Moonshine Recipes Overview
The principal of fermentation:Whether you’re making beer, wine or moonshine, the fundamentals of creating alcohol from scratch are the same. Simply speaking, there are only three ingredients: water, sugar and yeast. Yeast is a microorganism that lives in water and eats sugar. Its byproduct (waste) is carbon dioxide and alcohol.
The principal of distillation: Once you have a solution of water and alcohol, you need to separate them. Distillation accomplishes this by taking advantage of the different boiling points of water (212°F/100°C) and alcohol (173°F/78°C). If the temperature of a water-alcohol mixture is raised to 174°F (79°C) the alcohol should begin to boil off, but the water should still be too cool to boil. You can then capture the alcohol vapor, cool it down, and be left with liquid alcohol.
Foreshots, heads, hearts, & tails: Because the various alcohols and chemical compounds in a wash separate at different boiling temperatures, there are several phases of each distillation run: foreshots, heads, hearts, and tails. During the different phases of a run, taste and smell may vary considerably. Generally, only the "hearts" portion is kept for drinking. The heads and tails are set aside to be distilled again in the future. Of the liquid collected during a run, roughly 30% will be heads, 40% will be hearts, and 30% will be tails.
Foreshots are the very first vapors to boil off during a distillation run. This portion contains the toxin Methanol, which is poisonous and should not be consumed. Always discard the foreshots: approximately the first 2 ounces of alcohol per every 5 gallons of mash (1 ounce for 2.5 gallons, 4 ounces for 10 gallons, etc.). The heads contain lighter compounds that not only taste harsh and smell bad, but can give you a bad hangover if consumed. Set the heads aside to use in future spirit runs. The hearts primarily contain ethanol and the most desirable congeners. Hearts are rich in flavor, smell great, and taste quite smooth. This is the good stuff! Set this portion of the run aside for drinking. As hearts give way to tails, sweetness disappears, rich congener flavors dull, and the overall taste becomes bitter. Set this portion aside with the heads for future runs.
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.
Basic 10 Gallon Moonshine Recipe
This recipe is completely scalable; if you want to make 5 or 20 gallons, simply half or double the recipe.
- 1 can (12 oz.) Tomato Paste (not sauce)
- 1 Lemon (large, or 3 small)
- 2½ lbs. Potatoes (Any kind will work. You can just grab a cheap 5 lb bag and use half)
- 20 lbs. White Sugar
- 2 tablespoons of Baker’s Yeast. Choose highly active if you have a choice.)
- Fermenter. This is what will hold your mash for 1-2 weeks while it ferments.
Making the mash:
- Boil approximately 2½ lbs. of potatoes, then mash completely. Making them runny is preferred because they will mix easier. Use a blender for best results!
- Fill the fermenter halfway with hot water, any water you can drink is fine for this recipe, including tap.
- Mix 20 lbs. sugar into hot water. Stir until completely dissolved. A large whisk is excellent for stirring.
- Mix mashed potatoes in. Stir until dissolved.
- Mix 12oz. tomato paste in. Stir until dissolved.
- Juice one large lemon, add juice to fermenter mix.
- Top up the fermenter with water. Alternate between hot and cold to reach a target temperature of 80°F (27°C).
- Once near target temperature, add 1 oz. (2 tablespoons) of yeast. Stir until completely dissolved.
- Place lid loosely on fermenter. You want to allow carbon dioxide gas to easily escape, but keep bugs from getting in. If you don’t have a lid handy, a perforated cloth such as burlap works just as well as a lid.
- Set out of direct sunlight and maintain temperature between 70-80°F (21-27°C)
- Mash should begin to fizz or bubble within the first 24-48 hours.
- Check daily until either all activity in the mash stops or the mash has been fermenting for 2 full weeks.
- Distill promptly (within 3 days). If you’re using your still for the first time, make sure you’ve followed the directions for first time use on page 2 of this document before you continue.
- Set the base of the still on your heat-source.
- Pour in mash, but take care to keep the sediments that have settled in the bottom of the container from going into the still since they can cause off-flavors. Additionally, leave about 3 or 4 inches of space at the top of the still to prevent boil over into the top section.
- Place the head of the still on the boiler. Our classic style stills need to have the head sealed. The sealing can be done using a thick water/flour mix and pushing it in and around the seam here the top and bottom meet. Another option is wrapping the bottom of the onion head with plumber’s Teflon tape before setting it in the bottom part of the still.
- Attach condenser. Our modern style stills have a pipe tube that securely screws into the condenser. For or classic style stills, you can tape the pipe tube/condenser connection area together for a secure fit.
- Keep the condenser cool. You don’t have to worry about this step until your still’s vapor gauge reads around 140-150°F. The most common way is to use a continuous stream of cool water from a water hose or kitchen faucet (for best results use a slow constant trickle of water). You can connect the hose/faucet into the bottom nozzle and either plug up the top nozzle and let it overflow naturally or attach a plastic hose to the top nozzle and direct the water somewhere. Another option is to plug up both nozzles, fill the condenser body with water and continually add ice to keep it cool.
- Set a container at the outlet of the still to catch the moonshine. Keep in mind that while some plastics are fine to use, most are not able to safely handle high concentrations of alcohol. Play in safe and use glass. Mason jars are excellent for this.
- Start applying heat. Use high heat until you can hear the mash boiling. You can also carefully touch the pipe that connects the head to the condenser. When the still is up to operating temperatures this will go from cold to warm to hot very quickly. Once you reach this point, cut the heat to half and watch the temperature gauge.
- Throw away the foreshots. As a precaution against methanol poisoning you will throw away the first 2 ounces per 5 gallons of mash. Since methanol boils at 144°F (62°C), it will boil first when you are distilling
- Regulating heat. Once liquid starts to come out of the condenser, you want to turn down the heat so that it is not a constant stream. Drips are fine, as are breaking or intermittent streams. But a constant stream means the temperature is too high. Pure alcohol boils at 173.3°F (78.5°C) while water boils at 212°F (100°C). The closer you get to 173.3°F (78.5°C) the more pure your product will be, but it will take longer to distill and have less taste. Conversely, the closer you get to 212°F (100°C) the weaker the product will be but it will have more taste and take less time. For your first run just split the difference and aim for 190-194°F (88-90°C) by adjusting the heat.
- Keep the condenser water cool. Frequently monitor the condenser water temperature. Cold or cool water is great, lukewarm water is a warning that it needs to be cooler.
- Ending the run. You will notice that once you get your heat set correctly it needs very little manipulation. This is one way to tell when you are done distilling. When you reach the end of the run you will notice that the gauge temperature will suddenly drop along with the moonshine coming out of the condenser. This will happen without any change in heat supply. Whenever you experience significant change in this manner, you can conclude that the run is over, so turn off the heat and allow the still to cool completely before cleaning.
- Once the still and mash are cool, dispose of the mash. Flower Beds are great because the wasted mash is extremely high in nutrients.
- Wash the still with dish soap and hot water then immediately towel dry. The condenser coils can be rinsed with hot water, no soap is needed. (if you are planning on running another batch immediately after, a quick rinse with water will suffice.)
Apple Pie Moonshine Recipe
Apple pie moonshine is an old favorite. Its sweet, pleasantly spiced apple flavor takes the edge off of especially strong moonshine, and makes it more enjoyable for people who can’t handle the kick and flavor of straight-up shine. Once you’ve tried apple pie moonshine, you’ll want to have some on hand all year long, but it’s especially good during the fall when fresh apple cider is on store shelves. Apple pie moonshine keeps very well due to the high alcohol content, and the flavor improves with age, so don’t be afraid to make a big batch since there’s no chance of it going to waste.
These are the ingredients and equipment that you need in order to make 12 quarts of apple pie moonshine.
* Large cooking pot
* 12 quart-sized mason jars with bands and lids
* 1 gallon of apple cider
* 1/2 gallon of apple juice
* 6 cups of brown sugar
* 12 cinnamon sticks
* 12 whole cloves
* 2 teaspoons of grated nutmeg
* 2 cups of spiced rum
* 350ml of Everclear (or high-proof vodka), or about 1/2 of a fifth
There are two stages to making apple pie moonshine. The first step involves make a flavorful base out of apple cider, apple juice, sugar and spices. The alcohol is added to this flavor base in the second step, and then the moonshine is put into jars for storage. This recipe is split up into two steps in order to avoid heating high-proof alcohol on the stovetop, which can cause a fire and reduce the alcohol content of the finished product. It’s an easy recipe as long as you follow the directions carefully, and the moonshine that it makes can’t be beat.
First, add the following ingredients to your cooking pot and bring them to a boil:
* Apple cider
* Apple juice
* Cinnamon, clove and nutmeg
After the cider and juice mixture boils, turn off the heat and cover the cooking pot with a lid. Allow the mixture to sit, covered, until it comes back to room temperature. Once the cider and juice mixture has cooled, you can add the alcohol and stir for a moment in order to mix the alcohol well. Then use a ladle to carefully fill each mason jar 3/4 full with the apple cider moonshine and put on the lid. Optionally, you can add one cinnamon stick and one clove to each jar before storing them in order to increase the flavor of the spices over time. After 6 weeks of aging, your moonshine will taste exactly like apple pie.
For best results, you’ll want to store your moonshine in a cool, dark space for at least 2 weeks before drinking. This method of storage helps to age the moonshine and mellow the flavors, taking the edge off of the spices and letting everything meld into tasting like a delicious apple pie. After you’re happy with the taste of your apple pie moonshine, you can move it to the refrigerator in order to slow down the aging process. It can also be stored indefinitely in the freezer, although depending on the alcohol content it may freeze solid. As long as the air space in each jar is large enough, freezing isn’t an issue. But if the contents are too cramped then it’s possible to crack a jar during freezing. Refrigeration is the recommended method for long-term storage, but it’s not necessary as the alcohol content of the moonshine will stop it from spoiling.
The Aftermath of any Moonshine Recipe
Once you have your moonshine there are a lot of things you can do with it. Let’s go over a few of the more common ones:
This is the process of literally watering down the concentration of alcohol. The primary purpose of this is to add volume to alcohol. For example: 1 quart of 160 proof moonshine can be watered down to 2 quarts of still very potent 80 proof moonshine.
This is the process of further increasing the proof of an already distilled moonshine.
Carbon is used much like a water filter to remove bad tasting contaminates from moonshine.
Unfortunately, it also removes the good tasting flavors as well. Because of this, they are normally used to make a neutral moonshine that will then be mixed with fruits or wines later.
This is the process of simply adding flavors and/or sugar to a jar of moonshine to enhance the taste. From apple-pie to coffee, nearly everything can be used. Use a coffee filter to strain the mess after letting the concoction sit for a few weeks.
Many types of liquor have a special ageing process that defines them, one example is Whiskey. Part of the process is that it is stored inside a charred-oak barrel for a specified amount of time. Since most beginner moonshiners do not have access to oak barrels this can be recreated by simply sharing a piece of white oak and putting it into a mason jar filled with moonshine. Over time the moonshine will age, turn color and become a very basic whiskey.