Saturday, April 19, 2014

How Do Different Grains Affect Moonshine Flavor

Moonshine is made from dry distiller’s grains and this is what sets it apart from other distilled beverages. Malted grains are the source of the sugars required for fermentation, and they usually are released through steeping in hot water. Unlike beer, moonshine contains no hops to act as a preservative because it doesn’t need hops. Instead, distilling increases the alcohol level that preserves the moonshine. Moonshine will taste different based on the types of grain used and the method by which it is distilled.

distiller's grains for moonshine

Here are the most common grains you'll find in the moonshine-making process and how they affect flavor.


Different varieties of corn have different flavors and different levels of sugars available for fermentation. Corn is a popular choice for those looking for a sweet, neutral flavor as it yields more sugar and is cheaper compared to other grains. Thus, corn whiskey has been a popular choice from early on.


Oats make for a smoother flavor in moonshine. Like other grains, the flavor they provide is highly dependent on the malting process, but oats are typically milder than barley or rye. They are good for blending with other grains to even out any undesirable harshness. This mildness is also desirable for bringing out any fruity flavors that come from other parts of the moonshine production process.


Rye imparts what many consider a spicy or fruity flavor. It is less sweet than corn but more complex. The flavor is also usually drier than when corn is used. Rye is usually blended with other grains, but to be a true rye moonshine, it must use at least 51% rye.


The different types of barley are indicated by "row." Six-row barley and 2-row barley are common varieties with 2-row having a higher extract level and lower enzyme activity than 6-row barley. Using 6-row barley with higher enzyme activity is useful for moonshines including other grains, but in a single malt moonshine, 2-row barley with higher starch content is often preferred since other grains are not used, making the enzyme activity less important. These options give you greater latitude in mixing and matching grains and malts to create different flavor profiles. Sometimes barley is used unmalted as well.

What Is This Malt Stuff, Exactly?

"Malt" refers to a grain like barley or rye that has been softened by steeping it in water and allowing it to germinate and then dry. This produces an enzyme called diastase, which helps starch in the grains turn first into sugar and then into alcohol. The particulars of the drying process are what really allow malt to give moonshine a unique flavor--it can give it a smoky, earthy, nutty, or even floral taste.

In some recipes for making moonshine, different types of grains are combined to create a unique taste. For example, Hillbilly Stills’ Sweet Feed Mix contains rolled corn, oats and cane molasses. How do you prefer your moonshine: smooth and sweet, nutty and dry or something unusual? What are your favorite moonshine grain combinations?

Friday, March 7, 2014

How to Distill at Home for Cheap

At Hillbilly Stills, we encourage all levels of experience to try their hand at distilling. To that end we have put together moonshine still kits perfect for distillers at every level. If you are thinking about making moonshine at home and don’t want to spend a lot of money on this experiment, our starter level kits are ideal for learning how to distill.  And for those who have more knowledge and looking to seriously make moonshine at home for a hobby, our advanced kits are just right for you.

Hillbilly Stills offers alcohol distilling starter kits that are great for those who are new to home distilling. Our 8 gallon copper moonshine still kit with burner is a great way to save money while distilling at home. This copper still is one of our most popular moonshine stills. Included in this kit are an 8 gallon mash pot with a domed lid, a 2 inch copper pot still head, a Bayou classic burner, 2 bags of Hillbilly Stills turbo yeast, a hose kit and, last but not least – instructions! This kit is easy to set up and easy to use and great starter kit of first time users.  At little over $500, this copper moonshine kit is an incredible deal for home distilling. If you already have a heat source you can save some money and get the 8 gallon copper moonshine still kit without the burner.

We recommend this kit to our beginner distillers because purchasing pre-made kits from knowledgeable companies is the best home distilling money saving tip that there is. If you were to purchase each individual item separately, the total price would be dramatically higher. Not only are you saving time and hassle by buying everything together at the same time, but it is a great money saver as well.

8 gallon copper moonshine still kit with burner from Hillbilly Stills

For advanced users who are ready to move to bigger things, we recommend our 13 gallon moonshine still with the Hillbilly Flute.  This kit comes with our popular Hillbilly Flute distilling column, designed using the same principles as commercial distilling columns but made to fit home distilling equipment. The kit also includes a 13 gallon mash pot, HS5500 phase angle heat controller, 5500W element kit with installation plate, tri-clamp and sight glass tools. It also includes a special DVD with instructions on how to operate the Hillbilly Flute. Popular among micro-distilleries, this copper still kit is known to make the best moonshine. You can also make whiskey, rum or vodka if you have the necessary permits. Thought not cheap, the popularity of this kit speaks for itself. 

We believe that home distilling is a craft that requires passion and skill, and it is a fun way to pass the time. There are many ways that home distilling can break the bank, but these kits available at Hillbilly Stills allow you to perfect your craft and distill at home on the cheap. The outcome will be exceptional and the experience is one that you will want to recreate in the future. Hillbilly Stills distilling kits are the way to go, offering the best in pricing, quality and selection.   

Friday, February 21, 2014

Yeast and Fermentation of Alcohol

Yeast is extremely important in the alcohol distillation process. Whether you are making vodka, rum, or whiskey it is extremely important that you use the proper yeast to minimize the production of undesirable fusel alcohols, aldehydes, and other byproducts and impart the proper flavor to the alcohol.

Yeast and Fermentation of Alcohol

The fermentation process uses yeast to convert fermentable sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide by breaking down sugar’s molecular structure of into simpler compounds. The type of yeast used greatly affects fermentation rate and overall flavor of the finished product – if you use the wrong yeast, you could ruin your batch.

Typical yeasts used in brewing and distillation are members of the genus Saccharomyces, and they have been cultivated to thrive in the fermentation industry. Yeast strains have dramatically differing nutritional requirements for strong and rapid fermentation, so proper yeast is absolutely essential.

Fermentation takes place in different phases – the first being primary fermentation. In the primary phase, yeast uses oxygen and other nutrients to rapidly grow and reproduce. After the initial growth, they kick into gear and start breaking sugars down in order to use the oxygen molecules.

Contrary to popular belief, yeast doesn’t just feed on sugar – it needs other nutrients like nitrogen and uses sugar for oxygen. After the sugar is broken down, the main byproducts created by the yeast are CO2 and alcohol. They aren’t trying to create alcohol; they are doing their best to survive in a hostile anaerobic environment.

Fun fact: Yeast is fastest organism on the planet that can mutate and adapt to survive in a hostile and changing environment.

As the nutrients start to run out, the fermentation process slows down and the yeast converts sugars to alcohol at a much slower rate. The CO2 bubbling will start to settle down and the dead yeast will settle at the bottom of the fermentation tank.

The wash that is left is a mixture of alcohols, unfermented sugars, and other molecular compounds that are let behind after the fermentation. Now, it is time to move on to the distillation phase.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Bourbon Boom: The Rise & Growth of Kentucky Bourbon Popularity

With families planning vacations around it and bars beginning to purchase the spirit by the barrel, the popularity of bourbon in the United States is easy to see. The bourbon boom is alive and some of the major contributing factors for the industry changes that have come about since Kentucky Renaissance are:

kentucky bourbon popularity

Flavored Whiskies and Bourbons

A quick walk down an aisle of your standard off-license is going to be a bit more ‘flavorful’ than it was only 5 years ago. Flavored spirits are more popular than ever and attracting a new audience of drinkers with flavors from honey and cherry to maple syrup and bacon. According to Nielsen Research, flavored whiskies in 2012 accounted for nearly 75 percent growth among all whiskies, and 42 percent of growth in bourbon.

While hardline fans of straight bourbon and whiskies are skeptical about the rise of flavored spirits, their current success is undeniable. They can serve as a gateway beverage for those moving beyond flavored vodkas and act as a stepping stone towards becoming Old Fashioned aficionados.

Booming Overseas Market

The meteoric rise in popularity of bourbon is well noted in the United States, however it may surprise you to know how popular the malted beverage has become overseas.

In 2012, spirit exports reached all-time high, selling a total of $1.34 billion worth of goods overseas with Whiskey and Kentucky Bourbons accounting for a whopping 69% of the total. The Kentucky Bourbon renaissance is alive and is spreading far beyond its bluegrass roots and research is showing that this growth is showing no signs of slowing down.

From, Euromonitor forecasts that by 2016, 70% of yearly US whiskey growth will come from non-US markets. The growth overseas is merely indicative of changing perceptions of the barreled-aged beverage. Does this mean that American palates are moving onto new beverages? Not at all. Domestic growth of Bourbon sales have exploded in the last decade, with the distillery tourism being a leading force behind the changes, which leads us into the third major factor.

Bourbon Tourism

Have you had the chance travel the Bourbon Trail yet? If not, it’s an expedition you may not want to miss. Covering over 200 miles and 9 distilleries in central Kentucky, the Bourbon Trail has it has become known links distilleries form Jim Beam to Maker’s Mark. Like the Guinness Brewery in Dublin, Ireland, distilleries in Kentucky are focusing on expanding their tourist friendly facilities to focus on clients willing to visit them. A reason for this might be inherent to the mystique of bourbon itself. By providing facilities and distillery tours, bourbon makers are adding a true sense of authenticity to their brands. Consumers (and connoisseurs) can now see the very mash, the very barrels that their spirits are coming in. This added sense of rural authenticity is creating fans and promoters far and wide.

These are our thoughts on the major causes of Bourbon’s rising popularity and the so-called Bourbon Boom. What are some of your thoughts?

About Hillbilly Stills: Hillbilly Stills specializes in professional and home distilling equipment for moonshine. They are known for their copper moonshine still kits and their trademark Hillbilly Flute, a copper reflux column for alcohol distillation. All of the stills from Hillbilly Stills are made by hand in USA with the highest quality materials.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

How to Home Distill for Cheap

Are you reading this and have yet to make your own batch? Well, what are you waiting for? At Hillbilly Stills, we have the moonshine still kits that are perfect for would-be distillers of every level. If you are hesitant about jumping into distilling at home and don’t want to spend a lot of money up front, our starter level kits are ideal for learning how to distill.  And for those who have more knowledge and looking to seriously make moonshine at home for a hobby, our advanced kits are just right for you. Regardless of your level of expertise it is possible to home distill for cheap.

alcohol bootleg kits

If we still have your attention, Hillbilly Stills offers alcohol bootleg kits that are great for those who want to start small. It’s not distilling, but you’ll get to age your own alcohol the way you like it. The varieties of kits are:

  • Cherry Bourbon Whiskey
  • Honey Bourbon Whiskey
  • Kentucky Bourbon
  • Marks Bourbon Whiskey
  • Amber Caribbean Rum

All of these starter kits create 5 liters of alcohol and cost just over $100. They include a charred oak barrel, essence (different ones for different varieties,) a barrel cleaning kit, a funnel and instructions. The only additional item you need to purchase is the alcohol and you'll be ready to start making a batch.

For the more ambitious who want to make everything from scratch, our 8 gallon copper moonshine still kit is a great way to save money while distilling at home. This copper still is one of our most popular moonshine stills. Included in this kit are an 8-gallon mash pot with a domed lid, a 2-inch copper pot still head, 2 bags of Hillbilly Stills turbo yeast, a hose kit and instructions. This kit is easy to set up and easy to use, but you do need to have your own heat source when using this kit. At under $500, this copper moonshine kit is an incredible deal.

copper moonshine still kit

The best home distilling money saving tip we could give is to purchase whole kits from knowledgeable companies. If you were to purchase each individual item in a kit separately, the total price would be way more than buying a kit. You also get the reassurance of knowing all the components will work together.

Home distilling is a craft that requires passion and skill, and it is a fun way to pass the time. There are many ways to spend money on home distilling, but these kits allow you to perfect your craft and distill at home on the cheap. The outcome will be exceptional and the experience you have is one that you will want to have again and again.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

5 Important Safety Tips for Making Moonshine

Whether you are just starting to brew moonshine at home, or already have a lot of experience in creating fun recipes for moonshine, safety is still a very important factor to keep in mind. If not done carefully, making moonshine can have unintended consequences. Here are 5 safety tips that you should always keep in mind:

1. Use only high quality moonshine stills

At Hillbilly Stills, we make it our highest priority to use only the highest quality materials to make a still.    Stills are made primarily from two materials, copper and stainless steel. One can make stills from old sheet metals or scraps from a bigger project but it should always be made with high quality copper, or stainless steel, and soldered without lead. It is important that you thoroughly research the still you are buying and invest only in the best one you can afford.

2. Set up distillation outside

When you buy a new still, be sure to first read the safety instructions carefully. It will most likely tell you to set up your still outside to keep small accidents from turning into big accidents. Distilling outside also makes it less likely that your still’s outlet is not blocked which can lead to excessive pressures.
Bonus Tip: Keep the fire extinguisher within reach at all times.

3. Save the celebrating until after you’ve finished your batch.

When you are making moonshine, you need to be fully alert and be close to the set up. Making moonshine is an experiment as you are always trying out new recipes and accidents can happen if the experiment goes wrong. You should always be nearby and sober so that you are 100% aware of your surroundings to make quick decisions and minimize risks.

4. Run regular maintenance checks

Not only should you invest in high quality moonshine equipment, you should also take efforts to maintain it. Cracks and leaks can be dangerous because escaping alcohol vapors can lead to explosions. At the very least you run the risk of leaking expensive alcohol (that’s called alcohol abuse where I come from). Most commonly folks run a batch of water through the pot still to detect any leaks. We recommend quickly running alcohol instead as water will promote corrosion, the green junk that forms on copper. Usually you can seal the leak by soldering a piece of metal or applying a flour paste. You could also talk to your still manufacturer to get the best solution for repairing your still.

5. Experiment with care & talk to the experts

Making moonshine is a fun science experiment. You try out various recipes to figure out the best tastes to your liking. However, you’ll want to be sure to throw away the first bit of your run, also known as foreshots. Make sure you have the right quantity and quality of ingredients. If not sure, ask others, or ask on the Hillbilly Stills Facebook page. The moonshiner community is very helpful and is always willing to share their experiences.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How to Clean a Stainless Steel or Copper Moonshine Still

Did you recently buy your very first stainless steel still or a copper pot still? We highly recommend you clean your new still thoroughly before brewing your first batch of moonshine to remove residues from the manufacturing process. As manufacturers of high quality copper pot stills and stainless steel distillers, we always are trying to educate our customers on the best way to perfectly clean your still to ensure a long life of producing the finest quality product with each batch.

When you get the new still be sure to wash all the parts and the outside of the still. One of the advantages of owning a stainless moonshine still is that it is very easy to clean when compared to a copper still. Here are some recommendations how to clean your new still:
stainless still distiller

Cleaning a Stainless Still
  • Use warm water and any dish soap you would use for your own pots and pans 
  • Make a solution of 1 tablespoon of 3% caustic soda (Sodium Hydroxide) and 2 liters of water (recommended temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit) and use that solution to rinse the still.
  • Common white vinegar is also a great cleaning agent for your still. 
  • Do NOT use any bleach. 

copper pot distiller
Cleaning a Copper Still
  • Mix 1 tablespoon salt with 1 cup vinegar to make a paste and apply to outside of the copper still to remove any tarnish. Add flour to thicken the paste. Rinse with water after 30 minutes. Repeat the process if necessary 
  • Combine ketchup, lemon juice and cream of tartar (optional) to make a paste and clean the outside of the still. Rinse with water. 

Once you have cleaned up the outside, you should do your first batch run which cleans the inside of the still and removed any flux. A common first run method includes making a solution by mixing equal parts of vinegar and water that is one-fifth capacity of the still and running it through the still. Then follow this by running a cheap alcohol run that strips out the flavor from the previous run. Now your still is ready for making great tasting moonshine and spirits.

Do you have any tips that have worked for you? We would love to hear it in the comment section.