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March 29, 2013

How to Make Moonshine : Part 1 - The Mash

How to Make Moonshine Mash

how to make moonshineHere are three easy ways to make moonshine mash. The first two methods are based on traditional corn whiskey recipes. The third method is a cheap and easy (and a good starting point for folks new to distilling), but isn’t recommended for someone serious about making a high quality product.

Keep in mind that crafting moonshine combines both science and art. Don't forget about the technical details, but don't let them bog you down either. It should be fun, so don't forget to sip on something good while you're mashing. We recommend starting with the 3rd recipe listed here (sugar shine) and then moving on to the more complicated, higher quality recipes. Also, if you plan on making a quality mash, make sure you're distilling it in a high quality copper still.

corn whiskey

1- Corn Whiskey

Early American farmers found that the same amount of corn sold for a few dollars at market could easily yield a few hundred dollars after it was mashed, fermented and distilled.  Corn also yields more sugar than other grain crops.  Thus, mashing corn and turning it into alcohol became the standard method of alcohol production on the early American frontier, and “corn whiskey” was born.

At Clawhammer Supply we’re sort of picky when it comes to moonshine and believe that pure all grain whiskey is the way to go when whipping up a batch of homemade hooch.  We also prefer corn whiskey because it's naturally sweet, it’s smooth, and it’s tradition.  Here’s a simple way to make a corn whiskey mash with some additional options for the advanced distiller:

Moonshine Still Kit


5 gallons of water

8.5 pounds of flaked maize

1.5 pounds of crushed malted barley


Heat 5 gallons of mash water up to 165F.  Turn off heat when target temperature is reached and stir in the 8.5 pounds of corn.  Stir the mash continuously for about 5 minutes then stir for a few seconds every five minutes until the temperature drops to 152F.  Once the target temp is met, stir in the malted barley.  Cover and leave it be for about  90 minutes, uncovering only to stir every 15 minutes or so.  At this point all of the starches should be converted into sugar.  Leave it sit for a few hours or use an immersion chiller to cool the mash.  At 70 degrees add yeast, aerate (by dumping back and forth between two containers) ,cap, and add an air lock. In a week or two fermentation will be complete. Leave it settle for another week and you’ll be ready to distill. Siphon into still. Do not pour. Make sure to leave yeast and other sediment behind. Also, never fill the vapor cone of your still with liquid.

crushed malted barleyAdvanced distillers should consider adding 2tsp of gypsum (CaSO4) to the mash water and adjusting the pH of mash water to somewhere between 5.8 and 6.0 before adding any ingredients.  After adding gypsum, add citric or tartaric acid to adjust the pH of the mash water downward.  If the pH needs adjusted upward, add calcium carbonate (CaCO3). 

A second trick for advanced distillers is using tincture of iodine to determine if all starches have been completely converted into sugar.   Drip a few  drops of the clear yellow liquid (not the solids) from the top of the mash (after the 90 minute rest) onto a white plate.  Drip a drop or two of the tincture of iodine on the sample on plate.  If it turns blue, there is still starch in the mixture.  Rest it longer.  Discard the sample.

2- Thin Mash Whiskey

Cooking a thin mash is an easy way to double the quantity of mash while retaining some of the natural grain flavor of corn whiskey.  It's made by starting with an actual mash, such as the one above, and then adding water and granular sugar to increase the quantity of wash.


10 gallons of water (5 gal to start then 5 more)

8.5 pounds of flaked maize

1.5 pounds of crushed malted barley

6-8 pounds of sugar


Creating a thin mash is accomplished in two steps.  First, cook the standard corn whiskey mash described above.  However, after the final rest period, add 5 gallons of cold water and 6-8 pounds of sugar.  Once the mash temperature has dropped to 96 degrees, it  is ready for aeration, yeast and fermentation, as described in the Corn Whiskey recipe above.

Advanced distillers should shoot for a specific gravity of about 1.08.  Dilute with water if high.

3- Sugar Shine

sugar shine

Real corn whiskey is rather uncommon these days. More often than not, modern moonshine is nothing more than straight sugar with a bit of flavoring. Although it isn’t as smooth as corn whiskey, what it lacks in flavor and smoothness is made up by convenience. Also, some people don't care about corn flavor...they'd rather have apple pie, peaches, or other fruit flavors. This recipe works just fine for that stuff. Here’s how a sugar shine wash is made:


5 gallons water

8 pounds of white sugar


Heat 2 gallons of water (to no more than 120 degrees) and add sugar a few pounds at a time.  Stir until dissolved and add more sugar.  Keep adding sugar until all sugar has been added / dissolved. Dump this mixture into a fermenter and add 3 more gallons of water.  Shoot for a final temperature of 96 degrees an adjust heat of additional water accordingly. Add yeast once final liquid temp is 70 degrees. Aerate by dumping back and forth between two buckets a few times. Shoot for a constant fermentation temperature of 70 degrees for the shortest fermentation time and highest alcohol yield.  If your house / garage / basement / wherever / isn't this warm, wrap your fermenter in a blanket and use a heating pad if necessary. Leave it sit for a week to ferment and another week to settle.  Siphon into still, being careful to not overfill (the vapor cone should not contain any liquid).

A Brief History of Moonshine:

The depression, prohibition, and limited access to the mountainous region of Appalachia gave rise to an almost forgotten yet legendary beverage called moonshine.   “Moonshine” is a generic term for homemade whiskey.  The term was coined due to the fact that early “bootleggers” often made their whiskey in the middle of the night, under the light of a full moon – out of sight of neighbors and the law.  There is no standard recipe for moonshine;  it can be made from any combination of grains in any type of still.  However, moonshine made in the mountains of Appalachia was traditionally un-aged corn whiskey and was made in copper pot stills.


  • I recently just bought a 6 gallon wondering how I can make a mash recipe I’m not sure exactly how to do that step by step what would be the measurements for that

    Posted by mike on March 11, 2015
  • hey in 1 corn whiskey where they talk about gypsum am i adding this to the water before adding the corn and barley or before i rest the mash.

    Posted by Carlo on March 04, 2015
  • I read in the Foxfire that yeast wasn’t used for fine whiskey in the Blueridge. Is yeast essential for the process?

    Posted by Linda W on March 02, 2015
  • 1 what do you think of using BSG 9804A yeast ? # 2 Also on a cracked corn recipe can I use ground up 2 row barley? # 3 can I also use flaked rye in this recipe ?
    Need help
    Posted by Dan Monnier on February 25, 2015
  • I have a batch going of a sweet feed wash that’s fermenting. It’s only 5 gal but it’s been 14 days and it’s still bubbling the airlock every 10 seconds or so. How long willi have to wait? The longer it takes , will it be beneficial?

    Posted by chris on February 18, 2015
  • I mixed in the following….
    10 gallons distilled water
    15 lbs of sugar
    20 lbs of cracked corn

    How much yeast should I use?

    I was supposed to only have 15 lbs of cracked corn, will that be an issue?

    Posted by Rebel on February 14, 2015
  • How much yeast do I use for the sugar shine

    Posted by DAn on February 04, 2015
  • iam not shure on the phermenting,dos the temp, have to sty the same all four days mine has went up and dowwn between68 78 after three days

    Posted by rc on February 01, 2015
  • Hi, I have been doing sugar washes for almost a year now and I’ve recently started to use grains.
    After some research I found a “Sweet Feed” recipe, but when I looked on the ingredients tab on the bag I noticed a LOT of other stuff other than grains, so I bought what is called “Cleaned Grains” (whole corn, barley, wheat, oats and molasses.)
    My question is; Will the same procedure for cracked corn work for these, or does it need to stay hot (cook) for a while?


    Posted by Thunder on January 01, 2015
  • Question: Do you know the best way to pour your moonshine?
    Answer: Well you start by tipping the container of moonshine to the side and it just runs out.

    How dumb can I get, Ha ha.

    Posted by Jim Perry on December 27, 2014
  • I bought one of your first still kits and it still looks good and works just the same. I clean it with salt and lemon on the outside and it looks like a new still. I run a gallon or two of vinegar to clean the inside. This works great and looks good.

    Posted by Jim Perry on December 27, 2014
  • Tell us, can a person use can fruit in the Mash?

    Posted by new bootleggers on the mountain on December 16, 2014
  • how long do you let mash ferment for regular shine?

    Posted by christy Beach on December 10, 2014
  • Great website. Very helpful

    Posted by jamie crabb on November 16, 2014
  • I have been, for several years, making various ‘wines’ and then freeze distilling the water out of them. The remaining unfrozen liquid is quite nice for drinking. I suspect from the taste that it is about the same alcohol content as a schnapps or brandy.

    Posted by Jim King on November 14, 2014
  • I am currently doing a college research paper on history and methods of moonshining. I’m from the South and I’ve visited a few sites of moonshiners and I was always fascinated with the picture of the apparatus and how time consuming….with your information on this page, the mystery is brought into reality and more understanding on my part. Thank you.

    Posted by peggy c. adams on October 06, 2014
  • The sugar shine works great! We generally get around 36oz of product with a 1/4 scale mash. Thanks for the help

    Posted by Unknown on October 03, 2014
  • thanks for all the helpful information

    Posted by carl weaver on September 23, 2014
  • just getting started

    Posted by rob king on September 11, 2014
  • I have been adding sugar to my recipes to bring them up to 18% potential alcohol. I use 118 champagne yeast with nutrients. I have only made a few runs so far. recipes seem to taste ok. I bring it to 18 to achieve more product at higher proof. 140 to 170 proof. Is this ok or would I have a better product at 15% or lower potential. I have .998 on Hydrometer when I run it so all or most of the sugar is being consumed.

    Posted by Hoppy on July 12, 2014

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