Fast & FREE Shipping!

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

July 3, 2014
Last updated

How to Make "Sugar Shine"

Owner of Clawhammer Supply
how to make fuel alcohol

First things first, we're using the term "sugar shine" very loosely here.  This is actually an excellent fuel alcohol recipe for beginners. This is also the process that a commercial distiller would likely use to make cheap, (probably bad tasting) spirits.

This is one of the first recipes we ever made. It was a great recipe to make when we first started out because it is almost fool proof. When we made this recipe, 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.

Making this mash literally only took us an hour or so from start to finish, it did not require any special equipment, and it was also almost impossible to screw up. 

Believe it or not, this is probably exactly how commercial vodka is made as well! Though vodka is distilled several times to a very high proof to remove as much aroma and taste as possible from the original mash. They do that because distilling this recipe just once probably wouldn't produce something that tasted or smelled very good.

Before we get started, a reminder: Distilling alcohol is illegal without a federal fuel alcohol or distilled spirit plant permit as well as relevant state 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.


8 Pounds Sugar

Yeast Nutrient

5.5 Gallons Water

1 Packets Wine Yeast

Equipment Needed

6 Gallon Brew Pot

6.5 Gallon Fermenter


Mash Paddle or Spoon 


Mash Making Process

We added 5.5 gallons of water to a sanitized brew kettle. Because the mash won't be heated anywhere near pasteurization temperatures, all brewing equipment should be thoroughly cleaned with an oxygen based cleaner (such as PBW or Oxyclean) and then sanitized with an acid based sanitizer (such as star-san) to make sure only yeast and sugar water ends up in the fermenter.


We then added 8 pounds of sugar to the kettle. This resulted in a starting gravity of about 1.058, which produced a wash with a starting alcohol of 7.5%. 


Once we added the sugar, we applied high heat to the pot and slowly heated the mash to to 70F. The initial tap water temp was somewhere in the neighborhood of 55 degrees,  so this did not take too long.


While the kettle was heating, we stirred the mixture of sugar and water with a mash paddle until the sugar had completely dissolved.


After the sugar had completely dissolved and while the temperature of the mixture was still heating up (70F), we rehydrated the yeast by following the instructions on the back of the yeast package.


Once the temperature reached (70F), we turned off the heat. We made sure not over-shoot (70F) because we did not want to have to wait for the mash to cool back down. We aerate by dumping the sugar mash back and forth between two sanitized buckets and then dumped it into the sanitzed fermenter.


After we aerated the mash we dumped it into a fermentation bucket and added our yeast nutrient and yeast starter.


We put a sanitized lid and airlock on the fermentation bucket. We did our best to maintain a steady temperature of 70 degrees during the fermentation process. We've found over the year that a basement or a dark closet is a great place to ferment.


We fermented the sugar mash for a week. We took a gravity with a brewing hydrometer and determined that fermentation was finished. We then siphoned the sugar wash into our still. We made sure to leave the sediment and yeast behind in the fermenter. We were careful to not overfill the still and never filled the vapor cone with liquid.

We then distilled the sugar wash, checked the  proof, and distilled it again until the desired proof had been reached. For fuel alcohol, it's best to use a bubble plate still with a reflux head.

We obtained a federal fuel alcohol permit and all relevant state permits when we performed this experiment. It is illegal to distill alcohol without federal and state distillers or fuel alcohol permits.

As we mentioned, this is more or less exactly how commercial vodka is made. The final product from this recipe wouldn't have much flavor, and the flavor it does have isn't likely to be good. That's why this recipe is most suitable for making a flavorless vodka, which would definitely get filtered. We used the final product as fuel for a lawnmower. 

Again, remember, distilling alcohol without a permit is illegal. Don't do it!

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.

  • very good reading

    Posted by Ron Cook on April 29, 2024
  • very good reading

    Posted by Ron Cook on April 26, 2024
  • I use 4 gal sugar washes in my 5 gal still. the thermometer sensor does not reach the wash. i run it at a constant 200 degrees. The first pint comes in at a very high alch content Then understandably it decreases. It’s har to get a quart of product. It also takes forever. Forever. should i use a thermometer with a longer sensor. I would like more production in less time. any suggestions are eagerly welcomed.

    Posted by kurt petersen on October 18, 2023
  • where do you find the answers to all of the questions thanks Dexter

    Posted by dexter Moen on January 10, 2022
  • Do the math roger

    Posted by Rogers an idiot on January 27, 2021
  • How would you flavor this recipe? Would you just soak say apple or pineapple in the jar afterwards?

    Posted by Pmac on January 20, 2021
  • I make Absinthe and only use cane sugar to make the base alcohol with. Lately – the past couple of months – I’ve been inverting the sugar before pitching the yeast, which cuts the fermentation time in about half (the yeast don’t have to work to separate the glucose and fructose so all their energy goes to co2 and alcohol production). But yesterday, I made a small bit of wash – 2 gallons (was my last bag of sugar) with potential alcohol of 12.5%. I inverted the sugar, then used more than usual yeast – Red star dady – and double the yeast nutrient I normally use (diamonium phosphate and urea) and this morning the potential alcohol on my hydrometer read below zero! I couldn’t f-ing believe my eyes. A full fermentation in less than 24 hours!

    Has anyone else ever had this happen before? I’m trying to reproduce the results now with 5 gallons of wash, and it seems to be working. Unbelievable. Please let me know if anyone out there has had this happen before.

    Posted by Sutter Schwieso on December 02, 2020
  • I made this twice. Problem if i put it today in my tractor, i can only use him the folowing day. What seems to be the problem.

    Posted by Pieter Voigt on December 01, 2020
  • Raisins work well as yeast food have bin playing with shine for many years and all the so called yeast foods,ie tomato paste dead yeast,dap but raisins seem to give highest yeeld.follow clawhamer recipe and you will be very pleased. Regards from cactus jack down under in australia

    Posted by CActus jAck on February 04, 2020
  • top

    Posted by Pedro on December 16, 2019
  • What about dumping the tailings of your last run in a new batch of mash, sort of like sour dough starter ?

    Posted by on November 18, 2019



    Posted by rob on September 16, 2019
  • Not that I would ever do any illegal distilling, but when I hear you need nutrients for the yeast besides sugar, would malt extract syrup for beer work if you added a pound or so into a 5 (6 to start) gallon sugar wash? maybe using 10 lbs of refined sugar made into a syrup? Too much? Is the inversion process worth the trouble? the person asking is Using distillers yeast.

    Posted by on July 29, 2019
  • When ru
    nning my mash it turns out out high the first pint then it drops down to 89 what the problem with mash

    Posted by Jimmy on July 09, 2019
  • I am curious why you use wine yeast instead of distillers.

    Posted by Tony on April 10, 2019
  • Does the sugar shine have the same nastys in it. Like acid tone me tho all and so. Should you make the cuts as usual. What precaution should take if you want to distill your vodka twice and what will be the benefit. At. What proof should you turn your still off.

    Posted by Denny Senters on June 26, 2018
  • Does the sugar shine have the same nastys in it. Like acid tone me tho all and so. Should you make the cuts as usual. What precaution should take if you want to distill your vodka twice and what will be the benefit. At. What proof should you turn your still off.

    Posted by Denny Senters on June 26, 2018
  • what you can do is run it through a brita filter. i had the same thing happen to me, also next time dont distill so high keep it between about 167 – 180 degrees and you wont get thatcloudy stuff.

    Posted by brucegibson on February 05, 2018
  • Do I need nutrients in a sugar mash ..theirs 2 sugar recipes on this site! Guess what one I did?!?
    It’s been 8hrs since I put my mash together is it too late to add raisins for nutrients

    Posted by DOug on September 25, 2017
  • There is a native recipe in Alaska that I have found useful.

    USE A FIVE GALLON BUCKET AND FILL TO NEAR TOp (leave enough room for bubbles & Sugar)

    Stir 6 cups granulated sugar in.

    While water is still too hot for yeast, stir a lot. The bucket should leave a couple inches for yeast flare up.

    Now that it is ready, and lukewarm,
    Add 3/4th’s cup of fleichmanns bread yeast. When it rises and bubbles up,
    Lightly poor a honey on top of the foamy bubbles.

    do not stir in yet. Allow the risen yeast to work directly with your honey. Use plastic and string for an airlock.

    For best results 70 F• and rapped in blanket.

    If no honey, use 7 cups sugar, and 1/2 after foam.

    Wait a week and it clears. also, if you mass produce this, you can mass distill it!

    Posted by ELly on September 10, 2017

Leave a comment

Please note, the design of our website does not allow us to respond directly to blog comments. Please email us directly regarding questions about products. We don't answer questions about recipes, procedures, etc. However, feel free to leave a comment or respond to comments made by others!

Enter your email address below and we'll send you a free eBook on how to get started with brewing or distilling!