Photo: shaggy359 / Flickr
It has been legal to make wine at home since the end of prohibition, and legal to make beer since 1978, but it's still illegal to distill spirits for beverage purposes without going through so much fuss and bother that the government admits flat out that it's “impractical.” That's too bad, because homemade moonshine is incredibly frugal. (See also: 21 Great Uses for Beer)
Making moonshine is easy. In one sense, making any alcoholic beverage is easy, because the yeast do all the work. But moonshine is especially easy because running it through a still makes all the delicate balancing of flavors that mark a great beer or wine irrelevant.
I learned most of what I know about moonshine from the classic book Possum living: How to live well without a job and with almost no money by Dolly Freed. (A great book and well worth reading.)
[Updated 2010-01-14 to add:; I've just learned that Tin House books has reissued Possum Living! It's wonderful to see this classic once again available a reasonable price.]
Alcoholic beverages all start with yeast and with sugar for the yeast to eat. The sugar for wine usually comes from grapes (although other fruits are used, especially for homemade wine). The sugar for beer usually comes from malted barley (although other grains are also used).
The sugar for commercially produced spirits can come from almost anything — corn for bourbon, barley for scotch, rye for rye, sugar cane for rum, and so on. For moonshine, what you want is the cheapest sugar you can find. Dolly Freed found that the cheapest sugar she could find was white granulated sugar.
Nowadays, corn syrup might be cheaper.
Let me take a moment here to praise yeast. I'm a huge fan of yeast. They work tirelessly to make our bread and our booze, then uncomplainingly give up their lives that we may eat and drink. If there were an American Yeast Council, I'd want to be their spokesman.
The main difference between brewer's yeast and baker's yeast is that brewer's yeast has been bred to survive a higher alcohol content.
That lets wine makers work with natural fruit juices that have a high concentration of sugar and get a higher concentration of alcohol before the yeast die of alcohol poisoning.
If you're going to make your own sugar solution to grow the yeast in, though, you can just make the sugar solution's strength match what the yeast can convert before they die. It all comes out even with no waste.
According to Dolly Freed, it is a happy coincidence that 5 pounds of sugar in 3 gallons of water works out just right for ordinary baker's yeast.
[Updated 2007-12-30 to add:
A lot of people have asked how much yeast to add. I answered that in comment #16 below, but that's an obscure place to look for the answer, so I'm copying what I said up here.
I'd add one packet.
Since the yeast reproduce, it almost doesn't matter how much you add — after 20 minutes you've got twice as much, so if you add half as much it changes your total fermentation time from 10 days to 10 days 20 minutes.
All you need to do is add enough that your yeast overwhelms any wild yeast that happen to get in. (There are wild yeast in the air everywhere, so you really can't avoid them.)]
There are lots of good books on making beer and making wine. Any of them will describe the fermentation process, but very briefly you just:
- add sugar to the water
- bring to a boil (to kill any wild yeast in it and make it easy to dissolve the sugar)
- wait until the temperature comes down to 110°F (so you don't kill your own yeast)
- add yeast
The fermenting liquid is called the “must.” You want to leave it loosely covered to keep other things from getting into it (wild yeasts, mold spores, etc.), but the yeast produce carbon dioxide as well as alcohol and you want to make sure the carbon dioxide can easily escape. If you seal it up tightly, it could explode.
Give it 10 to 25 days (depending on various things, but mainly how warm it is). You'll know its done when it:
- quits bubbling
- begins to turn clear
- no longer tastes sweet
Now, if you were making beer or wine you'd have several more steps: bottling, aging, etc. Making moonshine, though, all you need to do is distill the stuff. For that, you need a still.
You can buy a still, but you probably don't want to. (They cost money, and the federal government — which scarcely polices this activity at all — probably does keep tabs on people who buy stills from commercial outlets.)
A still, though, is just:
- a pot with a lid with a hole in it
- a tube, closely fit to that hole, running to a jar
- something to cool that tube
You bring the pot to a boil, the alcohol evaporates, the vapor goes out the hole, into the tube, and the condenses back into liquid alcohol.
Conveniently, an old-fashioned pressure cooker is a pot with a hole in the lid. Modern pressure cookers won't work as well, because they have a fancy valve to release the pressure, but with an old-fashioned one you just remove the weight and then fit the tube to the valve.
If you've got some room, you can just make the tube long enough and you don't need to do anything extra to condense the alcohol. Using a tube that coils some can save space. Alternatively, you can run your tube through a sleeve and run cold tap water through the sleeve. (Dolly Freed has a diagram of just such a setup.)
The things to be sure of here are that your entire set-up needs to be of food-quality materials: copper, aluminum, stainless steel are all fine. Plastics are iffy as some may leach stuff into the alcohol. Lead is right out, as is putting the pieces together with solder that includes lead.
Make sure the hole can't get plugged up, which could lead to your still exploding.
Set up your still and bring it to a light boil. Pretty soon you'll have almost pure alcohol dripping into your jar. The water content of the distillate will gradually increase. At some point a sample taken from the tube will no longer taste of alcohol, and you're done.
As I said, it's too bad it's illegal. Otherwise you could make some pretty good booze (well, let's say barely drinkable booze) for the price of a few pounds of sugar.
- 1 Additional Information
- 2 Can moonshine mash go bad?
- 2.1 What Exactly Is Moonshine?
- 2.2 What is the best way to store moonshine?
- 2.3 Is it really necessary to refrigerate moonshine?
- 2.4 How long can you keep homemade moonshine in the refrigerator?
- 2.5 Is it possible that moonshine may cause blindness?
- 2.6 What part of moonshine is toxic, and how do you know?
- 2.7 Is it feasible to consume completely pure moonshine?
- 2.8 Are there any risks associated with over-yeasting the moonshine mash?
- 2.9 How much corn do I need to produce 5 gallons of mash, and how much do I need to buy?
- 2.10 Is it possible to ferment mash for a long time without it becoming sour?
- 2.11 Conclusion
- 2.12 Reference
- 3 How To Make Moonshine?
- 3.1 What Do You Need To Make Moonshine?
- 3.2 Is It Easy To Make Moonshine?
- 3.3 Can You Make Your Own Moonshine At Home?
- 3.4 Is Making Moonshine Illegal?
- 3.5 How Can You Tell If Moonshine Is Safe To Drink?
- 3.6 How Long Does Homemade Moonshine Last?
- 3.7 What Happens If You Drink Moonshine?
- 3.8 What Type Of Alcohol Is Moonshine?
- 3.9 Why Is My Moonshine Blue?
- 3.10 What Is The Easiest Alcohol To Make At Home?
- 3.11 Can You Drink The Heads Of Moonshine?
- 3.12 How Long Does It Take To Still Moonshine?
- 3.13 How Long Does It Take To Ferment Moonshine?
- 3.14 What Are The Main Ingredients In Moonshine?
- 3.15 Is Moonshine Stronger Than Vodka?
- 3.16 Why Do They Shake The Jar Of Moonshine?
- 4 Moonshine Recipes
Can moonshine mash go bad?
In this short article, we will provide an answer to the question “can moonshine mash go bad?” and the storage and production style of moonshine.
No doubt about it, if moonshine is not stored properly, it will degrade and lose its potency. Evaporation is the most significant problem associated with long-term storage in poorly sealed containers.
What Exactly Is Moonshine?
When you make moonshine, you’re fermenting a sugar source to create ethanol, which is often referred to as “hooch” or “homebrew.” Moonshine is often made from a mash of maize and sugar, which is fermented. The process of distillation is used to extract the alcohol from the mash.
Moonshine differs from other alcoholic drinks such as whiskey and bourbon in that it does not undergo any maturation. This results in a high concentration of alcohol in the distilled spirit, many times that of 100 proof (50 percent), making it comparable to white whiskey in flavor.
What is the best way to store moonshine?
Simply store your moonshine in a cool, dark place that does not see frequent temperature changes to ensure that it is well preserved. It is possible to store moonshine forever in your pantry or even in the cabinets of your kitchen.
Is it really necessary to refrigerate moonshine?
Moonshine, whether simple or flavored, does not need refrigeration, but cooling it may help to prolong its shelf life a little. Additionally, light and heat have the potential to change the flavor of the liquor, which is why it is ideal to keep it in a cool, dark area that is not exposed to direct sunlight to preserve its flavor.
How long can you keep homemade moonshine in the refrigerator?
What is the shelf life of flavored moonshine and how long does it last? If they are correctly sealed, they should be able to survive up to two years in most cases. The refrigerator will keep them fresh for about 3 months after being opened, according to my calculations. My preference, on the other hand, is to keep mine frozen.
Is it possible that moonshine may cause blindness?
If you’re drinking moonshine, the answer is yes. While alcohol generated and managed properly cannot cause blindness in and of itself, people who use illicit substances may acquire blindness as a result of their usage. When it comes to moonshine, it’s frequently connected with lead poisoning, a disease that has been linked to the loss of vision.
What part of moonshine is toxic, and how do you know?
Moonshine is mostly comprised of methyl alcohol, which is a kind of alcohol (methanol). Methanol in its pure form is very dangerous, and it has the potential to cause blindness and even death. Pure methanol at concentrations as low as ten milliliters may cause blindness, and as high as thirty milliliters can cause death in certain cases.
Is it feasible to consume completely pure moonshine?
The traditional method of drinking moonshine was to drink it straight from the jar. Additional packaging options include shot bottles.
Are there any risks associated with over-yeasting the moonshine mash?
There is much more sugar in this recipe than is required by the yeast strain you are using. Therefore, it’s only logical to assume that increased sugar equals greater alcohol consumption. However, too much sugar in your mash may impair the ability of your yeast to create alcohol, and most people want their moonshine to have the greatest possible alcohol content.
How much corn do I need to produce 5 gallons of mash, and how much do I need to buy?
Raise the temperature of 5 liters of mash water to 165 degrees Fahrenheit (65 degrees Celsius). Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the 8.5 pounds of corn until everything is well combined. After 5 minutes of continuous mixing, add a few seconds’ worths of whisking every 5 minutes until the mash is at least 152 degrees Fahrenheit.
Is it possible to ferment mash for a long time without it becoming sour?
After 14 days, you should be nearly finished with your project. Allow it to rest for several days, or until there is no more bubbling for at least a minute or two after it has been resting.
Your mash will be ready to run after the airlock has been cleared of any activity.
Although this is not a scientific method, it is very precise when it comes to identifying when fermentation has come to an end.
In this short article, we provided an answer to the question “can moonshine mash go bad?” and the storage and production style of moonshine.
How To Make Moonshine?
Moonshine is a type of liquor that is typically made from corn mash. The mash is then distilled to produce the liquor. Moonshine can be classified as either a corn whiskey or a fruit brandy.
Moonshine has a long history, and it was once produced illegally in the United States. However, moonshine is now legal and it can be found in some stores and bars. Moonshine can be enjoyed neat or on the rocks, and it also makes a great cocktail ingredient.
What Do You Need To Make Moonshine?
To make moonshine, you will need a 5 gallon distillation setup that includes a boiling pot, condenser, and fermentation lock. You will also need 8.5 lbs. of flaked corn maize, 1.5 lbs. of crushed malted barley, bread yeast, and sugar (optional).
Is It Easy To Make Moonshine?
No, it is not easy to make moonshine. Moonshine is a homemade, unaged high proof grain alcohol, typically around 190 proof. The process to make moonshine from scratch, starting with a corn mash to distilling is quite difficult and illegal without a license.
Can You Make Your Own Moonshine At Home?
The simple answer is no, you cannot make your own moonshine at home. Federal law prohibits the distillation of alcohol for personal consumption, and violators can face up to a dozen felonies. However, there are some states that allow for the limited production of moonshine for personal use. In these states, individuals must apply for a permit and follow specific guidelines.
Is Making Moonshine Illegal?
Yes, making moonshine is illegal. Moonshine is a distilled spirit that is produced without a license from the U.S. government. It is also produced in an unregulated environment, which can lead to dangerous and harmful conditions for those involved in the production process.
How Can You Tell If Moonshine Is Safe To Drink?
There are a few ways to tell if moonshine is safe to drink. One way is to pour a small amount of moonshine into a metal spoon and set it on fire. If the moonshine burns with a blue flame, it is safe to drink.
However, if the moonshine burns with a yellow or red flame, it may contain lead and should not be consumed. Another way to test the purity of moonshine is to use a hydrometer. A hydrometer is a tool that measures the specific gravity of liquids. The specific gravity of pure water is 1.000.
If the specific gravity of the moonshine is less than 1.000, it may contain impurities and should not be consumed.
How Long Does Homemade Moonshine Last?
In an airtight container, it should last 3 – 4 months in the back of your refrigerator. If you seal your jars properly in your mason jars, they can last up to three years. Properly sealed jars of moonshine do not need to be stored in the refrigerator until they are opened.
What Happens If You Drink Moonshine?
Moonshine is a distilled alcoholic beverage that is often homemade. It can be made from a variety of ingredients, but typically contains ethanol, water, and impurities.
Drinking moonshine can cause intoxication, which may lead to slurred speech, impaired coordination, and decreased judgment. Drinking large amounts of moonshine may also lead to alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal. Additionally, moonshine may contain harmful impurities, such as methanol, that can cause serious health problems.
What Type Of Alcohol Is Moonshine?
Most experts agree that moonshine is a homemade, unaged whiskey. This may be surprising due to the clear color, but the distilling process and ingredients used are clear signs that it is a whiskey. Moonshine is typically made with a corn mash as the base, which is then fermented and distilled. The final product is usually around 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof).
While moonshine has been around for centuries, its popularity in recent years can be attributed to the rise of the craft spirits movement. More and more people are interested in trying new and unique types of alcohol, including moonshine. In addition, the fact that moonshine is often made illegally (in makeshift stills) also adds to its appeal for many people.
See also 1792 Single Barrel Review
Why Is My Moonshine Blue?
Moonshine can turn blue for a number of reasons. One is that the alcohol vapor can corrode the copper metal in the still, causing fragments to transfer into the moonshine. This will give it a bluish tint. Another reason is that if the moonshine is not distilled properly, it can contain impurities which can also give it a blue color.
What Is The Easiest Alcohol To Make At Home?
The easiest alcohol to make at home is probably mead. Making mead is very straight forward but it is not the fastest alcohol to make. If you want to make alcohol that you can enjoy fast, beer is probably the way to go for you. Wine and spirits generally have longer fermenting processes than beer.
Can You Drink The Heads Of Moonshine?
The answer to this question is technically yes, but we do not recommend it. The heads of moonshine can contain harmful chemicals that can make you very sick.
How Long Does It Take To Still Moonshine?
The process of fermenting and distilling moonshine is quite time-consuming. In general, you can expect it to take between 1-3 weeks to make moonshine, as the mash must ferment and the distillation process must be continued until the final shine is safe for consumption.
How Long Does It Take To Ferment Moonshine?
Moonshine mash made with Turbo yeast will ferment within 4-5 days. If you use bread yeast, it may take up to 1 week for the mash to ferment. Check the mash for large bubbles on the surface. After 4-5 days, check the mash to see if there are large bubbles that are moving very slowly or sitting on the surface.
What Are The Main Ingredients In Moonshine?
The three main ingredients in moonshine are distillers yeast, granulated sugar, and water. Brewers yeast is a microorganism that lives in water and consumes sugar. The byproduct of this process is alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Is Moonshine Stronger Than Vodka?
Moonshine is a type of distilled alcohol that is typically made with corn mash and does not go through the aging process that other types of alcohol do.
This means that moonshine can be much higher in alcohol content than vodka. Moonshine’s alcohol level can be as high as 190 proof, while vodka only has an average of 80 proof.
This makes moonshine a much stronger drink than vodka and one that should be consumed with caution.
Why Do They Shake The Jar Of Moonshine?
When shiners shake a jar of moonshine, they are observing the size of the resulting bubbles and how long they take to dissipate. This allows them to determine the proof, or alcohol content, of the moonshine.
So in basic terms, creating a distilled spirit is a two stage process: 1) Fermentation & 2) Distillation. Fermentation happens when microorganisms, usually yeasts, metabolize (convert) sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. When sugars from grain (corn, wheat, barley, rye) are converted by yeast into alcohol and carbon dioxide, we get beer.
When the sugars from fruit (grapes, cherries, plums, peaches…) are converted to alcohol and carbon dioxide, we get wine. Beer is the pre-distilled form of whiskey and can also be the basis for vodka and gin. Wine is the pre-distilled form of brandy or cognac.
So if you know how to make beer or wine, you're only one simple step away from distilling spirits.
Distillation is the process of attempting to separate the alcohol in an alcoholic drink from everything else. The form of alcohol that we enjoy in drinks is ethanol, and it boils and begins to turn to vapor at 173.1 degrees. Water, on the other hand, boils at 212 degrees.
So by slowly heating a mixture that contains alcohol and water (such as beer or wine), it is possible to vaporize the ethanol while leaving most of the water in the liquid state. When ethanol is vaporized, it floats up and away from the liquid mixture.
A distillation apparatus or still then cools this vapor, causing it to re-condense (turn back into liquid) and lets it run out into a container.
This simple understanding is all you need to get started. As you can probably guess, making great liquor takes some practice, but the process of learning about distilling will be one of the more entertaining lessons you'll ever receive. And even if the first few things you make aren't your best, knowing that you made them yourself will make your concoctions easy to swallow.
To help get you going, we offer moonshine recipes and access to legal resources. Feel free to email with questions. Happy distilling!
Cuts can have a dramatic impact on the final product. An experienced distiller knows when to make a “cut” from the heads to the hearts and also from the hearts to the tails. In distilling a “cut” is when you stop collecting in one jar and start collecting in a new jar.
This is a skill that is learned over time and requires a bit of practice. Experienced moonshiners generally run their stills until the alcohol from the wash has reduced to somewhere around 10-20 proof.
It is not worth the time and energy to distill further to separate the little remaining alcohol from the water.
Cornbread and Strawberry Jam Moonshine Recipe
It is probably more difficult than it should be for beginners in brewing and distilling to find the information they need to feel begin making alcoholic drinks.
Here we try to make sure that every step is explained in detail using only terms that are either commonly understood or linked to their definitions. If anything seems unclear, please let us know.
We’ve also tried to include a list of everything you’ll need (including tools, containers, and utensils) to prevent a scenario in which you’re running to the store repeatedly as you decipher what you’re trying to accomplish.
Recipe 1: Cornbread and Strawberry Jam Moonshine (2-3 Pints)What you'll need:
- A Still
- 2-3 Pint Jars or Bottles
- A large (4 gallon or larger) boiling pot or deep fry set-up, or two pots totaling 4 gallons
- A sanitized 5 gallon bucket or container with a sealable lid
- Bleach, alcohol, or iodine wash to sanitize your containers
- A way to filter your mash (here we use nylon paint filters from Sherwin Williams)
- An air lock (also “trap” or “bubbler”)
- A way to create a hole in your container lid the same size as your air lock stem – usually a drill with a ½ inch bit
- Stick-on thermometer
- Hydrometer (optional)
- Sauce pan thermometer
- A source of running water
- Access to gas or electricity, depending on which type of still you own
- 5 pounds of corn meal
- 3.5 gallons of water
- A jar of strawberry jam
- 2 pounds of malted barley (more commonly called just “malt”) – Any will do, but if your water is highly alkaline, a darker malt will contribute to more acidity
- A packet of whiskey yeast (here we use Liquor Quik Whisky Pure)
- Litmus Papers (optional)
- Calcium Chloride, Gypsum, or Lemon Juice to reduce pH if necessary (optional)
- Hand mixer (optional)
- Blender or food processor (to grind malt, or you can ask for it to be ground at the home brew shop)
Step 1 – Sanitize Materials:
You can sanitize the fermentation container by wiping with alcohol, diluted bleach, iodine wash, diluted hydrogen peroxide, or distilled white vinegar (iodine wash is recommended by but it is important to make sure these materials are thoroughly washed out with clean water after sanitation.) While boiling your water in the next step, drop your air lock in as soon as the heat is turned off to sanitize it.