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.)