Is Home Distilling Dangerous?

Is Home Distilling Dangerous?

When it comes to home distilling, the hobby can be really fun, but you also need to make sure that you’re taking the proper precautions so that you have a tasty and safe product. With any given still setup, there are inherent dangers involved; there’s a heating element, flammable vapor, and moonshine byproducts – methanol and ethanol – which can be dangerous if they’re exposed to heat or consumed improperly.

At one point or another, you’ve probably heard that distilling is inherently dangerous and might be wondering if that statement holds any water.

The truth is the distillation process can be dangerous if you aren’t following the proper precautions, using bad equipment or don’t follow the proper steps. With any craft of hobby, there is the potential for harm, but home distillers are no more in danger than a home mechanic might be of a car falling on their head. If you use the right equipment and the proven process, you really have nothing to worry about. The home distilling safety guide below will help.

Common Dangers

Fires or Explosion

The distillation process naturally produces alcohol vapor and two key byproducts: methanol and ethanol. Both of which are potentially flammable. Exposed to an open flame or dangerously high temperatures, and you could end up with an unwanted fire. Explosions are pretty rare and at no point should pressure in your still setup be high enough to actually explode. As long as you’ve got the proper equipment and a safe setup, the chances of combustion or explosions is rare.

One way to avoid any chance of fire altogether is to use an electric heating element. Electric heating elements create heat without the use of an open flame making it much, much safer to utilize in a copper still setup.

Bad Moonshine

The other prominent danger during the distilling process actually comes after you’re done brewing. If you drink improperly made moonshine, there’s a chance that you can suffer health problems as a result. The good news is that if you follow any home distilling instructions, you can easily avoid drinking bad moonshine.

The distillation process produces alcohol in the form of ethanol. As a certain boiling point, your mash will create an alcoholic vapor which is captured in the distilling column and finally condensed in the kettle. As your mash is heating up, the first chemical component – methanol – which has a lower boiling temperature actually condenses first. This is why, you’re supposed to throw out the first part of your batch. As your mash gets hotter, the methanol boils off and then you start creating ethanol vapor, which is what you want to make.

Methanol is the chemical that has given moonshine a bad rap and the source of the “moonshine will make you go blind rumor.”

So, to answer the question. No, in general, home distilling is not dangerous. Hillbilly Stills has helped countless home distillers set up their still safely to avoid an accidents. We also distill ourselves. As long as you’re using the proper equipment and are following proper instructions for making moonshine, you’ll be able to home distill safely and securely.

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Can Your Moonshine Ever Go Bad?

Can Your Moonshine Ever Go Bad?

If you are curious about moonshine and how to make it, you might be wondering if moonshine can go bad over time. The true answer to that question really depends on the type of moonshine you have, your distilling setup, your ability to safely store your batch, and how the distilling industry defines “bad moonshine.”

Standard, Straight Moonshine

If you make moonshine the right way and don’t add flavor, it will simply never go bad.

You can store moonshine for years and not risk health problems by drinking it. Many distillers will treat their runs of moonshine the way a vineyard might treat a specific vintage.

If you’re running a batch of unflavored, straight shine, the key to ensure that it will keep is to store it properly. That means airtight containers in a dark, temperature controlled environment.

Flavored Moonshine

Although standard moonshine will never spoil no matter the amount of time you store it, flavored moonshine is a different story and has the potential go bad over time. The sugars in many of the common flavors will add additional factors and components that don’t hold up as well as straight moonshine. Additives like sugars and other flavorings have the potential to grow mold after long periods of storage.

The good news for new distillers though is that moonshine is a natural disinfectant, so it will kill most bacteria and preserve the flavor for much longer. Even once you open a jar of flavored moonshine, it will last for several years before becoming unsafe to drink or losing its taste.

Aging and Flavor

When the topic of moonshine and shelf life comes up, many people ask if moonshine gains flavor as the years pass. This theory makes sense on the surface because whiskey distillers age whiskey to enhance its flavor, but there’s a key difference between how whiskey and moonshine age.

When distillers age whiskey, they’re doing it in oak barrels and it’s the wood in the barrel and any of the other additives that give the whiskey it’s flavor. When you store in a container like a glass jar, you’re not going to develop any flavor, so don’t expect your moonshine to magically mature by sitting on the shelf in a jar.

Bad Moonshine

We mentioned the term “bad moonshine” earlier because there are things that can happen during the distilling process that can cause a batch of moonshine to go bad. For instance, if your still isn’t completely sanitized before your brew, there’s a chance that contaminants can get in the cause issues with your shine. Even if you have a clean still setup, if you don’t carefully run your batch, you can also end up with “bad” moonshine from the get go, so it won’t matter how long you store it, it’ll always be bad.

The best rule of thumb is to make sure you have a great still setup and apply proper storage to your batch after it’s done. That way, you can always prevent your moonshine from ever going bad.


If you’re interested in making sure your next batch of moonshine is top-notch, start with great equipment over at Hillbilly Stills.