Moonshine Making 101 -Beginner Moonshine and Fuel Making - Off Grid living
How to Make Moonshine
Making moonshine can be a dangerous undertaking, but if done with caution and common sense it can be an interesting small-scale science experiment. Making moonshine requires a permit in the United States, except for Missouri, and drinking the final product is not recommended.
Getting the Equipment Ready
Gather supplies.It's important to use the right supplies when you're making moonshine, because using equipment made from the wrong material can backfire - literally. For the sake of safety and the best chance of making true moonshine, collect the following supplies:
- A pressure cooker. Use one you don't intend to use for other purposes, or buy a new pressure cooker specifically for making moonshine.
- Copper tubing. You'll need about two yards of tubing that is 1/4" in width. This can be purchased at a hardware or home and garden store.
- A drill with at least a 1/4" bit, for drilling a hole in the lid of the pressure cooker.
- A 15 gallon (56.8 L) metal pot.
- A large plastic bucket.
- 10 pounds of cornmeal, 10 pounds of sugar and 1/2 ounce of yeast.
Build a still.Drill a hole in the lid of the pressure cooker and thread it to snugly receive a 1/4" copper tubing. Insert the end of the 1/4" copper tubing into the hole, being careful that it does not project through more than an inch. This is your condensing tube.
- The tube should be long enough to go from the cooker to a sink and extend beyond the sink down to near the floor.
- If you don't want to drill a hole in the cooker's lid, you can thread it through the vent and affix it there using duct tape.
Making the Mash
Boil 10 gallons (37.9 L) of water.Fill the pot 2/3 full with tap water (10 gallons or 37.8 L), then place the pot on the stove and turn the burner tohigh. Let the water come to a rolling boil.
Cook the cornmeal.Add the 10 pounds of cornmeal to the water and stir it with a wooden paddle or another instrument. Let it cook for a few minutes until the water combines with the cornmeal and thickens into a paste. Remove the mixture from heat and allow it to cool, then pour it into the clean bucket.
Add the sugar and yeast.Stir in 10 pounds of sugar and 1/2 ounce of yeast. Use a wooden paddle or another large instrument to thoroughly incorporate the sugar and yeast into the mash.
- Bread, brewers' yeast, naturally occurring yeast or even sourdough starter may be used in place of dry yeast to start the fermentation process.
Ferment the mash.Loosely cover the bucket with cheesecloth and place it in a cool, dark place, such as in your cellar or basement, to allow fermentation to take place. Fermentation occurs when the yeast metabolizes the sugar and corn carbohydrates and produces alcohol.
- A brown or light tan foam will appear on top of the mash bucket, gradually rising up higher each day. When the mash quits working, the sugars are "used up," and you will notice the foam, or "head" is no longer rising.
- The mash is ready for the next stage when it stops bubbling. At this point it is referred to as "sour mash."
Distilling the Sour Mash
Strain the sour mash through a cheesecloth.Place the cloth over the bucket, then tip the bucket over a clean bucket or pot. You may also use a screen wire or a clean white t-shirt to strain the mash.
Pour the strained mash liquid into the pressure cooker.Clamp down the lid and place it on a stovetop burner. You may discard the solids that you strained out with the cheesecloth.
Position the copper tubing to create a condenser.Run the copper tubing run from the lid (or vent) of the pressure cooker to a sink filled with cold water. Coil the middle of the copper tubing in the cold water, then run the other end of the tube over the edge of the sink to a clean container on the floor.
Turn on the burner under the pressure cooker.Let the contents heat to exactly 177 °F (80 °C) and no more. This is the approximate boiling point of grain alcohol. As the pressure cooker heats, the alcohol turns into ethanol steam, travels through the condensing tube to cool. The resulting liquid drips into the container on the floor. That's the moonshine.
- The liquid that comes out of the copper tube before the cooker reaches 177 °F (80 °C) contains methanol, which becomes steam at a lower temperature than ethanol. This low-boiling liquidmust be discarded. Methanol attacks the optic nerves when consumed. You'll probably have to discard at least two ounces of liquid before the ethanol, which can actually be consumed, begins to emerge.
- Keep monitoring the temperature and collecting alcohol until the temperature rises above or drops below 177 °F (80 °C). You should be able to collect about 2 gallons (7.6 L) of liquid.
Transfer the alcohol to jars.Finished moonshine is between 180 and 190 proof (90 to 95%) - practically pure grain alcohol. To make this product drinkable, responsible brewers cut it tohalfstrength by mixing with pure spring water.
QuestionCan I use apples rather than cornmeal?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, you can use just about anything.Thanks!
QuestionMix with pure spring water? I thought water and alcohol separate when you try to mix them.wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThey do mix. Ask a distiller, or your local bartender. You might be thinking of water and oil, which do separate when mixed.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I be sure there is not any methanol in the moonshine?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt will depend on how much mash you are distilling. Methanol vaporizes at a lower temp than ethanol. For each 1 gallon of mash, throw out the first shot glass full.Thanks!
QuestionI've heard that I can make the mash with just water, sugar, and yeast. Do I have to incorporate the corn?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo, yeast needs nutrients to turn the sugar into alcohol. Add a small can of tomato paste to the mash.Thanks!
QuestionCan I use a hot plate instead of a stove?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, anything that has a controlled heat source or flame will work. Just make sure you are set to the right temperature.Thanks!
QuestionCan I use an aluminum pressure cooker to make moonshine?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThis is not recommended, as the ingredients will react with the aluminum and result in an unpleasant taste. You may also risk damaging the aluminum.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I know the temperature is 80 degrees when the pressure cooker is closed?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerPunch a small hole in the top lid of the pressure cooker for the stem of the thermometer. Before cooking your mash (really wash) make sure to have sealed around the puncture with heat resistance sealer or just plain old water and flour.Thanks!
QuestionWith my heating element set to 178 degrees, how would the temperature of my still reach 205 degrees, when you say to quit collecting my runoff?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThe heat from your stove will be on and even being set at a low temperature it will make your mash temperature keep rising, therefore, it will eventually reach 200 degrees.Thanks!
Can anybody give me a basic ratio of cornmeal, sugar, water and yeast? I would like to make my own recipe with the basic ratios.
Do you use the same amount of apples as cornmeal?
To make moonshine, drill a hole in the lid of a pressure cooker and thread copper tubing through the hole. Boil a large pot of water and cornmeal, stirring until it thickens into a paste. Allow the mixture to cool, then add sugar and yeast. Let this mixture ferment for several days, then strain it and pour the liquid into the pressure cooker. Run the copper line through a sink of cold water and to a clean container on the floor, then heat the mash to 177°F. Discard the liquid that comes out of the tube before the mash comes up to temperature. The rest will be moonshine.
- Using a hydrometer to test for alcohol content and a thermometer to cook the mash will give better results.
- Most people who make "'shine" do so outside, over a wood fire, near a cold-water creek. This eliminates the danger of cooking alcohol indoors. The mash, while "working," has a very strong odor, which is another reason to do this outdoors.
- Let the mash work as long as the head, or foam, seems to be rising, but it will ferment out and go sour, so about 10 to 14 days is maximum, depending on temperature. Yeast acts more slowly at lower temps.
- Do not invite friends over while the mash is working. I have personally smelled mash from over a mile away while fishing on creeks in moonshine country.
- Keep the sour mash covered, but not airtight. A wine maker's flask with an air lock would work well for this.
- Saccharomyces cerevisiae is a singular species of yeast used in both bread and brewer’s yeast. Brewer’s yeast and Whisky yeast are carefully bred strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae that are simply more resistant to higher concentrations of ethyl alcohol and take longer to die off thus extending their lifespan and their production of ethyl alcohol. Neither bread nor brewer’s yeast create by-products that will cause illness, blindness, or death. Distillers generally remove the first 5% of the distillate termed 'foreshots', (containing esters, methylate, and aldehydes). They are distasteful but not fatal and the smell and taste is naturally prohibitive. On record, fore-shot distillate has never blinded, killed, or sickened anyone, it just tastes bad.
- Using a yeast other than High Quality Brewer's Yeast will produce some amount of methanol, which will lead to illness, blindness, or death.
- In the unlikely event someone may accidentally drink the spirits you produce, do not use aluminum tubing or pots in this process.
- A pressure cooker can be dangerous. Be sure to use a quality stainless steel pressure cooker and always test the seal before distilling alcohol. This can be done by boiling some water through the system and checking it for leaks. Do not allow the hose to stop the flow with kinks or it can cause the cooker to overload and blow a seal or hose clamp dispelling ethanol and risking ignition if exposed to flame, spark or red hot element. Never use a modified pot unless done so by a professional and properly modified to handle the pressure. A pressure cooker has a fitted silicon-rubber seal made to expand and completely seal it.
- Brewing moonshine is legal in the USA, but you must have a permit and pay taxes on it.
- Do not drink this product, use it for experimental purposes only.
- In most U.S. states distilling alcohol is a felony and even owning a still is a felony. Consuming homemade moonshine is dangerous as well.
Things You'll Need
5 feet (1.5 m) 1/4" copper tubing
Clean bucket with cover
Cheesecloth or an old, clean white t-shirt
Sources and Citations
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Video: How to Make Moonshine
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