Step 1: Fermentation

Picture of fermentation
i used a sugar water solution to create a wash which i then distilled to a neutral spirit. i dissolved about 5lbs of sugar in 3 gallons of water (not an exact formula, play around a bit) and then let it cool to room temperature. this is about as basic a wash as you can get. many more options are available for different flavor characteristics.  for instance, if you ferment molasses you will end up with rum.  if you ferment blue agave you will end up with tequila. i was looking for simplicity for a beginner and ran with this. it is the easiest to procure and make. unfortunately white sugar creates a decidedly cidery flavor to the spirit, but much of that can be distilled out or masked by flavoring or blending.

the wash (fermentable solution, a.k.a. sugar water) was then poured into a clean carboy (big glass bottle, see pic). after that i 'pitched' the yeast (dumped yeast into wash) and then capped the carboy with an airlock (see pic). now we wait. depending on yeast, temperature, amount of digestible materials, etc., a couple of weeks is usually good. at this point yeast is eating sugar, and excreting carbon dioxide and alcohol. give it some time. let it work. when the bubbles stop (and look close) it's done.  if it is still bubbling, let it go.  the two week time is just a very rough estimate.  it will vary for everyone.

if the bubbles have slowed considerably, taste a bit. if it is sweet, let it go a bit longer.

when it is done. we're ready for the next stage:

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RonnieV15 months ago

There is always a smart a__ in the crowd. Don't read their garbage and get on with your distilling.

i have 18 litres of wash fermenting right now except it is not bubbling as usual and never started.been sitting for 8 days, its been a bit colder here but i think its stuck. maybe the yeast was no good i brought temp up to around 30 degrees today but still nothing , is the solution to add another packet of yeast. ?
pdub77 (author)  the rowdyboy6 years ago
Too much heat can definitely kill yeast. I would try adding more yeast and see if that works. If not, I'm not sure. As long as you have enough for the yeast to eat, they should go to town. I've had some washes that never really went nuts, though. They were a laid back strain, apparently. You should definitely see some bubbles, though, either way. No bubbles equals no fermentation, obviously. Too cold will slow down fermentation rather reliably too. Might want to do a search for the particular yeast you are using to see its optimum fermentation temperature. Different types of yeast prefer different temps. Try the yeast, check your temp and let me know how that works.
NeilM7 pdub777 months ago

I have a fruit mash that has been fermenting for 4 days.. It bubbled away very good until yesterday when it stopped and now it's not bubbling at all... What does this mean? This is my first attempt.

rodgerbooth9 months ago

for my airlock i took a glass tube ,heated it with a blow torch and blew two bubbles in it (simple just dont burn your self) with a gap in the middle then bent it into a "S" shape like a sink drain trap with one bubble on each side and put water in it (after it cooled), ,,,works perfect

ga. savian10 months ago

Hi very useful your post so I changed sugar for potatos. I have a question "following the chemistry" is right say more yeast will make the process to be more fast ? Idiiot question, but Is my first time.

Tferguson285 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?

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)  Tferguson285 years ago
3 days is never enough time to ferment.  Try two to three weeks. 
Hi, this is some great info ya got here haha ... this question may have already been ask and im sorry if it has but where can i get an air lock?
pdub77 (author)  kurttheman245 years ago
google is a wondrous thing.

and, thanks. . .
yes it is , found a 69 barracuda that i saw in my city last time i googled. cant have it but im still living the dream. at least with this i found the way. good luck all
bigjake155 years ago
hi, the way you planned the steps were very easy to understand, but can i please have an exact formula of the mash? i dont know wen to add yeast or how much to add.. thanks!
pdub77 (author)  bigjake155 years ago
Yeast multiplies. Just add a packet and you will be fine. As far as when. . . add yeast when the mash has gotten back to room temperature. Too much heat can kill the yeast. You can do it when the mash is still warm, but definitely not hot. As far as exact formulas go, the best I can tell you is to look online and experiment. I used something close to a pound of sugar for each gallon of water, but that is approximate. I did this a long time ago and can't even remember my exact measurements. This is really just to let people know how to distill and not an exact recipe. Hope this helps!
i just made my first batch today! got about half a jar full! not bad! i used a balloon for an airlock but does it just work sorta like a bong? like by having the co2 go under water?
pdub77 (author)  weaponscollector945 years ago
The purpose of an airlock is to allow CO2 to escape without let contaminants in to spoil the batch.
dose the jug used for fermintation have to be glass and is there any thing i can use for an air lock that might be around the house
Nubuun5 years ago
Okay thanks I started last night and there is no smell at all:)
pdub77 (author)  Nubuun5 years ago
Cheers! Good luck! Let me know how it works out.
Nubuun5 years ago
Is it true that moonshine and all fermenting alcohols smell awful ? Cuz I wana let it ferment in my basment cuz it's still cold out
pdub77 (author)  Nubuun5 years ago
No, it's not true.
dmxrockz5 years ago
how much yeast did you put in?
pdub77 (author)  dmxrockz5 years ago
I bought my yeast at a brew shop.  It was dry and came in a packet just like baking yeast.  I just dumped the whole thing in.  You'll want to use brewing yest and not baking yeast (although baking yeast will work in a pinch, just not as well and perhaps not have very good flavor).  Yest multiply, however, so you don't need a lot.  Just buy your yeast at a brew shop and use however much comes in the packet or vial if you buy the liquid.
i want to seperate the yeast from my wash before distilling what is the best way? until now i just pour out wash and leave the dregs in the bottom.
pdub77 (author)  the rowdyboy5 years ago
The short answer is I don't really know.  I've never done it.  Since we are not running the still till it's dry we don't have to worry about scraping out crusty yeast residue after a run.  I just pour it out with the remains after I've reached the tails. 

That said, leaving the dregs can work, but you will still have a bit of yeast left in the wash and will leave a bit of wash in the fermenting vessel.  Since yeast is so small you would need a filter with very small pores.  Perhaps a coffee filter would work, but it would be slow and you might have to replace the filter a few times if it gets clogged with yeast.  That's about all I can think of.  Good luck, bro.

Out of curiosity, though, why do you want to filter the yeast out?
because i read about a turbo yeast that comes with a product that will clear the wash of yeast and want to see if there is a flavour difference but i dont want to spend more on yeast. coffee filter sounds like the best bet. ill try one run and let u know.
carnutlees5 years ago
if i make my wash using fruit, i wash thinking of pinapple for example, what will happen? will it have a flavor of the fruit after if been distilled a few time?
pdub77 (author)  carnutlees5 years ago
I've never done this, so take this with a grain of salt. . . .

It may carry some characteristics, but it will probably not taste like pineapple liqueur.  Each type of sugar source you use will impart it's own flavors into a distilled spirit, but if you really want something to taste like pineapple, I would make a neutral spirit and then infuse it with pineapple afterward. 
stindog6675 years ago
i've never made moonshine or any other kind of alcohol, but once your sugar water wash is fermented is it safe to just drink it
pdub77 (author)  stindog6675 years ago
I'm not a chemist, doctor or nutritionist, but I think so.
Hey man I've been reading your thread and you definitely know your stuff! I had to learn what I know from what my grandpa remembered from when he was a kid and the rest on my own. I have a 30 gallon barrel,I use corn from a feed store,sugar,some brewers yeast and drinkable well water. It's hard as hell to keep my temperature at 173-175 degrees though.The wind messes with my fire and it's tough to get a consistant run. I have a reflux still,it can make some of the best stuff you ever put in your mouth!..On the first run! Anyway,I just wanted to say hey....See ya
Okay so I've got a pretty basic question. I made my mash from cornmeal, sugar, distilled water and yeast....pretty basic.

I put all the contents into a large bucket, placed the lid on tight and put the air lock ontop (without water, didn't know you needed water in the airlock)

I'm on day 2 of fermenting, and this morning my little brother got curious and popped the air lock off to take a look inside. I cursed him out about this cause I'm under the impression that he just ruined my whole batch.

Could you tell me if this batch is wasted and I should just make a new one, or do I have some apologizing to do and not worry about it? oh and should I add water to my 3 piece air lock?
pdub77 (author)  holmesey20005 years ago
Don't worry too much.  It's unlikely it has been contaminated.  It could be, but unlikely.  Just wait and see.  Frankly, without water in your airlock bacteria and other yeasts, etc. could have already gotten in.  That is the point of the airlock.  Let CO2 escape while keeping the nasty stuff out. 

Add water to your airlock.
Wait and see on the wash.
Apologize to your brother.
Thanks man for the quick reply much apreciated. And I did apologize lol.

Okay these should be my last 2 questions I don't wanna take up too much of your time. Firstly, how will I know if it's contaminated? What should I look for in the mash or after distilling it? Is it cool if I pop the top off the bucket to take a look/taste?

And lastly, I did as you said, added water to the air lock. However, I'm not sure how much water to add, I added just enough so that when the co2 escapes and it pop's, it rest's again ontop of the release valve, if I add more water to it, it doesn't sit ontop of it and I don't think it's doing anything...

Once again, greatly apreciated dude, thanks for taking the time to help a Canadian boy out. 
pdub77 (author)  holmesey20005 years ago
You should be fine, man.  As long as it is still bubbling I would let it go and not worry about it.  Distilling will take care of impurities. 

As long as there is enough water to allow CO2 to bubble through and not let air in you are golden.
parksm55 years ago
Easy question today....I started my first batch of mash yesterday - a sugar and sweet grain recipe in a 5 gallon carboy. Looks and smells pretty bad, but bubbling quite nicely!  Since the solids have mostly settled out to the bottom, should I be giving the mixture a swish now and then or just leave it alone for the next few days?  
Any idea what the percent alcohol by volume is of this wash? It'd be useful for trying to judge when most of the distillable alcohol has been evaporated.
pdub77 (author)  JakeNotCliff6 years ago
I cannot give you a specific number as it will vary depending on what kind of yeast you use, how much fuel (sugar) is in your wash, how long you let it ferment, etc. You can buy a device that will measure the specific gravity if you want to figure this out. However, this will not help you in determining when to stop your run. Too many factors are involved in this as well, the efficiency of your still being the most important. Temperature readings are what you are looking for. The temperature will plateau while the ethanol is being boiled off. Once the temperature begins to climb again (more than a degree or two) is when you want to stop.
bobhdgs6 years ago
can you use regular bakers yeast from the market? also can corn meal or just corn off the cobb be used in the wash?
lilwill1696 years ago
what yeast do have to use is there a sertan one r can u use any
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