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How to Make Moonshine

Methanol, Thermos

Moonshine has been around since the birth of America but came into its own during prohibition when making and selling the mix could land you in the hoosegow.

Disclaimer: It is ILLEGAL to make moonshine in the US without the proper license. It can also be dangerous. DO NOT use this guide to make moonshine. It is for information only. I take no responsibility for the accuracy and safety of the steps in the guide.

Now that we’ve prefaced the article with that let’s get down to business.

The moonshine process is a 3 step process.

1) Make the wash
2) Ferment the wash
3) Distill the fermented wash

Step 1, Make the wash:

What you’ll need:
5 pounds of sugar
3 gallons of water

This is the simplest recipe for making the wash. You can add cornmeal and any other ingredient to give a little flavor.

Boil the water, sugar, and any additive for about 10 minutes. Pour the wash into you fermentation container. You can use a 5 gallon water jug. Save the cap. You can but a simple airlock at Northernbrewer.com. Simply drill a hole in the cap, stick the end of the airlock through the hole and seal around the hole with a little silicon or caulk.

Let the wash cool in the fermentation container until its about 75 – 80 degrees F.

Step 2, Ferment the wash:

Once the wash has cooled, add the yeast. A couple teaspoons should be enough. Put the cap with the airlock on the top of the jug. Make sure the airlock has water in it. Depending on what kind of airlock you use you need to partially fill it with water. The water acts as the sealing mechanism.

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Let the jug sit in a dark place at about 75 degrees F until all of the bubbles have stopped. This will take at least a week.

Step 3, Distill the wash.

This is the most important step and you need to pay close attention to detail so you don’t make a bad batch of moonshine that could potentially harm you.

What you’ll need:
A pressure cooker with a thermometer and a nozzle on the top
Copper tubing (3/8″ should be fine. Try to match the size to the nozzle on your pressure cooker
A thermos
Mason Jar (A true mountain man’s cup)

If the pressure cooker has a built in thermometer you are in business. If not you’ll need to buy one and mount it to the pressure cooker lid making sure that the measurement portion of the thermometer is in the water within the pressure cooker.

The other nozzle on the lid is where you will connect the copper tubing. Coil the copper tubing around a cylinder to make the coil small enough to fit in the thermos. You should use a decent size thermos about 10″ in diameter and 1-2 feet tall.

Stick the the coil in the thermos. Cut a hole in the bottom rim of the thermos on the side to stick one end of the copper tube through. Seal it with some caulk. The other end should protrude from the top of the thermos. You’ll add ice to the thermos when you begin distilling to cool the alcohol vapor.

Now you are ready to distill! Pour the wash into the pressure cooker and put the lid on. Make sure the copper tubing is connected to the outlet port of the pressure cooker and there is ice in the thermos. Put a temporary container under the end of the copper tubing sticking from the bottom of the thermos (more information on why below).

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Now here is where you need to pay close attention. If you have some impurities in your wash it may produce methanol when distilled. Methanol is harmful to humans if ingested and could lead to blindness among other harmful effects.

Determine your elevation. Use that to calculate the boiling point of methanol and alcohol. There should be on-line calculators for this. Do a quick google search. Typical boiling points for methanol are around 148F and for alcohol (the good stuff, not isopropyl!) 172F.

Once you’re armed with this knowledge you start to heat your wash. Heat it to just above 148F, maybe 155F (depending on elevation, you just want a mid point between the methanol and alcohol boiling point), and discard all of the liquid (if any) that comes and dumps into your temporary container. Then you continue heating the wash until it reaches the boiling point of alcohol. Keep the wash just above this boiling point but under that of water (212F) until there is little to no alcohol coming out of the thermos.

You can re-distill this mixture to get a higher concentrate (proof) of alcohol. Its always nice to add a peach or some other fruit to the moonshine jar for a little flavor.

And that’s it! Good luck, pay attention to detail, and enjoy!