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November 16, 2018

How to Make Moonshine

A lot of people ask us how to make moonshine. Distilling shine isn't rocket science, but it isn't something everybody knows how to do either. Here's our favorite corn whiskey moonshine recipe, plus a few bonus recipes. As always, this is for educational purposes only.

Corn Whiskey Moonshine Mash

Boosted "Thin Mash" Moonshine

Sugar Shine

Distilling Alcohol

Making Cuts

Legal Questions

Corn Whiskey Moonshine Mash

The all-grain, corn whiskey recipe is how moonshine is supposed to taste. It's smooth, has a rich aroma and is powerfully flavorful. The corn comes through loud and clear, which makes this stuff dangerous, because it tastes less powerful than it actually is. Here's a video of an all-grain mash made with a bit of malted barley to initiate starch conversion:


  • 6.75 gallons of water
  • 9lbs. flaked maize (corn)
  • 2lbs. malted and crushed barley
  • Yeast (distillers yeast, or even bread yeast)
  • Granulated sugar (optional)

Mash Procedure

  1. Heat water to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Add the corn (place in a nylon strainer bag or in a steel mesh basket).
  3. Stir and allow to sit until temperature naturally drops to 148 degrees Farenheit.
  4. Stir in the malted barley and allow to sit for 60 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
  5. Remove the grains, allowing them to drain into the kettle.
  6. Pasteurize by heating to at least 170F (optional step).
  7. Cool the mash to 75 degrees Farenheit.
  8. Transfer to a fermentation bucket and add yeast.
  9. Allow to ferment for 7-10 days.

Boosted "Thin Mash" Moonshine Recipe

Corn is somewhat difficult to work with during the mashing process because it gets extremely thick before starch begins to break down into sugar. This means that making a mash with corn that's higher than 8-10% alcohol can be somewhat difficult. To overcome this limitation, distillers sometimes add granulated sugar after the mash to increase alcohol content. 

To make thin mash moonshine, follow steps 1-6 above and simply add granulated sugar before moving on to step 7. Note, yeast nutrient should be added for any mash that either is not made with 100% grain or that exceeds 10% ABV.

Below is a table illustrating ABV increases caused by the addition of sugar. According to the table, to boost a 5 gallon corn mash from 10% to 19.5% (which would require an increase of 9.5%), 8lbs of sugar would need to be added.

Added Sugar vs. Potential Alcohol in 1, 5, and 10 Gallons of Mash
Pounds of Sugar 1 Gallon Mash 5 Gallon Mash 10 Gallon Mash
1 lb. 5.9% 1.2% 0.6%
2 lbs. 11.9% 2.3% 1.2%
3 lbs. 17.7% 3.6% 1.8%
3.5 lbs. 20.5% 4.1% 2.1%
4 lbs. x 4.8% 2.3%
5 lbs. x 5.9% 3.0%
6 lbs. x 7.1% 3.6%
7 lbs. x 8.3% 4.1%
8 lbs. x 9.5% 4.8%
9 lbs. x 10.7% 5.4%
10 lbs. x 11.9% 5.9%
11 lbs. x 13% 6.6%
12 lbs. x 14.2% 7.1%
13 lbs. x 15.4% 7.7%
14 lbs. x 16.5% 8.3%
15 lbs. x 17.7% 8.9%
16 lbs. x 18.8% 9.5%
17 lbs. x 20% 10.1%
18 lbs. x x 10.7%


Sugar Shine

Sugar moonshine, or "sugar shine" is the easiest distilled alcohol to make. It doesn't require a mash. However, it is helpful to have a large pot to heat water in order to dissolved the sugar. However, a still could be used for this.

Simply dissolved white table sugar into water, heat to pasteurize (optional), then add yeast nutrient (very important) and yeast.

Distilling Procedure

Heating a mixture of water and alcohol (beer) above 174 degrees but below 212 degrees will cause ethanol to boil, but will leave water behind. Why? Because ethanol boils at 174 and water at 212. Doing so will actually 

  1. Siphon the "beer" into a 5 gallon copper still with a packed column.
  2. Heat quickly to 174 degrees, then lower heat to a simmer.
  3. Collect distillate in small, pint sized containers.

Making Cuts

Distillation is a delicate process that involves separating different parts of the "run" into separate containers and blending only the best parts, called the hearts.

Once one pint is full, number it, set aside, and fill another pint.


The first half of a jar will be called the foreshots. This needs to be thrown away, as it could be poisonous.


The second part of the run is called the heads. Heads contain compounds such as acetone, acetaldehyde, and acetate. These compounds taste harsh and smell bad. They'll also give you a hangover. Set them aside.


The hearts contain ethanol and other desirable compounds. They have a rich aroma and taste, and are quite smooth. Keep this.


The richness of the middle part of the run will fade into what are called the tails. This section of the run has a dull, watery taste. Keep this and blend with heads for future runs.

Legal FAQ

Is distilling legal? According to federal rules, owning a still of any size is legal and does not require a permit. However, the still must only be used, or intended to be used for distilling non-alcoholic substances. If one intends to distill alcohol, a federal DSP or fuel alcohol permit is required. Note, DSPs are very hard to obtain. Most Clawhammer customers acquire fuel alcohol permits, which means they are not allowed to drink the alcohol they produce. Be safe and be legal, friends!

  • What are the chances of getting the ratios for a 10 gallon mash?

    Posted by Bill on April 02, 2019
  • So I follow the same procedure but while the corn and barley are mixed I also add amylase enzyme to help break down the grain into sugars. What’s your thoughts on this?

    Posted by Mike on February 13, 2019
  • Hi
    How much important our still material?
    I know that cooper is better. But I not sure which part is more important.
    Our continre or
    distilling section.
    Thank you

    Posted by abbas on January 17, 2019
  • Learned a lot from you guys. You are appreciated.

    Posted by Larry on December 27, 2018
  • Really appreciate the clawhammers info. Anyone have any good recipes for a raspberry brandy or apple both made using fresh fruits. I have yet to build my still but will soon. I have two twelve inch copper pans One for top and one for bottom. They are deep and thick. Does anyone have way to cone up one of the for a top. I’m thinking about spin forming or heating Any input anyone. Thanks in advance for all

    Posted by Halvy on December 06, 2018
  • Best tutorial yet. Thanks. You have my attention once again.

    Posted by Captndan on December 05, 2018

    Posted by on December 05, 2018
  • You should include the stripping run step first, then do a spirit run with proper cuts as you described.


    Posted by Etoh on December 05, 2018
  • It’s all good

    Posted by Ron Fleming on December 04, 2018
  • How about the same recipe but with cracked corn or scratch feed versus flaked corn? We can get cracked corn much easier than buying flakes corn.

    Posted by Brian on December 04, 2018

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