Moonshine Recipes Overview
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.
Step 2 – Heating the corn and malt:
To begin, we’ll create the mixture we want to ferment, called the mash. As mentioned before, fermentation is the process that occurs when sugar is converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The sugars in grain (corn, rye, wheat, barley) are locked up in chain-like molecules called starches. To unhitch the sugars from the starches, we use hot water and enzymes – with the enzymes coming from the malt we’ll be adding to the mixture. So begin by heating 3 gallons of water to boiling. After the water begins to boil turn the heat off and wait for 15 minutes before stirring in 8 cups corn meal (at this point your temperature should be between 170 and 190 degrees). Stir vigorously while slowly pouring the corn meal in and maintain the temperature for about a half an hour. If lumps are created while incorporating the corn meal, use a mixer to work them out.
Step 3 – Blend Malt
While cooking and stirring the corn meal, blend 3 cups of malt, 1 cup of strawberry jam, and 3 cups of tap water in the blender or food processor.
Step 4 – Cooking The Malt
Allow the water to slowly cool slightly to about 150 degrees. When the temperature reaches 150, stir in the ground malt and jam. Maintain this temperature for about 90 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes, and then let cool. At this point, the corn starches are being converted to sugars, so if you taste your mash occasionally, you'll notice the taste getting sweeter.
Step 5 – Check Specific Gravity and Add Yeast
When the mash cools to about 80 degrees, use your hydrometer to check the specific gravity and make a note of it. This will allow you to calculate the percentage of alcohol in your wash and your final product. Transfer the mash to the sealable container and sprinkle packet of Liquor Quick Whisky Pure on the top. Wait 15-30 minutes with the container uncovered. While waiting, stick the stick-on thermometer onto the side of the container. Create a hole in the lid that the airlock stem fits tightly into. Place the lid on the sealable container. Pour a little distilled water into the air lock and stick it in the hole in the container lid.
Step 6 - Fermentation
Fermentation will take 3-5 days. When your mash (now a wash) has stopped bubbling, use your hydrometer to take another measurement and calculate the percentage of alcohol. If you’re between 10 and 12 percent, you mash is probably done fermenting. Tap the condensate off of your lid before removing it.
Step 7 – Filtration
When you are ready to distill, run your wash through a filter and into another container. Filters from a paint store work well, but in some cases you will need to get both the normal and fine filter and use them in sequence to remove all solids from your wash.
Step 8 – Distillation
Make sure your pot still is clean and add the wash. Seal it up and turn on the heat. Allow the heat to slowly rise. (Heating slowly allows for cleaner cutting between the good distillate and the bad distillate.) Get rid of all distillate that occurs before 170 degrees, usually 5-10% of your total yield. Save everything from 170-210 (sample and check the alcohol percentage as you collect it to begin to get a feel for what happens as distillation progresses). When the run nears the end, the distillate will begin to look more cloudy and taste more watery, and the percentage of alcohol will near 20%. Distilling past this point will result in the collection of more fusel oils and water and an overall degradation of your product.
Step 9 – Call a few buddies and enjoy the fermented, distilled fruits of your labor.
No Yeast Corn Mash Recipe
You will need:
- 50 pounds corn
- 25 pounds sugar
- 50 gallon barrel
- spring water or rain water
Pour the corn into a barrel and fill with water to 1-2 inches above the corn. Allow to sour in the sun for three days in hot weather. Then add the sugar, fill to the top with water, stir, cover, and wait ten days. At this point the wash should be ready for distillation. (Same procedure as previous recipe.)
Moonshining for Beginners using our 20 gallon still!
15 lbs of cracked or whole corn
30 lbs of sugar
2 packages of 135 gram Alcotec 48-hour Turbo Yeast
19 gallons of water
Misc. Items to get:
1 hydrometer test tube kit
Yeast and hydrometer with test tube (Can be purchased from Northern Brewer Co or Midwest Supply)
1 - 6” funnel
1 - 32 gallon trash can
Banjo Burner with stand (Look online, they are easy to find – should cost about $99 with stand)
Get a clean 5 gallon bucket
Get 2 garden water hoses long enough to reach from where your water source will be, and long enough to reach where you’re gonna drain your water discharge after running it through your worm
Get 1 empty five gallon water cooler jug. Home Depot has them lying around as returns. Ask for one and they’ll probably give it to you for free
Get a couple of cases of 1 quart mason jars (Cabela’s has them for about $1.25 ea.)
Get a gallon or two of distilled or spring water to cut your high proof shine
Make sure you’re going to be fermenting your mash in an environment that will maintain at least 75 degrees or it won’t work. It’s ok to run your still in a cold weather, but it has to be warm when making your mash.
Take your 32 gallon trash can (make sure it’s completely clean)
Empty your corn and sugar into it, and add about 5 gallons of hot water
Stir it repeatedly until your sugar is completely dissolved
Let sit for 24 hours. This will help to soften the corn so the yeast can metabolize the sugar
After 24 hours add an additional 14 gallons of water.
Get a 24oz. container of hot water and mix in 2 packages of yeast
Let it sit for 20 minutes, then pour it in mash and stir it good
Put the lid on the trash can and let it sit
Do not stir it anymore
It should start bubbling in about 24 hours or less
Leave it alone until it stops bubbling. It’s ok to open and close it to take a look.
Once it stops bubbling let it sit for 3 more days. It won’t hurt it if you let it sit for up to about 2 weeks after it’s done bubbling, so don’t worry about it going bad.
Now you are ready to cook!
Place your still and the worm on their stands, with your heat source underneath your still.
Take your 5 gallon water cooler jug with the funnel in it, and place it under the worm discharge valve to collect your shine.
Take your clean 5 gallon bucket and dip it into your trash can and fill your 20 gallon still about 3 inches from the top and close it up.
Attach your water hoses to your still but don’t turn your water on yet.
Now turn your heat on and turn it up as high as it will go. You can’t get your heat too hot so don’t worry.
Depending on what temperature you’re working in will decide how long it will take to heat your shine, but rule of thumb is about 1 hour in normal summer conditions.
Pay attention to your vapor gauge and when it gets to about 150 degrees, go ahead and turn your water on. You don’t have to blast your water, just a slow even flow starting out.
As your temp comes up to about 165 degrees you will start seeing a slow drip. Now cut your heat back down to about half and continue to slowly adjust it down as your temp comes up to 178 – 180/185 degrees. Your drip is going to pick up to a steady flow as your temp raises to the 178. The early liquid that’s produced between the two temps of 165 and 178 is your Methanol. It should only be a couple of ounces. Take it away somewhere safe and get rid of it.
By now you should have a nice steady flow of shine and your heat should be turned all the way back to a low simmer.
If your discharge hose starts puffing steam and your shine feels too hot, don’t panic, your mash is still cooling from the initial heat up. Just increase your water flow and monitor it and it will begin to even out. Now you you’re in business.
Continue to feel the flow with your finger. (Take a taste from your finger. It’s like sweet mothers milk!) If it still feels too warm or even hot, continue to slowly increase your water flow, and slowly lower your heat until you feel a cool to slightly warm liquid temp. Every still is different. As you get to know your still, you will learn to adjust your water/heat ratios to find the sweet spot.
If you’re running a 20 gallon batch it should run about a gallon an hour. So you should expect to spend about 3 to 3.5 hours with your machine in operation.
Your first gallon or so (The Front) should test out to about 160 – 165 proof. Pour off a little in your test tube and see what you got! Your next 2 gallons will be (The Heart) of your run. It should test out to about 130 proof, and then the last gallon or so will taper down to about 100, and those are (The Tails).
You can run your still down to about 80 proof but it will start to get cloudy and start to taste watered down. The best way to determine how to shut your still down, is when your vapor temp hits about 195 – 200 degrees. It’s done.
Congrats! Now you’ve got your first run completed.
You can test your blend to see what your final proof is. Decide by taste what you want your final proof to be by adding some distilled water as you fill your mason jars.
Some advice. Nothing tastes good if it’s too hot to drink. Everyone wants to brag about having some wicked strong shine, but shine can be delicious but not at 130 proof! Don’t be afraid to cut it to about 70 – 80 proof. What’s the fun of creating your masterpiece, if all you do is fall asleep because… well you know why! Take your time and enjoy. You earned it!
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.