. It has very clean lines to it. It does take some copper skill for the coil.

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Mr. D S

If add molasses to refined sugar to reform refined sugar back to brown sugar, which is better for human comsuption and probaly for yeast too, yeast may make more alcohol per gallon

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Zorcy

Mr DS

The yeast will make the same 'amount' but the flavour will change. You will be making rum. There could be some speed differences due to nutrients in molasses that are not in refined sugars. Usually, you are trying to tweak out the highest % per yeast, not sugar. This is more for time then cost of sugar. It is faster to distill 18% alcohol then it is 9%. I personally love rum. Molasses is a very cheap sugar in most farming communities and is readily available by the gallon at feed stores. I would use it if possible, but do not expect vodka. You will have a taste to it.

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Guest

I bought a used turkey fryer set up for cheap at an auction. 30qt

I added a bung and tower from mile high. I like it.

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Zorcy

Guest
The burner should be good for the usage. Check the pot, make sure its stainless steel. Aluminum can leach out in the high heat and alcohol. You really do not want to put that in your body. Did you ever see a commercial where they put sticky stuff on your feet and it turns black? That is what aluminum does. It also will ruin your arm pits on your shirts.

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Mr. D S

If pressure cooker is improvised as still, replace opening of pressure valve with screw, washer with nut. If aluminum is in use, put a stainless steel pot inside as double boiler because aluminum is'nt hard metal, it eventually 'rusts' and leaves black deposits of aluminum rust that look like black spots before your eyes; not pink elephants before your eyes.

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Guest

zORCY WANTABEE

Your comment about '% based yeast not sugar' has me questioning.

Assuming using turbo yeast, would one not get the most alcohol by putting it in a super saturated sugar water (as much sugar as the water would hold?

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Zorcy

Guest,
If you are using the 18 or 20% Turbo and saturate the wash to that level, then you are doing just about as good as you can. You could add nutrients for the yeast, but I think that is over kill for Turbo. You could take 50 pounds of sugar, a gallon of water, and heat to a boil. It would be super saturated, but would only give you the 18% alcohol that Turbo can handle. The rest of the sugar would just sit there and be wasted. Us the charts on line, or download an app to your smartphone. I would suggest you do as much sugar as your yeast can handle. Taste it before you distill. Make sure it is not sweet. If it is, let it sit a while longer. You may need to check temps to finish it.

Guest's picture
willieboy

Zorcy,
Finally managed to get hold of some alpha amylase. It's in a 100 ml bottle, liquid form. How do I actually use this stuff to convert the cornstarch, potato starch, whatever, into sugar? I mean, at what point do I add it, what temperature should it be at, how long will it take to work, etc...? And how will I know if it's worked and finished doing its job at all? I read somewhere about testing a sample with iodine for a colour change, but is there any easier way, instead of going down the whole research chemist route? Thanks in advance...!

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Zorcy

Willieboy,
The amount you would use is unsure. The way to use it, is speculative. For sake, they would put it directly on the steamed rice. The rice would dissolve into a thick, sticky, sweat paste. For our use, we would add malt at that time to break down the sugars in preparation for yeast. That is where the second enzyme would be used. I think some malted barley would be great here.
One recipe used 1/2 teaspoon to 1 quart of rice. Sounds like you could crush cooked potato and put a drop on it and see if it dissolves the whole thing. Try it with a raw potato and see also. Goal is to use as little energy as you can. If it dissolves one potato, try 2. Then 3, 4 and so on till one drop will not convert the starch. Not sure if dissolving it in water to cover more space would help. Try it at different temps as well. From what I have read, seems to be more effective at higher temps 50 60 and 70 C. There is a cut over where it is too hot and stops the process. If you can get it down to the detailed list, say 65 C, a bushel of potatoes and 4 drops of A enzyme 1 B enzyme, then we would have a recipe. Not sure if this will work, but just a goal. This is a fast process. From what I have seen, we are talking just a handful of hours. I guess it would make a difference on the amount of enzyme and temps.

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Guest

I have three containers of what I think is finished.....sugar water....turbo yeast...product.

In the past, I had cleared the product with a quick kleer product, with both good and bad results. Maybe I stirred it too vigorously one time. ??

This time, I let them sit for a week. 2 containers outside in near freezing, freezing and below freezing weather, and 1 inside.

All of the containers are now semi clear, 1/2 way down.

Is 'just sitting' an acceptable means of clearing?

How long can I let them sit, before something bad happens?