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The first step in making moonshine is to create a moonshine mash. This is an essential process that involves mixing moonshine ingredients to prepare for the fermentation process. The primary ingredients used in a moonshine mash are corn and barley. Though other ingredients are sometimes added to provide a distinctive flavor or to increase the proof. A mash made with corn, barley, and rye is perhaps the most popular moonshine recipe of all time. However, did you know that there are actually a lot of different moonshine mash recipes?
In this article we’re going to give you our all time favorite moonshine mash recipe plus six additional mash recipes that we love. Each varies in difficulty, cost, and time required to make. However, they all have one thing in common - they produce high-quality moonshine. Though before you make a moonshine mash at home, it's essential to keep in mind that making moonshine mash is generally legal, but distilling alcohol at home without a federal fuel alcohol or distilled spirit plant permit (for commercial distillers) is illegal. Therefore this article is for educational purposes only and we highly recommend that you read our legal summary for more information on the legalities of distillation before proceeding.
Also, check this out if you're looking for an educational article on the entire process for how to make moonshine. It's a comprehensive guide on making moonshine, from start to finish.
Moonshine Mash Recipes
Here are some of our favorite moonshine mash recipes that produce high-quality moonshine:
- Classic American Moonshine Mash -This recipe is a favorite among those who truly know moonshine. We regard this recipe as the gold standard for making moonshine. It’s primarily made with corn, which will create the most aromatic, sweet, rich, and smooth tasting shine you’ve ever had and also features barley and rye.
- Sour Mash Moonshine Recipe - This recipe is more complex and requires additional steps, but sour mash is the go-to method for some of the most popular distilleries and commercially produced moonshine on the planet.
- Peach Moonshine Mash Recipe - This recipe is made using fresh peaches, straight from an orchard, to create a sweet and delicious moonshine mash. The final product will contain sweet but subtle notes of peach, which will be the perfect base for making peach pie moonshine. However, this recipe makes a smooth final product that has subtle peach aroma and flavors and is great for drinking straight as well.
- Apple Moonshine Mash Recipe - This recipe is great for folks who have apple trees or access to an orchard. It uses fresh apples to make a mash that is the perfect base for apple pie moonshine. However, it can also be turned into an subtly apple flavored moonshine, perfect for drinking straight.
- Thin Mash Moonshine Recipe - This recipe is relatively easy and involves using less grain, resulting in a more affordable and less time-consuming process.
- Sweet Feed Moonshine Mash Recipe - This recipe involves using sweet feed, a combination of grains used to feed livestock, to create a flavorful and unique moonshine.
- Sugar Shine Moonshine Mash Recipe - This recipe utilizes sugar as the sole ingredient to create an easy to make and straightforward moonshine mash. However, contrary to the name, it isn’t sweet. And it’s not going to taste good straight. This mash recipe is primarily geared towards making an easy, cheap base for mixers.
What is Moonshine?
First, let's establish a definition for moonshine.
The term "moonshine" actually originated during prohibition in the United States. The term was coined due to the fact that early “bootleggers” often made their whiskey in the middle of the night, under the light of a full moon – out of sight of neighbors and the law. These days moonshine actually refers to a robust commercial market of high proof, unaged, and often flavored spirits, such as the products made by Ole Smoky.
Modern, commercially produced moonshine, is subject to regulation. The entity that manages and defines different spirit types in the United States is the U.S. Trade and Tax Bureau (TTB). Products such as whisky, Bourbon, gin, vodka, and more are all defined in chapter 4 of the Beverage Alcohol Manual. However, you'll notice that "moonshine" is conspicuously absent. The closest definition you'll find is for a "white whiskey," which is actually what moonshine is - clear (unaged) whiskey.
Since there no standard recipe for moonshine (like there is for Bourbon), it can be made from any combination of grains in any type of still. Though we would suggest that the best way to determine a "real" moonshine mash recipe is to look at historical precedent. Moonshine was traditionally in the mountains of Appalachia with simple ingredients available to farmers and common folk. These ingredients would have included cereal grain and perhaps a bit of granulated sugar.
The distillation equipment used by authentic moonshiners was homemade, was almost always made using copper, and was also fairly simple. So, we'd suggest that real moonshine needs to be distilled in a copper pot still.
In simple terms, moonshine is an unaged spirit distilled in a copper pot still from a mash made primarily of barley and corn. Rye and wheat are also sometimes added to either create a spicy finish or a smooth moonshine.
Classic American Moonshine Mash Recipe
Early American farmers found that the same amount of corn sold for a few dollars at market could easily yield a few hundred dollars after it was mashed, fermented and distilled. Corn also yields more sugar than other grain crops. Thus, mashing corn and turning it into alcohol became the standard method of alcohol production on the early American frontier, and “corn whiskey” was born.
A commercial distiller making a high quality finished product would believe that pure, all grain whiskey is the way to go when making a craft spirit. Corn whiskey is preferred because it's naturally sweet, it’s smooth, and it’s tradition. Here’s a simple way they would use to make a corn whiskey mash with some additional options for the advanced distiller:
- 6.5 gallons of water
- 8.5 pounds of flaked maize
- 2 pounds of crushed malted barley
Heat 5 gallons of mash water up to 165F. Turn off heat when target temperature is reached and stir in the 8.5 pounds of corn. Stir the mash continuously for about 5 minutes then stir for a few seconds every five minutes until the temperature drops to 152F. Once the target temp is met, stir in the malted barley. Cover and leave it be for about 90 minutes, uncovering only to stir every 15 minutes or so. At this point all of the starches should be converted into sugar. Leave it sit for a few hours or use an immersion chiller to cool the mash to 70 degrees. At 70 degrees, add yeast, aerate (by dumping back and forth between two containers), cap, and add an air lock. In a week or two fermentation will be complete. Leave it settle for another week and it will be ready to distill. Siphon into still. Make sure to leave yeast and other sediment behind.
Tips for Advanced Distillers
Advanced distillers should consider adding 2tsp of gypsum (CaSO4) to the mash water and adjusting the pH of mash water to somewhere between 5.8 and 6.0 before adding any ingredients. After adding gypsum, add citric or tartaric acid to adjust the pH of the mash water downward. If the pH needs adjusted upward, add calcium carbonate (CaCO3).
A second trick for advanced distillers is using tincture of iodine to determine if all starches have been completely converted into sugar. Drip a few drops of the clear yellow liquid (not the solids) from the top of the mash (after the 90 minute rest) onto a white plate. Drip a drop or two of the tincture of iodine onto the sample on plate. If it turns blue, there is still starch in the mixture. Rest it longer. Discard the sample.
Here's some additional information if you're unclear on how much yeast to use for moonshine mash.
Sour Mash Moonshine Recipe
Sour mash is a technique that has been used for hundreds of years, if not more, to make whiskey mash. To make sour mash, you'll first need to make a regular mash and then distill the mash. However, instead of dumping the contents of the still (backset) down the drain it will be added to the next batch of mash. It should make up roughly 25% of the next mash. This will drop the pH of the mash and make it more consistent from batch to batch.
Peach Moonshine Mash Recipe
To make peach moonshine mash, you'll need at least half a bushel of peaches. Wash and cut them, removing the pit. Add them to a fruit press and squeeze as much juice out as possible. Transfer this to a kettle and heat to 170F. Once temperature is reached, add 6 pounds of cane sugar. Completely dissolve sugar and hold heat for 10 minutes. After that, cool to room temperature and transfer to a fermenter. Aerate then add 1 package of bread yeast. Allow to ferment for 10 days. Once finished, transfer to a still and distill.
Apple Moonshine Mash Recipe
Apple moonshine is one of the more popular styles among all of the various fruit moonshine mash options. A single highly productive apple tree can make many bushels of apples. This, in turn, can be converted into gallons and gallons of apple moonshine mash, and then be distilled into a lot of apple moonshine.
The first step in making apple moonshine mash is to gather the ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need
- 1 bushel of apples
- 4 lbs granulated sugar
- Distillers yeast
You’ll need a fair amount of equipment to process the fruit and make the apple moonshine mash. Here's our suggested list.
- fruit mill,
- fruit press,
- nylon strainer bag,
- bucket for collecting apple juice,
- a fermenter with an airlock.
- Note: The the collection bucket and the fermentation vessel can actually be the same container.
Apple Moonshine Mash Procedure
- Wash apples
- Half (or quarter, depending on strength of mill)
- Grind with mill
- Collect juice in a bucket and pulp in a nylon strainer bag
- Transfer to fruit press and compress
- Collect juice in a bucket
- Transfer juice to a kettle
- Heat to 170F for 10 minutes
- Chill to 70 degrees
- Transfer to a fermentation bucket
- Add distillers yeast
- Seal and apply airlock
- Allow to ferment for 10 days
- Transfer to still and distill.
Thin Mash Moonshine Recipe
Cooking a thin mash is an easy way to double the quantity of mash while retaining some of the natural grain flavor of corn whiskey. It's made by starting with an actual mash, such as the one above, and then adding water and granular sugar to increase the quantity of wash.
- 10 gallons of water (5 gal to start then 5 more)
- 8.5 pounds of flaked maize
- 1.5 pounds of crushed malted barley
- 6-8 pounds of sugar
Creating a thin mash is accomplished in two steps. First, cook the standard corn whiskey mash described above. However, after the final rest period, add 5 gallons of cold water and 6-8 pounds of sugar. Once the mash temperature has dropped to 96 degrees, it is ready for aeration, yeast and fermentation, as described in the Corn Whiskey recipe above.
Advanced distillers should shoot for a specific gravity of about 1.08. Dilute with water if high.
Sweet Feed Moonshine Mash Recipe
We think there are better ways to make a moonshine mash, but there are also worse and some folks really like the sweet feed option. Sweet feed is a type of horse feed that is available at most farm stores. Manufacturers don't typically put the exact ingredients list on the packaging so it's a little hard to tell what you're getting. However, sweet feed is generally oats, barley, corn, and also typically contains some molasses (cane sugar). Molasses is one of the primary ingredients in traditional rum so using sweet feed to make a moonshine mash can offer an interesting twist.
Sweet feed moonshine mash ingredientsTo make a sweet feed mash you'll need the following. You should be able to find sweet feed at any farm store. The sugar can be purchased from any grocery store and the yeast will be available online or at a homebrew supply store. If you want to keep it local, bread yeast can always be used in place of the distiller's yeast.
- 10 lbs sweet feed
- 6 lbs granulated sugar
- 7 gallons of water
- 1 package of distiller's yeast
Sweet Feed Moonshine Mash Steps
- To make a sweet feed moonshine mash, follow these steps.
- Add the water to a pot and heat to 170F.
- Add the sweet feed and cook for 90 minutes
- Cool to 150F
- Add amylase powder
- Allow to sit for 90 minutes
- Chill to 70F
- Transfer to fermenter
- Add 1 package of high proof distillers yeast
- Ferment for 2 weeks
- Transfer to a still
Sugar Shine Moonshine Mash Recipe
- 5 gallons water
- 8 pounds of white sugar
Heat 2 gallons of water (to no more than 120 degrees) and add sugar a few pounds at a time. Stir until dissolved and add more sugar. Keep adding sugar until all sugar has been added / dissolved. Dump this mixture into a fermenter and add 3 more gallons of water. Shoot for a final temperature of 96 degrees and adjust heat of additional water accordingly. Add yeast once final liquid temp is 70 degrees. Aerate by dumping back and forth between two buckets a few times. Shoot for a constant fermentation temperature of 70 degrees for the shortest fermentation time and highest alcohol yield. If the distilling environment isn't this warm, wrap the fermenter in a blanket and use a heating pad if necessary. Leave it sit for a week to ferment and another week to settle. Then, siphon into a still, being careful to not overfill (the vapor cone should not contain any liquid).