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.

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

Thank you so, so much for this informative, strictly entertaining, and not remotely practical post. As a Southern boy, a born cook-it-yourselfer, and a great fan of the White Lightning, I couldn't be happier to have found this post. While I would never dream of trying it myself, I'm really grateful for the step-by-step, "how-to"-like approach, for the sheer entertainment value, of course.

I'm also interested in homebrewing beer and wine. Aside from the books you mentioned, can you point to any good online resources, especially for equipment and supplies?

In the meantime, I can't wait to get my hands on Ms. Freed's book, and I'm even more excited to try not making moonshine.

Cheers!

Guest's picture
sayter_74

www.brewhaus.com

all the stuff you need.

Guest's picture
Witchback

check out www.mrbeer.com I have been using it for a while. I love my own beer!

Guest's picture
Guest

www.mrbeer.com sells kits to make and bottll your own beer and apple cider. They aslso have rootbeer kits for the kids. As far as wine goes, you're on your own, sorry.

enjoy

Guest's picture
Guest

I love Prego

 

-LM

Guest's picture
Guest

Nice article. Good links in the comments. I'll share one too. Check out these moonshine still kits. Anyone have experience with them?

Guest's picture
kodii

shush boy... you're giving us southners a bad name... like we all make alcohol in our basements by the 50 gallon barrel

Guest's picture
Guest

If you're more into the 'art' of it all, check out Home Distiller Forum. I've been a member there for several years, and they have an awesome collection of in-depth recipes (both mashes, and after distillations). Moreover, if you aren't a savvy enough DIYer to build a still, Whiskey Still sells the old fashioned ones cheap. Well, the cheapest we've found for a novice.

Good luck, and welcome to the family!

Guest's picture
Guest

Here's another great article on making moonshine:
http://www.clawhammersupply.com/blogs/moonshine-still-blog/3386482-how-t...

They sell "build your own" copper still kits too:
www.clawhammersupply.com

Guest's picture
net_efekt

Thanks for letting me know that you're using my flickr pic!

In Albania everybody is happily moonshining, a tradition that doesn't get policed. And yes, they just make the equioment themselves - which is cheaper and just as effective. Tastes nice too! ;-)

Myscha Theriault's picture

will be thanking you for this one, Philip. Brings back memories of the bathtub wine tasting competitions in Kuwait. Oh, but not me . . . I never did that . . . I just er, heard about it. I would never break the law in a foreign country and drink illegal alcohol.

Good job.

Guest's picture
Guest

Not a bad post, but folks shouldn't go and start distilling based solely on this. One important thing to throw away, what, the first and last 5% of the distillate? I haven't done this in a while, but getting rid of the "heads" and "tails" will get rid of nasty hangover-inducing compounds like aldehydes and ketones (related to alcohol, but poisonous).

In fact, the reason one shouldn't drink "wood alcohol" or methanol, is because when your liver tries to break it down like good alcohol (ethanol), it turns it into formaldehyde instead. Narsty.

Guest's picture
Curious & Shy

Some guest wrote:

"In fact, the reason one shouldn't drink "wood alcohol" or methanol, is because when your liver tries to break it down like good alcohol (ethanol), it turns it into formaldehyde instead. Narsty."

1) Diet Pepsi is worse than moonshine! It contains ASPARTAME which:
*turns into "wood alcohol" then embalming fluid (as you mention)
*2 teaspoons of aspartame is the lethal adult dose
*it IS a neurotoxin created for chemical warfare!(similar to sarin gas)
*The liver has nothing to do with the harmful effects of Methanol

(So enjoy that diet soda...you weren't using that part of your brain anyhow)

2) The cure for METHANOL "Wood Alcohol" poisoning IS ETHANOL!
*both apple & orange juice have more methanol than moonshine
*it takes 200 teaspoons for a lethal dose
*it's made by distilling wood (or pectin) thus the name
*it vaporizes at a lower temperature so it's the first to distill
*the 1st bit distilled is usually thrown out
*even if it was kept, it would be both too diluted to cause harm and neutralized by the ethanol

3) The liver has little to do with the harm from Methanol
*it first attacks the optic nerves causing blindness (in low doses)
*then it causes neurological symptoms
*finally death, usually from respiratory failure

Guest's picture
Guest

can you exslpain that a litle more.i dont want to endup "not makeing" some bad shine

Guest's picture
TOGunslinger

Thank You for this one. It's not a good idea to run off to set up a still in the backyard without giving a thought to the dangers which may be many. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
I recall when ATF was testing downstream waters in all the small tributaries to the Chattahoochee river in Georgia because the local rednecks were dumping their thump kegs in the water to quickly dispose of evidence and unwanted leftovers. The fish and Turtles loved it, but so did the ATF. Those meters they used were very delicate, they could sniff out an extremely small percentage of alcohol in a stream. Consequently many a good ol boy got busted.
I remember the days when a pick up truck loaded with empty milk jugs or bags of Corn and sugar got more attention than an Arab with a hand grenade.
I have dreamed of doing this but have never had enough privacy and so...Ah well.
To a brew that won't hold a bubble.

Philip Brewer's picture

You can find supplies as well a books at Amazon.com. Try searching for homebrew beer kit or homemade wine kit. There are also plenty of sites on-line that specialize in homebrew supplies, and any good-sized town will likely have a local source. (In Champaign-Urbana I know both a local hobby store and the local beer-and-wine superstore have beer-making supplies.)

Of course you'll likely have more trouble finding stills for sale. Making one isn't too tricky, though.

Guest's picture
Guest

Philip, your knowledge is priceless. I have been through pages and pages reading all of your replies and I am beyond impressed. That being said, I will not beat around any bush and come forth with it. I need your help...

How do I make 160 proof that tastes like peach?

I have been beating myself up for two months now through trial and error.
I have a 5 gallon water jug and a lot of heart.

I will tell you what I would do. Use 12 pounds of sugar to 4 gallons of water plus turbo yeast, distill, then flavor after? Or before? Are my measurements even correct?

Please help. Thanks.

Philip Brewer's picture

I'm afraid I'm not the one to ask.

Maybe one of the other regulars can offer some useful suggestions—but they're only likely to see new comments (not replies to old comments). So, you might ask by posting a new comment that'll show up at the end of the list of comments.

Guest's picture
dave.t

one small point: alcohol boils before water does, so you don't actually have to bring the still to a full boil. just about 190*F, according to Wikipedia.

also, for home beer brewing, check out a kit by the "Brewer's Best" brand. they have a good starter equipment kit, as well as ingredients kits for many different kinds of beers. easy, and turns out well.

Guest's picture
Guest

While pure alcohol boils at a lower temperature than pure water, a mixture of 95% alcohol and 5% water has a boiling point lower than either. A substance with a lower boiling point than its pure constituents is called an azeotrope.

Guest's picture
Dustin

You have a great point, but if I were you I wouldn't base my facts on Wikipedia. That site sucks. Plain and simple. It does have good info but it's open for anyone to edit so people can post non true information.
However, the alcohol boiling temperature is around 190 degrees but it depends on the kind of alcohol you want to make. If you're into the 170-190 proof stomach churning gut rot they call alcohol, the lower the boiling temp. the better. I don't mean to sound rude at all. I just wanted to let you know that Wikipedia is very unreliable, and of course to share my shine knowledge with you. E-mail me if you get a chance.

Guest's picture
Guest

Actually the perfect temp. for moonshine is 172deg. F. according to the moonshiners of WV. and KY. Checkout the all day special about beer, wine & moonshine presented by the History channel , partly hosted by Billy Ray Cyress. Pretty interesting stuff, I'm workin' on my 68' ford fairlane sleeper as we speak, Just BS'ING! I laided up all day Sunday with a hangover watching till noon until I was able to get some store bought spirts, YEAH!

Guest's picture
EricJ

Ive never really looked into moonshine, but enjoy brewing beer. I have heard there is a danger with moonshine producing methanol(very toxic) instead of Ethanol(for good times).
Maybe this method bypasses the issue by not creating a mash and using only sugar? Just wondering if there are any dangers in the above process?

Guest's picture
Guest

7 pounds of sugar, 5 gallons of water, 1/2 cup bakers yeast. After 14 days run in your still.

Philip Brewer's picture

Yeast won't make methanol, so you're not going to accidentally end up with it following this process to make moonshine.

The old way to make methanol was through a process called "destructive distillation," in which you basically operate your still directly on woodchips (rather than the must), which is why it's called wood alcohol.

I don't think making wood alcohol was ever a mistake. Most of the methanol posionings must have resulted from someone finding industrial methanol and not understanding (or not caring) that it was poison.

Guest's picture
jeremymeador

thanks for the information. can anyone site this though? it seems prudent if anyone has the final word on it.

Guest's picture
Guest

after i boil my suger water to kill the wild yeast wat temperture do i let it cool to before i add my bakers yeast

Guest's picture
Guest

add lemon juice. the good ole boys aroud here claim it will neutralize any remaining methanol. Plus it gives it a nice flavor to complement the taste of rubbing alcohol and liquid fire.

Guest's picture
Richard

The latest Mother Earth News has an article on making Hard Cider, which IS legal to make in the US (the Founding Fathers wouldn't have had it any other way!): http://www.motherearthnews.com/Whole-Foods-and-Cooking/2007-10-01/How-to...

Philip Brewer's picture

Thanks for the hard cider link--good stuff.

Because it was traditionally done with hard cider, this seems like a good place to mention "jacking," which is the name for increasing the alcohol concentration by partial freezing.

Basically, you just leave a barrel of cider out overnight after the weather starts to fall below freezing, the pitch out whatever ice forms on the top. Because the freezing point of water is much higher than that of alcohol, the ice will be almost entirely water, so that the remaining beverage will have a higher alcohol content. (This also concentrates pretty much everything else in the beverage, including any remaining sugar and other chemicals that give it its flavor.)

You can repeat the process several times, getting your cider a little harder each time. Just do some "quality control" each time and bring it in once you get it the way you want it.

As far as I know, concentrating the alcohol through jacking is legal. It's also free if you live somewhere where the overnight temperatures fall below freezing, and uses a lot less energy than running a still.

Guest's picture
Guest

This is known as freeze distilation, and yes, it is also illegal.....but who's to say you accidently let it freeze....opps...my bad. We've all accidentally froze beer....and no one is in jail yet.

Guest's picture
Guest

legall " ice beer"

Myscha Theriault's picture

You are apparently quite the expert on this, guy. I better get off my butt with this ecolodge thing we've been considering so we can have a big old Wise Bread retreat. You can be in charge of the bar!

Guest's picture
cendare

With a name like Brewer... what did we expect? :)

Myscha Theriault's picture

OK, now that's just laugh out loud, make my coffee (oops, I mean beer) come out through my nose funny! Good one!

Guest's picture
Guest

If someone weren't interested in doing this, how much yeast would(n't) they add? I just don't know how much would be appropriate for 3 gallons. Just double checking, 5 pounds of sugar, correct?

Philip Brewer's picture

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 everwhere, so you really can't avoid them.)

And, yes--according to Dolly Freed, 5 pounds of sugar to 3 gallons of water.

Guest's picture
C_it_do_it_Smile

It is interesting that 5lbs of sugar to 3gallons of water is almost the same ratio that mother nature uses to build things. Mother Nature uses a 1 to 1.68 ratio to build many things. and 3/5=1.66. For all you science geeks yes I know that we are using different measurements here (gallons and pounds) but still just the same it is an interesting point. for those folks that want the lbs, water weighs 8.64lbs/gallon.

Guest's picture
Guest

hi,,was curious as to how much product you would get out of a 2 gallon still?

Guest's picture
Guest

It's true that yeast quantity doesn't matter. But it's also true that baker's yeast will stop functioning at a pretty low alcohol content, whereas stronger yeasts from brew supply shops (I'm not shilling for anybody, pick your own, use champagne yeast, use turbo yeast, use whatever, it's easy to find good sources with simple web searches) will go and go, all the way up to ~20%. If you leave a lot of unfermented sugar in your liquor, you'll end up with a hell of a headache.

Guest's picture
Guest

I don't see why that would be. All the extra sugar would do is lower your final yield (right?). You wouldn't even get that sugar in the final product because the alcohol/water mixture would evaporate (and then condense in the tubing) leaving that sugar behind...

Philip Brewer's picture

If you go with 5 pounds of sugar in 3 gallons of water, your ordinary baker's yeast will die of alcohol poisoning just as they run out of sugar and starve, so you won't have excess sugar. It's true that you'll have a weaker starting point for your distilation, but as long as energy is cheap, that's not such a big deal. If energy is expensive, then it makes a lot more sense to use brewer's yeast, up the sugar content to match the yeast's abilities, and then having a higher concentration of alcohol as your starting point for distillation.

I think at least some of the sugar must make its way through the distilation process, although I admit that I don't know what the chemical/physical process is--I'm just going by the flavor of some distilled spirits, such as rum and bourbon.

Guest's picture
Guest

Bakers yeast....brewers (wine) yeast...and Turbo yeast..
The three main kinds.
I use the turbo yeast when I am making spirits. ( I have made all kinds ) cream de cacao, irish cream, kaluha, vodka, dark rum, spiced rum, and many sweet liquors and PORT.
I use brewers yeast when i am making beer and wine.

I use 8 lbs of sugar in a 5 gal jug with a pack of turbo yeast and a small amount of yeast excellerator.

Guest's picture
Guest

You do need to have some idea what you're doing when you set out to distill your own booze. I grew up in an American community in Saudi Arabia, where alcohol was strictly verboten. A Kentucky moonshiner happened to work in the machine shop... :-) He built three stills, which, under cover of night, were traded around among the families in camp.

My father processed must from orange juice or raisins, which he put in large glass bottles that must have held 15 or 20 gallons. He got his hands on a wooden crate that had been used to ship an upright piano: perfect to put in the backyard as a "tool shed." With it padlocked shut, the Arabs were none the wiser. One day the fermentation got a bit out of hand and it exploded one of those glass jugs...and what a mess! Not something you'd want in the house.

More serious, one of the stills plugged up while it was simmering away on a homeowner's stove. The wife was standing in the kitchen when the still exploded. She was seriously burned and lucky not to have been killed.

Soooo.... If you're gunna do this, learn how to do it safely. Up front, not after the fact.

Guest's picture
dave. p

the black helicopters are no doubt en route to your postion as we speak. good post though.

-patry

Guest's picture
Kerberos

Here in Sweden the bad tasting part of the alcohol is called Finkel.
To counteract that you run the distilled spirit through a tube filled with coal to filter out the bad part.

The more times you filter it the better it tastes.

At least that's what I've heard in theory. ;-)

Guest's picture
Guest

Coal is a fossil fuel that contains a lot of bad chemicals use activated charcoal (wood burned in the absence of oxygen) I'm not sure how it works i just know it does

Guest's picture
Trevor

Do you have to distill the alcohol once it's done fermenting? Is the wine safe to drink? How does it taste? Is there anything cheap to mix with it to improve or simply overpower the taste? ie: tang powder, pink lemonade concentrate, etc.

Philip Brewer's picture

It's the distilling part that's illegal. If you don't distill it, you've got wine, I guess (unless you included some grain in what you fermented, in which case I guess you'd call it beer). It probably won't taste very good, unless you were very careful about what you fermented (read one of the many books on making beer and making wine). It'd be safe to drink, though--people have been making wine and beer for at least a couple thousand years; it's not rocket science. The big win of distilling, I think, is that you've got a lot less liquid to drink to get your alcohol, making it both easier to get drunk and easier to mix it with something tastier.

I guess, though, whatever you'd be mixing it with would be mostly water, so I expect it would work perfectly well to skip distilling it (to remove the water) and then mixing it with juice or something (adding water back) and just go ahead and add powdered flavoring or juice concentrate straight to the fermented result. That actually makes a certain kind of sense.

If you use baker's yeast it's not going to be very strong--about 10% alcohol. If you buy brewer's yeast, and almost double the amount of sugar you use, you can get 15% or even 18% alcohol. Mix that with juice concentrate or powdered flavoring and you might have a palatable drink, if you like that sort of thing.

Guest's picture
downwindbrewer

Back in the old days when bootleggin was big, they usally used corn, but in the 1920 some started using granulated sugar, which yeilded a lower alcohol percent so they came up with a way to test the alcohol by setting a small amount on fire if it lit and burned good it was considerd realy good white lighting, so if you use grains instead of granulated sugar you will have a much better alcohol percent and taste.

Guest's picture
Guest

Um.......... as one who is fascinated with this process and after extensive reading on the subject, under the right conditions, you can get fleischmans yeast to ferment out to 14% (gotta feed the yeast nutrients while fermenting). and you are right, it's not rocket science.  When distilling the beginning parts should be thrown out but if you can get your still to reach between 172 and 180 degrees, consistently, it will be ethanol!!

  • Acetone 56.5C (134F)
  • Methanol (wood alcohol) 64C (147F)
  • Ethyl acetate 77.1C (171F)
  • Ethanol 78C (172F)
  • 2-Propanol (rubbing alcohol) 82C (180F)
  • 1-Propanol 97C (207F)
  • Water 100C (212F)
  • Butanol 116C (241F)
  • Amyl alcohol 137.8C (280F)
  • Furfural 161C (322F)

Once together, a mixture of several of them will be slightly different however. You no longer get them coming off seperately, but always as a mixture. Fortunately for us though, each of the species will tend to dominate around its boiling point temperature, thus we know whats "mostly" coming off at that point. By tracking the temperature of the vapour, you have a fairly good idea when you're collecting the Ethanol your after (78-82 °C), vs when it is starting to get lean and you're into the higher alcohols.

Note that you may also need to adjust the temperature if you are distilling at altitude - the higher above sea level you are, the lower boiling temperatures become because of the reduced air pressure.

Thanks to: http://homedistiller.org

 

 

Guest's picture
Guest

hey, just wondering what to do with what I have. I already have %100 pure alcohol but where to go from here? what can I do with this? Any suggestions on mixing or further use? It would be helpful,please reply! Shankz

Philip Brewer's picture

You can't make 100% pure alcohol by distilling--some water will always get in. There are other processes to make extremely pure alcohol for laboratory use, but some of those make the product unsafe to drink. (Plus you need to worry about whether the liquid mightn't be something other than ethanol.)

Pure alcohol might be useful for other stuff--burning as fuel, maybe--but not for drinking.  Just don't.

Guest's picture
Guest

how much suger and water would in a pot 7.1 inces in length and 3.5 inces from top to botom and would i be able to make it on the stove and do u put it right in the distil and if not the can u explain how u would go about frementing itplzz give me a email but try to name it some thing difrent cuse im trying to keep it under raps with my dad.

Guest's picture
Guest

i've read most of the questions, but can't seem to find the right answer. what quantities of corn, yeast and sugar would you need for a gallon of water. i don't have much space and am not worried about making loads. all help is greatly appreciated.

Guest's picture
Gumbo

I am interested in the fermentation part. Do you need to keep it heated at 110 degreed the entire time, or just put the yeast in then and let it sit at room temperature?

Philip Brewer's picture

Don't try to keep the temperature at 110--that's dangerously hot.  Any little glitch up in temperature could kill your yeast.

Yeast will do fine at room temperature.  Yeast will even grow (very slowly) in the refrigerator.

I know homebrewers like to let the yeast do its thing at a cooler temperature (room temperature, but on the lower end), to make better beer.  If you're going to distill the product, it probably doesn't matter much.

Guest's picture
Guest

I have read in several places that aluminum will put off a poison when mixed with alcohol. I have an aluminum pressure cooker and I would like to use it, if its not going to poison me. Would it remove the poison if you ran the batch through 'aquarium' type charcoal?

Philip Brewer's picture

I don't know if alcohol in aluminum produces a poison, nor if filtering it through charcoal would remove it. Filtering the product through charcoal will make it taste better, so it's worth doing for that reason, but I can't help you on the poison issue.

Guest's picture
swerve

If you want to purify your alcohol, ie: clean up the taste a bit, you should just use your brita filter at the end of the distillation line. (sometimes doing it a second or third time can help even more).

Cheers!

Guest's picture
chupacabra62

Ihave made everything from beer wine to rum and did lots of research on this and everyone says aluminum is a big no no bootleggers bible and the joy of home brewing both mention it the most safe still ive seen is strands amazing still that uses a 5 gallon bucket and a sumbergible heater like for a fish tank. i have used the kitchen stove with a gas flame with a copper still but that is very wacked it was when i was learning if your getting good stuff out of your still its very much like cooking gasoline on your stove 1 leak and blammo but dont use anything aluminum all those folks just wouldnt make that up

Guest's picture
Guest

I'm a bit shocked. before I started makin shine... I did lots of research on the safety issues of using an alluminiun cooker and found several people who use alluminium. I have since been using it and have had good tasting shine and I'm still breathing. haha.

Guest's picture
Guest

The Aluminum Oxides formed when boiling alcohol, can bond to both water and alcohol molecules. you will not receive a "lethal" dose unless you literally only ever drank the distilled liquid for several months straight. you will be more likely to get alsheimers, due to the aluminum being deposited in you brain, but hey if your gonna go senile you might as well do it with a drink in your hand and a smile on your face.

Guest's picture
damian

is all i need to do is distill it

Guest's picture
bigmitch

how much yeast should be used in making the batch which uses 5lbs of sugar and 3 gallons of water?

Philip Brewer's picture

Comment 16 talks about yeast quantity.

Guest's picture
Guest

How much shine would the 5 gallon 3 pound mixture yield?

Guest's picture
XexorZ

5 gallons water w/ 3 pounds sugar would yield about 3.5% alcohol by volume so that would be 5 * 0.035 = 0.175 gallons or 660mL

Very useful chart can be found on:
http://www.geocities.com/mipeman/sugar.html#calcsug

Also, use google to do the conversions... For example I typed into google:

3 pounds per gallon in grams per liter

Google returned 71 grams per liter...

I looked at the chart and viola, ~3.5% alcohol :)

Enjoy

Guest's picture
Guest

I made a wash of 20% and put carbon in it and turbo clear and was going to filter it and make liqueurs, but now I have a pot still, would it be bad to run it through the still? What if I filter the carbon out first?

Guest's picture
Guest

Phillip,
Well done. You have explained it well.
Im making some apple mooshine.
Ive had it fermenting for two weeks in a new 5 gallon bucket. Apples, Sugar, yeast, and some water.
I will filter it twice through some coffee filters after it is distilled. Should that be enough to get rid of the toxic residue? any other recomendations?

Guest's picture
Guest

I've "seen" an nifty filter for a still. It involves using a cartridge type water filter- like for a refrigerator ice maker.  Attach it to the 3/8" copper tube used as a condenser coil, and attach another short tube as a spout out the other end.  Make sure the water filter is filled with carbon- the one I've "seen" is a solid carbon block, but some filters use granulated carbon.  Should work too.  Best to run some water thru the filter, "I'm told" to remove any carbon dust before using it on a still...  Also- either use a thumper or make real sure your still doesn't boil over, as any solids coming out of the still may plug up the water filter.  One thing that hasn't been mentioned here (as far as I can see) is the safety factor of sealing your still to prevent leaks, but do not make it impossible for the lid to blow off.  I've "seen" a still made from a 3 gallon steel stock pot with the lid sealed using weatherstripping.  The lid is held to the pot with the use of spring clamps - about 12 of them around the entire circumference of the lid.  That allows the still to seal under normal distilling pressures, but will blow the clamps off and release pressure if the pressure builds to dangerous levels.  Enjoy-

Philip Brewer's picture

As long as you've fermented sugar with yeast, there's not likely to be anything toxic in what you've made. Make sure your still doesn't let the product come into contact with anything--such as solder--that's not food-grade, and you should be fine.

Filtering may improve taste, but shouldn't be necessary for safety. (And I wouldn't count on it for safety. If there's anything in there that shouldn't be--if you've used non-food grade materials in your still--then don't drink it.)

Guest's picture
Guest

yep,
its all food grade equipment.

Guest's picture
Guest

as to the comment on filtering shine it does help with flavor but is absoluteley necissary to filter your distilate(moonshine) through activated carbon charcoal to filer out poisins and impurities. not doing so causes people to go blind. ,

concerned professional distiller

Guest's picture
the mad scientist

when you start to distill how long after you heat to 177 degrees before all the alcohlol is evaperated? sorry if its a stupid question but is my first time makin my own drink.

Philip Brewer's picture

According to Dolly Freed, what you do is take little samples along the way.

The first sample will be almost pure alcohol. Each subsequent sample will be a little less strong. At some point, the sample will be pretty much just water. At that point the run is over. Turn off the heat and throw out what's left of the must.

I expect that doing quality control is the best part of the whole process. Don't do too much, if you want to have any product left when you're done.

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the mad scientist

thank you, this site has been more help to me than any other iv found. i have also heard that using corn meal makes a better product. i read 2.lbs of sugar per pound of corn meal but it never said how much yeast to use. if this is true do i have to use a special kind of yeast other than the turbo or champaign yeast and do i just let it fermint in a container with out heating it?

Philip Brewer's picture

I talk about the quantity of yeast in comment #16.

The kind of yeast determines how much sugar to add. The quantities of sugar in recipe I have assume you're using ordinary bakers yeast. If you use champaign yeast, you can use more sugar. The ratio of the increase in sugar matches the ratio of increase in the alcohol production, so if grocery store yeast can give you 10% alcohol but fancy yeast gives you 16% alcohol, you can use a bit more than half again as much sugar.

I talk about temperature of fermentation in comment #30.

Guest's picture
Guest

ok so what about saftey? I heard that a turkey cooker would work but was wondering how to keep it to where it wouldnt blow up. and if I were to add apples or corn etc would there be any diffrent ratios or would it just be something extra? Also youre saying if I just made it with yeast/sugar/water it wouldnt have the wood-alcohol effect and I wouldnt have to worry about going blind?

Philip Brewer's picture

If you add additional sugar to the must (in the form of apples, for example), you can cut down on the amount of white sugar you add by that amount.  I'm not sure how to calculate the right amount, though.

And, yes, wood alcohol is made a completely different way.  Yeast won't make it.  (I think most wood alcohol poisonings must have been from industrial methanol that was passed off as moonshine by unscrupulous people who didn't know or didn't care that it was poison.  They couldn't have made it by mistake.)

As far as your still not blowing up, that's a matter of not letting it get clogged up.  (One advantage of just fermenting sugar water is that there isn't much there to clog up the still.)  I don't think where you keep it is going to make any difference. 

Guest's picture
zargok

This one hour DVD shows how to make moonshine with hardware stor items and grocery store ingredients that are readily and cheaply available. It show exactly what to do and how to do it, plus it's entertaining.

MoonshineDVD.com

Guest's picture
Guest

how can u tell that the alcohol u made is the right kind to drink? because ive heard if u make the wrong kind it can kill u

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Guest

hey

not saying I'm going to do this but if someone was too. i heard recently that you could make a still out of a water distiller and its alot safer because it wont explode. is this true? if it is can some one tell me how, it would be greatly appreciated.

if you could email me that would be great or just post it on the site.

Guest's picture
chupacabra62

yes its true but you need older sears or kenmore counter top water distilers you can modify it to produce some decent stuff and safe but they dont make them anymore so if you find a couple in a yard sale or fleamarkett send me one ive been looking for a while now

Guest's picture
Guest

thank you very much for the info.

what year am i looking for like really old are just not like 2007.

also how does the water distiller work because doesn't it just take out the chemicals in the water. if i find one, i will let you know and maybe sell one to you. also i have found a water distiller specifically for alcohol distilling. here's the link http://basementshaman.com/eadi.html although it is 300 $ and i don't wanna pay that.

Guest's picture
research guy

countertop unit for 199.00 at milehidistributing.com..pretty cool machine. You can watch the video on youtube.com

Guest's picture
joe

ive got a question about fermenting and cooking the stuff well i didnt understand this part where you cook the stuff, so you cook it once,
and after fermenting you cook it again but distilling it in a still to a certain time and degree to let the moonshone condense to turn into alcohol?this my second time making an alcoholic beverage i made some good wine and now this so im atleast 10 percent geneuis on home brewing alcoholic drinks i guess one more thing when its fermenting i think the best way to let carbon dioxide out is to stick a balloon on top with about 20 needle holes in it.n that way nothing can enter it

Guest's picture
Guest

A plastic "bubbler" cost less than a dollar (U.S.) and you just fill it with water to the line and the co2 goes out and no air gets in. Rubber bungs can fill any hole you need to make in your fermenter and also are less than a dollar.

Philip Brewer's picture

You bring your ingredients to a boil before adding the yeast, in order to kill anything else (wild yeasts, mold, etc.) that might compete with the yeast for sugar without making the ethanol you want.

You bring it to a boil (or not quite to a boil) a second time after the fermenting is over, in order to evaporate the alcohol, which you then condense and capture--that's what a still is designed to do. Once the stuff running out of your still is just water, you're done.

Guest's picture
Guest

is there a temperature you should cook at to keep methanol out?

Guest's picture
Outdoornole

If I wanted to make a smaller batch instead of using 5 lbs of sugar and 3 gallons of water, would I just use the same ration and make it smaller? If I add some type of fruit to it then I would just add a little more yeast too without it harming anything, correct?

Is there anyway that you could ruin this, other than not having enough sugar for your yeast to eat?

Philip Brewer's picture

One packet of yeast is plenty, no matter how big of a batch you make. (The yeast is alive; it'll grow.)

You can make smaller batches and leave the ratio the same. If you buy fancy brewer's yeast from the wine-making store, you can go with a higher sugar-to-water ratio. (The reason that ratio is good is that the yeast runs out of sugar to eat right at the same time that it dies from alcohol poisoning, so you don't waste any sugar. Brewer's yeast will survive a higher alcohol content, so you can use more sugar.)

Fruit will have sugar in it (varying amounts depending on kind)--and, of course, will have water in it. So, adding fruit will affect the ratio of water and sugar in complex ways. There are ways to figure out just what you've got, and then to adjust it. You can find the details in any wine making book.

Guest's picture
Outdoorsnole

Thanks for the quick response.

I read that you said yeast and sugar cannot make methanol. I've read somewhere else though that there are other "heads" and "tails" that are unwanted when you're distilling. I think ethanol is being produced when it was around 78-80 celcius. When you distilling what you made with just yeast, water, and sugar do you have to worry about pouring out the first part until it heats up and then pouring out the end if it gets too hot?

How do you filter through activated charcoal? Is this the same from a fish store and you just pour through or is there a food grade charcoal that you pour through to help reduce any unwanted chemicals or strong flavors?

Guest's picture
Sophisticate

I was wondering about how someone could make moonshine from Wine.  isn't it just skipping the fermenting part.  Does it matter if the wine its self isn't very good anymore.  So pretty much, I have wine that doesn't taste any good anymore.  I want to boil it and take the alcoholic properties out of it.  Is there any abstract danger here?

Guest's picture
Guest

How much will the 5 pounds to 3 gallon ratio yield as a final product?

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Guest

Since its been asked often, and not answered yet:

If your 3 gallon pot of mash made, lets say- 10% alcohol.
3 gal. = 12 quarts.
12 quarts x 10% = 1.2 quarts of pure disstilled alcohol.

With the extra water that will come out,
you'll probably get about 1 & 1/2 or so quarts of 'shine' off that batch.
With a 20% mash- 12qts. x 20% = 2.4 quarts, and so on.

Guest's picture
Guest

Just out of curiosity, if you were to use baker's yeast, could you repeatedly distill the solution for a higher alcohol content per run?

Philip Brewer's picture

Rather, the first part of the run will be very high in alcohol. As the run continues, water will form a higher and higher percentage of what condenses, until eventually you're just getting water (at which point you're done).

So, if you want a higher alcohol percentage, you'd want to keep just the first part of the run.

Of course, there's perfectly good moonshine in the second part of the run as well.

Guest's picture
Guest

highest alcohol content is in first run, according to the still and begining alcohol content of mash (130-190 proof). Idea temperature for still is 173 degrees, temprature will slowly raise during process, at 193 degrees you will start to get the tail. The tail has a bad taste and lower alcohol content. Keep the tail for second run, second run alcohol will be lower between 110-120 proof. The third run will give you a consistent 95 proof alcohol. Note the reason XXX was placed on the mason jars (three runs)
With each run always toss the first shot glass full of product, this part of the run does not contain poisons but contain what causes hangovers. Good shine will not cause hangovers.
The myths of poisons, going blind etc... as stated earlier; was caused by lead in stills and the use of cutting agents in the shine by shiners that were greedy and wanted a cheaper product. Propaganda by the federal government also fueled these myths. A good clean, lead free still... stainless still or copper makes a safe shine... the use of thumpers will make a cleaner shine and is pretty cool to watch during the cooking phase. I use glass mason jars; flavoring also can be added to thumpers.
Unlike wine; NO matter what is used in the mash process; you always come away with an alcohol consistent taste, not apple, strawberry etc... Flavoring is usually done at the end; charred wood, apples etc... Soak in finished shine and then filtered out.
Family has made shine and wine for years, it is passed down from each generation treated as part of our southern heritage. Old time shiners can't tell you temperatures or chemical concept of distilling; they used touch for temperature, how clear alcohol, beading (bubbles) in alcohol, color of flame when alcohol is lit and taste.
Several states are now in the process of treating shine the same as wine; for personal consumption. Stills are sold all over the internet as water distillers and to produce ethanol fuel legally...
Best advice is to understand the concept of distilling and then with trail & error; you will get a good product. Happy shining

Guest's picture
joe

ok i got a question how long or short??do u have to make your pipe or something that hooks from your still to the jar to distill?and can you give me a tip on what to use?