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January 10, 2014
Last updated

Corn Mash Recipe - Whiskey Mash

Owner of Clawhammer Supply

We made a corn whiskey mash recently and documented the process for others to see. Though, before we get started, a reminder: making mash is legal. It' just like making beer, which is legal in 48 states in the US. However, distilling alcohol is illegal without a federal fuel alcohol or distilled spirit plant permit as well as relevant state and local 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.

The following is a detailed corn mash recipe, illustrated with pictures. This is one of our older recipes, so this is a tried and true process. For a newer version of this recipe check out our article on How to Make Moonshine.

When we tested this procedure, we had a fuel alcohol permit and we were in compliance with state and federal regulations. We produced, stored, and used this alcohol in accordance with TTB requirements. We also kept and reported production logs in accordance with TTB fuel alcohol permit requirements.

The following is how a commercial distillery would likely make corn whiskey

 

Mashing Equipment

  • First, making corn whiskey mash is pretty simple. Less equipment could be used, but having the following basic equipment will make this a lot easier. All a distiller needs is a large pot for mashing, a wort chiller for cooling liquid, a brewers thermometer, cheesecloth, a plastic funnel, and a spare plastic bucket for aeration. Make sure to check out our recommended distillation equipment guide.

   

Corn Mash Ingredients

  • As far as ingredients go, a distiller needs the following:
    • 8.5 lbs. of crushed corn (sometimes called flaked maize)
    • 2 lbs. of crushed malted barley*
    • 6.5 gallons of water
    • 1 package of bread yeast (Fleischmann's Active Dry works well)

*Note, barley MUST be malted, otherwise recipe will not work (more on this below).

 

How To Make Corn Mash

  • We heated 6.5 gallons of water to roughly 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the temperature was reached, we cut off the heat. It won't be needed for a while. Next, we poured all of the crushed corn into the water and stirred for 3-5 minutes. After that we stirred for 5-10 seconds every 5 minutes. This is the start of our mash.

    • The corn will turn to a "gel" as it gets stirred up. We weren't alarmed when this happened as this is perfectly normal. The corn is being broken down and starch is being released, which makes the mixture quite thick. Once the barley is added and mashing begins, the mixture will thin out considerably.

 

  • We monitored the temperature as we stirred. Once the temperature dropped to 152 degrees, we added the malted barley and stirred for 1-2 minutes. Once stirred, we covered and let the mixture "rest" (sit) for 90 minutes.

    • During the rest, enzymes in the malted barley will convert starches in the corn and the barley into sugar. Later, during the fermentation process, yeast will be added and the yeast will actually turn the sugar into alcohol. So, to rephrase that, what we're ultimately trying to do during mashing is turn grain starch into sugar so we can add yeast and turn the sugar into alcohol during the fermentation process. The enzymes found in malted grains (i.e. malted barley) are what convert the starches into sugar. Without enzymes, none of the starch will be converted into sugar and fermentation will fail. So, it is critically important to use malted barley, and not regular flaked barley, for this recipe.

 

  • While the mash is resting, we made a "yeast starter" by re-hydrating our yeast in a glass of water. For this recipe, we added 2 packages of active dry bread yeast to 1/2 cup of 110 degrees F water along with 1 tsp. of sugar.

    • Completing this step allowed us to verify that the yeast is good (a "yeast cake" will form and expand on top of the water if it's working). This step also allows the yeast to get a "head start." Once added to the mash, the yeast will be able to begin rapid fermentation immediately. This reduces the chances of contamination of the mash by ambient bacteria.

  • After a 90 minute rest, we needed to cool the mash down to a temperature suitable for adding yeast. This is generally somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 degrees. To cool a mash, a distiller can either use an immersion chiller to rapidly cool the mash, or simply leave it sit for several hours. Once cool, we poured the mash through a cheesecloth (any fine strainer will do) to separate solids from the liquids.

    • It's always a good idea to cool the mash as quickly as possible to reduce the likelihood that the mash will become contaminated with ambient bacteria while it is sitting. Immersion chillers work great for this. 

    • We like to use a cheesecloth to separate solids from liquids. We scoop a little bit into the cheesecloth bag at a time and then squeeze the hell out of it. Using small amounts allows us to wring out the bag and recover most of the liquid (which means we'll end up with more final product).

 

  • After cooling and removing grain solids, we aerated by pouring the mash back and forth between two sanitized buckets. We made sure to aerate aggressively enough to see froth and bubbles forming (that's a sign of good aeration). We poured the liquid back and forth 10-15 times. After aerating, we took a specific gravity reading by filling a test tube and using a hydrometer. Another way a distiller might do this is by dropping a bit onto a refractometer collection plate and taking a refractometer reading.

    • Aeration is critically important. Yeast need oxygen to survive. Without aeration fermentation could fail and the yeast won't do anything. Aerate!

    • The specific gravity reading is used to determine potential starting alcohol. Basically, it allows one to determine how much alcohol will be in the wash if everything goes well during fermentation. After fermentation, another reading will be taken to determine actual alcohol content of the wash. Both readings are needed to calculate this number.

  

  • After aerating and taking a specific gravity reading, we added the entire contents of our yeast starter to the mash. Finally, we transferred our mash to a fermentation vessel.

    • We use 2 small packages of bread yeast per 5 gallons of mash

    • Our favorite container for fermentation is a 6.5 gallon glass carboy.

 

  • The last step of the mashing process is fermentation. Once the mash was transferred to the fermenter, we sealed it with an airlock and left it sit for at least 1 week. A distiller could leave this sit for as many as 3 weeks. If it's still bubbling, it's still fermenting. We left it alone until we didn't see any bubbles.

    • We made our own airlock using a rubber stopper, some clear plastic hose, and some zip ties. We looped the hose a few times and added some sanitizer solution so the very bottom of a few of the loops are full, forcing air to bubble out while not letting any air in.

Distillation

For a quick tutorial on how a commercial distiller would turn a wash into high proof alcohol, check out How to Distill - 101. Also, make sure to check out our copper still kits before leaving.

Kyle Brown is the owner of Clawhammer Supply, a small scale distillation and brewing equipment company which he founded in 2009. His passion is teaching people about the many uses of distillation equipment as well as how to make beer at home. When he isn't brewing beer or writing about it, you can find him at his local gym or on the running trail.

  • I have a 8 gallon still pot w.a condenser and a worm pot. Want to this but I am new to this I have heard different recipes the one I was told was the best was to use 5lb cracked corn 2lb of malted barely 7 lb of sugar 5 gallons of water heat the water to 160f then add my sugar stir till it dissolve away turn off heat add corn stir for 5 minutes then add my malted barley stir it then cover it and wait until it cools down add yeast stir it on then cover it come back in 5 to 7 days check mash if it’s not bubbling then it’s time to run then strain it and run to make the moonshine I have done anything wrong can I please get help I am a beginner.
    So any help would be greatly appreciated

    Thank you
    Tim Carter

    Posted by Tim Carter on April 05, 2024
  • I started my 10 gallon mash with 11 gallons water, 13 pounds of cracked corn with amylase enzyme. Let that cook at 160 degrees for two hours. Let steep until about 120 degrees and added 12 pounds of sugar. Added yeast at around 98 degrees. I’m on day four and my mash is bubbling like crazy. Does this sound like @ good mash recipe. I’m just experimenting a little because I’m new to the hobby. What do y’all think

    Posted by Josh on March 12, 2024
  • A lot of things you use is documented on YouTube. Ok , cracked corn -use organic cornmeal.
    Yeast-roomtemp water yes 70°
    Light whiskey mash-3lbs dried malt extract, 64oz corn syrup, 4lbs sugar , bread yeast works . . .
    Sugar wash whiskey recipe.
    2lbs sugar per gal of water, pitch yeast to ferment when done distill. Research!

    Posted by Witchone on July 21, 2023
  • I mixed 2 lbs or Ohio blue with 6.5 lbs of regular cracked , followed the recipe and cooled the mash before adding the yeast starter and now its fermenting in a carboy but at first it was blueish in color and now it’s totally pink in the carboy . Is this normal or do I have a problem it turned pink in 24 hrs of fermenting

    Posted by Chuck on May 31, 2023
  • Can I substitute 2 lbs of corn with some sweet mix and use 2row barley , and also can the corn be switched to like jimmy red corn

    Posted by Chuck on May 02, 2023
  • How do u make malted barley

    Posted by Don McCallum on April 05, 2023
  • can you use frozen sweet corn for your mash it is corn we froze from the garden and how much corn would i need to make 5 gallon of mash

    Posted by L J Henderson on March 24, 2023
  • Ty for some great advice and information.

    Posted by Albert on December 29, 2022
  • Need to learn how to make real corn liquor 100 proof +

    Posted by Kelly on October 17, 2022
  • can i use ground malted corn instead of ground corn?

    Posted by charles canipe on September 14, 2022
  • can i use ground malted corn instead of ground corn?

    Posted by charles canipe on September 14, 2022
  • I’d like to join your emails

    Posted by Curtis on June 20, 2022
  • Do we have better luck withgearmed or degearmed corn meal ?

    Posted by Jimi on May 31, 2022
  • In your ingredients you said one pack of yeast but when you made your mix you did 2 packs is it 1 pack or 2 ?

    Posted by Chris on May 02, 2022
  • do you still use sugar or is it all grains

    Posted by mickcheryl@optusnet.com.au on March 28, 2022
  • Can I make my moonshine with just 🌽

    Posted by Dedra on February 18, 2022
  • All,

    I’m going to answer these questions since I didn’t see another answer:
    “I dont understand something here. For the yeast starter, it is ok to add it at 110F but you need to cool down the worth to 70F to add yeast starter later?”
    Yeast is activated effectively around 110 degrees, then let it cool until within 10 degrees of your 70 wort, then add the yeast.

    “So I’m sitting on a lot of over ripe corn that’s no good for consumption, is this still viable for mash?”
    I wouldn’t use anything that is moldy, but if it is sweet, the appearance shouldn’t matter as long as no mold. You can freeze to reduce the wild bacteria if you want. Most should die in the boil anyway.
    “I didn’t see the sugar for this recipe”
    The sugar is in the corn and grain, you boil it out.
    “followed corn whiskey recipe, but only achieved 40 gravity points without sugar. Had to add 10.5 lbs. of sugar to achieve 80 gravity points. does this sound normal in your experience?”
    depends on your volume but that sounds right. I make mead so I’d add honey instead
    “Can mash from making potato whiskey work in the place of barely malted?”
    that sounds gross to me. Depends on if sugars and starch are all boiled out.

    Posted by Brian on January 07, 2022
  • I dont understand something here. For the yeast starter, it is ok to add it at 110F but you need to cool down the worth to 70F to add yeast starter later?

    Posted by MICHAL on November 13, 2021
  • So I’m sitting on a lot of over ripe corn that’s no good for consumption, is this still viable for mash?

    Posted by Pete on November 13, 2021
  • What is a good recipe for a corn.barley honey.mixure fir 30 gall still

    Posted by Roger Eagles on November 13, 2021


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