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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
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.
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:
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.
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 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
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.