Learn how to make moonshine at home with our simple step-by-step guide!
Making your own spirits at home is something anyone can do with the right tools and ingredients. While many people are aware of kits available to make their own beer or wine, they may not be aware that you can actually make your own whiskey, bourbon, gin, or vodka just as easily.
How? Well, it is a simple process called moonshining. No, this is not something you will be making outdoors or in secret.
Moonshine is a simple three-step process to turn sugar, water, and yeast into tasty spirits from the comforts of home.
Moonshine, the rebellious rebel of spirits, goes by the name of white lightning. It's a potent elixir crafted in secret, evading the clutches of government regulations.
Moonshine, often shrouded in secrecy, boasts a captivating and vibrant history, adding a touch of mystery and cultural significance to various corners of the globe.
As the years pass, the allure of homemade distillation continues to grow stronger, captivating individuals who yearn to explore a world of flavors and techniques.
However, it is essential to understand the distillation process and adhere to safety regulations to prevent any potential hazards associated with the production and consumption of moonshine.
The popularity of moonshining is no longer only for those who are able to make their own equipment. Instead, everyone can easily get everything they need to get started making their own moonshine with our all-in-one kits and Air Still.
Moonshine: How to Make Spirits at Home
Making moonshine is not a new hobby. In fact, its history is even older than the United States itself.
Fermentation, which is the second step in moonshining, has been traced back to 7000 BC. Of course, this process was not strictly linked to the production of moonshine. Rather it was tied to the production of food as well as drink.
Making moonshine is a fun and rewarding hobby. However, it is not something that can be achieved in a day. In fact, the fermentation process alone takes about 7-10 days on average. However, the results are well worth it.
What Materials are Needed to Make Moonshine?
To make moonshine, you will need a list of materials and equipment to ensure a successful distillation process.
The basic ingredients include water, corn maize, malted barley, yeast, and sugar. The corn maize and malted barley provide the necessary starches for fermentation, while the yeast helps convert these starches into alcohol. The sugar is an additional source of fermentable sugars to boost alcohol production.
In terms of equipment, a mashpot is essential for cooking the corn maize and malted barley mixture to create the mash.
A fermentation bucket is needed to hold the mash during the fermentation process, allowing the yeast to convert the sugars into alcohol. A heat source, such as a gas burner or electric heater, is required to heat the mashpot.
A thermometer is useful for monitoring the temperature during the distillation process, as different temperatures impact the production of specific alcohols.
Finally, a moonshine still is crucial for separating the alcohol from the mash. This equipment typically consists of a pot for heating the mash, a separate collection container for the distillate, and tubing connecting the two.
Overall, gathering these materials and equipment will set you on the path to making your own homemade moonshine.
However, it is essential to remember that the process of distilling moonshine can be complex, and it is important to follow proper safety precautions and local laws.
Where Can You Buy Moonshine Supplies?
At How to Moonshine we have everything you need to get started making moonshine. From our moonshine equipment, quality craft stills, and professional-grade grain, we have everything you need to get started making moonshine.
What is Moonshine Made From?
Moonshine is such a great hobby as it can be made from almost anything! Of course, by using different recipes you will yield different results. This is why it is great to check out our easy step-by-step recipes to find your perfect shine.
Preparing the Moonshine Mash
Before the distillation process can begin, the moonshine mash needs to be prepared. This involves mixing the various ingredients together to create a mixture that will ferment and produce alcohol.
The main ingredients typically used in the moonshine mash include flaked corn maize, crushed malted barley, bread yeast, and sugar.
The flaked corn maize and crushed malted barley provide the base for the mash, while the bread yeast helps convert the fermentable sugars into alcohol. Sugar is added to increase the alcohol content. Once all the ingredients are combined, they are mixed with water in a mash pot or a separate container.
The mixture is then heated and left to ferment for a certain period of time, allowing the yeast to convert the sugars into alcohol. The exact duration of this fermentation process can vary depending on the recipe and desired end result.
Ingredients For Moonshine: Sugar Shine Recipe
All you really need to make moonshine is sugar, yeast, and water. The yeast will essentially ‘eat' the sugar and the result can be distilled into moonshine.
Most moonshine recipes use grains that are turned into sugar. This process is called making a mash. This can also be called making a wash.
This process can seem intimidating, but in reality, you are just cooking grains to release their enzymes and then adding malted barley.
However, first-timers can even make their first wash using nothing more than sugar and water. The more you practice this step, the more confident you will become.
Corn Mash Recipes
Check out How to Make a Moonshine Mash for detailed step-by-step instructions!
Once you have mastered a simple mash recipe you can move on to perfecting your moonshine with advanced mash techniques.
This will include things like adjusting the pH of your mash, lautering your grains, and using an immersion chiller.
This may sound like overly complicated terms, but in truth, these are really simple additional steps you can take to craft your shine.
Are you ready to take the next step? Check out Advanced Mash Techniques
How much Sugar Needs to be Added to the Mash?
When making moonshine, the amount of sugar added to the mash plays a crucial role in determining the alcohol content of the final product. The sugar provides the fermentable sugars necessary for the yeast to convert into alcohol through the fermentation process.
For a 10-gallon mash, it is recommended to add 6-8 pounds of granulated sugar. This amount ensures a sufficient quantity of fermentable sugars to produce a high-proof alcohol. The sugar not only acts as a fuel for the yeast but also adds sweetness to the moonshine.
If you are working with a smaller 5-gallon mash, 5 pounds of sugar should be added. This quantity is sufficient to support a healthy fermentation process and produce a flavorful moonshine with a desirable alcohol content.
Remember, the amount of sugar added to the mash directly affects the alcohol content of the moonshine. It is important to measure the sugar accurately to ensure a successful and high-quality batch of moonshine.
How Should the Mash be Mixed and Heated Prior to Fermentation?
To ensure a successful fermentation process, it's essential to properly mix and heat the moonshine mash before fermentation. Here are the steps to follow:
1. Mixing the mash: Start by gathering the necessary ingredients, such as malted barley, corn, or fruits, along with water. In a large container, combine the ingredients and stir vigorously to ensure thorough mixing. This process helps break down the starches and enzymes in the ingredients.
2. Heating the mash: After mixing, transfer the mash to a suitable heat source, such as a stove or an electric heating element. Apply gentle heat and gradually increase the temperature to the optimal level for fermentation.
3. Monitoring temperatures: It's important to monitor the temperature of the mash during heating. The ideal fermentation temperature varies depending on the type of moonshine being produced, but it generally ranges from 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 32 degrees Celsius). Keep an eye on the temperature and adjust the heat source accordingly to maintain it within this range.
4. Additional equipment: To mix and heat the mash effectively, you may require a large pot or container for mixing, a thermostat or temperature probe to monitor the temperature, and a heat source such as a stove or electric heating element.
By ensuring proper mixing and heating of the mash, you create favorable conditions for fermentation, allowing the yeast to convert the sugars into alcohol. Remember to follow safety precautions during the heating process to avoid any accidents.
The fermentation process is a crucial step in the production of moonshine. It is during this stage that the sugars present in the mash are converted into alcohol by the action of yeast.
The fermentation process typically takes around one to two weeks, but the exact duration can vary depending on factors such as the type and amount of sugars present, temperature, and the yeast strain used.
During fermentation, carbon dioxide gas is released, and the mixture undergoes a bubbling or foaming process. It is important to ensure that the fermentation vessel is covered with an airlock or a clean cloth to allow the release of gas while preventing contaminants from entering.
The progress of fermentation can be monitored by regularly checking the specific gravity of the mixture using a hydrometer. Once the fermentation is complete, the fermented mash is ready for the next step in the moonshine production process - distillation.
Moonshine Ingredients: What Does Yeast Do in Moonshine?
Yeast is arguably the most important ingredient in your mash. While it only amounts to a tablespoon or two, it does all of the heavy lifting during the fermentation process.
Many people who are new to the craft of moonshine have a lot of questions about yeast. After all, many of the recipes available online gloss around the subject but it is of the utmost importance.
Yeast plays an important role during the fermentation process. The goal of making a mash is to create fermentable sugars in order for yeast to do its job.
During the fermentation process, yeast will essentially ‘eat' the fermentable sugar in your mash and produce both ethanol and carbon dioxide.
With yeast playing such an important role in the production of moonshine, it is a detail that is important to get right. However, in many moonshine recipes, yeast is a detail that is often glossed over causing a lot of confusion.
Check out everything you need to know about yeast in moonshining here.
How Long Does Fermentation Take for a Typical Moonshine Batch?
Fermentation is a crucial step in the distillation process of moonshine. The average duration of fermentation for a typical moonshine batch ranges from 7 to 10 days. During this time, the yeast breaks down the fermentable sugars in the moonshine mash, converting them into alcohol.
To determine if the fermentation process is complete, there are some visual cues to look out for.
Large bubbles moving slowly or sitting on the surface of the mash are indicators that the fermentation is coming to an end.
This is because the yeast activity slows down as the sugar is consumed.
For optimal fermentation, it is advisable to use specific types of yeast known for their ability to thrive in high-sugar environments. Some recommended yeast types for moonshine production include distillers yeast, bread yeast, and champagne yeast. These strains are capable of fermenting the sugars in the mash effectively, resulting in higher alcohol content.
It is important to note that fermentation duration can vary depending on various factors, such as temperature and the specific moonshine recipe being used. Therefore, it is crucial to monitor the visual cues mentioned earlier to determine when fermentation is complete.
Overall, fermentation is a vital step in the production of moonshine, and understanding how long it takes and the visual cues of completion is essential for producing quality homemade moonshine.
What Temperature is Optimal During Fermentation?
The optimal temperature during fermentation plays a crucial role in the moonshine production process. It is recommended to keep the fermentation mash at a room temperature of around 68-75°F (20-24°C) for the duration of fermentation.
This temperature range promotes yeast activity and helps ensure the efficient conversion of sugars into alcohol.
Maintaining an optimal temperature is important for yeast activity. Yeast is responsible for fermenting the sugars present in the moonshine mash, breaking them down into alcohol.
By keeping the mash at room temperature, the yeast thrives and remains active, maximizing sugar conversion and alcohol production.
Fermentation at too low a temperature can cause sluggish yeast activity, leading to a longer fermentation process and potentially producing lower alcohol content. On the other hand, too high a temperature can negatively impact the yeast, resulting in off-flavors in the finished product or even killing the yeast altogether.
By maintaining the recommended room temperature range, moonshine producers can ensure that the yeast remains active and efficient in converting the sugars into alcohol. This, in turn, contributes to the production of high-quality moonshine with desirable alcohol content and flavors.
Monitoring and controlling the fermentation temperature is a crucial step in the moonshine production process. It helps optimize yeast activity, ensuring successful sugar conversion and the creation of a satisfying and enjoyable finished product.
Is There Anything Else That Needs to be Done During Fermentation to Ensure Quality Moonshine?
During the fermentation process, there are a few additional steps that can be taken to ensure the production of quality moonshine.
One important factor is maintaining a consistent temperature. Yeast is very sensitive to temperature fluctuations, so it is crucial to keep the fermentation vessel in a controlled environment. This can be achieved by using a temperature-controlled fermentation chamber or placing the vessel in a location with stable temperatures.
Proper aeration is another key aspect of fermentation. Yeast needs oxygen to thrive during the early stages of fermentation. This can be achieved by stirring the moonshine mash or introducing air into the fermentation vessel. Aeration helps the yeast to multiply and ferment more efficiently, resulting in a higher alcohol content in the finished product.
To enhance the flavor and alcohol content of the moonshine, various techniques and additives can be used. For flavor enhancement, ingredients such as fruit, herbs, spices, or wood chips can be added during fermentation or aging. These ingredients can impart unique flavors and aromas to the moonshine.
Additionally, adding sugar or using specialized enzymes can increase the alcohol content of the moonshine.
Distillation is the act of actually running your still to remove the ethanol from the different elements in your mash. For many new to moonshine, this is undoubtedly the most intimidating step of your moonshine journey.
With good reason. Running a moonshine still involves using a new type of equipment (a distiller) using heat and requires special safety considerations.
With distillation, it is important to fully understand how to safeguard yourself and your home.
When you are distilling moonshine mash, you are essentially emitting alcoholic vapors right next to a heat source.
Yup. That means safety needs to be a big concern. It is for this reason that many moonshiners choose to distill outside of their homes.
While open-air distillation is an option, others also choose to distill in an outbuilding using an induction burner.
Another safety consideration with distillation is the output. You want to make sure that whatever you put in your body is actually safe to consume. The way that you do this is by doing what is called cuts and fractions.
Cuts and Fractions
To better understand cuts and fractions, it is helpful to understand how distillation works. When you distill your mash you are essentially heating it up until it turns into a vapor and then cooling it back down into a liquid and collecting it.
Distillation works because ethanol boils at a lower temperature than water. However, ethanol is not the only by-product in your mash. There are a whole host of other ingredients that you don't want to end up in your mash.
The answer to this issue is to do cuts and fractions. To do this, you monitor the temperature of the output on your still carefully and collect your moonshine in several different jars.
To put it simply, your moonshine will be split into foreshots, heads, hearts and tails. The only thing you will want to consume is hearts, however, some fractions can be distilled a second time.
Need to know more? Learn everything you need to know about distillation with our Complete Distillation Guide.
Moonshining Q & A
We have the answers to all the most common questions about making your own spirits at home.
CAN YOU MAKE MOONSHINE AT HOME?
Of course! Making moonshine is easier than ever, especially with our user-friendly all-in-one kits and air stills. Finding the ingredients for making your favorite recipes are easier than ever with online shopping and modern moonshining equipment takes up less space.
Not only can you make moonshine at home, but with airstills, you can make moonshine just about anywhere with access to power. Since our airstills do not need water to condense the vapor back into liquid, they are perfect for your boat, camper and for those who are living off the grid.
For more information on the best safety practices for making moonshine, check out: Is it Safe to Make Moonshine?
What is the Easiest Alcohol to Make?
Making moonshine out of any variation of sugar is the easiest method to make a neutral spirit.
The reason this alcohol is so easy to make is because there are two steps you are able to skip when making this type of shine.
With sugar shine, making your mash is as simple as melting your sugar by boiling water gently.
Fractioning your shine is also not necessary because all you need to do is throw out your foreshots.
How Do You Drink Moonshine?
There are several different ways to enjoy moonshine. In fact, the way you enjoy moonshine is as unique as the person who is creating it.
CAN YOU DRINK MOONSHINE STRAIGHT?
Of course, you can drink moonshine straight, even if it is not advisable. This is because, along with any high-proof alcohol, even a little bit of moonshine can have a high impact. Also, while you are still learning to fractionate your yields, it is important to err on the side of caution.
If you do want to drink your moonshine straight, try drinking smaller portions. We recommend sipping small amounts.
Check out What Does Moonshine Taste Like?
Drink plenty of water. Moonshine, like any high-proof alcohol, is very dehydrating. We recommend alternating between water and moonshine to keep hydrated and avoid a nasty hangover.
Drink pickle juice. Moonshine can definitely burn. Drinking pickle juice can help. This is because the salt in pickle juice can help counteract the burn from the moonshine.
Try our recipe for Moonshine Pickles Here!
Everclear Vs. Moonshine: What is the Difference?
While both Everclear and moonshine are high-proof neutral spirits, only one can truly call itself moonshine.
The reason for this is that moonshine refers to any spirit that is made illicitly. The name moonshine comes from 'by the light of the moon' which is how many made and ran shine, especially during prohibition.
As Everclear is made commercially, it is therefore simply a strong neutral spirit and it is not considered moonshine.
CAN YOU MAKE MOONSHINE COCKTAILS?
Absolutely! Moonshine can be used to make many delicious cocktails. Check out our recipes for butterscotch moonshine, strawberry lemonade moonshine, and creamsicle moonshine recipe. These recipes are a sweet and delicious way for those who enjoy sweet drinks but want to enjoy their own moonshine. A word of warning, however, these drinks may not taste strong, but they certainly are. Sip slowly and drink at your own risk.
CAN MOONSHINE MAKE YOU GO BLIND?
Moonshine will not make you go blind, but large doses of methanol can.
Methanol is produced during the fermentation process, especially in fruit batches. Methanol is not only present in moonshine but is produced when making wine and beer as well.
The reason that so many are concerned with the production of moonshine vs. the production of wine or beer is that the methanol in wine and beer is spread amongst the entire batch.
However, with moonshine methanol output comes out in the foreshots as it boils at a lower temperature than ethanol. So in theory, if you were to drink the foreshots you could end up with a nasty hangover, although not nearly enough methanol to make you blind.
One of the reasons that there is so much concern around moonshine production is that early moonshiners would add rubbing alcohol to increase the proof of their moonshine. Rubbing alcohol has methanol as an added ingredient. Adding rubbing alcohol to moonshine is a dangerous practice that produces unhealthy results.
For more information check out: How to Avoid Moonshine Blindness
Is Making Moonshine Illegal?
In many areas of the United States, making moonshine is illegal, however, owning a still is not. Owning a still is perfectly fine as long as you are using it to distill water, or to make essential oils. Fortunately, our stills can also be used to make all of these things.
Individuals can obtain a permit to use their still to make ethanol for fuel for their lawnmowers or to use it for a commercial operation.
In Canada, it is illegal to make moonshine without a federal license to do so. Depending on the province you live in, you may also require a provincial license.
Getting a federal license is not hard, but is expensive and requires a bit of paperwork. In fact, prior to 1985, it was illegal to brew beer or wine in your home without a federal permit. Perhaps, in time the permit will no longer be necessary for making your own spirits.
Check out: Is Moonshine Illegal?
Many home-distillers have commented that home brewing is not typically enforced because it is actually a violation of a tax law. Most local detachments are not concerned about home brewing as long as it is not being sold, given to minors, and is limited to small personal amounts.
HOW CAN YOU TELL IF MOONSHINE IS SAFE?
The best way to make sure your moonshine is safe is to follow our guidelines for fractionating your yield.
While there have been many reports of people getting very sick or dying from drinking moonshine, this was a result of moonshiners adding poisonous elements to their moonshine to increase the proof or ‘kick' in their shine.
When making your own moonshine, usually the biggest concern is the fact that your end product has a high concentration of alcohol and should be sipped.
WHAT PROOF IS MOONSHINE USUALLY?
When made properly moonshine can be up to 150 proof. Moonshine is known for being a really strong alcohol with a hard kick because it has not been aged. However, it is possible to age your moonshine. Check out our bourbon mash recipe.
WHY IS MY MOONSHINE CLOUDY?
When distilled properly, moonshine should be crystal clear. However, many moonshiners, especially those who are new to moonshining, will experience cloudy moonshine.
One of the biggest contributors to cloudy moonshine is when your still ‘pukes' into the collection vessel.
The reason this happens is because your still has boiled over. Monitoring temperature is an important factor in making moonshine.
If your still is puking, your heat is too high. Turn down the heat to prevent this from happening. You know your temperature is right when your still is producing between 2 and 4 drops per second.
Another reason for cloudiness in your moonshine is that you have tails in your final products. In some cases, your moonshine may appear clear at first but then will turn cloudy once chilled.
Aside from producing cloudiness, having tails in your moonshine will also compromise the taste and smell in your final product.
How to Make Moonshine at Home Without a Still
Yes, you can make moonshine without a still! However, there are some drawbacks to this method.
If you want to make moonshine but don't own a still, you can use another appliance that you have in your kitchen- the freezer.
How Do Moonshine Stills Work?
While traditional distillation uses heat to separate ethanol and water, freeze distillation is the opposite. It freezes your mash to allow alcohol to separate from the water in your mash.
In both methods, the alcohol is easily removed from your mash because it has a lower boiling point and higher freezing point, making it easy to remove from your mash.
For more information, check out this AppleJack Moonshine Recipe which goes into more detail on how to do freeze distillation.
What is Distillation?
Distilling moonshine is a complex process that involves separating alcohol from a fermented liquid, known as the moonshine mash. The mash is typically made by fermenting a combination of ingredients such as malted barley, corn mash, or granulated sugar with water and yeast.
To begin the distillation process, the mash is heated to boiling temperature, which causes the alcohol to vaporize. The alcohol vapor is then collected and cooled to condense it back into a liquid form. This liquid, known as distillate, contains a higher concentration of alcohol.
The distillation process requires specific equipment, such as a moonshine still, which typically consists of a mash pot, a separate container for collecting the distillate, and a heat source. Copper stills are commonly used due to their ability to remove impurities from the alcohol.
During the distillation process, it is important to make cuts or fractions. This means discarding certain portions of the distillate to ensure that only the highest quality alcohol is collected.
The earliest-evaporating alcohols, known as the heads, are typically discarded as they contain volatile compounds that can cause headaches or even alcohol poisoning.
The middle portion, called the hearts, is the desired alcohol product. Lastly, the latest-evaporating alcohols, known as the tails, are also discarded as they contain higher levels of impurities.
Distilling moonshine should always be done safely and legally. It is crucial to follow safety precautions, such as using proper ventilation and conducting the process in a well-ventilated area.
Additionally, it is important to ensure the finished product has a safe alcohol content and does not contain any harmful impurities.
Supplies Needed for Distilling Moonshine
Before embarking on the process of distilling moonshine, it is important to gather all the necessary supplies. Here is a list of the essential items you will need:
1. Moonshine Still: This equipment is the centerpiece of the distillation process. It typically consists of a mash pot, where the mash is heated, a separate container for collecting the distillate, and a heat source.
2. Copper Mesh: Copper mesh is a great addition to a stainless steel still due to its ability to remove impurities from the alcohol. Copper helps to produce a smoother and more refined moonshine.
3. Heat Source: You will need a reliable heat source to heat the mash pot and facilitate the conversion of alcohol into vapor. Common heat sources include electric heaters or gas burners.
4. Distillers Yeast: Distillers yeast is specially designed to convert the fermentable sugars present in the moonshine mash into alcohol. It is important to use the right strain of yeast for optimal fermentation.
5. Fermentable Sugars: Moonshine mash typically consists of a mixture of ingredients such as malted barley, granulated sugar, or even corn mash. These ingredients serve as a source of fermentable sugars needed for the production of alcohol.
6. Water: Plenty of water is required throughout the distillation process. It is used to dilute the mash, create a suitable consistency, and aid in the fermentation process.
7. Additional Equipment: Other supplies that may be needed include a thermometer to monitor the temperature, a hydrometer to measure the specific gravity of the liquid, and a glass container to collect the distilled alcohol.
By ensuring that you have all the necessary supplies ready, you can confidently proceed with the distillation process and create your own homemade moonshine. Remember, safety and legality should always be prioritized during the entire process.