How To Make Moonshine

For Barter (or Paint Thinner)

Note: We do not advocate the distillation of alcohol. However in times of hardship it may prove to be of some value as a skill useful for industrial or sterilization purposes, along with the other self-sufficiency disciplines that successful survivalism demands of us. But it is a skill which cannot be exercised in the United States, as distillation of alcohol is illegal without a license. [It is permitted to make up to 100 gallons of wine and/or beer per annum.] However it may be a practical enterprise in other venues. - HM

Time Required: 3 - 10 days (sometimes longer).

INGREDIENTS: corn meal, sugar, water, yeast, malt:

  • 25 lb corn meal or 25 lb shelled whole corn
  • 100 lb sugar (sucrose)
  • 100 gallons water
  • 6 oz yeast

NOTE: If you're starting with whole corn, you'll have to "sprout" it as follows:

TO MAKE CORNMEAL FROM WHOLE CORN: You first need to convert the starch into sugar by 'sprouting' the corn. Place the corn in a container, cover it with warm water, and drape a cloth over the container to prevent contamination and conserve heat. Ideally, the container will have a slowly draining hole at the bottom. Add warm water from time to time as the liquid level falls. Maintain the setup ~3 days or until the corn has sprouts about 2 inches long. Allow the sprouted corn to dry. Then grind it into meal.

1. Start with cornmeal. Rye mash is made essentially the same way (to make whisky).

2. Mash is made by adding boiling water to the corn meal. The mash is kept warm to start the fermentation process. Yeast is added (half pound yeast per 50 gallons of mash, for example), and sugar.

  • With yeast, fermentation takes about 3 days.

  • Without yeast, fermentation requires 10 days or more.

The mash is ready to 'run' once it stops bubbling. The mash has been converted into carbonic acid and alcohol. It is called 'wash' or 'sour mash'.

3. The wash is placed into a cooker. The lid is pasted shut, so that the seal can be blown off if internal pressure becomes too great. At the top of the cooker, there's a copper pipe, or 'arm' that projects to one side. The arm tapers down from a 4-5 inch diameter to a 1 to 1-1/4 inch diameter, so it will fit the the worm (the copper tube that runs from the cooker to the container that collects the distilled alcohol).

THE WORM can be made by taking a 20 ft length of copper tubing, filling it with sand and stopping the ends, and then coiling it around a fence post.

4. The sand prevents the tubing from kinking while being bent & twisted. Once the worm is formed, flush the sand out of the tube. The worm is placed in a barrel and connected to the end of the arm. The barrel is kept full of cold, running water, to condense the alcohol inside the worm. Water runs in the top of the barrel and out an opening at the bottom.

Meanwhile a fire is maintained under the cooker to vaporize the alcohol in the wash.

5. The ethanol vaporizes at 173F (78° C), the target temperature for the mixture. The alcohol will rise to the top of the cooker, enter the arm, and then be cooled to the condensation point inside the worm. The resulting liquid is collected at the end of the worm, into mason jars (or other suitable container). This fluid will be semi-clear, about the color of dark beer.

6. The very first liquid contains volatile oil contaminants along with the alcohol. This first liquid is called 'singlings' and and requires double-distillation to remove the impurities. The 'Proof' becomes lower at the end of the batch. The final collections are called 'low wine'. Low wine can be collected and returned to the still to be cooked again. The initial collections are higher proof than those collected as the distillation progresses.

7. So once the low wine gets so weak that a tablespoon thrown on a flame won't burn (too low proof), the heat is removed from the still and the cooker is cleaned out. The liquid remaining in the still (the 'slop') can be recovered and poured over new grain (and sugar, water, and possibly malt) in a mash barrel for future distillations. The slop is good for up to eight uses.

8. The singlings are poured into the cooker and the still is put back in business. These initial collections can approach pure alcohol (200 proof), with the end collections, using the flash test on the flame, at about 10 proof. To make moonshine, the collection is mixed to try for a 100 proof.

9. TESTING PROOF: One method of testing proof involves using a small glass vial. The vial is filled with the moonshine. If the small bubbles that rise when the vial is tilted are positioned so half are above the top level of the liquid and half are below, the proof is approximately 100. This liquor is filtered through charcoal (activated carbon) and is ready for consumption as moonshine.


One health hazard to watch out for is lead poisoning, from solder used to connect copper tubing and other metal parts, or from using car radiators to distill the alcohol!

Stills have often been used close to a water source, like a stream or river, because the cool water was used to condense the alcohol in the tubing (the 'worm').



"The Alaskan Bootlegger's Manual"


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