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March 29, 2013 posted in Recipes

How to Make "Moonshine": Part 1 - The Mash

Before we get started, a little reminder: this info is for education only. Don't try it at home. Distilling alcohol is illegal unless you have a fuel alcohol or a distilled spirit plant permit.

How to Make Moonshine Mash

how to make moonshine

Here 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.

copper moonshine still kits

  • I have a 2 gallon stove top do you have a measured out recipe. that you would sent me to make pure moonshine that you can send me?


    Posted by Will on June 21, 2017
  • I have a 2 gallon still. Can you send me the recipes for it? This will be my first run so I will like to make sure my measurements are correct. Thanks!

    Posted by WIll on June 19, 2017
  • Looking for a lemon drop mash recipe . Planning on making a corn mash and adding fresh squeezed lemon juice just not sure how much I need to add. Making a 5 gal batch of mash. Any help would be greatly appreciated. thanks

    Posted by BEachbum on June 13, 2017
  • This may be out of the realm of your expertise. I also do not wish to offend, I am interested in finding out what using cannabis root in place of corn or other base. I suppose sugar would be necessary as well.
    The point isn’t to make a drinkable product but rather to use it to extract a cannabis root tincture. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Posted by Lonnie on June 03, 2017
  • what about PH level.I do not see any info on it,Thanks

    Posted by Diane on May 28, 2017
  • Do I have to heat up my 2nd mash?? And how much ? W crushed ?

    Posted by BRian on May 19, 2017
  • I am looking for the basics to distill small batches for medical equipment sterilization, AND OF COURSE for some to barter after the SHTF. any suggestionsmucho welcome at

    Posted by MarkS on April 27, 2017
  • I wanted to know if your still controllers are just resistors or a thyristor. I’m looking for a control unit and we tried a controller that was a resistor and it got too hot, with no way to cool it down, and it blew pretty quickly.

    Posted by Brian on April 23, 2017
  • Can you provide me with the recipe for making and fermenting the mash and also the procedure for distilling the liquor?

    Posted by J D TAckett on March 30, 2017
  • I am new to making my own shine. I’m looking to using the sugar shine but I want to add some peach flavor to it. How do I go about adding flavor? What size still would I need?

    Posted by Jesicca on March 23, 2017
  • JUST finished my first run of moonshine. 5 gal of cracked corn, rye, barley mash gave me a bit less than 1 gal of liquor around 120 proof. the taste was amazing. i think i may have had some beginners luck.

    Posted by wayne on March 18, 2017
  • I would like to know What ingredients do I need to make 30 gal of mash?

    Posted by jim-bo on February 16, 2017
  • Been making shine for almost a year and tried many recipes, sugar is fun and fast 3 weeks…..but buy a beer making kit and learn how to make respectable wort then practice your shine skills doing all the same process minus the hops ,visit your favorite fermentation store or online and play with yeast and dme or malt extract ,flavor is made by yeast and your shine will reflect that little secret well made corn ,malt,rye, combos make 12%with bread yeast ……or try ale yeast most important thing have fun,failures happen and never stop growing your skills towards your goal ,and claw hammer can help,

    Posted by Chris on February 15, 2017

    Posted by BrewerTurnedSTiller on February 14, 2017
  • I tried making some of the sugar shine and I added in three packs of yeast to 5 gallons of the sugar water and I got no reaction at all and I added my PacSun 1 pack of water could have been too warm I waited like three hours at of the second pack any was cooler stirred it went back and checked it and next morning nothing was happening so I had to the third pack and still nothing happened can I add too much yeast to it or did I do something wrong somewhere

    Posted by Tom on February 12, 2017
  • I have just bought a 3.12 gallon. Stove top moonshine still. do you have a measured out recipe. that you would sent me to make pure moonshine. I know nothing about making moonshine. and any thing or advice. i would take and follow to the letter.

    Posted by jim martin on February 03, 2017
  • Just want to try and make a batch fer fun

    Posted by Toby on January 10, 2017
  • Is the temp in or Fahrenheit or Celsius

    Posted by Smokincode on December 30, 2016
  • Looking to have some fun

    Posted by ROger on December 22, 2016
  • I see a batch of sugar shine follow the directions on this website. When I checked it today, it is carbonated. It that normal?

    Posted by BRian on December 18, 2016

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