HOW TO MAKE MOONSHINE
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. This is a simple three step process to turn sugar, water and yeast into tasty spirits from the comforts of home.
While traditional spirits come from large distilleries from around the world, there are simple at home still kits that allow you to take the same technology (scaled down of course) and use it at home.
With the popularity of all-in-one kits and even air-still kits, 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.
How do you Make Moonshine?
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.
Simply put, making moonshine is a three step process: making a mash, fermenting, and distilling.
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.
How to Make Moonshine: the First Step
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.
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
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 around yeast. After all, many of the recipes available online gloss around the subject-yet 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.
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 home. 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 other 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 airstills. 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?
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!
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 many moonshiners in the past have used dangerous practices to increase the alcohol content of their moonshine.
These 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 lawn mowers or to use 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 because 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.
NOW YOU ARE READY TO FIND YOUR PERFECT STILL
Check out our Still manuals to learn everything you need to know to operate your new still.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read through our moonshine guide. We want to help you along with your journey. Whether you need some recipe inspiration, equipment or even a brand new still. We are here to help you.