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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 For a newer version of this recipe check out our article on How to Make Moonshine.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.


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.


    Posted by eRNEST on November 13, 2021
  • Awsome, thanks for all the information

    Posted by Attie Nel on November 13, 2021
  • I also use it to run my small engines around the farm mixed with gas works well

    Posted by Gunnyhyes on May 12, 2021
  • I didn’t see the sugar for this recipe

    Posted by KEn on May 12, 2021
  • is malted barley home-made? What’s the process?

    is anyone using alcohol from moonshine for ethanol fuel for vehicles?

    Posted by Steve on February 22, 2021
  • Can you use malted rye instead of malted barley?

    Posted by Joe on February 01, 2021
  • I use the foreshot alcohol ( the first portion to come off that you normally throw away) as charcoal lighter. It works great and does not change the flavor of your food

    Posted by Jeff on January 14, 2021
  • Can mash from making potato whiskey work in the place of barely malted?

    Posted by Jerry on January 11, 2021
  • love your recipe but it is lot different than gramps made but it is better this way to keep rats and possums out of it and getting hair in it

    Posted by larry on November 23, 2020
  • I am looking for a 15 gallon pot that I Already existing 6" Reflux that i have

    Posted by Matthew parker on November 23, 2020
  • Have tried this recipe twice and followed to the exact wording.. without success of a good ABV..
    first batch 60 proof SG never gets high enough out of both batches it was 1.030…my opinion this not a good recipe..might work for others,but for me..

    Posted by Dawson on December 02, 2020
  • I would like to know if you carry the brew pot in this blog. If not, can you tell me where you got it?

    Posted by STeve on December 02, 2020
  • Theoretically after you distilled your mash what would you age in?

    Posted by Tella on September 09, 2020
  • 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?

    Posted by Ron Gregory on July 28, 2020
  • Someone earlier said “isn’t this illegal?”. Knowledge can never be made illegal. I know how to make enhanced nuclear devices. as long as I don’t do it or provide the knowledge to a foreign power, it is perfectly legal. it is legal to make firearms in the united states. until you actually shoot someone, it is perfectly legal.

    Posted by Rocky Rick on June 23, 2020
  • Seeing that it is still illegal to produce ’shine in the us reminds me that Decades ago, a wine tour guide at Beringer winery here in the napa valley said that during prohibition, the winery used to sell dehydrated grape juice. the product came with cautions: do not add water to the dehydrated powder. do not add yeast and let ferment, etc. “if you do, you will end up with wine!”

    Posted by Evan on June 08, 2020
  • What amount of ingrediants do you recomend to make mash for a 30 gallon pot

    Posted by keith on June 08, 2020
  • There are no stupid questions as I saw someone post. The only stupid question is one not asked.

    The purpose of added malted barley is to give the wort the proper enzymes to allow the sugars to turn to alcohol.

    The question I saw about the wort not bubbling could be answered by not adding yeast. It is possible to allow fermentation with wild yeast but that is much harder to do and you chance bad flavors due to the wort starting to spoil before fermentation begins.

    The wort needs oxygen for fermentation in the beginning for the yeast to multipy. I shake my vessel or use an oxygen stone hooked to an oxygen bottle to aerate.

    Use a refracometer in the beginning to check for brixs.

    Multipy all your ingredients by 12.6 to get enough wort for 63 gallons.

    Yes, multiple grain change the flavor profile of the finished product.

    Loveabond is a color profile outcome using a particular grain.

    Moonshine or distilled alcohol is not legal to make in the USA without the proper licensing and is only legal to make at home if you are licensed to do so but only for ethanol purposes…

    Yes you can use cracked corn but without grinding it you do not get the full strength of the alcohol outcome. Try using rolled corn and grinding it. The rolled corn is pulverized and is easier to gring.

    I know there are other questions but I will have to stop here for now.

    Posted by Mark on May 20, 2020
  • Based on how silly and uneducated many of these questions are I can assume most of you asking these questions have no business distilling alcohol. It is not a hard process if you educate yourself.

    Posted by Michael on May 18, 2020
  • I didnt strain my mash before fermenting,will it still ferment if i strain befoer i distill?

    Posted by Steve on May 06, 2020

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