The term moonshine has gone a great way through history. Until it was formally legalized and defined as “clear, unaged whiskey” in 2010, it was considered an illicit activity in the United States, completely banned under the Amendment XVIII, “Prohibition of Liquor”. Even though areas close to the borders would smuggle inside illegal liquors from nearby countries despite the prohibition and outlawing of alcohol, these could hardly reach the inner States. Thus, adventurous, risk-taking liquor lovers seized the opportunity to create their own shine. Apparently, the term “moonshine” sticked because back then, the hidden distilleries were operated under the cover of darkness and by the light of the moon, to hide the smoke they produced.
Since it is no longer outlawed, brewing alcohol has become a much more accessible hobby or business opportunity for all interested parties. What better way to impress your friends is there, than to present them with your own, home-made alcoholic beverage? Even still, even if you are in no danger of jail or punishment, getting into the art of moonshining can be overwhelming or even intimidating if you have no idea what you are doing. There is a considerable wealth of information readily available for you to study. So, where do you start from?
There are hundreds of ways to approach it – and interestingly enough the majority of them are completely valid. Whether it is whiskey, vodka, beer or wine that you are interested in brewing, however, the fundamental principles of making alcohol from scratch remain the same: Fermentation and distillation.
Fermentation is a natural metabolic process during which an organism turns a carbohydrate – such as sugar – into an alcohol or an acid. Dozens of products we consume on an everyday basis, such yogurt, cheese and bear are created by fermentation.
Yeasts, microorganisms that are vital to any alcohol brewing endeavor, pretty much obtain their energy by converting sugar into alcohol. So far, then, we have gathered that to brew alcohol we need two ingredients: Yeasts and sugar.
The third essential ingredient in alcohol brewing is water. Without water, and without the process of distillation there can be no spirit. After the yeasts have done their job, the alcohol brewer is left with a “wash” with an alcoholic content of roughly 10%. It is necessary, then, to separate the alcohol from the water.
This is done by making use of the different boiling points of water and alcohol – 212°F and 173°F respectively. Since alcohol reaches its boiling point much earlier than water, a cunning alcohol brewer can capture the alcohol vapor and, after cooling it down, produce liquid alcohol.
The Importance of Getting the Right Equipment
So, now that you’ve been granted a basic understanding of the alcohol brewing process, you might be getting excited about starting. After all, if put on paper, the basics don’t seem all that complicated, do they? Well, you are in for a big surprise. As soon as you start your research on what kind of moonshine kit you should buy, you are extremely likely to hit a wall.
You see, right now, alcohol brewing is more popular than ever. There are hundreds and hundreds of products for you to choose from in the market. Every single one of them promises to be the second coming of sliced bread. Everything will be marketed as a top notch, high quality kit and WILL be convincing enough to make you want to give it a try. Bombarded by this abundance of information, you will end up being confused and indecisive. “Which is the right one for me?” you’ll ask yourself, and your question will be legit.
All that being said, finding the right type of equipment IS essential in producing alcohol of the highest caliber. Luckily for you, we went out of our way to research, review, compare and contrast some of the most popular brands. The following list will present you all their pros and cons, taking out all the guesswork of the equation. After you finish reading our list, you will have a solid grasp of what product is the right investment for you.
Finding the right kit for YOU
As you will notice, kits come in many kinds of shapes and forms, often being made of different materials and with different distilling capacities. Even though we did our best in trying to cover a wide range of products, which will appeal to a wide range of people, what is most important before committing to buying a moonshine kit is taking into account your own situation and aspirations.
Your needs will be much different, for example, if you are casually interested in brewing wine once or twice a year for special occasions and gatherings, than if you are interested in making this a small, home based business. In the second case, you will definitely need a kit with a much larger capacity to accommodate large batch distilling. Likewise, depending on your budget, you might want to invest in a kit made of more expensive or cheap materials. A final factor, but no less important, is location: Where will you be doing your distilling and alcohol making? There are stills you can use on the upper surface or your stove and others, where are designed for outdoors use.
Make sure you keep all the aforementioned factors in mind and have a clear understanding of the output you’d like to see, when going through our list. Fine tune your final purchase accordingly. What might be best for you, might not be best for somebody else.
Clawhammer Supply made this product with the intention of bringing old school design and modern innovation together. It takes a bit of experience and persistence to bring all the separate parts running if you are a first timer, but the company supplies its customers with free, step-by-step online assembly videos, to avoid any unnecessary hassle.
After you are done assembling the kit, you will be able to enjoy an awesome, 100% food grade copper made moonshine kit – the definitive material for building moonshine stills. Not only is this going to allow you to brew rich and strong alcohol, it is also extremely durable, capable of lasting years without suffering any drops in performance, maintaining its full functionality. As a side bonus, the still is easy to both clean and maintain.
Building time from point zero to finish takes approximately six to eight hours. After your done, your still will stand 3.5’ tall with a 9” base, capable of holding up to 4.9 gallons of liquid. Even though the total amount of moonshine produced depends on a lot of factors, such as starting alcohol and final proof, you should expect, roughly, one to two gallons of moonshine per use.
If the thought of having your friends over to spend a Saturday afternoon with plenty of home made beverages appeals to you, everyone bursting with laughter and busting jokes left and right, then you should definitely consider Clawhammer Supply’s copper moonshine still. It is, really, a top quality product.
It currently stands at a 4.2 out of 5 stars rating on Amazon and is listed at $274.00 with FREE shipping.
Brought to you by the online business, WMN Trulystep, this moonshine still kit is another option you might want to consider. This is obviously not the company’s first rodeo, as is evident by their attention to detail and refinement of their product: The boiler is made of argon welded stainless steel and the cooling pipes of top grade, red copper or, again, stainless steel. Each part is repeatedly tested and tried to ensure it proper function. All in all, the package is very easy to set up and use and even with no prior experience, you should not expect any trouble doing so.
When it comes to its dimensions, after you finish building the kit and connecting all it’s parts you’ll see that it measures up to be 11.8 X 11.8 X11.8 inches, weighting just a tad bit more than 7 pounds. Obviously, this makes for a flexible moonshine kit – especially given how it works with many kinds of different heating sources, like induction coolers and stoves.
As long as you manage to get your hands on a decent water supply, some kind of heat source and yeast – necessary for the process of fermentation – you will have no problems brewing the good stuff with this kit. In fact, we’d dare say that this product will prove to be quite the step up from most moonshine kits.
WMN Trulystep’s moonshine kit enjoys a 4.2 out of 5 stars rating on Amazon. It is currently listed at just $180.00 and with FREE shipping as well, which is an excellent, tight budget friendly price. Last, but definitely not least, the package comes with a one year warranty, which is not too shabby.
Another moonshine still made of copper, Alchemade’s kit is handcrafted, with meticulous attention put to every tiny, little detail resulting in a design that is extremely pleasing to the eye, oozing a sort of classic beauty. Each part is carefully soldered to ensure perfect sealing, resistance and structural integrity.
The product’s dimensions are 25 X 30 X 13 inches in height, length and width respectively, with the moonshine still having a capacity of roughly 5 gallons. At a weight of 13 lbs. it remains portable and easy to handle.
What separates, however, Alchemade’s product from its competition is neither its good looking design nor its dimensions and versatility. Where this moonshine still kit shines is in bringing two innovative features on the table: A built-in thermometer and a multipurpose usage for it’s still.
The thermometer is built-in, and allows a constant display of the temperature inside the still when distilling, a key metric in the process of distillation as was mentioned earlier in this very article. Moreover, the temperature can be shown in both Celsius and Fahrenheit for extra convenience.
The multipurpose still, on the other hand, allows the use to perform hydro distillation, steam distillation and distilling alcohol. Moreover, it is particularly effective in conducting heat, it improves the scent of your brewed beverages and reduces bacterial contamination.
As is typical of Alchemade products, this package comes with lengthy and detailed maintenance and care instructions, to ensure it lasts a long time without losing any of its function. The company recommends an initial process of water distillation to clean away any potential, minor impurities caused during manufacturing, before putting the kit to real use.
At 4 stars out of 5 on Amazon, this is another recommended product for you to try. What may put you off slightly, is its rather expensive cost compared to other moonshine stills on our list. It is currently listed at $399.00 – with an already included 20% cost reduction due to an on-going sale. Costly as it may be, as long as you can afford it, this is a moonshine still that is perfect for you, no matter what your preferred poison is, as it is capable of producing all kinds of alcohol, from whiskey and vodka to traditional rum.
This 8 gallon kit is constructed of all stainless steel and superb welding technique to avoid any potential health problems sometimes associated with copper and solder constructed stills. The end result is a delight to the eyes, with the product being particularly pleasing to look at. But even though it sports a remarkable design, what’s most important is its capability for multiple functions: OLizee’s moonshine still can be used to distill fruit, wine, alcohol and water.
Couple that with OLizee’s excellent choice of adding a thumper keg to the package and you’ve got the recipe for a top quality product. The thumper keg enables the brewer to add fruits or other flavors to their batches. Can you imagine the possibilities? This will allow you to produce your own, distinct tastes to differentiate your beverages from the commercial ones – and your creativity to go wild, impressing friends and family in the process.
Another significant feature of this moonshine still kit is that it has a secondary, independent airway included by design, which allows for faster distillation and higher purity batches. Finally, the product has a one year warranty – not too shabby, and of particular important to those worrying about malfunctions. Put your hearts at ease. No matter what breaks, if it breaks, you’ll get your part replaced in no time.
Another interesting thing included in the package are the clear, detailed instructions on how to assemble it – which double up as a recipe book, as they do include recipes for you to try as well.
The product is currently rated at 4.0 out of 5 stars on Amazon, and is priced at $258.99 with FREE shipping. The slightly higher than usual cost is well warranted given the many features OLizee’s features, making it a great choice for those interested in diving deep into the hobby of alcohol brewing from the get go.
The last product on our list, Seeutek’s moonshine still should definitely not be considered the least. Suitable for both amateur and expert distillers, this is a complete distilling set. It can be used to distill fruit, wine, water, or alcohol it can be used in refining plant extracts for medicinal purpose and, finally, to distill homemade, essential oils such as peppermint or cypress oil.
All components and parts of the product have been extensively tested for functionality to ensure they deliver peak performance to the customer. There are lots of parts made of stainless steel, like for example the oil boiler and yet others, like the cooling pipes are made of top grade, red copper. Weighting just 6.5 pounds, and at 9.8 X 7.1 X 9.8, it is evident that Seetuk’s moonshine still is made in a way that tries to maintain quality without sacrificing versatility.
Much like Alchemade’s aforementioned still, Seeutek’s also comes in with a build in dial reading thermometer that can show up the temperature in both Fahrenheit and Celsius. What is really great about the set, is that the boiling pot can be heated in any kind of heating source – with stoves and induction cookers being the recommended sources. In any case, this adds even more points in the Seeutek’s still versatility.
Resting at a comfortable 4 stars out of 5 rating on Amazon and priced extremely cheap relative to other products, this is a real bargain for any interested party. To give you a hint, you can buy the 2 gallon moonshine still at JUST $104.00. Naturally, we would highly recommend this one for those who are on extremely tight budgets.
The importance of yeast and fermentable sugar
Even though we have given you our top picks for best moonshine still kits in 2017, we think our article needs to address two points of the moonshining process: The importance of yeast and fermentable sugar in the potency of the end beverage.
To skip you of the in-depth scientific explanation and keep it as short and sweet as possible, good yeast allows for higher starting alcohol levels and a greater final yield – more cups for you and your buddies to enjoy. To put this into perspective, bread yeast, the kind that can be purchased at pretty much any grocery store produces starting alcohol somewhere near the 10% range whereas a strong distiller yeast can produce starting alcohol as high as 20%. That difference in percentages can practically double the amount of end yield of your batch.
Fermentable sugar is basically the amount of energy available for the yeast to consume. The more there is, the more alcohol the yeast can product. Even though there can be instances where too much sugar is wasteful, a general rule of thumb goes as follows: The more fermentable sugar there is in the mash, the higher the starting alcohol percentage – and naturally, the yield – will be.
This article serves as a great introductory point in the art and hobby of home brewing alcohol, going through a brief presentation of moonshining’s history. As there is a great wealth of information on this topic, we tried our best to present you the key points and processes of the endeavor, namely, the process of fermentation and distillation. Other than that, we stressed the importance of having the right kind of equipment: Without a quality moonshine kit, you can’t really produce any mention worthy beverage, let alone astonish your friends.
We then presented you with our 5 picks for the best moonshine still kits in 2017. These have all stood tall after being put under a trial of fire. We cannot really pick a favorite – they all, in one way or another, have their strengths. You cannot really go wrong with picking either of them. As we mentioned earlier, make sure you calibrate your purchase in accordance to your desired output and budget you’re willing to spend.
Finally, the article closed with mention of the importance of quality yeast and fermentable sugar in producing as potent starting alcohol levels as it gets – and greater quantities of end yield from your batches.
We hope you found this a fun and informative read. Make sure you take our list in account, if you are planning to buy a moonshine still kit. Likewise, if a friend or relative of yours is planning to do so, feel free to refer them to our article. Happy brewing – and of course, happy drinking.