How to Make Moonshine Without a Still

How to Make Moonshine Without a Still

When it comes to making moonshine, arguably one of the most intimidating aspects is running a moonshine still. After all, making moonshine is like a grade 10 science experiment, and not all of us got a passing grade. 

But what if we told you that you can make moonshine even without a still? That’s right. You can make your own version of ‘white lightning’ using equipment you may even have lying around your house already. Does this sound too good to be true? Check out how to make moonshine without a still. 

Do you Need a Still to Make Moonshine? 



Many believe that you still need a moonshine still in order to make moonshine at home. Fortunately for those who don’t own a still, this is actually completely incorrect. You can make moonshine without using a moonshine still. However, there are both risks and rewards for taking this approach. 

Why is it Called Moonshine? 



When most people think of moonshine, they generally tend to think of illicit spirits being made in the backwoods. While this can be true in some cases, it is also far from the origins of making your own spirits in North America. 

In fact, distilling grain became commonplace in many grain-producing states even before the United States of America was even a country. 


This is because distilling excess grain was a way for a farmer to both use up their entire harvest as well as make a little extra money. It didn’t take the early pioneers long to realize that their corn was not nearly as valuable as the whiskey made from it.


At this time many even used their moonshine as a form of currency. However, this was not to last for long. 

Of course, soon the government stepped in as they saw an opportunity to make money from this practice. Just to set the scene, George Washington was President and the country was in the middle of a revolutionary war. 

Revolutionary War Equals More Whiskey


This revolutionary war had a big impact on the popularity in the spirits being consumed at the time. Beer was easily spoiled and proved difficult to transport. The revolutionary war disrupted the production of rum and so more and more people started drinking whiskey. 

With this change came an opportunity for the government to make some much needed revenue to pay for the debts from the war. And so the ‘whiskey tax’ came into law in 1791. This was actually the first first tax imposed on a domestic product by the newly formed federal government. To say this tax didn’t go over well is an understatement. 

Many farmers used violence and intimidation to resist the tax. After all, they were used to being able to freely distill their excess grain. While the government was eventually able to calm down the protestors (after much violence and the threat of military involvement) the tax remained difficult to collect. 


These actions set the stage for moonshining. Moonshine literally refers to making spirits ‘by the light of the moon’. This is the reason why so-called supermarket moonshine is not really moonshine. It is simply a strong liquor. 



Is it Illegal to Make Moonshine? 


Moonshine is linked with illicit activity so it makes sense to assume that it is illegal to make moonshine. However, this is not always the case. 

In fact, the legality of making your own spirits not only varies from country to country, but also state to state. 

However, in most areas of the United States, It is illegal to use your still to distill alcohol without first having a ‘distilled spirits permit’ or a ‘federal fuel alcohol permit.’ It does not matter if the spirits you are making are only for personal use and not for sale.

In most areas it is not illegal to own a moonshine still. This is because stills can also be used for distilling water as well as making essential oils. It is important to protect yourself by checking out the laws in your state or country.

In addition, moonshine stills can also be used to make fuel for your gas lawn mower or other small engine


Check out How to Make Ethanol for Fuel

Many would-be shiners choose to apply for a federal fuel alcohol permit in order to use their still. 

Apply for your permit here. 

Are you Allowed to Make your Moonshine as Long as you Don’t Sell it? 



Again, the answer depends on where you live. We always encourage anyone interested in trying to make moonshine to check out the laws in their area first. 

For a little perspective it is interesting to note that making beer and wine at home also used to be illegal. Of course, the amount of tax revenue on spirits is quite high and could be the reason you are still not allowed to make your own in many parts of the country. 

For more information, check out Is Moonshine Illegal? 

Can you Make Moonshine in your Kitchen?



You can certainly make moonshine in your kitchen with a still, but you may not want to. The reason for this is because making moonshine involves two important elements-heat and alcohol-that should not mix in a closed environment. 

It is for this reason that most people choose to run their still in their garage, shed or other outdoor building that minimizes this risk. 

Of course, if you are making moonshine without a still you kitchen is a great spot. This is because instead of using heat to separate the alcohol from the water in your mash (which is how a still works) you will be using cold. And what is the best machine for freezing in your home? That’s right. Instead of using a moonshine still, you will be using your freezer. 

How is Moonshine Made Without a Still? 



Of course, you could make a small amount of moonshine using your kitchen freezer, but most people use a deep freeze to get more results for their efforts. However, this is not how freeze distillation was originally done. 

Freeze Distillation

Freeze distillation originally came about when early adopters discovered that leaving their cider out overnight in the winter would result in a stronger drink. This is because the water content in their cider would freeze and therefore create a more concentrated spirit. 

Running a moonshine still uses heat to remove water from your moonshine mash. This is possible because water and alcohol have different boiling points. The boiling point of alcohol is lower so it is removed from the mash as a vapor and then chilled back into a liquid. 

The same principle is used in freeze distillation, except it is the freezing point rather than the boiling point.


Water has a lower freezing point and so it will freeze into chunks that can be removed from your mash. This is certainly an easier process in terms of removing the water from your mash. However, there are downsides to this method. 

What are the Benefits of Freeze Distillation? 




There are many benefits to freeze distillation, namely that you don’t usually have to buy specialty equipment (unless you don’t own a deep freeze or a large bucket). 

You also don’t have to worry about the combination of heat and alcohol vapors. In order to make moonshine safely, it is important to take the necessary precautions. Freeze distillation eliminates many of those worries. 

Finally, many feel that freeze distillation is an easier option. Of course this is true. Instead of worrying about temperature and running a water pump you can simply throw your mash in a freezer and wait. 

What are the Benefits of Running a Moonshine Still? 



So you are likely thinking, why would anyone ever run a moonshine still when they can do freeze distillation? Well, freeze distillation may be safer than running a still in some aspects, in others it is actually much riskier. 

The reason is because one aspect of distillation is to remove the water from the mash. However, you also need to remove the methanol from the other byproducts. 

Alcohol has a lower boiling temperature than water, however, there is more than just ethanol in that mix. Failing to properly fractionate your moonshine can be especially dangerous. 

One of the most concerning components in your mash is methanol. Methanol is very harmful if ingested and can lead to ‘methanol poisoning’.

A potentially lethal dose of methanol is approximately 30 to 240 mL or 1 gram per kilogram. It can take just 30ml to lead to a permanent loss of sight.  This is where the term ‘moonshine blindness’ comes from. 

Of course, blindness is only one potential concern of methanol ingestion. You can also experience kidney issues, loss of consciousness and even death. 

How to Avoid Moonshine Blindness


Of course, there is a simple step you can take in your moonshine process to avoid this issue called cuts and fractions. 

Cuts and fractions are predetermined points in which you separate your moonshine as it comes out of your still. You can determine these points by temperature, ABV (alcohol by volume) and even smell (when you become a seasoned shiner). 

By separating your still output in this way you are ensuring that you are only consuming ethanol and not any potential health hazards. 

Freeze distillation does not allow for this step and this is why many avoid the practice. 





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


How to Make Moonshine from Wine


While freeze distillation from a mash is not generally recommended, a great alternative is to turn a cheap wine into brandy. 

Distilling wine is a great option if you want to dip your toe into distillation without running a still. This is because commercially produced wines use specially developed yeasts that inhibit the development of methanol and volatiles. Therefore, they are safe for use with freeze distillation. 

You can also use freeze distillation to make commercially produced beer or cider stronger. 

There are two simple methods to freeze distillation. The first is pouring your mash/wine/beer/cider into a food safe vessel with a lid. Make sure there is room for expansion. 


As your mixture begins to melt you can scoop away the ice that is forming to make a concentrate. 

Alternatively, you can freeze the entire mixture and then simply collect the ethanol as your mixture melts. 

For a better idea of what to expect, if you start with a litre of 13% ABV wine and collect 500 ml of concentrate you can expect a concentrate with an ABV of about 26%. If your concentrate is 250ml, your ABV would be about 52%. 

How to Make Moonshine With an Air Still




There is another option for distillation that falls somewhere in between running a pot still and freeze distillation: the air still. 

Running an air still is a great way to distill without all the fuss. The Mist 1 Gallon Air Still is about the size of your kitchen kettle and just as easy to use. Its plug and play technology means that you can distill at the press of a button. 

Air stills are also a great option for those who are worried about the possible safety risks of running a still indoors.


The air still is electric and uses a fan to cool the contents. It also requires no additional water to run the still. This makes it an ideal option for the boat, cottage or trailer. 

An air still is a great option for those who want to distill commercial wines or sugar shine. Traditional grain moonshine would still need to be fractionated by temperature in order to isolate the ethanol. 

Easy AppleJack Moonshine Recipe



One of the most popular recipes to make using freeze distillation is AppleJack moonshine. This recipe uses a high quality cider as its base. You can easily customize your shine to suit your tastes by adding additional flavors, such as cinnamon, to make it your own. 

Check out the full AppleJack Moonshine recipe