For centuries, people have been illegally distilling liquor to make their own drinks. It’s as natural as putting a piece of fruit in a bottle with a little bit of water, and it’s as old as time itself. But how can you make moonshine?
But thanks to laws and regulations, many people have lost their touch with making moonshine for the past couple of hundred years. You can’t make moonshine without a license but is legal in Tennessee.
With a license for the moonshine industry, there’s a new wave of DIYers who want to get back to making their own liquor.
And if you’re one of them, keep reading to learn how to make your own moonshine at home.
What is Moonshine (backwoods whiskey)?
Moonshine is a liquor made from a homemade distillation process primarily from a corn base to produce an unaged high alcohol content whiskey that is clear in color. It’s also called white whiskey and is typically distilled in a bathtub.
Moonshine is a spirit that is made illicitly and was once popular, especially in the southern states of the U.S. during prohibition.
The word “moonshine” can be traced back to the days when it was illegal to make or sell alcohol. Since this beverage was typically made at night by the light of the moon, it became known as “moonshine.”
Moonshine is typically distilled from corn into moonshine liquor and has an alcohol content between 40% and 50% but sometimes reaches over 95% ABV.
Why People Make Moonshine
Moonshine is a distilled spirit, typically made at home from ingredients like sugar and yeast. Moonshine is loved by people since it has a very high alcohol content and thus can make people drunker. Moreover, it is unaged thus is cheap to make and drink.
The name “moonshine” was derived from the time period in which it became popular: the 18th century. During this time, moonshiners would cook their whiskey on the night of a full moon so that it would be ready for consumption during the next day’s work.
Moonshine has been an alcoholic beverage used for centuries. It’s still produced illegally in many parts of the country today.
How to Make Moonshine
The main ingredient for moonshine is mash, which is a combination of sugar and water. The mash is fermented in order to produce alcohol and then distilled.
Moonshine can be made from any fermentable sugar, including sugar cane, sugar beet, honey, fruit, and grains like corn or rye.
To make moonshine at home, you will need to start by finding a large pot or kettle that can hold up to four gallons of liquid (or more if you’re making a lot).
You will also need a still with a built-in condenser and some type of strainer to remove solids from the mash before the distillation process. Some people make moonshine without a still by following the directions described here.
Making Moonshine- Corn Mash Recipe
Corn Mash Moonshine Ingredients and Materials:
- 5 Gallons of Water
- 8.5 Pounds of Flaked Corn Maize
- 1.5 Pounds of Crushed Malted Barley
- Mash Pot or large kettle
- Fermentation Bucket
- Heat Source
- Long Spoon
- pH Meter (Advanced)
- Cheese Cloth
- Citric Acid
- Moonshine Still
Mash making procedure
You can use the following steps for making moonshine:
- The first step is to place your large mash pot on a heat source and then pour in 5 gallons (approximately 22 liters) of water.
- Then heat the water to 165 °F (74 °C).
- When the required temperature is achieved, turn off the heat source. Then add 8.5 pounds of Flaked Corn Maize and stir immediately for 7 minutes continuously.
- After stirring for 7 minutes, check the temperature and if it has not cooled to 152 °F (66 °C), stir the mixture for 30 seconds after every 5 minutes.
- Once the mixute has cooled to 152 °F (66 °C), add 1.5 pounds of Crushed Malted Barley and stir immediately. Stir for some time until the ingredients are mixed properly.
- After stirring for a few minutes, check the temperature and if it has not cooled to 70 °F (21 °C) or room temperature, stir the mixture for 30 seconds after every 5 minutes. The cooling process can take a long time but you can use an immersion cooler to speed it up.
- Once the mixture of water and the other two ingredients reaches room temperature, add yeast.
- Next, aerate the mash. You can stir it vigorously or pour it back and forth between two containers for approximately 5 minutes. This will also ensure that the yeast is evenly spread in the mixture.
- Thereafter, put the mash in the fermentation bucket. If possible, you can have an airlock and a spigot. A spigot is a piece of equipment that ensures that you pour the mixture out easily.
- Thereafter, store the mash for 1 to 2 weeks at room temperature for fermentation to occur. Note that the temperature can affect the fermentation process. Ensure that you note the specific gravity using a hydrometer at the start of the fermentation process and at the end of the process.
- Once the fermentation is done, you should strain the mash water out of the mixture using the cheesecloth and leave all the solids out of the mash water. Check the PH of the strained mash water. The ideal pH is 5.8 to 6.0 and if it’s higher, you can add some citric acid. Some distillers also add some gypsum as they are straining the mixture.
- Finally, use a cleaned and disinfected still or disinfected homemade still to distill the mash water. This is by using a still with a condenser as described in the steps below. To distill, first heat the mash water slowly to 150 °F (66 °C). Then, add a little heat to ensure steam is coming out of the heating vessel and is being cooled off by the condenser to produce moonshine liquid. Ensure that you don’t heat the water to more that you don’t exceed 176 °F (80 °C) since the boiling point for alcohol is 173 °F (78.37 °C).
- Collect the Foreshots (5% of your production), Heads (30% of your production), Hearts (30% of your production), and Tails (the last 35% of your production). Note that foreshots and heads contain some volatile liquids that can cause harm to the human body such as methanol and have a solvent taste and should be discarded. The hearts are smooth and sweet moonshine while the tails do not taste as good as the hearts.
During fermentation, yeast converts sugars into alcohol using heat as an energy source. Fermentation produces approximately three bottles of hard liquor per gallon of mash.
Distillation removes substances such as impurities that might cause the drinker discomfort after consuming it.
What you need to make moonshine
The following is the equipment that you require to make moonshine:
- Large stainless steel pot with a matching lid that seals well,
- An electric hot plate
- 5-gallon bucket or larger depending on the brew size
- Cooking thermometer
- 20-foot refrigerator coil or copper tubing
- 3/8 to 3/8 inch compression adapter/ 3/8 inch metal tubing connector
- Teflon tape
- Rubber gasket
- Metal file
- 1/8 and 3/8 inch drill bits
- 1/8 inch hole saw
- 2-inch PVC pipe end cap
- Silicone sealant/High-temperature hot glue.
How to make a moonshine still
The first step is to drill a hole in the lid of your pot that’s just large enough for the coil or tube to fit through. Drill the hole in the lid while holding it up to a light to make sure you don’t create a safety hazard by drilling into a part of the pot that’s not made of stainless steel.
The goal is to drill an opening in the lid without penetrating any other part of the pot. Seal all edges of this opening with high-temperature hot glue and Teflon tape.
After sealing your new opening with Teflon tape and hot glue, carefully attach your coil or copper tubing to your compression adapter and screw it into place on top of your pot.
If you are using copper tubing, use some silicone sealant around the joint for extra durability.
Next, attach one side of this adapter to the bottom of your bucket with some more Teflon tape, and then attach an end cap on top of that connection so that you have an airtight seal between your bucket and pot.
Finally, cut off “an inch or two” piece from your coil or copper tubing and put it inside your bucket so that it is submerged completely in water or ice with no part sticking out above water level – this will be your inlet port for adding water to start distilling.
The Distillation Process
The process of distillation is pretty simple. Distillation is a way of separating different substances from one another by boiling them and capturing the vapor that condenses on the cool side.
The condensed vapor will contain what you want to get rid of, while the liquid left behind will contain what you want to keep.
The first step in making moonshine is to make your own still. There are many ways to do this, so we’ve included a guide below for those who don’t want to try and figure it out on their own.
Now that you have a still, you need some raw material. Moonshine can be made from anything containing sugar like fruit, vegetables, or grains. Some popular choices are apples and potatoes since they are easy to find and cheap.
The next step is fermentation; this turns sugars into alcohol. Alcohol can be produced without distillation, but it will have a lower proof without it.
The final step is heating up your concoction and capturing the vapor (the booze). This vapor will then condensate back into liquid form which contains the alcohol you wanted all along!
Step 1: Make the moonshine mash
First, you will need to create your mash. Grab some corn (about 30 pounds) and mix it with water at a ratio of three parts water to one part corn.
Throw in some sugar, yeast, and pearl ash for flavor, then let the mixture ferment for about a week or two. When it’s time to make your moonshine, use an old pot to heat up the mash until you have a liquid that looks more like soup than porridge.
Be careful not to overheat the mixture or you will burn off all of the alcohol content before it even has a chance to ferment!
Step 2: Fill the condenser with ice or cold water
The process of distilling moonshine can be broken down into three simple steps: making the mash, distilling it, and aging it. If you are intent on making your own moonshine, then this guide will hopefully answer a few questions about the process.
Remember that the distillation process creates very high alcohol content. It’s important to note that if you intend to drink this product, it should be aged at least 4 weeks before consumption.
Step two is filling the condenser with ice (to prevent moonshine from being lost to vaporization). This might seem like an unnecessary step as the temperature on a still should not get high enough for water to boil off.
The purpose of filling the condenser with ice is not so much to lower the temperature per se but rather to slow down vaporization and condensation.
Step 3: Turn the hotplate on to just below boiling
Now it’s time to turn the hotplate on to just below boiling. This is a tricky step. If the heat is too high, the distilling process will happen too quickly and your finished product will be too strong.
If the heat is too low, then you’ll have to wait a very long time for your booze to come out. The ideal range is 172-210°F (78-99°C).
You’ll also want to use a thermometer or some other way of checking that your heat isn’t too high or low. When it’s at this level, you should see steam rising from the pot.
Step 4: Wait for the mash to boil and moonshine to condense
The final step of moonshine distillation is to wait for the liquid to boil, so the alcohol evaporates and rises into the pipe. The alcohol will then cool at the condenser and condense back into a liquid – this is your moonshine!
How to ferment moonshine mash?
The fermentation process is very simple. Moonshine mash containing cornmeal or other grains is mixed with sugar and yeast, then fermented for 4-5 days before it can be distilled.
The mash will ferment in a large pot to make sure that the liquid has enough room to expand while fermenting.
If it were distilled right away, the moonshine would have too high alcohol content and may create a product called rocket fuel.
How do you know when moonshine mash is done fermenting?
You will know when your moonshine is done distilling when there are no large bubbles in the mash, the mash tastes sour or dry instead of sweet and the icky smell If you are using pure sugar, it will take about a week for fermentation to complete.
If you are using honey or molasses, then it may take longer. Fermentation can be done with or without an airlock. When the mash is ready, there should not be any large bubbles in the mash or a sour/dry taste, or an icky smell.
How to Make Moonshine Mash
Moonshine is an alcoholic beverage made from corn mash, sugar malt, and yeast that has been distilled with heat at least two times to make it stronger.
The process of making moonshine mash includes heating up 5 gallons of water to 165F degrees before adding 8.5 pounds of corn, stirring vigorously for five minutes before adding ½ pound of malted barley, stirring vigorously for five more minutes before adding ½ pound of sugar malt, stirring vigorously for five more minutes before adding ½ teaspoon of yeast and covering the mixture until bubbling subsides.
Some people still want to make moonshine because of how satisfying it is. It tastes a bit sharper than normal liquor, but it’s pretty easy to make. In addition, you can take pride in knowing that you made it yourself.
Although illegal in many parts of the United States, moonshine production is still common enough that there are instructions on how to do it.
As long as you know what you are doing and follow all safety precautions, homebrewing moonshine is legal in the United States.
Best corn for moonshine
The best corn for moonshine is clean and food-grade cracked, dry yellow corn. The best part about using this type of corn is that it has a high sugar content, which helps produce a higher alcohol content when distilled.
If you are trying to make your own moonshine, it will be important to use high-quality ingredients. If you can’t find crack yellow corn or if it’s out of season, there are other ingredients you can use to replace it.
One option is to use pure cane sugar instead of corn. Another option is to use white distilled vinegar instead of water. Whichever ingredients you choose, just remember that they will affect the taste and alcohol content of your moonshine!
How do you speed up the fermentation of moonshine?
Fermentation is the process in which yeast converts sugar into alcohol. The fermentation of moonshine is sped up by adding more sugar and yeast to it, usually at the end of the process.
If you are making a batch of five gallons, for example, you would add 5 more gallons of water with five pounds of sugar and another packet of yeast to it.
This will speed up the fermentation process from one day to 12-24 hours.
What is the legal proof of moonshine?
The legal proof of moonshine is low, because the distillation process removes many of the impurities that would cause a higher alcohol content.
It is illegal to distill absolute ethanol or even above 160 proof (80% ABV) and also you can not bottle moonshine that is more than 125 proof (62.5% ABV) in the US.
Moonshine is typically produced illegally by those who are willing to break the law to get it. The word ‘moonshine’ goes back to the 18th century when people were caught and punished for distilling more than their fair share on moonshine.
Moonshine has a unique, sharp flavor and is relatively easy to make. Many people take pride in making it themselves, and others still find it thrilling to toe the line of the law.
For whatever reason, if you are interested in making moonshine, you can learn all about it here. We have covered everything you will need to know about the basics of distillation, from how to make your own still to how the distilling process works. We will also give you some tips to avoid making rocket fuel. So, let’s start with the basics.
Is moonshine the strongest alcohol?
Moonshine is stronger than many distilled alcoholic beverages in that it can reach up to 95% ABV. This potency is what keeps people coming back for more, but it’s also the reason why moonshine is so dangerous.
Different factors such as the sugar content in the mash, the yeast used, and how long it’s been fermenting can all create different alcohol levels.
It’s difficult to know exactly how strong your moonshine will be until after it has been distilled. Homespun moonshine recipes are typically only 40% ABV or less because they don’t have enough time to ferment and distill properly.
However, moonshine has the potential of reaching 95% ABV when done properly and distillation is done at the right temperatures. However, when distilled, moonshine is able to absorb moisture from the air to dilute it to less concentrated alcohol very fast.
How much is a gallon of moonshine worth?
Did you know that every year, about 250,000 to 285,000 cases of moonshine are sold in the United States? The price is on average $25 a gallon if sold in bulk and $40 when sold at retail.
Moonshine production is not as common nowadays as it was before prohibition. In this article, we answer some common questions about how to make your own moonshine, including what it is, why people still do it, and how to do it.
One of the best things about moonshine is its unique flavor. But one thing that many people want to avoid is making rocket fuel. Moonshine distilling can be tricky because the process must be precise or else you’ll get something too strong or too weak.
To make moonshine at home for a party or for yourself, follow these three steps to avoid making rocket fuel:
- Keep the temperature between 172-210 degrees Fahrenheit (°F) which is 78-99°C when distilling at all times. We recommend 200 degrees Fahrenheit for fast and pure moonshine.
- Use an alembic pot still (a pot with an upright water adder)
- Before distillation starts, use a hydrometer and take a reading from your wash (the mixture you’re going to be distilling). If it’s below 1.040 on the hydrometer scale (or higher than 1.055), then use more sugar or table wine to bring the alcohol content up.
A moonshine distiller is someone who makes moonshine. The term usually applies to a person who operates outside the law, but some people make moonshine legally.
In the United States, moonshine is defined in terms of taxation as “a liquor that is produced in the United States at less than proof (less than 100% alcohol by volume) and not for sale as a beverage at the distillery.”
What is moonshine?
Moonshine is a distilled alcoholic beverage that is often made illegally and in the United States.
Why are people still making moonshine?
People are drawn to moonshine because it has a unique, sharp flavor and it’s relatively easy to make. Many people take pride in making it themselves, while others still find the thrill of toeing the line of the law compelling.
Why is moonshine dangerous?
Moonshine is dangerous since the risk of distilling methanol is so high instead of ethanol. Methanol is known for inhibiting enzymes in the body causing blindness or death.
Can I buy readymade moonshine still?
Yes, you can easily get a ready-made moonshine still or distillation chamber. However, most high-quality stills are quite expensive to buy. You will not easily get a high quality still for less than $100.
What are the common mistakes make when making moonshine?
There are several mistakes that people make when making moonshine. The common ones include:
-Distilling at a very high temperature which yields a less concentrated whiskey
-Using the incorrect measurements of ingredients
-Not testing your homemade still
-Not cleaning the still well which can lead to unpleasant flavors in the next brew
-Using ingredients that are not recommended for moonshine
-Not preparing the mash well leading to the production of methanol
How long is moonshine good for?
Moonshine is best consumed within 2-3 years. In order to keep moonshine for a longer period of time, the moonshine needs to be stored in an airtight container that is not opened and closed often. You can also store it in the freezer.