Making your own whiskey can be fun and simple with our easy whiskey mash recipes.
Making your own spirits is the ultimate DIY project for those who want to learn how to live ‘off the grid’ or carry on the traditions of their ancestors. Is there really anything more American than making your own moonshine? Not really.
A Drink with a lot of History
Making moonshine may have started long before the first pilgrims came over on the Mayflower, but it was certainly a big part of life in early America. That is because when farmers had an excess of grains, they would ferment them rather than let them spoil. This was particularly popular in the grain-producing states in early America.
Many farmers would actually use their fermented spirits as currency. This makes sense as many early settlers would also use barter systems in their local communities. For those who are Hamilton fans, it is interesting to know that Alexander Hamilton was directly responsible for the downfall of this past time. Hamilton imposed a ‘Whiskey Tax’ in order to collect money to repay the costs of American Revolutionary War. This caused an uproar and many lives were lost. Moonshining went underground for many years.
Moonshine Ingredients-so Many to Choose From
One of the nicest things about making your spirits is the ability to make these spirits out of so many different ingredients. Since moonshining is essentially the process of making alcohol from sugar, all you need to make moonshine is sugar. While some recipes cook starches to release their sugars, others can use fruit, vegetables or even simple white sugar. In fact, the first recipe we are going to look at is what is known as ‘sugar shine’. Making moonshine from sugar is simple and a great first recipe for beginners. You likely have everything you need right there in your kitchen and you will still end up with a delicious result!
The Right Equipment Makes all the Difference
One of the reasons that moonshining is gaining so much popularity is the innovations in equipment. Moonshining is no longer something that needs to be done in the woods or hidden away.
Today’s ‘shiner can take advantage of the ease of all-in-one kits like our Appalachian All-in-One Still Kit. This all-in-one kit combines a cooking pot, fermenter and distiller all in one easy to use package. If you want to start creating your own spirits but don’t know what you need to get started this kit is perfect!
Not only do you have everything you need to get started, you also have our easy to follow how to guides and recipes to keep you going. You won’t run out of inspiration with our many mash and cocktail recipes that are constantly being updated!
Sugar Shine Recipe
Many say that using sugar to make moonshine will result in a lower quality product than a traditional grain based recipe. While this really depends on the opinion of the ‘shiner (yup, you can call yourself a ‘shiner now) this really shouldn’t be an issue unless you plan on drinking your moonshine straight.
Many cocktails call for moonshine and this sugar shine is the perfect addition. However, as with any batch of moonshine you make, keep in mind moonshine is strong. Drinking moonshine is something that should be done with caution. This is especially true when drinking cocktails that often taste non-alcoholic.
Related: Check out our butterscotch moonshine recipe!
Equipment Needed for Making your Mash
Or an All-in-One Appalachian Kit +
- Pour two gallons of water into a large pot and heat to boiling. Use your cooking thermometer to make sure the heat does not go above 120°F.
- Add the sugar a few pounds at a time and let it dissolve. Keep adding sugar until all 8 lbs are dissolved.
- Once the sugar is dissolved add the wash to a fermentation bucket.
- Add the remaining water. Feel free to use cooler water since we want to cool down the wash.
- Once your wash has cooled down to 70°F you can add the yeast. See below on how to prepare a yeast starter.
- You can add an airtight lid and shake your wash to aerate it for about 60 seconds. If it is too heavy to shake, you can pour the wash from one sanitized bucket to another about 10 times.
- Add an airlock into your lid and leave in a temperate area for a week to ferment and another week to settle.
- Siphon your mash to distill.
*How to Make a Yeast Starter
If you have ever made a loaf of bread, you have probably made a yeast starter. Yeast starters are essentially a way to give your yeast a ‘head start’ to better ensure a good result during fermentation. Making a yeast starter is not actually necessary when making moonshine. However, it is a small extra step that can make a big difference.
Making a yeast starter adds healthy cells to your mash and helps to ensure accelerated fermentation and to help prohibit the growth of bacteria.
Yeast Starter Recipe
½ cup Warm Water
2 teaspoons of sugar
2 packets of yeast (1 TBSP or 14 grams if using bulk yeast)
- Heat water to 110°F and add to a sterilized jar
- Add your sugar to the water and mix thoroughly
- Add both packets of yeast (or 1 TBSP)
- Swirl the jar to mix the ingredients thoroughly.
- Place plastic wrap over the top.
- Let the jar sit for 20 minutes (or until your yeast has doubled in size.)
- Add to your mash and aerate.
Making a Corn Whiskey Mash
Have you already made sugar shine and want a bigger challenge? Perhaps you want the sweet and smooth taste in your moonshine that can only be produced by corn? Either way, we are happy to help with a corn mash whiskey recipe that is sure to please.
Many moonshiners love the ‘traditional’ recipe of corn based moonshine. In fact, one of the most famous moonshiners, Marvin ‘Popcorn’ Sutton swore by his traditional whiskey recipe using corn and made in the great outdoors.
Corn mash, like almost every whiskey mash recipe, produces a mash that has solids and liquids. In fact, the corn can become so thick during the cooking process it is difficult to even stir!
When you have a mash that includes both solids and liquids you need to determine when you want to separate the two. This does come down to personal preference and may change as you get more experience as a moonshiner. Some moonshiners choose to separate the solids out after cooking, others after fermentation and some will even distill with their solids in the mash. There are pros and cons to all of these different techniques. However, it is important to know that if all grains are not removed before distillation you run the risk of them burning in your still and ruining your batch.
There are different ways to strain the solids out of your mash. The simplest is often to just use a cheesecloth. You can pour all of your mash into a cheesecloth and then squeeze out any excess liquid with your clean and sanitized hands. This can easily be done before or after fermentation.
Likewise you can also use a strainer to remove the solids. Or even a combination of the two.
5 Gallons (18.9 litres) of Water
8.5 lbs (3.85 kg) of flaked maize
1.5 lbs (.68 kg) of malted barley
- Pour water into a large pot and heat to 165°F.
- Once you have reached 165°F add your corn and remove from heat.
- Stir the mash continuously for five minutes and then about once every five minutes until the temperature drops to 152°F.
- Once the temperature hits 152°F add the malted barley.
- Cover. Let sit for 90 minutes giving it a good stir every 15 minutes.
- After 90 minutes all of your grains should be converted into sugars.
- It is time to create your yeast starter.
- Before you add yeast, your mash needs to be 70°F. There are a few different ways to achieve this. 1) you can use an immersion chiller. This is a fast way to accomplish this but not necessary. 2) You can put your mash into a sink full of ice water. 3) You can simply wait for a few hours.
- Once your mash has reached 70°F you can add your yeast. Add an airtight lid and aerate your wash by shaking it for 60 seconds. If your lid has a hole for your airlock don’t forget to block it before you shake! If it is too heavy to lift you can pour your mash from one bucket to the other about 10 times instead.
- Add your airlock and let your mash ferment in a temperate area for about a week or two. Let settle for about a week and you are ready to distill.
How to Get to Distillation Faster
Both of these recipes call for waiting about two weeks or longer from the time you make your mash. The reason for this waiting period is simple, but it can be sped up. After all, you made your mash in order to get moonshine. Why wait for many weeks before you are able to enjoy it?
Pick your Yeast
The type of yeast you choose will determine how long it will take to ferment. Yeast is the one ingredient that is responsible for most of the heavy lifting during fermentation since it is eating up the sugar and turning it into alcohol. So it would make sense that the type of yeast you use has an impact on how long fermentation takes.
There are different types of yeast available:
While all three yeasts are great options for using in your mash, we often prefer bread yeast. It is easily available, economical and does a great job. However, if you want your fermentation done as soon as possible, Turbo Yeast is the way to go. This type of yeast is designed to deliver quicker results.
Clearing your Mash
While some do not bother to remove the solids from their mash before fermenting, it is literally playing with fire. Anyone who has ever burned something in a saucepan knows that when you burn something on the bottom of your pan the taste travels throughout the recipe. The same is true for distilling moonshine.
After your mash has fermented it still needs to be cleared. This is the act of removing any remaining sediment from your mash to make sure there is no chance it will burn during the distillation process. This is something that would be done after you have removed all the solids from your mash.
There are several ways to clear the mash. The method in both of the recipes above is time. If you aren’t in a hurry, you can remove the sediment from your mash by simply waiting for it to settle. This process takes about a week. You will notice that your mash will visibly clear and then you are able to siphon the liquid off the top after the solids fall to the bottom.
However, not everyone wants to wait an additional week before distilling. It’s understandable. You want to get the show on the road. Luckily, there are several easy ways to hurry the process along.
Before you Clear Your Mash
Releasing the carbon dioxide from your mash is an important step to take before you try and clear your mash. During the fermentation process the yeast will release carbon dioxide. This is the reason for the bubbles in your airlock. This carbon dioxide needs to be released before you can clear your mash since it will interfere with the process. In order for the mash to clear, the sediment needs to fall to the bottom of your bucket. If there is carbon dioxide present it will prevent this process from happening by creating a (bubbly) barrier.
How to Release the Carbon Dioxide in your Shine/Mash
Carbon Dioxide is easily removed from the mash. Carbon Dioxide wants to be released from your mash in the same way that carbonated beverages have bubbles rise to the surface. Carbon dioxide wants to escape, it just needs the opportunity.
Releasing the carbon dioxide from your mash is as simple as removing the lid to let the carbon dioxide escape. If you want to hurry the process along you can take a large whisk and use it to agitate your mash and then let the carbon dioxide release from a removed lid.
Different Techniques/Products to Clear your Mash/Shine
Once the carbon dioxide has been removed, you are ready to clear your mash/shine. There are several different products and techniques that can be used to speed this process up.
- Wait: If you wait long enough the particles in your mash will naturally fall to the bottom of your bucket and you can distill without an issue. If time is not a factor, this is a cost effective way to clear your shine.
- Bentonite: This clay will act as a sieve to clear your mash. It absorbs water and then expands to act as a net and catch the sediment on its way to the bottom. Bentonite will usually clear your mash in about 24-48 hours.
- Sparkolloid: This is a similar product to bentonite in that it will absorb water and fall to collect your sediment. The only difference is that you add water to this sparkolloid before you add it to your mash. Sparkolloid will usually clear your mash in about 24-48 hours.
- Turbo-Clear: Turbo clear is a little bit more work but offers the same result. Tubor-clear comes in 2 parts: A and B. These two chemicals are positive and negatively charged. You put in part A and then about 20 minutes later you put in part B. Part A is attracted to part B and will fall to the bottom, collecting your sediment on its way. Your batch will clear in about 24-48 hours.
- Gelatin: Do not use jello! It has to be unflavored gelatin with no sugar in it. The small packs of gelatin come with four different sachets of powder. Two sachets should be enough for a 5 gallon mash. In order for this method to work your mash needs to be chilled. If you are not able to chill your fermentation bucket because it is too big for your fridge this one will not work for you. The second is that you need to prepare the gelatin with water according to the instructions. Do not simply pour it in.
- Cold crashing: If you have a chest freezer, you can put your mash in the chest freezer. The fatty acids in your mash will solidify and act as a sieve to clarify your mash in about 24-48 hours.
Once you have clarified your mash you can siphon out the liquid from the top of the fermentation bucket and get ready to do your first run.
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