How to Make Moonshine

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Learning how to make moonshine is becoming increasingly popular. While the production has recently been taken up by big-name distilleries, this clear and unaged whiskey has a long history of being made at home for a range of purposes.

How to Make Moonshine?

To make moonshine legally, you need a license. It is vital to take thorough safety precautions and use the right equipment.

Equipment for Making Moonshine

  • Drill with 1/4″ bit
  • Sole purpose pressure cooker
  • 1/4″ wide copper tubing
  • 15 gallon (or bigger) metal pot
  • Sterilized large plastic storage bucket
  • New or sterilized cheesecloth
  • Sterilized large wooden spoon
  • String or tape
A glass bottle of moonshine kept next to bread slices and meat atop a wooden platform

Moonshine is distilled homemade whisky, usually with a very high alcohol content. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Method

  • Step 1: With a 1/4″ bit, drill a hole in the top of the cooker.
  • Step 2: Insert the copper tubing, which should fit tightly and come through the underside of the lid no more than an inch.
  • Step 3: The tube will go from the cooker to the sink, and from the sink back to the ground.
  • Step 4: Ensure that your tubing is the right length for this purpose.

Ingredients for 10-gallon mash (40l)

  • 10 gallons of Spring Water
  • 14 lbs (4.2kg) of cracked corn, free of preservatives.
  • 14 lbs (4.2kg) of granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp of distillers yeast

Making the Mash

To make the mash, please refer the following steps:

  • Step 1: Boil the water to a rolling boil.
  • Step 2: Stir the cornmeal into the water until it becomes a paste.
  • Step 3: Remove mixture and, once cool, pour into the bucket.
  • Step 4: Stir in the yeast and sugar.

Fermentation

The fermentation process allows the yeast to convert the sugars into alcohol.

  • Step 1: With string or tape, cover the bucket with the cheesecloth.
  • Step 2: Store in a dark, cool location.
  • Step 3: Observe the production of a light brown foam and bubbles on top of the liquid.
  • Step 4: When the liquid stops producing this foam, the sugars are fully converted and it is ready for distillation.

Distillation

The distillation process involves the following steps. Let us take a look at them in detail below.

  • Step 1: Strain the fermented mash (known as ‘sour mash’) through the cheesecloth into a clean metal pot, discarding any leftover lumps.
  • Step 2: From the pot, transfer the sour mash into the pressure cooker and put the lid on.
  • Step 3: Ensure the tubing runs from the lid of the cooker to a sink filled with cold water.
  • Step 4: Position the tube so that it coils at the bottom of the sink (weigh down with a bottle if necessary) and then bring the tube out of the sink to a container on the ground.
  • Step 5: With constant monitoring, heat the contents of the cooker to no more than 177°F (80 °C).
  • Step 6: Discard any toxic liquid that comes out of the copper tube before the pressure cooker reaches the optimum temperature.
  • Step 7: When you have finished the collection of the liquid at 177°F (80 °C) (no lower or higher) you can transfer the 90-95% proof alcohol to jars. It can be used for a variety of purposes.
  • Step 8: Reduce the alcohol content to half by adding water.

Once diluted, it can be consumed, but extreme moderation is still recommended.  

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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