Moonshine Mash Recipes
Learn to make moonshine mash recipes with your complete guide to everything moonshine!
Moonshine has come a long way from the days of prohibition and hiding fermentation buckets in the middle of the forest.
With many now focusing on DIY and craft spirits, making your own moonshine has become a trend across the country and in many areas of the world.
Making moonshine is not a new hobby, but it is one that has many modern options to make this process easier than ever. In fact, there are even options that are as straightforward to operate as a kitchen kettle!
What is the Difference Between Moonshine and Whiskey?
Many people wonder what the difference is between moonshine and whiskey. Of course, the proof or alcohol by volume (ABV) is much higher with moonshine but there is also a big difference.
While many think that moonshine is simply its own type of high proof grain alcohol, in truth, moonshine refers to the way the spirit is made.
Moonshine was named for spirits that were made ‘by the light of the moon’. Early pioneers began distilling their excess grain to avoid waste.
It didn’t take long for the early American settlers to figure out that the grain alcohol was worth more than the corn it was made with. In fact, during this time whiskey could be used as a form of currency.
How Did Moonshining Begin?
Of course with this new form of currency also came the government in to regulate it. More specifically, Alexander Hamilton saw an opportunity to help pay for the mounting expenses of American Revolution.
At this time beer was easily spoiled and the import of rum was disrupted by the Revolutionary War and so the consumption of whiskey in the United States increased rapidly.
The tax applied to all distilled spirits but with the increase in consumption of whiskey it became known as the ‘whiskey tax’.
This law led to a whiskey rebellion and many lives were lost. The end result forced those who wanted to distill their own spirits to do so ‘by the light of the moon’ to avoid detection.
How to Make Moonshine: Step 1 Making a Mash
The first step to making moonshine is to make a mash. Making a mash refers to the ingredients that are put together which will then be fermented into alcohol.
Many people associate moonshine with corn or other grains, in fact, it can be made out of almost anything.
There are three general types of mash: grain, sugar and fruit.
How to Make a Grain Mash
Making a grain mash requires an additional step because your mash needs to be converted before it can be fermented.
Basically, this means that you need to heat your mash ingredients in order for your ingredients to be converted from a starch into fermentable sugars. This is an important step because without the conversion from starch to sugar fermentation cannot take place.
Making a mash requires a large volume of ingredients as well as large equipment. In addition, the ingredients necessary for many mash recipes can be difficult to source.
With the large volume of ingredients you will require a large pot for making your mash. Of course you can always half or quarter the recipe you are working with, but this requires an extra and possibly confusing step.
Once you have gathered all your ingredients and have your large pot you will need a heat source. At How to Moonshine, we want to make the process of moonshining as simple as possible. So with our recipes, we cook our mash on a regular stovetop.
How to Check for Mash Conversion
Once you have assembled and cooked your ingredients you need to check for mash conversion. This is a simple test with iodine that will show you whether your starch has turned into fermentable sugar.
To perform this test simply remove a small amount of mash and place it on a white plate.
- Add a few drops of iodine.
- If the mash is blue, it means there is still starch present.
- If the mash remains the same color, conversion is complete.
How to Cool you Mash
Once your mash is converted, it will need to be cooled. There are several ways to achieve this. Many moonshiners like to use an immersion chiller. Just like its name, this device is immersed into the mash in order to cool it quickly.
Many moonshiners like this option because by cooling your mash quickly you can avoid any growth of bacteria which could contaminate your mash.
The second is you can place your mash into a sink or other vessel full of ice water. A laundry sink would work well for larger recipes. While this recipe is cost effective and helps to cool your mash faster, there are many downsides.
While this option sounds simple, in truth, your pot is going to be large, heavy and have hot liquid inside.
The third option is the easiest and the most cost efficient. It is to simply wait. Some shiners will simply leave their mash to cool overnight because you need your mash to be at room temperature 70°F in order to add your yeast.
Many don’t like this method because they are worried that bacteria will grow and it is possible. However, we are from the school of thought that where possible it is best to keep it simple.
Check out our great grain mash recipes!
How to Make a Fruit Mash
Making a fruit mash is an interesting approach to making moonshine. While many may be used to fruity cocktails or flavored spirits, this approach will produce neither. In fact, making a fruit mash is going to produce a much more sophisticated spirit but it may not scream out its flavor.
This is because instead of taking an alcohol with almost no taste (which is produced in sugar shine) and adding flavor after distillation, you are taking a fruit with a distinct taste and then putting it through the fermentation and distillation process. The flavor will be rich yet subtle. This will be a sippin’ moonshine.
Many seasoned shiners swear by the results from these fruit mashes and of course there must be a reason why so many come back to these classic recipes over and over again.
Making fruit mash is different from a grain mash because a conversion is not necessary. Also, the ingredients are not difficult to source. However, you will require a large amount of fruit in order to make a 5 gallon recipe.
The most economical way to produce this shine is to make friends with a local farmer who is happy to part with some overripe fruit for a great price. Even better if they are willing to be paid in moonshine!
Check out our fruit mash recipes!
How to Make Sugar Shine
There is no doubt that making sugar shine is the easiest mash to make and the most economical. We always encourage our newer shiners to try a simple sugar shine recipe first because there is very little risk and yet a very large reward.
When you make sugar shine, you are not making a sophisticated whiskey that will be perfect for sipping. In fact, you are making a great base in order to fill your bar with flavored alcohol.
Sugar shine is a great recipe for beginners because of its simplicity. Making sugar shine only requires sugar, water and yeast. That’s right. You probably have all the necessary ingredients available in your pantry right now to get started.
Is Sugar Shine Right for You?
So why isn’t everyone making sugar shine? Why would you even bother to try traditional or fruit recipes? The reason is simple. Sugar shine will not produce a high quality moonshine with a high ABV. In fact, the ABV of your first run will likely be lower than commercial vodka.
Fortunately, there are many ways to overcome these obstacles. The first being simply performing a second run. For those who are new to moonshining, this simply means to distill your mash for a second time. You will get a smaller yield of moonshine, but the shine you get will be stronger.
The second obstacle is that your shine will not have much of a taste. This is not a spirit you will want to sip after a long day. The good news is, with sugar shine, this is usually exactly what you want.
Sugar shine is often used as a base for many flavored spirits. This means that you can infuse almost any flavor you want using fruit, syrups and even candy to get the delicious specialty liquors at a fraction of the price.
This is the type of process that will produce the type of moonshine that can be a great tasting (but dangerous) shooter. Or it can deliver a delicious cocktail. One run of sugar shine can be enough to fill a bar with several great tasting speciality liquors at a fraction of the price. The best part is you won’t be able to tell the difference between your shine and the overpriced stuff produced commercially.
Check out our flavored moonshine recipes!
What Equipment do I Need to Make Moonshine?
The equipment needed to make moonshine can vary based on the recipe you will use. For example, for grain and fruit based moonshines we suggest investing in a quality stove top moonshine still kit.
One of our favorite options for making quality shine at home is the Magnum. This still is large enough to accommodate even the largest recipes (it is 50 liters!) and has many built in features to help you produce better tasting shine!
The Magnum features dual vapor chambers. This is an important feature as it allows you to produce a higher alcohol by volume (ABV also known as proof) without performing additional runs.
It also features copper coils. Copper is an important feature on a moonshine still because not only is it efficient at cooling your shine (your distiller will heat your shine into a vapor state and then cool it back to liquid) but it also makes it taste better.
This is because copper neutralizes sulfur. Sulfur is that stinky egg smelly element that can ruin the taste of your shine. The Magnum’s copper coils mean better tasting shine every time.
Of course, if you are looking for a simple option to make sugar shine, the Mist 1 Gallon Air Still is your best bet.
The Mist is about the size of a kitchen kettle and just as simple to use. Instead of worrying about temperature and water pumps, the mist uses plug and play technology. This means that you simply plug it in and press start. The only thing you need to worry about is catching your shine!
The Mist does not use any additional water so it is the perfect option for the boat, trailer, cottage or any space that is water restricted. It is a great way for those who are new to shining to get their feet wet.
How to Make Moonshine Without a Still
Of course, there is still an option to make moonshine without a still. The process is called freeze distillation.
When using a regular still your fermented mash will be heated into a vapor state. This is because alcohol and water have different boiling points. The alcohol will be heated into a vapor and then chilled by passing by pipes carrying cold water. This will turn the alcohol back into a liquid state which is collected out of the still.
However, if heating mash can be used to separate water and alcohol in a mash the opposite is also true.
Freeze distillation is not really distillation at all. It really should be called freeze condensation. The process is performed by freezing your mash into a solid block of ice and then collecting the alcohol out of it as it melts. The alcohol will melt faster than the water and eventually all the alcohol will melt and you will be left with nothing but ice.
Sounds simple enough right? Why would anyone bother will a still if you could simply use a bucket and a chest freezer? The reason for a still is that when distilling you need to fractionate your moonshine by temperature. Not everything that comes out of your still is safe to consume. When you use freeze distillation you are not able to perform this important step and the results can be dangerous.
For this reason, freeze distillation is best left for increasing the proof of already distilled spirits. Cheap wine can be turned into delicious brandy using this method!