The Ultimate Basic Moonshine Recipe Guide: Let us Inform You

basic moonshine recipe


Welcome to the intriguing world of moonshine! In this article, we are going to take a deep dive into the realms of moonshine, uncovering its fascinating history, the precise art of distillation, and the cultural significance it holds. If you have ever been curious about the mystique and charm surrounding moonshine, you are in for a delightful journey of discovery.

What is Moonshine?

Moonshine, often referred to as white lightning, mountain dew, or hooch, is an unlawfully produced high-proof distilled spirit. It earned its name from the clandestine nature of production, which typically took place under the moonlight to avoid detection. The history of moonshine is deeply rooted in the American prohibition era and is steeped in folklore and traditions.

Moonshine Ingredients

The ingredients used in moonshine production are relatively simple, usually comprising of sugar, water, and a type of grain, such as corn, barley, or rye. However, the significance of these ingredients in the moonshine-making process cannot be underestimated. Let’s delve deeper into the essential components:

  • Sugar: Sugar is the primary source of fermentable material in moonshine production. It provides the necessary food for the yeast to produce alcohol through fermentation.
  • Water: The quality of water used in moonshine production is crucial. It affects the overall taste and aroma of the final moonshine product. Pure, clean water is essential for a high-quality moonshine.
  • Grains: The choice of grain significantly influences the flavor profile of moonshine. Corn, barley, and rye are commonly used due to their high starch content, which is converted into fermentable sugars during the mashing process.

Furthermore, the proportions and specific types of these ingredients can greatly impact the characteristics of the moonshine, including its flavor, aroma, and strength.

Basic Moonshine Recipe

Distilling basic moonshine involves creating a simple mash, fermenting it, and then distilling the resulting alcohol. As a reminder, distilling alcohol at home is illegal in many areas without proper permits, and it can be hazardous if not done correctly. Always ensure you comply with local laws and take the necessary safety precautions. Here’s a basic guide on how to distill moonshine:

Equipment Needed

  1. Fermentation Vessel – A clean container with an airlock.
  2. Distillation Apparatus – This could be a traditional pot still or a modern reflux still.
  3. Heat Source – Suitable for your still.
  4. Hydrometer – To measure the alcohol content in the mash.
  5. Thermometer – Crucial for monitoring temperatures during distillation.
  6. Collection Vessels – Typically, glass jars for collecting the distilled alcohol.


  • Cornmeal – A traditional base for moonshine.
  • Sugar – To increase the fermentable sugars in the mash.
  • Water – Used to create the mash.
  • Yeast – Baker’s yeast can be used, but distiller’s yeast is preferred for higher alcohol content.


1. Preparing the Mash

  • Combine about 5 gallons of water with 8.5 pounds of cornmeal and 10 pounds of sugar in a large pot. Heat this mixture while stirring continuously to prevent sticking and to ensure the sugar and cornmeal dissolve completely.
  • Heat the mixture to about 150-160°F (65-71°C), then maintain that temperature for about 30 minutes to gelatinize the cornmeal, allowing the starches to become fermentable sugars.
  • Cool the mash to about 70°F (21°C). This is critical as higher temperatures can kill the yeast.

2. Fermentation

  • Once the mash is cool, add yeast. Distiller’s yeast is recommended because it can survive in higher alcohol concentrations.
  • Transfer the mash to your fermentation vessel and seal it with an airlock. This lets carbon dioxide escape while preventing air (and potential contaminants) from entering.
  • Let the mash ferment in a dark, temperature-controlled environment. Fermentation can take anywhere from a few days to over a week. It’s finished when bubbles cease to form.

3. Distillation

  • Transfer the fully fermented mash (now called “wash”) to the still. Begin heating slowly. The first vapors (called “foreshots”) contain harmful methanol and should be discarded.
  • As you continue to heat, collect the “heads,” which are also typically discarded or re-distilled because they contain undesirable flavors and compounds.
  • The “hearts” are the main part of the distillation and have the highest quality alcohol. Collect these until you start getting the “tails,” which appear as the temperature nears 200°F (93°C). Tails have a lower alcohol content and can affect the taste.

4. Collecting and Storing

  • The hearts are your desired product. These should be clear and have a strong, clean alcoholic scent.
  • Moonshine can be potent, and many distillers will dilute it down to a more manageable proof. This involves adding distilled water to the alcohol.
  • Store the moonshine in airtight containers. Glass is preferred as it doesn’t react with the high alcohol content.

Safety and Legal Reminders

  • Ensure that you have the proper permissions and understand the legal requirements and risks associated with home distillation.
  • Always monitor the distillation process closely to avoid accidents, as stills can generate high heat and flammable vapors.

This basic recipe provides a traditional approach to moonshine, which can be modified or flavored in countless ways after the distillation process.

Choosing the Right Equipment

When pursuing the craft of moonshine production, selecting the appropriate equipment is crucial. The process of distillation requires specialized tools such as a still, thumper, and condenser. The choice of equipment significantly influences the quality and safety of the distillation process and the final moonshine product.

  • Types of Stills: There are various types of stills available, each with its unique characteristics. Common types include pot stills, reflux stills, and column stills. Pot stills are ideal for producing flavorful moonshine, while reflux stills are known for their efficiency in distillation. Column stills are suitable for high-proof spirits.
  • Thumpers: Thumpers play a crucial role in increasing the purity of moonshine. A thumper acts as a second distillation chamber, delivering a smoother and cleaner product.
  • Condensers: The condenser is responsible for converting the distilled vapor into liquid form. Worm condensers and coil condensers are commonly used in moonshine production, each offering distinct advantages.
  • Material: The choice of material for the equipment, such as copper or stainless steel, affects the flavor and characteristics of the moonshine. Copper is known for removing sulfides and enhancing the final product, while stainless steel is durable and easy to maintain.

Distillation Process

The distillation process is a critical step in the moonshine production process, where alcohol is separated from the fermented mash through the application of heat. This intricate and precise method involves several key elements that contribute to the creation of high-quality moonshine:

  • Temperature Regulation: During distillation, precise temperature control is essential to ensure the separation of alcohol from the fermented mash. Carefully monitor the temperature. You must adjust to achieve the desired results.
  • Fractionation: Moonshine distillation often employs the process of fractionation, which involves separating the different components of the liquid to obtain clear, pure spirits. This technique contributes to the refinement of the final moonshine product.
  • Art of Distillation: The distillation process combines elements of tradition and science, requiring expertise in both the technical aspects and the artistry of moonshine production. This merger of tradition and science results in moonshine that exhibits distinctive flavors and characteristics.

Furthermore, the distillation process contributes significantly to the overall moonshine production, ensuring that the final product meets the desired quality standards and embodies the unique essence of moonshine.


As we conclude our foray into the world of moonshine, we have gained insight into the captivating history, the essential ingredients, the meticulous distillation process, and the significance of equipment selection. Moonshine, with its deep-rooted heritage and secretive allure, continues to captivate enthusiasts with its artistry and mystique.