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This blog provides information for educational purposes only. Read our complete summary for more info.

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 For a newer version of this recipe check out our article on How to Make Moonshine.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

  • Jeff, the barley provides the enzymes required to convert the starch to sugar so the yeast can eat it. If you don’t use barley you can add amylase enzyme

    Posted by MArk on May 01, 2020
  • What do you substitute for barley if one lives in a country where there is no barley?

    Posted by kwame on April 21, 2020
  • Do I have to put barley in it? Why can’t I can I just use whole kernel corn like the old-timers did it?

    Posted by Jeff on April 21, 2020
  • Bob: What’s the purpose of distilling? Right. Separating ethanol from water. Are the solids at the bottom of your fermenter ethanol or water?

    Posted by jason on April 16, 2020
  • @Bob April 13

    Posted by rvoss on April 14, 2020
  • Can you use cracked corn or should it be Flaked corn?

    Posted by John on April 14, 2020
  • I did everything your corn resip said it was strained and clean I have a lot of white settlement in the bottom of my fermenter do I put that in the still or not? thanks BOB

    Posted by bob on April 13, 2020
  • I’ve seen in other corn mashes they use,malted barley,malted rye,malted wheat,what is the reason for so many grains, is it for flavor,help

    Posted by Mark Sheckells on April 02, 2020
  • I want to buy all your products I’d like a 15 gal copper still mash products and all the tool I need with all the info help please

    Posted by on February 27, 2020
  • Very informative reading . Think we are one of the very few country’s that making moonshine is legal . Craig AOTEAROA

    Posted by CRaig on January 10, 2020
  • My Mash is flat and not bubbling… I used a Briess Distiller’s malt (Lovibond 2,4 whatever that means) I ordered this under the impression that this is Malted Barley. Am I wrong? Thanks

    Posted by Larry on January 06, 2020
  • Very informative,
    Thank you

    Posted by on September 06, 2019
  • Could you please give me this recipe for a 63 gallon barrel?

    Posted by Dwaye on May 07, 2019
  • I read your article a few times through but never saw what readings should be on the refractometer? What is the optimal reading?

    “After cooling and removing grain solids, aerate and take a specific gravity reading with a hydrometer or a refractometer.”

    Posted by Mary Stanley on April 25, 2019
  • Fermentation in an Anaerobic (without oxygen) process. Why would you worry so much about aeration???

    Posted by Tim on April 23, 2019
  • good afternoon, and what is better rectificate or distillate?

    Posted by what's better on March 06, 2019
  • This is best education
    So thankful ❤️

    Posted by pilla Piloo on December 04, 2018
  • I made Malted Corn, what is the best recipe/ process for using it to make bourbon?

    Posted by Darren on November 14, 2018
  • I need recipe for 13 gal still any info will be great or recipe for 1 gal thanks

    Posted by on October 10, 2018
  • Used the receipt with the exception of added 1 lbs of sweet barley and 5 lbs is sugar. Used turbo yeast and it is working like crazy. Bubbles every second The raw mash had a nice sweet tast by itself

    Posted by Mike on March 04, 2018

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