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I would like to know the equipment and the step by step process, as I have already tried to do it, but it didn't work.

I have already watched several videos, but it is not the same to talk to someone that really loves, and knows how to do it. I don't know anybody that knows how to brew anything xD

  • You don't brew moonshine, you distill moonshine from vodka, or other spirits. Depending on where you are, this could be very illegal. – tuskiomi Aug 13 at 16:29
  • SE Homebrewing usually does not accept questions about distilling. Unless it has changed... – Philippe Aug 13 at 17:22
  • oh ok then, by bad, thanks for letting me know – Pedro Varela Aug 14 at 7:09
  • Perhaps, ask your question here: alcohol.stackexchange.com – Philippe Aug 15 at 17:21
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    I am happy for us to accept these as there are steps that involve fermentation of sugars to alcohol. Also, I love distilling so I am completly biased :) – Mr_road Aug 28 at 13:40
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Disclaimer: I'm a New Zealander (the only country right now where home distillation is legal) and I distill spirits on a regular basis.

I use a Robobrew with an Alembic Pot Still Attachment. Why a Robobrew? I started off brewing beer and wanted to reuse some of my equipment.

Note that the Robobrew is almost useless for distilling unless you also invest in a voltage controller - otherwise you dont have enough control over the vapour temperature.

Now, there are two main types of stills: Pot Stills and Reflux Stills. Pot stills are used for making spirits with taste (eg Whiskey, Bourbon, Rum - basically everything that isnt Vodka) and Reflux stills are used for making high-ABV neutral spirits (Vodka).

The main difference between the spirit types is in the source materials - not the distillation process.

  • Whiskey comes from fermenting malted barley
  • Bourbon comes from fermenting Corn
  • Rum comes from fermenting Molasses

They all come off the still as a clear spirit that needs to be aged in specific ways in order to get the colour and flavour you see when you buy it off the shelf in a liquor store,

Simple steps for a whiskey:

  1. Make a fermentable wort, which is essentially an all-grain beer. Do a normal mash, and don't worry about hop additions. You also don't need to do a full boil - 10min or so will do to kill any bugs.
  2. Cool down the wort to pitching temperature (exactly as you would a beer) and pitch yeast as normal.
  3. When fermentation is complete, whack it into your still and run the still, collecting all output until it drops below 20% ABV (so measure the output regularly with an Alcometer). This is called the "Stripping run" and the purpose is to reduce the volume and concentrate the alcohol
  4. Once you've done the stripping run, you can do a Spirit run. Dilute the distillate from the stripping run (or the combination of multiple stripping runs) with water to 40% ABV maximum and run it through the still. This time, collect and discard the first ~200mls (methanol - also known as the foreshots) and then collect the rest of the run in ~400ml jars until the output drops below 20% ABV. These jars are called "cuts".
  5. Wait 24hrs for the alcohol to settle. Now its time to blend your cuts. Smell and taste each jar, and blend the bits you like into another jar. Keep all the leftovers for increasing the yield of future stripping runs - these are called "Feints".
  6. Add oak chips to your main jar and leave it for a few months - tasting every fortnight or so until you're happy with it. Note that when you taste you should dilute to ~40% ABV with distilled water or you will only be able to taste burning.

Fantastic references for more detail:

  • Thanks you so much for you detailed answer, i really appreciate your effort to answer me with such an amazing text. I will try this, after i finishing brewing my first beer that is already in process! – Pedro Varela Aug 30 at 10:50
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Moonshine is the name for illegally made spirits of non-specific ingredients. So I will answer your question as if you asked something like: "How do I make spirits".

Caveat: Currently, as far as I know, New Zealand is the only country where home distilling is legal.

Drinking-grade spirits are made by taking a fermented liquid, distilling it, discarding the poisonous methanol and other undesirable parts.

Any water-based liquids that have a high sugar content can be used for the fermentation, e.g.:

  • Sugar
  • Honey
  • malt extract
  • Molasses
  • Fruit Juices (etc.)

Or starchy foods that can be modified to become sugary (typically done with amylase enzymes):

  • malted barley (self-modifying at the correct temperature)
  • rice
  • potatoes (etc.)

This liquid is typically called a "must" for wine making, "wash" for spirits, or "wort" in beer making.

Once a sugary-liquid is created, yeast is added. The yeast consumes the sugar in the liquid as part of a fermentation process, producing (mostly) ethanol and carbon-dioxide. Apart from barley-malt-water (wort), most of these ferments are difficult for yeast, as they do not include nutrients for optimal yeast health. So use more yeast, or add the necessary yeast-nutrients (or both). Generally most yeast can ferment up to about 14-20% AbV without doing anything special.

If we were making wine or beer, the process is just about complete at the end of fermentation. However when producing spirits a final distillation step is used to concentrate the alcohol. Note: it is possible to freeze-distill, but as this concentrates methanol (as well as ethanol) with no removal step, I feel it's not something a complete-beginner should attempt.

The key point to remember is that alcohols evaporate at a lower temperature than water. So if an aqueous alcohol solution is heated to a temperature less than the boiling point of water, the alcohol can be separated as vapour. This process is "distillation". The distillation of "moonshine" is a simplified fractional distillation. The fermented wash is heated to a specific temperature (e.g.: 55-65°C) such that mostly only the alcohols are evaporated from the ferment. A condenser-part at the top of the distillation apparatus cools the alcohol vapour back into liquid, where it is collected. As the temperature of the wash rises, water becomes a larger part of the output. Water is evaporating all the time, it doesn't only evaporate at 100°C.

Depending on the type of distillation equipment used, the spirits may then be re-distilled again. But in all cases, the first part of the distillate is removed as it contains harmful by-products like methanol.

Once the spirit is distilled, it is diluted to a known alcohol level, and then sometimes aged with the addition of wood (e.g.: stored in oak barrels), which changes the colour & flavour.

Depending on the laws of your country, it may be possible to purchase off-the-shelf distillation equipment. Simple searches like "reflux still" or "alembic pot still" will find both instructional-HOWTOs and products for purchase.

  • Amazing answer, thank you! – Pedro Varela Aug 16 at 7:01
  • @PedroVarela: if you find this answer satisfying, please mark it so. – chthon Aug 21 at 10:42
  • I already did mate, since the beginning. but cause im new, my vote doesn't appear – Pedro Varela Aug 21 at 11:08
  • @PedroVarela chthon is referring to the 'accept answer' button (tick/check mark) underneath the votes on the answer. – OJFord Aug 24 at 17:22

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