How to do Freeze Distillation in 2023

How to do Freeze Distillation in 2023

Let us take you step-by-step on how to do freeze distillation. Moonshine without the still! 

One of the most important parts of making moonshine is undoubtedly using a good still. Of course, here at How to Moonshine we believe in using a great quality still. But what if we told you a still is not necessary for making moonshine? That’s right. We are talking about freeze distillation. 

What is Freeze Distillation? 


freeze distillation


While it may be called freeze distillation, technically, there is no distillation involved in this process. Distillation refers to the heating up of your moonshine mash in a still to separate the different parts of your fermented mash. 

A fermented mash will include: 

  • Water
  • Ethanol (drinking alcohol) 
  • Methanol (toxic alcohol that should not be consumed) 
  • Fusel alcohol (less toxic but will give you a wicked hangover)
  • Volatile oils (not as toxic but will add a bad taste to your moonshine)


As all of these elements have different evaporation points, you are able to heat them up in a still in order to separate them. This process is called fractionating and is an important step in moonshining. By fractionating your moonshine, your shine will not be toxic, cause a terrible hangover and taste yucky. 



When fractionating, these elements are referred to as foreshots, heads, hearts and tails. They can be determined by temperature, ABV (alcohol by volume) as well as smell and taste. For those who are new to shining, we usually stick with temperature to determine the output of your still. 




Keep or Toss? 


134°F or 56.5°C




147°F or 64°C



Ethyl Acetate 

171°F or 77.1°C




172°F or 78°C




207°F or 82°C


Keep for a second distillation or toss


207°F or 97°C


Keep for a second distillation or toss


212°F or 100°C


Keep for a second distillation or toss


241°F 116°C


Keep for a second distillation or toss

Amyl alcohol

280°F or 137.8°F


Keep for a second distillation or toss


322°F or 161°C


Keep for a second distillation or toss

This fractionating process is not possible when choosing a freeze distillation. This is why we recommend using this method with already distilling alcohol, either made at home or commercially. 


Instead of using distillation, the freeze distillation method is actually using condensation. It can be done using commercial spirits (which have only trace amounts of methanol) or using a fermented mash. 

Freeze distillation is done by lowering the temperature of your mash rather than increasing it. As water will both freeze and defrost at different temperatures than alcohol, it is easy to seperate them using this process. However, it does not offer a means to separate the different types of alcohol out to avoid undesired elements in your moonshine. 

How Does Freeze Distillation Work? 


freeze distillation

Freeze distillation works through a process of freezing and then defrosting either a fermented mash or a commercial spirit. 

The reason this works is similar to the process of distillation. Distillation is the process of heating up a mash in order to separate the elements. This works because alcohol and water will boil at different temperatures. 


With freeze distillation, you are instead lowering the temperature of the ingredients in order to separate them. Water freezes at a temperature of 32°F (0°C), ethanol has a much lower freezing temperature at -173.4°F (-114.1°C).


While some may simply freeze their ingredients and remove the ice off the top as it forms in order to remove the water content, you can also take a more traditional approach. 

Traditionally, freeze distillation is done through freezing your ingredients and then allowing them to defrost. As alcohol will defrost first, it can easily be removed from the mixture. 

Freeze distillation is popular in the craft spirit community because it requires very little equipment. While the early adopters simply used to cold winter weather, chest freezers have made the process possible all year around. 

History of Freeze Distillation 


hard cider applejack freeze distillation

While the process of distilling is arguably thousands of years old, freeze distillation is a much more recent pastime. It is believed freeze distillation began in the second half of the 18th century.

Early American settlers in the Northern states would store their cider outdoors in the winter. As their cider would freeze and the alcohol and water would separate. As alcohol returns to a liquid form at a lower temperature, it would separate from the frozen ice. It didn’t take long for those early colonists to discover they enjoyed this stronger drink much better. 

The process of freezing and then condensing was nicknamed ‘jacking’ and has led to the popular ‘AppleJack’. This process is easier to master than distilling and has become popular with many spirit enthusiasts over the years. 

As freeze distillation does not allow for the removal of the harmful elements of fermented mash before consumption, many choose to simply use distillation. However, it is possible to simply use freeze distillation with a commercial hard cider to enjoy a version of the drink with a higher alcohol content. 

Health Risks of Freeze Distillation 


methanol poisoning

The biggest health concern with freeze distillation is the inability to remove the toxic elements from the moonshine prior to consumption. 

This is because unlike with a traditional still where you are able to closely monitor the temperature and output, freeze distillation is only able to remove the water content from the mash. 

The biggest risk with consuming moonshine made with freeze distillation is the consumption of methanol.


According to the CDC, methanol poisoning can cause a wide range of health issues ranging from headache, confusion, drowsiness, headache, dizziness and uncoordinated movements. 

Of course, this is particularly concerning because these symptoms are similar to the consumption of any alcohol. So it may be difficult to recognize whether the symptoms are associated with methanol poisoning or simply overindulgence.

The reason that methanol poisoning is so dangerous is because of its toxicity is due to its metabolic products. This can cause a build up of acid in the blood, blindness and even death. 

Here is a breakdown on the different health conditions associated with methanol ingestion: 

  • Neurological: headache, dizziness, agitation, amnesia, decreased level of consciousness including coma, and seizure.
  • Gastrointestinal: Vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea
  • Ophthalmologic: Blurred vision, sensitivity to light, visual hallucinations (misty vision, skin over the eyes, snowstorm, dancing spots, flashes), partial to total loss of vision. Fixed dilated pupils are a sign of severe exposure to methanol.
  • Other: Kidney failure, blood in the urine and muscle death at the cellular level. 



How to tell if Methanol Poisoning may be Fatal


Of course, any case of even suspected methanol poisoning is a reason to go to the hospital. Signs that poisoning may be fatal include a fast heart rate, a slow heart rate and increased respiration. 



The Apple Palsy Hangover 


hangover methanol poisoning


While freeze distilling a spirit that has been previously distilled is dangerous, there are still risks of over consumption. 


This is because it is essential to consider the risk of overconsumption when drinking a more concentrated version of your original spirit. 


While previously distilled spirits may have trace amounts of methanol, by increasing the concentration of your spirit you are also increasing the concentration of methanol. 


This type of consumption can lead to particularly strong hangovers. In fact, since these hangovers are so tied with the consumption of AppleJack they have their own special nickname “apple palsy”. 


An apple palsy hangover is an especially strong hangover coupled with severe headaches.  These symptoms are caused by both the consumption of methanol as well as the consumption of fusel alcohols. 


With all the risks associated with freeze distillation, we do suggest that you only try this type of distillation with spirits that have been previously distilled and fractionated either by yourself or a commercial distiller. 


Popular options for distilling are apple cider, wine or beer. 


Legal status of freeze distillation

As freeze distillation is technically making a concentrate of an already distilled beverage, it does not fall into the same category as distilling. This is good news as many worry about the legality of freeze distilling in their area. 

While the legality of distilling varies from state to state and country to country, it is important to note that while it may be called freeze distillation, it is actually simply concentrating previously distilled spirits. 

Check out Is Moonshine Illegal? 

Of course, you can still run into trouble if you are attempting to sell your finished product or allow minors to consume your finished product. 


Freeze distillation: A step-by-step guide to make fortified wine


brandy fortified wine


A popular option for freeze distillation is what is known as fortified wine. This is a great option for freeze distillation as not only will the alcohol level be increased, but so will the flavor of the wine. 

In fact, many also use a traditional still to fortify wine into brandy. It is a great way to turn cheap wine into a delicious and flavorful brandy. 


It is important to always keep in mind that when your wine is distilled it is much easier to over consume. Not only do you have to consider the amount of ethanol you are consuming, you have to consider that while there are only minimum amounts of methanol in wine, you are still consuming a larger amount of it. 

With these cautions in mind, we are happy to share the steps in order to freeze distill wine with you. 

This process will turn a bottle of wine into about 13 oz of brandy or fortified wine.

How to Freeze Distill Wine




Add the contents of a bottle of wine into a vessel that will allow for expansion. This may mean that you use a larger vessel with lots of room to grow. 

Rose wine works well for freeze distillation but you can also use red or white. 

Place the vessel in your freezer. Chest freezers work well for this but a regular freezer can also be used as long as the freezer is  0°F (-18°C).

Allow the wine to freeze for a full day so it becomes a solid mass of ice. 

Remove from the freezer and allow to slowly defrost in the fridge.

As the mass begins to melt, pour the liquid into another glass collection vessel such as a mason jar. 

Check the progress and empty the liquid every 30 to 60 minutes until the ice block is colorless. Discard the block of ice. 

It is possible to repeat the process several times to increase the concentration of your brandy. 


Is Freeze Distilling Safe? 

While freeze distilling may seem like an attractive alternative to using a still, it carries many more potential dangers. 

While the process of freeze distillation is straightforward, there is an essential step missing-fractioning. 

While this step is not important when using freeze distillation with previously distilled spirits such as wine or cider, it is important if freeze distillation is used as an alternative to traditional distillation. 

Fractioning is an important step during distillation to remove potentially dangerous elements from your mash, especially methanol, which can cause health complications and even death. 


This is why we suggest using freeze distillation along with a traditional craft still in order to make delicious spirits at the comforts of home. 


When it comes to a great craft still option, we recommend our Magnum. Not only is this still our biggest, it also has many great features for making moonshine. 



One of these is the upper valve that can be opened during distillation. This allows much of your foreshots to actually evaporate before they are even in liquid form. This makes fractionating even easier. 

Of course, our Magnum is also a great option because it has dual vapor chambers to help increase the ABV as well as copper coils to neutralize any sulfur in the mash. 

Why wait? Get yourself a great quality craft still and start shinin’. 


whiskey moonshine copper still