How to Make Ethanol for Fuel

How to Make Ethanol for Fuel

Did you know you can legally make your own fuel in many parts of the world? Check out how to make ethanol for fuel! 

Did you know that it is widely believed that Henry T Ford designed the first Model T Ford to not only run on gasoline, but also run on ethanol? 

It makes sense as ethanol is not a new resource. In fact, it was originally just known as alcohol and used as fuel for lamps. 


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What is Ethanol?



It’s funny that when we often see fields of grain, we think of food but not fuel. However, ethanol is an up and coming biofuel option that many can easily make in the comforts of home. 

Ethanol is liquid alcohol. In fact, the alcohol that we consider ‘spirits’ such as whiskey is actually ethanol.


While ethanol can be consumed, it can also be used as fuel in vehicles or machines with a combustible engine. This is because these types of machines compress liquid fuels and use a ‘spark’ to create a combustion. Hence the term combustible engine. 

The majority of vehicles produced after the 1980s can run on a combination of both ethanol and gasoline that includes up to 10% ethanol. Adding ethanol to gasoline makes for a more environmentally friendly fuel as ethanol is considered a renewable resource, which gasoline is not. 

What is Ethanol Made From?


Ethanol is usually made from corn, just like traditional moonshine. The reason corn is used and has been used for generations, is a combination of its availability in the United States as well as its relatively lost cost. However, in some regions it is made from wheat as that crop is more readily available. 

There are pros and cons to using ethanol for fuel. Ethanol reduces the demand for foreign oil, emits low emissions and could potentially be made from waste materials. 

In addition, cars produced the 1980's can use a blend of 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline and more than 8 million cars on the road can use blends of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline.

However, there are some cons to using ethanol for fuel. Ethanol requires large land area to grow the crops. The demand for ethanol can drive up food prices. The process of making ethanol also uses large amounts of water and the distillation process is not great for the internet. 



Check out How to Make Moonshine 

Is it Legal to Make Your Own Ethanol? 



Fortunately, it is legal to make your own ethanol in many areas of the world, including the United States. However, there are some steps you need to take to protect yourself. 

  • The second step is to check with the state law or the laws in your area. 

  • The third step is to start making your own ethanol for fuel. 

Learn more: Is Making Moonshine Illegal? 

How to Make Ethanol for Fuel 



Unfortunately you cannot simply take corn and turn it into ethanol. There are several steps that you need to go through for this conversion to take place. 

Making a Mash

The first step is called making a mash. This step involves heating your ingredients to a specific temperature for a specific time. By heating your corn the starch will convert to fermentable sugars. This conversion is very important because without it you cannot ferment, which is the next step. 

Making a mash is not a complicated process, however, it is a precise one.


While making a mash often happens in the kitchen, it is similar to a science project. The reason for this is because temperature and time play an important role in making a mash. So it is important that you follow the steps exactly or else you will not likely get your desired results. 

Check out: The Top 5 Moonshine Mash Recipes

Checking for Mash Conversion


Fortunately, there is an easy way to tell if you have achieved mash conversion. If you are making a mash that requires conversion (which a corn-based ethanol does) you can perform a simple iodine test. 


An iodine test is a great option for those who are new to the process of making their own ethanol because it is simple and does not require any expensive ingredients or equipment. In fact, all you need to perform this test is a small white plate and some iodine. 

Once you believe your mash has converted from a starch to fermentable sugar, you simply remove a small amount of mash from your pot and pour it onto the white plate. You only need about a tablespoon or two. 

Next add a few drops of iodine. If the color turns blue, that means there is starch left in your mash and conversion is not complete. If the color remains the same, you are ready for the next step which is fermenting. 





Fermenting is hands down the easiest step of the moonshine process. The reason for this is it it involves very little effort. In fact, you really only need to set up for your fermentation vessel and wait. It really couldn’t be easier. 

Fermenting is simply using yeast to convert fermentable sugar into ethanol. This process can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. When making ethanol for fuel, you are aiming for a finished ABV of about 20%. That means that you can keep it pretty simple. 

When you are making moonshine, you usually want as high of an ABV as possible. For that reason, you may want to use specialty yeast with added nutrients or simply add yeast nutrients to your recipe to help get the highest ABV possible. 

Fermentation times will vary by recipe and the type of yeast used. Generally, fermentation takes about 7-10 days. Traditionally, fermentation was done outdoors without any commercial yeast. Many traditionalists still chose to do their fermentation the old school way. However, modern technology has made fermentation simple and easy. 

Check out: How to Make Moonshine Without Yeast

The Benefits of a Moonshine Stovetop Kit



With a Moonshine Stovetop Kit you can use your still as both a fermentor and a still. This is a great option for those who want an economical option and/or less to store. Fermentation can be done in a large bucket with an airtight lid and an airlock, however buying all those supplies can really add up. 


By choosing a moonshine kit, your still does double duty to save you money and space. Take our Copperhead All-in-One Moonshine Still Kit for example. This still has a large stainless steel barrel with an airtight lid. However, you have the option to either add an airlock to your lid to make your still a fermentor or add the condenser kegs to turn it into a distiller. It is a simple all-in-one solution for making ethanol easily at home. 


The Copperhead is not only a great value, but it offers a superior build with quality materials. The barrel of the Copperhead is made with stainless steel which is easy to clean and maintain. The Copperhead also features dual copper coils which offer superior cooling ability and neutralize the sulfur in your ethanol. This is important when making moonshine as it offers a much better tasting shine. 

Check out: What is the Best Moonshine Still for Beginners? 




Temperature plays an important role during fermentation. Ideally, you want to place your fermentation vessel in an area that maintains a consistent temperature. It is important to check with your yeast to know the best temperature for ideal results. With regular bread yeast, you want to aim for a temperature of about 70 to 75 °F. However, a warmer temperature will accelerate the fermentation process. 

The Importance of Your Airlock



The airlock plays an important role in fermenting. The airlock is a small plastic stopper that you place in your fermentation vessel. The airlock is necessary when using an airtight lid because it allows the carbon dioxide to escape. 


Think about a glass of soda. If you look closely, you will see little bubbles rising constantly to the surface. The same is true with fermenting. The process of yeast converting fermentable sugars into ethanol releases carbon dioxide. This is shown in your airlock as small bubbles rising to the surface. If there is no airlock in place, your carbon dioxide will build up without any way to have it released. This can be dangerous. 

When you see bubbles in your airlock, it can give you information about the fermentation process. Once you start fermentation, the bubbles will let you know that the process is working. Once you know the process is working, the absence of bubbles means that the process is finished. 




Once fermentation is complete, it is time to distill your mash. Distillation is simply the process of heating up your mash to a vapor state and then condensing it back down to a liquid state. This may sound pretty complicated and there is a learning curve, but it really only requires a few simple steps. 

Distillation works by heating up your mash to the point where the ethanol will turn into a vapor, but the water in your mash will not. By following the temperature guidelines for the different elements in your mash, you will be able to separate and isolate the desired ethanol. 

This process uses heat and water to alter the mash from a liquid to a vapor and back into a liquid. With our stovetop kits you can use electric, gas or induction stovetop for running your still. However, it is important to consider the fact that your still will emit highly flammable vapors during distillation. For this reason, many choose to use an induction stovetop so they can distill outside of their home either in a garage or open area. 

Check out: Is it Safe to Make Moonshine? 

How to Isolate Ethanol for Fuel During Distillation



Removing the ethanol from the other by-products in your mash is done by temperature. This is done simply by monitoring the temperature your still is running at and collecting or discarding the output accordingly. 

When making moonshine this step is particularly important because you are ingesting your final results. It is important to fraction in order to prevent ingesting a by-product that could be harmful to your health and/or produce a nasty hangover. 

When making ethanol for fuel, you simply want to wait until your still hits your desired temperature of 172°F or 78°C. It is optimal to maintain a steady temperature to your best ability to collect as efficiently as you can. Anything that is collected prior to or after this temperature is not ethanol and needs to be discarded. 


Measuring your Cuts and Fractions

When distilling moonshine you want to collect ethanol, but you can also collect other elements for a second distillation. The best way to do this is to use several jars or other glass vessels to collect your output. By using several jars you can easily separate your output by the different cuts or fractions. 

Cuts or Fractions are Separated into the Following Categories: 


  • Foreshots 
  • Heads
  • Hearts 
  • Tails


There are three different ways to recognize these fractions: by still temperature, by ABV and by appearance. As you get to know the actual performance of your still as well as the science of moonshining, this will become easier and easier to recognize. 







Keep or Toss?


134°F or 56.5°C




147°F or 64°C



Ethyl Acetate 

171°F or 77.1°C


Keep for a second distillation or toss


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


Dehydrating your Ethanol for Fuel




Those who make moonshine are usually finished once they do a run or two (some will go on to add flavoring) but if you are making fuel ethanol there is an additional step. 

Commercial ethanol distilleries will add some gas to their ethanol to make it unable to be ingested. This process is called denaturation. However, if you are making ethanol at home, this is not necessary. 

However, it is important to note what ratio of ethanol to gasoline your engine requires. 

Instead of denaturation, you will need to remove any remaining water in your mixture by dehydrating your ethanol. 

While this process may sound complicated, it actually only requires a fuel filter that will allow ethanol molecules to pass through but not water molecules. 

The Best Recipes for Making Fuel Alcohol



Making ethanol for fuel may be a multi-step process, but it is one that can be made from a variety of recipes. 

That is helpful to know because you can use whatever ingredients you have on hand to make your mash. From milled corn to simple sugar or overripe fruit, you can use the ingredients that are easiest to source. 

With this in mind, we have compiled a list of our favorite recipes for making fuel alcohol: 

Easy Whiskey Mash Recipes

Sweet Feed Moonshine Recipe

Brown Sugar Moonshine

Sugar Shine Recipe