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March 29, 2013 posted in Recipes

How to Make Moonshine: Part 1 - The Mash

Note: This is an old version of this article here is the updated version of How to Make Moonshine.

How to Make Moonshine Mash

how to make moonshine

Before we get started, a reminder: Distilling alcohol is illegal without a federal fuel alcohol or distilled spirit plant permit as well as relevant state permits. Our distillation equipment is designed for legal uses only and the information in this article is for educational purposes only. Please read our complete legal summary for more information on the legalities of distillation.

Here are three easy ways that a commercial distiller would likely make a 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 new commercial distillers), but isn’t recommended for someone serious about making a high quality product.

Keep in mind that crafting moonshine combines both science and art. A commercial distiller doesn't forget about the technical details, but they also don't let technicalities bog them down. A commercial distiller would start with the 3rd recipe listed here (sugar shine) and then move on to the more complicated, higher quality recipes. If a commercial distiller plans on making a quality mash, they're going to be 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.

A commercial distiller making a high quality finished product would believe that pure, all grain whiskey is the way to go when making a craft spirit. Corn whiskey is preferred because it's naturally sweet, it’s smooth, and it’s tradition. Here’s a simple way that a commercial distiller would 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

Yeast - Read this article to learn about how much yeast a commercial distiller would use


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 to 70 degrees. 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 it will 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 the still with liquid.

crushed malted barleyTips for Advanced Distillers

Advanced 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 onto 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

Yeast - Read this article to learn about how much yeast a commercial distiller would use


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

Yeast - Read this article to learn about how much yeast a commercial distiller would use


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 and 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 the distilling environment isn't this warm, wrap the fermenter in a blanket and use a heating pad if necessary. Leave it sit for a week to ferment and another week to settle. Then, siphon into a still, being careful to not overfill (the vapor cone should not contain any liquid).

Is Making Moonshine Legal:

Remember, this info is for education only. Making a mash is legal because it's essentially just beer, which is currently legal in all states, but distilling alcohol is illegal unless an individual has a fuel alcohol or a distilled spirit plant permit.

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

  • New at thas I have done suger ….corn syrup srup……..cracked corn

    Posted by Tim on May 12, 2021
  • How much yest is added on the sugar shine recipe? How do you know the right amount? What happens if you add too little? Or too much?

    Posted by Adam on March 16, 2021
  • What proof should true cherry bounce be, and would u use a goose neck cap and go straight to the worm coil or use a regular set up with a thump keg, or does it matter? Thanks

    Posted by Randall on February 15, 2021
  • I have no comments. I whant to ask a question. My corn mash is a week in the fermenter and bubbling every 30/40 second.I have added extras yeast, but is still the same. The temperature is 24/25 decrease can. Must i be worried about it? I will liked to here from yous.
    Thank you

    Posted by Piet on January 26, 2021
  • Can corn sugar be used instead of granular cane sugar for making corn whiskey ?

    Posted by Jim on January 18, 2021
  • On a new still should i make a run of say a third of the recipe, and throw it out ? and how much yeast ratio to each recipe?

    Posted by kyle shaw on January 15, 2021
  • Does water quality play a roll in the taste of the shine. I have a slight iron settlement in my water and need to know if I should filter it.

    Posted by ED on September 09, 2020
  • Thomas Shirley I live in FLA. AND THE F room is where I do the stilling some times the temp. Gets up to90F . Do this temp hert the run

    Posted by Thomas Shirley on June 23, 2020
  • Great information. I used it a few years ago and lost all that information in a flood along with my still. Getting back up and running and getting all the need information is now the focus.

    Posted by Colman on June 23, 2020
  • This has been very helpful thanks easy to follow I have made two separate times and both times it turned out great.

    Posted by James Wheeler on May 18, 2020
  • for once i was lucky. went to a auction a month ago, they had a stainless pot that they were saying was a beer pot. electric heater top was in upside down in the pot.
    and could not be lifted out at the time, was stuck. i knew right then it was not a beer maker. it was the second item up for sale next to propane burner.
    i bought both the propane burner for 1o and the pot for 35.00
    it was a brand new never used 8 gallon stainless moonshine still made by claw hammer. have used it twice to rerun the gallons collected from the 15 gallon keg stills i have.
    it pulls a good 5 to 6 gallon from the 120/140 proof runs to 180 cut proof.
    cut it back to 110 proof smooth with light bite would not believe its 110
    people love it.
    good product claw hammer keep up the good work

    Posted by bob jr on April 13, 2020
  • Do you sell books with these rexioes5

    Posted by Dawn Simpkins on March 31, 2020
  • What hand crank corn grinder is best to use? I’ve found the Corona and Victoria brands listed are these capable to do the job?

    Posted by on May 24, 2019
  • Sir How to add flav in sugar moonshine and whats the ratio of sugar:water:yeast let me plz guide 😊

    Posted by Mayor Shivaji on May 06, 2019
  • Made this recipe to the T 3 weeks ago and just checked fg and still at 1.018. Sg 1.o76 and did the thin mash recipe. Crystal clear, stopped bubbling 4 days ago in the air lock. Run it or wait?

    Posted by Greg on April 29, 2019
  • I bought a ten gallon kit last year. I won’t say how much I have made, but it has been enough to keep myself and family very happy. The kit was very comprehensive,directions excellent..The basic premise of makin shine came very easily, and quickly. Wanted to thank you guys for a kick ass product, great advice, and patience. Best hobby I ever had.😎

    Posted by Todd on September 10, 2018

    Posted by DAVE TIMMINS on September 10, 2018
  • Thankyou for the ebook

    Posted by Janette on July 09, 2018
  • Would like to have someone show me how to make shine at home. We’ll convert the old milk barn over to accommodate a small still I’m in Oklahoma

    Posted by Mary Ann on June 14, 2018
  • Would like to have someone come see me to show me in person how to make moonshine please i live in derry

    Posted by Trish on June 06, 2018

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