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Plum "Moonshine" - Commercial Distilling Techniques
Before we get started, a little reminder: This info is for entertainment / educational purposes only. We don't advocate that you attempt to replicate any of it. It is unwise (and illegal) to distill alcohol without a federal fuel alcohol or a distilled spirits plant.
Starting Gravity: 1.070
Ending Gravity: 1.000
Wash Alcohol By Volume: (ABV) 9%
Spirit ABV: 40% (80 Proof)
Time to Ferment: 7 Days (can vary depending on yeast and temp)
Fermentation temperature: 70F
- Potato masher
- 6.5 gallon fermenter
- Large pot for mashing
- Mash paddle or spoon
- Brewing/Wine hydrometer or refractometer
- 20-35 pounds of red and yellow Italian plums (enough to get 3 gallons of liquid)
- 5 pounds of red table grapes (slightly over ripe)
- 5 Campden tablets (Potassium Metabisulfite: used to prevent oxidation and growth of wild yeast and bacteria in mash)
- 5 Tablespoons Pectic Enzyme (Add to mash to break down pulp and aid in the extraction of tannin)
- 2 teaspoon Grape Tannin: (In conventional wines it comes from the skin of the grape but most grapes contain very little amount of tannin)
- 2.5 teaspoon yeast nutrient (Follow the directions on the label- most brands require 1/2 tsp per gallon)
- 4 pounds of cane sugar
- 1 packet dry wine yeast (Lalvin RC-212 Red Wine Yeast)
*These pictures are fictitious and are for educational / demonstration purposes only. We use water and store bought grain alcohol to simulate "moonshine." It is illegal to distill alcohol without federal and state distillers or fuel alcohol permits.
Mashing And Fermentation Process
Here's how a commercial distillery would process plums into plum brandy.
- Wash the fruit
- Put 4 gallons of water on the stove and bring to a boil while doing the steps below (by the time you are done processing the fruit the water should be boiling)
- Add a few of the plums at a time to the mash pot and smash them with the potato masher. Don’t remove the pits or the stems those will be filtered out before distilling. Once 3 gallons of plums/juice has been collected in the mash pot stop adding plums.
- Once 3 gallons of plums have been added to the mash pot, smash 5 pounds of grapes and add them.
- Remove the 4 gallons of water from the stove and add enough water to reach 5.5-6 gallons of total volume of liquid in the mash pot.
- Stir the mash well mixing the boiling water with the fruit
- Dump the mash into the 6.5 gallon fermenter
- Add 5 campden tables and cover with cloth and leave for 24 hours. Stir the mash periodically as the campden tablets will kill any wild yeast/bacteria in the mash.
- After the 24 hour rest add 5 Tablespoons of Pectic Enzymes. Plums have a very high pectin rate and the enzyme will help breakdown the pectin in the fruit.
- Add 2 teaspoons of Grape Tannin - we don’t need to add much as we already added the skins, pits, and stems from the fruits into the mash .
- Add 2.5 teaspoon yeast nutrient (Follow the directions on the label- most brands require 1/2 tsp per gallon)
- Add 4 pounds of cane sugar to the 6.5 gallon fermenting bucket and mix well.
- Take a starting gravity reading it should be somewhere around 1.07 which will yield 9.19% if it ferments down to 1.000
- Add 1 packet of Lalvin RC-212 red wine yeast
- Add airlock to bucket and ferment in a dark location between 59-86 degrees until fermentation is finished. (I ferment around 70 degrees as that is the current temperature in the basement)
- After fermentation, transfer to a 5 gallon bucket lined with a nylon strainer. Strain solids from liquid. Transfer only the liquid to the copper still.
- Distill. Because plums have a very high pectin content, it would be wise to discard double the amount of foreshots - probably 300ml for a 5 gallon batch.
- Make tight heads and tails cuts.
- Commercial distillers would set the hearts aside to be aged (for a premium product) or even consumed without any doctoring or aging. They also might "stretch" the amount of consumable product by mixing a bit of the heads and and a fair amount of the tails (nearest to the hearts) with the hearts. Aging the product in a barrel typically takes commercial producers several months to several years, depending on the aging method and the desired taste, strength, and quality of the final product.