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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Additional photo credit: Lisa Brewster / Flickr
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Guest's picture
MtnCity

Brian- as other/s have mentioned, the malt extract could be used, with a cracked and boiled grain, to convert the starches into sugar, so that the yeast can consume it and produce co2, ethanol and heat. As for how much malt, I think about 1 cup per 2.5 pounds of grain.

I just think sugar is cheap, and might be a good way to go. Malt extract is expensive.

Guest's picture
Dave

hey guys, hoping to get a little help here. I recently did my first home brew of beer and got interested in making shine after seeing that show Moonshiners (cheesy I know!). I put roughly 1.5lbs of sugar into a pot with 1 gallon of water and boiled it. I cooled it off to about 80 degrees and then took some of the yeast that I harvested from the bottom of my fermenter after I carbonated my beer the weekend before. I wasn't even sure if what I took from the bottom of the jar was going to be alive or not. i capped it in the fermenter and put a blow off tube on it. I woke up this morning and there are small bubbles coming up so it's doing it's thing but when I brewed the beer, the first 3 days there were serious rolling bubbles coming up to the top. That is not the case here. Is that normal? Also, the type of beer I made says that it came with English Ale yeast. Since that is a type of brewing yeast, should I have used a lot more sugar in my gallon mix? I realize that when all is said and done, this isn't going to make much but I just wanted to experiment before deciding to get my hands on a 5 gallon bottle to ferment in. Which brings me to my next question, would a 5 gallon poland spring bottle be okay as a fermenter?

one final question, I didn't have any sanitizer but I washed everything well before starting this process, I assume that since I will eventually have to distill this, the heat involved in distillation will take care of keeping everything safe? I will just make sure to sanitize whatever I use to distill though I may just try to freeze the fermented product and get the alcohol that way before investing in some type of still

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Dave,
That was a fun show to watch, but I feel there is a lot of stage going on. You can take Popcorn Sutton as the real deal though.
Your yeast has been busy. It has gone through several generations already. It is tired and maybe not as strong as it used to be. You will also need to take into consideration, your beer mix had other nutrients that pure sugar does not. It will go mush slower for pure sugar washes.
The plastic Poland bottle has small holes that allows oxygen to get through. This will impart taste you may, or may not, want into your fermentation. This is for beer, wine or washes. But,,,, it won't hurt that much.
As for sanitation. The wee beasties effect fermentation more then distillation. You want to keep it clean enough for yeast to take hold before any other micro organisms get a chance to take hold. 5 gallons of vinegar is still good to own, eh?
Freezing this will not be a good option. That keeps all the flavours you made when fermenting, just stronger. You only want the alcohol, and that requires distillation.
Just to see if you like it, lets use a pot. Take the largest stainless pot you have with a domed lid. Pour your wash inside, float a glass bowl inside. Place the lid UPSIDE DOWN over the wash. This will create a funnel for the condensation to drip to the bowl. You can use ice, cold water, snow or anything that is easily replaced throughout the process. When you put it in the lid, it gets cold enough to condense the alcohol. It runs down and drips into the bowl. Do not boil the wash, that is to fast and will topple the bowl. Keep the ice in the lid fresh. Drain any melted ice or snow regularly.

PS, save any left over beer from the bottom of your fermenter. You can add that to the wash to get a more, whiskey, malted flavour. If you ever get a bad batch of beer, just distill it, age it on toasted oak shavings. You will be amazed how that will taste.

Guest's picture
Guest

Philip or Zorcy,
I have heard that you can use a keg to boil mash. I have a left over keg from wedding in 1996 that I would like to use. I have also heard that aluminum has poisons if used in this manner, but I have also heard that kegs are made of stainless steel. Is this true?

Philip Brewer's picture

You can generally tell whether something is made of steel with a magnet (which won't stick to aluminum, but will to steel).

Guest's picture
dave

Yes kegs are steel not aluminum

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Guest,
You can boil your mash in anything. They will cut the top off and it becomes a large pot for boiling. We use them for making beer. Stainless and aluminum are free of, or so low in ferrous, iron, that a magnet will not stick. Take a carpet knife and see if you can cut it. Aluminum will cut a little. Stainless steel will hardly leave a scratch. When you try to cut it, it will cut like butter if its aluminum. Stainless will eat up a few cutting wheels to remove the top.

If you plan on it being for the still, be same and take it to a machine shop. They can tell, and add the fittings to make it real easy to attach all the parts you need.

Guest's picture
Rebel

I signed in as guest last night, but wanted to have a site name so I decided to go with rebel. I commented last night about the keg and if it was aluminum. Thank you for the comments back. I called a local scrap yard and could not get a straight answer. They said kegs are still made of both aluminum and stainless steel.

To Phil, Magnet sticks to top and bottom of keg but not the middle.

To Zorcy, I took a knife to all three places top, bottom and middle all three places cut about the same. Made a little mark you can feel with your finger, but didn't cut like butter.

Would really mean a lot if I could use this keg as a mash pot.

Guest's picture
MtnCity

The weight should be a dead giveaway. A SS keg will be around 35 pounds. Aluminum MUCH less. Aluminum kegs are rare as they were only used for a little while. SS will be much brighter in color. Aluminum dull (since it reacts with the air).

SS is always better. However, aluminum isn't going to harm anyone. That's a myth. And no....aluminum doesn't cause Alzheimer any more than Mikey died for eating pop rocks and coke. :)

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Mntcity,

Good to know about the aluminum being used for only a short time.

Guest's picture
Rebel

Weighed keg... exactly 35 pounds good to go. Ready to start the next step. Wonder how I'm going to run my arm, whether to buy a tower off line or make my own. Heard thumper is way to go if i I want my stuff to be better. Old school is mash, thumper, worm, product. As a kid about 14 or so riding on the back of a dirt bike with my cousin on top of the hill, ran across a bare spot on the ground asked "what is that?". "That is where the still was at", he said. "What still?" I asked. "The still that my dad and his brothers used to run". And I asked "my dad?" and he said "yes your dad, my dad and their brothers used to make and run shine". Which leads me to 24 years later and feeling a bond with my past and their past to see if I can produce the same or better product. I don't feel the need to make enough to distribute. I just want to make enough for my family, friends and self to enjoy.

Guest's picture
One Toe Joe

I drank moonshine once...

Guest's picture
Rebel

"Heyolboy"

Guest's picture
Dave

How long does the fermentation process take with this sugar and water mix? I had mine going for almost 2 weeks before leaving for vacation. I came back expecting it to be done and it's still going strong! I'm only using a 1 gallon container and a couple of lbs of sugar and some brewing yeast which apparently means I should have added even more sugar at the start. I sampled it before I left for vacation and it had a sort of "sweet and sour" taste if you will, almost a bit like a wine cooler so I know it's doing it's magic, I guess i didn't think it would take so long

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Dave,
Check your temps. It should have finished out a lot faster then that. About 5 days to a week tops. If the temps drop down, it slows down. If you warm up, it speeds up. There is a point when it goes so fast when it warm, that it will taste different. Look up on line the yeast you are using and ideal temps for it.

Guest's picture
Dave

I was reusing the yeast from my beer which I'm pretty sure said 70* so i cooled it down to that and then have just had it sitting out in the room. I noticed some of you guys saying put the yeast in at 110 so i moved it next to my radiator and went away for a week and came back and it's still going. it's been about 3 weeks but it seems to have slowed down now. it may be ready for action

Guest's picture

Hello everyone
First off Kudos to Mr. Brewer for the site! Zorcy thanks for the info, hats off to ya! My question is, my still is going to be a beer keg and I want to put a thumper on it. So how big should it be? I think I read some where that half the size of still, that seems awful big, and on the first run should i buy something to put in it and what would that be?

One more I have a 17 gal container that Im going to use as my fermenter. To make a 12 gal run can I use bakers or do i need to up the yeast? Thanks in advance!

Guest's picture
Dave

I'm not a pro, but if your gonna go that all out and do a batch that large, I don't see why you would use bakers yeast. buy some real brewing yeast and you'll be able to yield more. You'll also need to add more sugar tho

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Country Bob,

I have not heard anything special on the size of the thumper. I would think it matters more the size of the lines coming off the thumper and the speed you plan to run the still. If the lines are to small, you can build up a back pressure and blow up, to small and they do not condense as well. Similarly, you could have a perfect size thumper, but when you run the pot to hot, it puts out more then the thumper can handle.
Design the thumper well with some room for error. Have a safety on the top with a very small weight to keep it from blowing off. If it starts to leak out the safety, turn down the pot some. I have used a small canning jar from a 3 gallon pot before. It seems to have worked just fine. You should be able to use that size comparison for building up.
The bakers yeast will have some flavour differences then brewers yeast. It will work fine. You will get less after taste when you ferment at a lower %. Keep us updated.

Guest's picture
MtnCity

Thumpers can be small. The one's I've seen on big stills (in photographs) are prob 1/10 or 1/20th the size of the boiler. I don't know why size matters on a thumper.

Fermenting time- depends on the yeast. regular old yeast, including beer yeasts, will prob take maybe 3-5 weeks. I'm doing a mead with bakers yeast thats been going for 3+ weeks now. Still bubbling and SG is abt 1.02 (started at 1.09). "turbo" style yeasts take only 2-5 days.

Guest's picture
Dave

I'll be trying this again very soon. I got hooked after my 1 gallon beer brew and have gone out and gotten myself setup with a system to make 5 gallons. The last part i need to buy for that is an immersion chiller which will just so happen to nicely double as a worm to condense booze. I' just need to figure out a way to seal a lid onto my pot. I've got drill bits and already added ball valve spigots onto my brewing pots so I can easily add a hose barb fitting to a lid, just need a way to seal it on the pot well. Anyone got any suggestions?

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Guest,

I saw the count go up and searched the older post for a new comment.

How to make Peach Moonshine. It is macerated fruit, bottom line. You take strong shine or everclear, and soak fruit in it. Canned is not good enough. Do not use bad fruit. If it is not sweet or 'peachy', it will not carry over well. They say not to use the pit, not sure if its true, but its safer to remove. Clean and pit the peaches in halves. Fill a jar and cover with moonshine. Let it sit for a few weeks or months. Strain it well. Add some sugar to the peaches to pull the alcohol out. Add the liquid to the first batch of strained alcohol. You can do this a few times. Keep straining before you add it to the alcohol so you wont have anything floating. When you are done, it will be a little to sweet. Add distilled water to taste. You can bring it down from 151 or 160 to about 100 and still have something great to drink.
Blackberry is amazing. Apple pie is a real popular drink as well. They tend to cut it to 80-90 proof.

Guest's picture
Guest

THANK YOU SO MUCH! You are so helpful. One last thing...

How do I make the moonshine with a 5 gallon jug?
I have never made this before and I'm dying to learn.
I have turbo yeast, sugar, a hydrometer, air lock, still.

I just need a recipe for the mash and I cannot find one anywhere! Omg so frustrating. Everything is with malt and corn meal. I just want pure clear moonshine.

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Guest,
Do you want good clear alcohol or moonshine? Both recipes are here, in the discussions. Pure corn requires some type malt to convert the starches. There is no way around it. If you have whole corn, malt it yourself.. It will be a mess when you are done and 5 gallon fermenter will only give you about 3 gallons of wash.
Take corn, soak in water an hour. Spread out in a warm area and cover with plastic. It will sprout. Once the kernel pops open and you see a small sprout, dry it out. A WARM oven will work well. Way less then 100 C. As soon as it is dry enough to not mush like fresh corn, flatten with the back of a ban. Now you have malted corn.
The weight is heavier then the recipes for mash, so know what you weighed before malting. Use any recipe we have given, or just fill a bucket 1/3 full or corn and the rest water. Yeast it here and wait.
You can enhance it with some sugar, but then it is not true moonshine. If you are willing to use sugar, just take dry, cracked corn, add sugar and water. There are recipes here for that, too. The corn is a flavour only in that recipe. If you want pure alcohol, just do straight sugar and water. You will be fine. Good luck.

Guest's picture
Guest

Zorcy you have been a great help. Sugar and water is for clear. But how much sugar to water for that? Thanks.

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Guest,
All the recipes have been posted. There could be some really helpful info you are passing up by not reading the previous post. Give it a try. Short cut, 5 pound and 5 gallons, some yeast. That will work for now, but read some more.

Guest's picture
Guest

I did read the previous post but like I said, when corn is added I'm sure this affects the ratio of sugar you would need for just a sugar wash. Will 5 pounds of sugar give me a high alcohol content in 5 gallons? I have read that people are using 3 pounds to every gallon. In essence, about 12 pounds of sugar to a five gallon bucket that only hold 4 gallons when you add sugar.

But these high amounts of sugar have all been for moonshiners who are using bread yeast. I am using a turbo yeast. Is that why you gave me such a low ratio of sugar?

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Guest,
If you use Turbo, you can max out the % to about 18-24%. When adding corn and sugar, the corn is just for taste, not sugar content. You have to malt the corn to convert it's starch to sugar.
If you are going to us Turbo, you should strip the first run. It will cut it down to about half. Then turn around, add water to bring it back up to the original volume. Now run it again, but slower. High % washes tend to get a smell and taste from the yeast. This will help reduce it. Do not let it sit on the trubs, the gook at the bottom, longer than it needs to.
They suggest you use 6 kg for 25 l of water to get 18%.

Guest's picture
Guest

What do you mean by strip the first run? And do you mean add water to the still and then distill? I also read your comment on reusing yeast. Can I reuse turbo yeast and how would I do that? Do I filter the yeast out before I put it in the still with a cheesecloth?

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Guest
A strip run is fast and not going for high proof. You can use it to drink, but it is not as good as you CAN do. You cannot put that back in the still as is, it's flammable. You have to cut it down with water so it will not flame up on you. So you cut it with water to bring it back up to the same volume as before. This takes out grains or yeast for your 2nd run. You cannot reuse Turbo. It is not just a super strain of yeast. It is more then likely at least 2 strains of yeast and nutrients. One strain will be fast but low proof, then the 2nd strain kicks in and goes slow and steady to convert the last of the sugar. The high proof kills the first yeast and the nutrients will be gone. When it settles, the yeast will be in the bottom, just don't dump it all into the still. It will scorch and leave a funny taste.

Guest's picture
Guest

Zorcy I made it! It catches fire so fast! But I am so scared to try it you have no idea. I have read so much about blindness ur to methanol. I am using a steel pot with a copper pipe. Please reassure me that this will not harm me. I am so excited but so scared.

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Guest,
Let's look at it on a scientific basis. You created something equivalent to sugar wine. Would you feel safe drinking that, yes. Now you are using heat to pull just the alcohol off the mash. You have not changed any chemical or added anything. All you have done is concentrate just the alcohol. If you drank a gallon of the wash, you would be safe but hung over. If you drink half a liter of the alcohol, you are still drinking the same thing with less water.

Methanol would be from, say, wood fermented. That makes methanol. You would not drink the wash or the alcohol it makes. That would blind you. When you use plant material, you get a little methanol from the pectin, I believe it was. There is a lot of sugar and very little pectin in fruit. The amount of methanol is so small, it would not effect you.

Since methanol comes off first, from lower temps, you see it when you start. If you had 500 gallons of wine and started to distill it, you would get a large amount of methanol in the beginning. You could take just the beginning product, heads, and kill yourself. Now, if you mixed it with all the rest of the alcohol you make from the 500 gallons, it would be so diluted, you would be fine. You would die from alcohol poisoning before methanol poisoning.

With that said, if you use pure malted corn or fruits, you would discard the first little bit. Depending on what you made it from and how much you are making would dictate that amount. If you are using sugar, just drink it up. The smell and taste will tell you if you should get rid of it.

Guest's picture
Guest ss51

If you disgard the first 2oz in a 5 gallon run how much do you disgard in a 15 gallon run

Guest's picture
ZORCY

SS51,

3 times the volume, 3 times the heads, 6 oz.

Guest's picture
ZORCY

SS51,
That is assuming you did one 15 gallon run, at one time. Not 3, 5 gallon runs.

Guest's picture
Guest

Thanks! I've made two batches and I'm working on a third! My presto canner (pressure cooker) does duty as my mixing pot, fermenter and still. I just use silicone tubing to hook it up to a coil of copper in a bucket that is filled with ice. I improve a bit each time but I'm to the point where anything I make burns with such a clear flame I can't even see it. Shine can't replace a nice wine or a beer but it's a fun pastime. A small section of silicone tubing with a piece of wire in it bends over into a shot glass full of salt water. That's my air lock. You can get silicone tubing at pet stores, it's used for air tubing for fish tanks. 12 liters water, 2 kilos sugar and a package of yeast.....Yeah!

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Guest,
Is your pressure cooker aluminum? You should work on upgrading that on your next improvement. Also, the silicone, it has to be chemical and heat resistant. Usually it is one or the other, but seldom both. These will leach chemicals into your product. If you have too strong of product, don't forget to cut it. Don't need to give yourself alcohol poisoning. Enjoy the hobby, it's great.

Guest's picture

This is great information. I recently found a site that sold dvd's on how you could make your own moonshine at home. http://www.moonshinedvd.com.

Guest's picture
jim

why is my shine cloudy

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Jim,
Did it turn cloudy after you cut it with water, or before? You could have some oils that were distilled through or hard water. If you used good ingredients, it is only cosmetic. The looks wont hurt you. You can re run through the still.

Guest's picture
MtnCity

Cloudy shine is always from the first strip......and it's because the heat is too high and lots of stuff from the wash is finding it's way all the way through the still. No big whoop. It'll be gone when you run it the second time. If you use a reflux, this won't happen at all.

Guest's picture
Farmer Nils

Thanks for this very entertaining post. I'm a farmer and I live in a region of Northrn Idaho known as the Palouse, which has some of the most fertile farmland in the country. As a result, it's very easy here to buy barley and wheat by the truckload. Do you recommend that barley for moonshine be malted, like it is for beer, or can it be fermented as is? Can it also be made from wheat?

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Farmer Nils,

In order to use grain for the sugars, you must malt it. If you use corn, wheat and malted barley, you make whiskey. If you add smoked peat moss, you have scotch. You have the advantage to make something really classy and special. Keep track of your recipe as you make and tweak it, you will want to duplicate it when you hit the right taste.

Guest's picture
Rebel

Which is better for moonshine, whole corn or cracked corn?

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Rebel,
Cracked is better, but malting it is best. Take the corn, get it wet, lay on a tarp and cover with another tarp for a couple days. Make sure it does not dry out. It will sprout. This is when you want to crack it. The malting will help convert the starch to sugar, which is fermentable.

Guest's picture
Guest

I have been reading through the 839 posts throughout the day and don't recall an asking of, or answer to, this question: How long can the fermentation process be allowed to go? I started a sugar, water and baker's yeast fermentation batch in a 16 qt, stainless steel pot a couple days ago but find that I am going to be gone for the next two or three weeks for work. Should I just bail the batch now and start again when I get back? I'm hopeful that I'll just have a fully fermented must that's ready to distill.
Best regards and many thanks for all the insights and reassurance that I'l not be having to by a white cane before this process is completed.

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Guest,

There is a small perceivable taste change from sitting on the trubs (dead yeast on the bottom) with fermenting. The longer it sits, the stronger it gets. If you have a way of cooling it down without freezing it, you should be ok. You would slow it down and allow it to continue, but just slower. If you taste it now, and the sugar taste is gone, distill it before you leave.

Worst case, you distill it, taste it, add water and distill a second time. Charcoal will help get rid of some taste changes as well.

Guest's picture
Dave

I've really gotten big into homebrewing in the couple of months since i first found this and I can tell you that you can buy a hydrometer for 6 bucks and check the gravity of what you have in the fermenter. if the gravity stays consistent for a couple days in a row, the yeast is done. there is some benefit to allowing it sit on the yeast cake as it will allow more of the yeast to fall out of suspension. If you are able to take it and chill it down to 35 degrees or so for a couple of days even more stuff will fall to the bottom. Then you rack it off to your still and fire it up. probably overkill since you are only collecting vapor but this is what we do when we make beer to insure it is nice and clear.

Guest's picture
Guest

Does anyone have suggestions about what to use to cover the must? Anything more specific than "loosely covered"? This sounds like potentially the only dangerous part.

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Guest,

Use a tight fitting lid with an air lock. The lid should be air tight. the air lock can be bought and made just for this use or a silicone or rubber hose with the end in a bowl of water with a splash of vodka to keep the germs out.

You will see what it is by Googling "air lock beer ferment".

Guest's picture
Rebel

With making moonshine if I have 24 hour turbo yeast it says on packet 14% in 48 hours 20% in 3to 5 days.What does that mean? The longer I let it set, the stronger the mash? I also have a packet of Whiskey Pure. It says makes up to 12% ABV. What does that mean? Can I mix both or one at a time? I'm bout ready to get going, just need to finalize a few things. I know I probably sound ignorant but i'm not. I'm just new to this stuff and need professional help. So far I love this website. Sounds like a few people have alot of knowledge of what to do. Once again I thank everybody for their input!

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Rebel,

No need to mix them. The reason it has a lower % in the beginning, it was not done fermenting. The fast growing yeast will go to 14% in 48 hours, the slower yeast will keep going at a higher % level. More then likely, the fast yeast has died from alcohol poisoning after 14%. All this is relevant to the sugar you added. There is a direct relationship from sugar to alcohol. The yeast can only survive to a certain %. With different strains of yeast, it performs differently. The whiskey yeast is more likely just yeast or with specific taste to it.

Guest's picture
Rebel

Getting ready to mix mash tomorrow. It will sit in its own fermenter, probably 12-13 gallons. Plan on cooking Saturday. Do I need to throw away some off of the first run? I have heard both ways. If your cooking anything no need to throw away. But then I have heard that methanol comes off first and is toxic. So is it better safe than sorry? If I need to throw some away how much should I throw out?

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Rebel,
If you are making a mash with grain, yes, you will have to toss some out. Pull off about half a cup at a time. You can tell from the smell. If it smells really bad, toss it. We are talking acetone smells. Once it stops smelling bad, then taste it. It will taste sweet and good. Save that. Collect in cups. Keep it in order so you know when the bad stuff starts. The bad stuff will give you hangovers but it also gives you flavour. You will need to mix some back in to give the flavours you want.

Guest's picture
Rebel

Thanks ZORCY. Any little bit helps. Mixing mash tonight, will probably run on Saturday. Hope everything works out . Getting nervous and excited at the same time. Once again THANKS!

Guest's picture
Ben

Thanks. Great read. And an extra thanks for the book.

Guest's picture
Rebel

Ran first batch and it did not turn out. Smelled like a cross between rotten corn and vomit. I used 5 lbs. of cracked corn, 5 lbs. of white sugar, 10 gallons water and 1 pkg of turbo yeast. I disolved the sugar in the water added the corn and rest of the water and then the yeast. I kept it covered with airlock and blanket around it so the temp never dropped under 70. Started fermenting on Wed at 5:30pm, stirred once daily, ran it on Saturday at 4:30pm. Using tower bought online with water line cooling jacket hooked up, started to drip at 5:30. Smelled the same or worse coming out. The first measuring of alcohol content was 145 proof, but smelled bad and I threw it out. Kept running and the smell never got better and I dumped it all. After researching I think I know at least three things wrong. Anybody have any suggestions.

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Rebel,
The recipe sounds fine. The yeast was not bloomed ahead of time? Did you add it in dry? What was the temp when you added the yeast? When you stirred, did you agitate it or just push down the floating top? You should have kept it after the heads were tossed. You let it air a little before capping it. Have you had shine before? Maybe you were just not prepared for the unaged smell. Try again, start with a sugar wash, no fancy yeast. Then move up to the corn. When you try it, let it breath a few days, filter it, too.

Guest's picture
Rebel

Zorcy,
In my previous post I said that I used cracked corn. I bought it from a feed mill and they said it was cracked, but it was actually rolled corn. Dried whole kernel corn ran under rollers to crack it. Did this cause any of my problems? I added the yeast in dry when the mash temp was around 78-80 degrees. When I stirred I agitated and I did this 2 times, only once daily. I don’t know what you mean by telling me you should have kept it after heads were tossed. I added all the ingredients and then put the lid on along with the airlock on top. Did I need to leave it open for a certain amount of time? YES I have had plenty of moonshine before. I actually used to buy from a person and split it up out of gallon jars and sold it as pints to make money. I have had nasty tasting shine along with smooth shine and neither smelt the way this did. The smell is nothing I have ever smelled before. I dumped 2 cups off the run and then I took a sip and it made my tongue go numb and the taste was very nasty. As much moonshine as I have drank and sold I have always had the desire to make it myself. I bought supplies off the web and tried this recipe and it failed. I will keep trying till I succeed. I just need a little helpful advice along the way. I do appreciate any advice I receive.

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Rebel,
It still looks good. There seems to be something else growing in there. Make sure the corn comes up to a hot temp to kill any bacteria. Cool it down to 100-110 F before adding yeast. It grows best at that temp and will grow faster then other organisms if you keep it there for a little while. Bloom the yeast in some water with sugar in it. Take a cup of water at 110 F with a tablespoon of sugar. Mix well and stir in dry yeast. This will bloom into a large foam. Give it 20 minutes in a warm area. When you add this to the mash, it is running full speed and can out grow any bacteria you may not have killed off. You wont need to stir the mash, just push down the cap (floating grain) so it wont dry out and harbor bacteria.

The corn sounds good. The heads are the first couple ml you distill, depending on size of run. The smell bad, taste bad and have the highest potential of methanol. Everything after that, keep. This is what you air out for a few days before closing the lid. This should make it all right. Filter through cotton and activated charcoal too.

Guest's picture
Rebel

Zorcy,
I want to make sure that I understand a couple of things you have mentioned before I start this process all over again. When I add the yeast the temp should be 100-110F? Should I use baker’s yeast or turbo yeast? After you tell me what yeast to use how long do I let it sit? What should the temp of the mash be while it is fermenting? I heard yeast only works above 60 degrees F. You said to let it air out a few days before closing the lid, I don’t understand what you mean by that. Do you mean the mash should sit for a few days with no lid and then cover it for a certain amount of days? Again thank you for all of the advice you have gave up to this point, I greatly appreciate it! Would like to run again on Saturday 4/20, but need to know when I should start the mash. So what do you think of this recipe: 5 pounds of corn, 10 pounds of sugar, baker’s yeast and 10 gallons of water? Following the advice you have gave me!

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Rebel,

1 cup sweet water at 100-110 F with yeast, sit for about 20 minutes to foam up.

This will 'wake up' the dry, hibernating, yeast. It will also double in volume and give you twice as much working beasties. Bakers yeast is fine, but expect it to max out at a lower %, about 8%. Otherwise use your turbo.

Different yeast work at different temperatures. Usually, it takes longer, at cooler temps. 60 is low, but it will work. Think of room temps, around 70-80 F. If you get it too close to the 80s or above, you will start to get "off flavours".

After you have distilled, you alcohol needs to air out. It will release some odd smells you do not like. If you are using canning jars, just leave the lid sitting on there without the ring, maybe upside down. This will allow some smells to escape.

Your recipe is fine. Expect it to ferment for 3-4 days. When distilling, throw out the first cup, 8 oz. Or save it for starting a fire. Do not let it get on your skin. Methanol will absorb through the skin.

uncle jesse's simple sour mash method: explains that the corn this way, is for flavour, not starch. Make sure you pour about a gallon or so of boiling water over the corn to kill germs. Stir for a minute, then add sugar and the rest of the water. Cool to 100-110 F before adding the yeast starter.

Guest's picture
Rebel

Zorcy

OK . Thank you so much for the insight. I will probably start another mash around Tuesday. Run on Saturday. I will post what happens then on Saturday night or Sunday morning. Once again THANK YOU!

Guest's picture
Rebel

OK. 2 days into fermentation this time it looks and smells alot better. This time I doubled my sugar to 10 lbs. And I also washed the corn. Zorcy said to pour hot water with corn to kill any bacteria, which I did then as I was mixing the water started to turn brown and smell like my last batch which did not turn out right. So I poured my corn slowly through a strainer and washed it, then put it all back into the fermenter with an extra dose of boiling water. Then added sugar to disolve. Also did the thing with the yeast , sugar and hot water. With that said my mash smells like beer,which it did not before, and has a look of something lighter than skim milk. Is this the way it is supposed to go? I have high hopes. Oh yeah almost forgot, don't really have any floaties, actually almost none.

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Rebel,
See if the sweetness is going away. Also make sure the airlock is bubbling away. With the washing, makes you wonder what was on the outside of the corn.

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Rebel,

I am so very curious how it turned out for you.

Guest's picture

ok guys i did everything except the thumper tested with water and please with out come.
now the question i made the first 5 gal and it smell like i wont to say sour beer.
i know ive read in here that a sugar run should have no smell.
i am following the directions on the yeast.
i dumped this batch and rewashed everything.
started again and something happened.
am i throwing good stuff out?

the only thing questionable is my fermenter its 17 gal solid white plastic barrel(i was told food grade), its got a snap ring for the lid
so any imput would be greatly apprecated.

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Country Bob,

More then likely, it is not a beer smell, but just a yeast smell. Taste it and see if it has alcohol taste. Try to run it through.

Guest's picture
Guest

hey, been doing it this style for a while. key is to make sure you dont cook it too hot or you'll get water in your booze. also make sure you are able to kool the copper off or else you'll see all your booze evaporate before your eyes.

otherwise, greaaaaatt tool for cheap booze!!!!!!!!!!

make more blogs bro!

Guest's picture

i just reread my last so sorry
what i ment is i have a keg going into my condencer
i tested with water and it worked
ive made 2 batchs of sugar water and yeast
ive followed the directions to the t
both smelled like sour beer i know that ive read in here it should
have no smell
i washed and rewashed my barrel i just dont know what is going on
thanks for any input

Guest's picture

i reread the last post and im sorry
ok i have a keg then condencer
tryed it out with water works good
now i have made wash 2 times both smelled like sour beer
i know ive read that sugar wash has no smell
ive followed the directions washed everything
am i throwing away good stuff
thanks

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Country Bob,

Run it through and see if you can light it on fire. Are you using tap water? If you use distilled water to ferment, you will not have enough nutrients for the yeast. Try to boil the water first, then bring to room temp. We want to kill anything not yeast. You could have some infection in your batch. You should be able to smell the yeast, like when you make bread. Does it take a few days to ferment? If it happens all in one day, it could be stressing the yeast. If it takes weeks, it could be leaving room for an infection to grow.

Guest's picture

thank you zorcy
i did run it through and it had nice blue flame
everyone says its good
no i didnt use tap water
so i should use boiled tap water?
as far as the time of yeast working it was right on time
i have another question
can you stack the higher % turbo yeast or will the heat kill it

zorcy again thank you for sticking with us

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Country Bob,

My pleasure. Tap water is better then distilled water. Well water, or stream water, would be better boiled. The actual yeast they use is special. I believe it is 2 yeast. The first is a fast, low % yielding yeast. I think it also has a slower, high % yeast to finish it off. Since the faster yeast will die from alcohol poisoning, it cannot be reused. The higher % yeast could be reused, but will be very slow. Your best bet, keep buying it or settle for a less productive yeast. The yeast, as any rate, can only survive at one level of alcohol, you cannot stack it or double up the rates.

Guest's picture

zorcy

what i ment with the yeast, is could i double or tripple the batch in one barrell?
mile high has what they call heat way which will give 14%
i was trying to go higher

thanks again

Guest's picture

zorcy

i stand corrected about the heat wave it can go to 18%
but 23% would be better

thanks

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Country Bob,

Yes, you should be able to double the volume. Every 20 minutes, yeast doubles in volume. If you had 1 gram of yeast at the start, enough for one batch. In 20 minutes you would have 2 grams, enough for two batches.

Guest's picture
thatboy80

Hi guys been a while since i started reading this site, so i'm not up to date if anyone has mentioned making rum.
I have been experimenting and found that black treacle makes really good quality brandy, its about 80% sugar so when working out sugar to water ration take this into account, i have found half of the total amount of sugar would be treacle and half would be cheap white sugar.
once its been distilled i add oak chips for 5 days to help with the colour and a bit of flavour then depending on taste i added a bit of caramel syrup that is used for coffee.
I must say it is a really enjoyable drink if you like rum

Guest's picture
thatboy80

I ment Rum not Brandy like I said part way through lol

Guest's picture
Guest

Zorcy Wannabee

Dear Zorcy, It has been a while since I asked a question, but I am doing a new 5 gallon batch of sugar and turbo yeast, "48 hour " kind. In the past I got fast action (bubbling in the gallon air lock jug and then, after 3 or 4 days, it might continue slow bubbling for maybe 10 days. This time is was going great for 3 days and just about stopped. I was using 17 pounds of sugar in a 5 gallon container, as usual. I did something I had never done before; I popped the lid and sprinkled a cup of sugar on the top. It immediately started foam and boiling. I put the lid back on and it went for a day, pretty strong. I did it again this morning and it took off again.

I guess this is making more alcohol and should keep doing this until it no longer works.

Am I using enough sugar from the get go?

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Guest,

17 lbs of sugar and 5 gallons of water should bring you to 24% alcohol. That is high, even for Turbo. Did you taste the wash to see if it was partially sweet? My guess is the sugar is giving is some nutrients and then running out before the sugar itself can be eaten. They call it "48 Hour" because it should be just about maxed out in 48 hours. The yeast should be dying by then. Try this, but be careful, it will bubble over with activity. Mix in a can of tomato paste. It has added nutrients that you cannot get from pure water.

Something to take into consideration. The higher you get in %, the more off flavours you will pick up. Not to mention, the longer you sit on the trubs, the more flavours you pick up from the dead yeast. Keep it as short as you dare.

Guest's picture
sugarwash

Thanks on the input. On the packet of "48 hour " yeast, it says 5.5 gallons of water, 13 lbs of sugar for 14% in 2 days. or 18 lbs for 20% in 5 days. That's why I went with 17 pounds.

Should I add just the tomato paste (not more sugar) when it slows down, or do it in the beginning? A table spoon? A small can? Should it be stirred in? If stirred, just gently on the top or all the way to the bottom?

Thanks again.

Guest's picture
sugarwash

As to amount of sugar: the "48 hour" packet of yeast says "for 5.5 gallons use 13 lbs for 2 days and 14%. 18 lbs for 5 day 20%. Why, I have no idea.

As to tomato paste: how much? a table spoon or a small can? Do you stir it lightly or all the way to the bottom? Put it in in at the beginning or when it starts to slow down?

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Sugarwash,

A small can of paste is fine.

By the looks of the direction, they only give you one amount of sugar to keep the confusion down. It waste sugar if you do the 14% and will have some left over sweetness. Try the taste test, that should tell you.

Guest's picture
Guest

10 gallon pot made of stainless or copper nothing other than that it will poison your shine you need a 10 gallon pot 5 foot of 1 inch copper pipe for your lead arm 20 feet of 1/2 copper pipe for your condenser and a 15 gallon steel trash can for condenser container first attach a 1 inch fitting to the top of the lid 2 inches of 1 inch pipe soldered to the fitting then attach a 90 degree 1 inch copper fitting to the 1 inch pipe then solder the 5 foot of 1 inch pipe to the elbow cut a 9/16 hole in the bottom of the condenser can and put one end of your copper 1/2 coil through it 2 inches works fine put jbweld or plumbers puddy around the hole to stop leaking of water now drill 4 small holes in the top of the can and tie wire to the coil and the can to keep from moving around BE Sure to bend your coil right if not bent right the liquid will not come out good and it will spit out and cause problems now attach a 1 inch to 1/2 inch elbow to the still arm and the coil make sure the still arm is level with the coil you may have to put somthing under the burner and can to level wood and bricks work well run water and viniger through the still to clean out any trash and copper shavings in the still you do not want that in your shine now when you get ready to run the still tie wire or put something heavy on the lid to prevent the lid from blowing off there is alot of pressure coming out of the still put a meal and flour paist on the lid were it sets on the pot to seal leaks and conections you did not solder together some use rubber sealant or gaskets but i would not it will leach chemicals in your product that is harmfull do not use anything other than food quality products on or in your still be safe and have fun with your new hobby

Guest's picture
ZORCY

I like the trash can condenser. Way to use what you have! We may want to point out, the lid to the 10 gallon will need to be able to blow off if need be. This will keep it from building up too much pressure. It is better to let off a little steam, then to blow up your garage.
Since the line coming off the lid is so small and goes right into the spiral, you will need to leave plenty of head space in the pot. If you have particulates, chunks of fruit or grains, it will foam and boil up high. This would get in the pipe and plug it.
My first still was a cheap 2 gallon stainless pot with a 3/8 copper line coming off, and coiling down to a jar. The coil got real hot without a cooling device. I ended up draping a towel and pouring ice water on it. It was time consuming and you could only go so fast. I later put aluminum fins on it. I used tin foil and bent 2 inch strips so the ends would dissipate the heat into the air. It was still hot, but condensed. If the condenser is too hot, the alcohol will come out hot. If there is still alcohol in the vapour, you will get a contact drunk, so keep it ventilated.
After this reply, you will see a few post about blindness if you follow this recipe. What recipe, exactly? The sugar wash will not produce enough methanol unless you separated it from the alcohol and collected from a few rounds. In the fruit and grain recipes, we stated to pull off the heads and tails. If anyone is confused about this, stop, ask and then proceed.

Guest's picture
Guest

ya'll might want to watch out with this simplified process. If you just distill all the liquid until you get to water, you'll also get methanol (which can blind or kill you) along with your ethanol (which is what you want, that's the stuff that gets you drunk). you want to distill the ethanol alone, so only collect the liquid that distills while the vapor above the boiling liquid is outside of the boiling point of methanol. you can find that out with a google search i bet.

Guest's picture
Pirate

Follow this recipe if you want to go blind. It does not remove methanol, which boils at 148-149F. Keep temp at 153ish for a bit until nothing comes out anymore. Dump what you got already. Then bring up to 173F. Collect your shine and do again to remove all methanol(and maybe again, XXX means triple distilled)[dont leave unattended. be careful for flashpoint/auto-ignition]. A lot of net sites about this are a trap

Guest's picture
Guest

Can I use freeze jacking as a method of distillation of my sugar yeast moonshine must?
Leo

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Guest,

Yes, freezing will concentrate the alcohol %. The problem is also the benefit of jacking. It concentrates the flavour. While this is great with a sweet, fruity fermentation, it will not do well to concentrate the flavour of sugar and yeast. It will get you drunk faster, but not taste great.

Guest's picture
Guest

I used to Jack quite a lot i found that putting a clearing agent in again after and letting it settle again help with the flavour, you be surprised how much sediment you get out after Jacking.

Guest's picture
Guest

Thanks Zorcy-

So should I be worried about any methanol content if I End up jackin everything?
Thanks v much for yr time an knowledge!
Leo

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Guest,

If you had 5 gallons of hard cider, you would have "some" methanol. It is a very small amount. If you jacked it down to 2 gallons, you would still have the same amount, just in a smaller package. If you can drink 5 gallons without getting methanol poisoning, then drinking 2 gallons of jack, will not either. Something to think about. If you have an arbitrary number of 2 grams methanol in 5 gallons, each glass gives you 20 mg of methanol. When you drink the same after it is jacked, the same size glass gives you 50 mg.

But that does not matter so much. Just so long as you know, jacking will not cause a greater issue with methanol.

Guest's picture
Guest

It's the sugar shine I was considering for the Jacking. Does this present any concerns?

Guest's picture
ZORCY

Guest,

The only concern, is that it will taste pretty bad. I would mix it with fruit juice when it's jacked, to give it some semblance to a drink. smh, that does sound pretty bad when you think about it.

Guest's picture
Shinningboy63

The tricky part when making moonshine though is to make sure you get ethanol not methanol. To do this you wanna bring your mash or what you call a must to 143 degrees first in order to get rid of the methanol ( the stuff that can make you go blind or kill you) the first bit that comes out of your still is junk. Second you wanna bring the mash to 173 degrees that's the point where the ethanol ( the good stuff, drinkable) comes out. You can repeatedly still the ethanol to make it a stronger proof. I've been making my own shine for the last 15 years and I've achieved 190 proof but its pretty harsh to drink. Almost high enough to burn in your car.

Philip Brewer's picture

The website Cool Tools had a brief writeup on a very small still intended for water purification that can be repurposed to make small batches of moonshine:

http://kk.org/cooltools/archives/7959

If you just want to experiment with moonshine and are hesitating because you're not handy enough to manage the mechanical construction step of making the still, here's something already assembled with appropriate food-grade materials.

Guest's picture
incorrect speller

you should really tell people about the methanol it produces so they dont go blind or die

Philip Brewer's picture

Between the text in the article itself and the many mentions in the extensive comments, I think we've got the methanol thing covered pretty well.

Guest's picture
Guest

Maybe, just once or twice, it may have been mentioned. With a post like that, you have to consider if this was an ATF employee posting. Keep the threat up so everyone will run for the hills. I think it would be best if everyone reading, did not take our word for it. Just start a research for the amount of methanol created from different fermentations. Then find out how much methanol it takes to hurt you. Also look up the amount of methanol you get from simple beer and wine. Never take anyone's word for it when you can find out for yourself.

Now that you know that, and you have read about the physical separation of both alcohols, Deduce how much you will get in your output. Now it's time to decide if you would like to try it.

As for me, I did, I do and now,,,,, I will. Cheers.

Still watching,
Zorcy