How to make moonshine

Picture of How to make moonshine
this is for informational purposes only and should not be used for illegal activities. there are many legal things one can do with a still including fueling cars (must register with the federal government) as well as extracting essential oils from plants (not necessary to register). also, implementing the following procedures could result in bodily harm from explosions, fires, burns, not to mention what could happen if you actually consume your final product. use your head, be careful and be safe. 

Thank you to everyone who has made this a successful Instructable!  I appreciate the views and positive feedback.  Please cut me some slack where I am lacking.  I have recently updated to include a few more specifics, but this does not take the place of doing your own research.  I am not an expert, though I play one on TV.  I am also toying with a discussion forum for all the numerous repeat questions.  Please continue to check the comments discussions before posting questions.  Many have been answered before and plenty more than once.

as a further note, i have decided to add this link to clear up any misunderstandings about what United States law has to say about distilling. Hopefully this will make some of you think a little harder about this and the rest to stop posting comments debating the legality of this. This is ONLY for the US.

Distilling Code

let's begin.

anything alcoholic can be distilled. i've distilled everything from my own moonshine washes to jug wine purchased at my local liquor store. distillation is actually quite simple. the hard part is making sure you are getting ethanol and not methanol (or the like). in this instructable i will show how i made a wash, fermented it, and consequently--the most important part--how i distilled it. i have added more specifics in order to answer some of the most asked questions i've gotten in the comments.  i hope this helps. i might also mention that everything here is hypothetical and for informational purposes only. hope that covers the bases.

and. . . let's begin. for real this time.

(if this doesn't make sense or you would like more info, check out my instructable--distilling basics--for more detailed information on the distillation process or read through the comment strings before posting a question.  I get repeat questions constantly and I don't have time to answer the same questions over and over.  Sorry.)
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In my first steps of fermentation, I do NOT use an airlock for the first 3 to 4 days. I actually pump in air with a aquarium air pump with a filter on it. This will BOOST the activity of the yeast 10 fold. I then air lock it and usually ready in 7 to 10 days.

Throw away at least the first 50mls. per gallon to avoid most methanol. Methanol is hard to produce in any quantity with sugar and water only.

rfreeman1016 days ago

seb11885 years ago
i strongly advise against making this. nobody here seems to fully understand the science so this is definitely NOT a reliable guide to not permanently damaging your body. if you must make it, test it on a pet first. then wait two weeks. if it's still alive and fully functioning, drink up!
deuZige seb11882 months ago

If you only use Sugar in the wash the chance of getting methanol are 0! It's the pectine in the other sugar sources like fruit or corn or patatoes that turns into the methanol. Even then percentages of methanol are very low and chucking the first 200ml will always remove any risk.

I'm a PhD chemical engineer, feel free to ask me about the science...

How can I increase the efficiency of my still, the distillate is 130 proof

on the second run

what is the ratio of sugar to water to yeast for a simple wash?
scoonr seb11882 years ago
surely you jest about using your pet for a test subject. I have researched the moonshine making subject quite a bit. Although I am still a bit leery about the heads and tails as it does sound like a crap shoot of sorts. But pdub77 has explained it with some scientific content that makes sense. I would like to find some boiling point information that corresponds to elevation as well. do any of you know of such a document.
pdub77 (author)  scoonr2 years ago
This is far from a crap shoot, but I still would be careful. With boiling points in mind you are really pretty safe. Check out my Instructable "Distilling Basics" for another view. Here is something I found that might help you with your altitude question:

And for the record I would test nothing on a pet. I only have fish and I can never tell when they are drunk anyway. . .
A) are you kidding?  Alcohol in its various forms has been made for well over 4000 years by peoples who initially had no concept of science.  In most every society there has been a 'discovery' of some sort of alcoholic beverage or substrate that is consumed for pleasure, religious events, and because it was safer then stream/well water.

B) the author lists this as the THEORETICAL process (though it is funny how closely it follows the non-theoretical)

C) as far as safety is concerned.  The author very clearly defines which liquids boiling temperatures are okay to keep. 
And while I no way condone the practice, should one wish to do the same process utilizing a martensitic stainless pot etched and pitted from ionized water to boil your liquid and an ABS pipe filled with rusty steel wool as a condenser, one would still be fine.  As long as the set parameters for dumping heads and tails are maintained to an exactness met by any household instant read digital thermometer.

D) you should be ashamed for suggesting that one force a pet to drink an alcoholic beverage
pdub77 (author)  TANZMEISTER4 years ago
TANZMEISTER:  I could not agree more.

Seb1188:  My science is sound and my method works.  I also made plenty of disclaimers and encourage extra research on one's own.  I will concede that this can be dangerous, but as I have done it, it is not.  Thanks, though.
testing on animlas is not nice! :-s
Draxis ninja1235 years ago
(removed by author or community request)
ninja123 Draxis5 years ago
we are not talking here about of cure of any kind of disease, is about an illegal substance just to get high...pets don't asked for it....
Draxis ninja1235 years ago
my bad, i guess...
SBmoonshine3 months ago

You can buy Moonshine from a licensed bottler who can buy shine from a legal manufacturer and bottle it for you and your legal company. Make an agreement with distribution companies and start selling in liquor stores once the State approves of your formula. For a quarter million you can go into business. One 750ML bottle only costs about 2.00 plus bottling costs of 2 bucks and federal tax of $2.68.

Tferguson284 years ago
I've unsucessfully made many batches of shine and can't figure out what i'm doing wrong. I've been using corn, sugar, yeast, and water for my mash and let is sit for 3 days to ferment.(whether that's right or wrong i got it from a website) well any way when i try to distill it, it comes out cloudy not clear and definitly not drinkable. plus i've tried to keep my temp at 173 degress F. but nothing happens till about 200. there is some alcohol in the wash and when it comes out of the still but not much. Can any one tell me what i'm doing wrong?
pance Tferguson283 months ago

pdub is right they yeast would not even finished multiplying even turbos take longer then that to ferment, but once you get it keep it up soon you won't buy likker at a store i know i havent in a long time.

pdub77 (author)  Tferguson284 years ago
3 days is never enough time to ferment.  Try two to three weeks. 
okay i didn't think it was long enough but i wasnt sure thanks. I'll let you know how it goes

Great post. If anyone is looking for moonshine stills for sale, check out Makin' Moonshine's moonshine still guides Solid info on moonshine stills and commercial moonshine still manufactuers. 'Shine on!

ebbisaac5 months ago

How much yeast did you use in the wash?

shadowshine7 months ago
Thank ya sir, your information was very thorough and enjoyable to read!
mchase1438 months ago
What do I need to do to get a much higher proof. I'm wanting something like 170-180 proof?????
mchase1438 months ago
No it doesn't have any color. It is perfectly clear. I tried running it through a carbon filter and it actually helped a lot. ????
There you go, problem solved!
mchase1438 months ago
What if it had a taste kind if like kerosine???? It's 150 proof???
It could mean you have a high concentration of fusel alcohols which can usually result from heating your pot too quickly, not watching the temperature, or not having a long enough column to condense them out. If done right, your product should be a completely clear liquid (does yours have a yellow hue to it?) that will taste and smells like nothing but really strong alcohol. It probably wont hurt you to drink (you'll get a worse hangover than normal) but if it were me, personally, I'd scrap it and try again. Better safe than sorry.
just made my first batch of spirit. got 500ml out of 1 gallon wash. just need to know roughly how much water to add, and do i add water to spirit or spirit to water. only did a gallon because that size of my pressure cooker. ive added some pics of my set up. please help.
There's no way to tell you from your pictures/set up/run (good idea with the pressure cooker though). There are too many variables like your mash ABV, column size, run temperature, and run length. I'd recommend you buy a hydrometer to test your final product proof to make sure you always know where you're at (they're really easy to use and not all that expensive). Experienced moonshiners can shake their product and guess proof (the air bubbles on the surface after you shake it disappear more quickly the higher the proof is) so what you could do if you don't want to invest in a hydrometer is buy a bottle of 80 proof vodka, shake it, shake your shine, compare the two, and add water to your shine until the two have bubbles that behave the same. If the bubbles on the surface of your shine last longer than that of the vodka you're already below 80 proof and shouldn't cut it with any water.
~KGB~2 years ago
Do you actually have to use malt or is it ok just to use: yeast, corn meal, water and sugar? Also, how much of each component would you need for about a 1Ltr kettel? Thanks...
mikemostly ~KGB~8 months ago
Anything with sugar in it for the yeast to eat will do. A mixture of sugar and water works fine but it's rather boring (about about 1.5 to 2 cups sugar in a liter of water should be a good starting point). You can get a bit more festive and do something like pick up some apple juice and add a 1/2 cup sugar per liter and ferment that for a bit of flavor and a nice smell to the shine. Yeast wise I'd only use a small sprinkle for a liter of mash say 1/4 to 1/2 tsp.
what does it mean if you are boiling the stuff and it passes 174 and stops at 200 but is still producing spirts? is it still safe to drink?
It means your proof is way down, as you run things the temperature will climb from the boiling point of pure ethanol and as it gets higher you're getting less alcohol in your final product. It's probably safe to drink as it's still just ethanol and water but it's not going to be very strong and may start getting a bad taste.
fragmaster44 years ago
I'm pretty sure you can make 100 gallons of alcohol for your own personal use in the U.S. You can MAKE Moonshine but you can't sell it. THAT is what is illegal about it.
pdub77 (author)  fragmaster44 years ago
Not true.  You can make certain amounts of beer and you can make certain amounts of wine, but you cannot make liquor of ANY quantity without registering your still with the federal government and therefore, I would assume, pay the taxes on it.

I'm not sure why I'm debating this.  Check my link about distilling laws.  And if you still don't agree, cite your statute.  = )
chinds pdub773 years ago
pdub77 is right, you can brew beer, wine, mead, and that kind of stuff all day long in your garage as long as you're not under 21 and not distributing it. i believe you need a business license to distribute it. not sure about the liquor thing though, but moonshine, aka 100% pure alcohol is illegal to possess just like a drug. everclear is only legal because it's made by government-authorized stills and is only about 99% pure, they add that 1% of water just to be pricks. lol i think you might be able to register a moonshine still for ethanol-powered vehicles though, but it's probably expensive to get the license and you gotta pay taxes.
mikemostly chinds8 months ago
pdub77 is right, it is physically impossible to distill an ethanol/water solution above 95.6% and that's why Everclear clocks in at 95% or 190 proof (in the states that high of a proof is legal). It's not them being pricks, it's a thermodynamic impossibility for them to go any higher with the product being safe for human consumption. Anything you see that is labeled as 200 proof ethanol is denatured, meaning that a third chemical has been added to the solution during distillation to break the azeotrope (limit). Chemicals such as benzene or cyclohexane are often used and residual amounts of those are why you should never ever drink any 200 proof ethanol.
pdub77 (author)  chinds3 years ago
You can't get 100% pure ethanol with a basic still. Google 'azeotropic solution' to see what I'm talking about here.
Good post. I saw another one where the guy was very unclear as to how to get rid of the methanol. He basically said throw out the first half cup of distillate.

Here's the link to the ATF regulation governing distillation. Look at section/chapter 19. You can't distill alcohol in the US without jumping through all kinds of hoops. You have to be bonded, your facility can only be used for distillation, no private residence, sheds or garages, permits from the ATF, yada, yada, yada. If you're running a still it better be for something other than alcohol.

The amounts of beer and wine you can make are dependent on the state. I'm a home brewer BTW, not a distiller. (Although I wouldn't mind trying it)

Also, I love the comment at the end of the post, "just because i know how to do something doesn't mean i will" Uhhh, you have a picture of a still, presumably yours, and you claim to have gotten a blue flame off a first run. Self incrimination? :-D
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