We’ve all seen the cartoon of the old man hiding a jug of hooch underneath his beard. Those jugs are always labelled “XXX,” giving the impression that it’s a dangerous mixture to consume.
If you have ever considered drinking or making moonshine in your own home distillery, you’ve probably hear someone mention that those who drink moonshine can potentially go blind.
Contrary to the old wives’ tales, moonshine does not make you go blind, especially if it’s made with quality ingredients and professional equipment. Methanol toxicity is the root of the old adage that moonshine makes you go blind. Methanol, a byproduct of the distilling process, is metabolized in the human body and forms formaldehyde, which can damage the liver as well as the optic nerve, resulting in blindness.
There are specific reasons bad moonshine can make you go blind or even cause death, but if you’re drinking quality homemade moonshine, you likely are safe from the problem.
In the distillation process, ethanol and methanol rise out of the fermented alcohol and into the moonshine jug. Although ethanol is safe to consume, methanol is a poisonous byproduct and can cause blindness and death as mentioned above.
Methanol boils and evaporates at a lower temperature than ethanol, so it’s recommended that you dump the first 5% of your distilled moonshine as the initial amount contains a most of your methanol. This batch is called the “foreshot.”
As you take precaution and follow and proper home distillation process, you should have no issues in dealing with methanol.
Lead Contamination from Improper Still Setup
In some rare cases, a batch of moonshine can contain lead. This is almost always, always a result of faulty equipment. Some home distillers would use old automobile radiators to distill their moonshine, and those components are made out of lead-soldered parts. During the distilling process, the alcohol can pick up lead elements.
Once your moonshine has been distilled with lead parts, it’s no longer drinkable.
There was a specific case in Alabama during the early 90s when there were a series of cases where patients showed symptoms of lead poisoning after ingesting anywhere from .2 L to 1.5 L of moonshine per day. They reported symptoms including seizures, anemia, weakness, and abdominal colic.
Luckily, 99% of the time, any readily available moonshine wasn’t distilled using old car radiators so you’re in the clear. As long as you have quality equipment during the distillation process, you moonshine will always be lead-free and safe to consume.
Drinking moonshine will only make you go blind if you get a bad batch. Make sure you trust the person making the moonshine if you don’t want to run into trouble along the way, and you will have nothing about which to worry.
Ready to start home distilling? Visit our site hillbillystills.com and get gear, distilling tips, and more!
While it may have a dubious history, moonshining, or “shinin’” has developed into something of an art form. At its essence, moonshine is just unaged and or flavored alcohol fermented from a wide variety of sources. Moonshine is traditionally fermented from corn, but you’ll also find moonshine fermented from other sources, like grain.
There are many different ways to create moonshine and add a personal touch to the end result, however, the traditional method always revolves around three basic steps: fermentation, distillation and collecting the distillate.
The Basics of Making Alcohol
It’s possible to make alcohol out of any grain, fruit or vegetable that goes through fermentation. This process is essentially the chemical reaction that occurs between two basic ingredients – a yeast breaks down sugar.
For moonshiners, the base ingredient of choice is a corn mixture called a “mash.” A 5-gallon mash-yeast mixture will typically take two weeks to ferment.
After the corn mash is fermented, the alcohol must be distilled.
Distillation involves heating the alcohol turning it into steam. This separates the actual alcohol content from the mash. This requires having a still furnace to boil the mash mixture and a still cap with a distilling flute that allows the vapors to filter into a new holding tank. From there, some moonshiners will prime their distillation with more alcohol or cool down the alcohol into a condensed liquid form. The distillation process is based on the fact that alcohol boils at a lower temperature than water.
Before you can collect the distillate, the alcohol must run through a condenser that is cooled by water or ice. Bootleggers would often set up their stills along a river or creek and run the distillate through pipes submerged in water to cool the alcohol down. Today, most distillers have a 3rd chamber that has cooled copper tubing running throughout.
Once cooled, the filtered moonshine will then drain out of a spout at the end of the condenser.
Remember, the first 5 percent of your production should be thrown out. This is extra-strong methanol that is dangerous to consume. The trick to making good moonshine is finding the best portion of distillate. Therefore, you should expect a bit of trial and error for your first batch.
What You Need to Make Moonshine
While the basic ingredients and process of making of moonshine are simple, it’s important to have the appropriate equipment available so you can distill effectively and safely.
Typical Distilling Ingredients
To add extra kick or flavor, some moonshiners incorporate certain fruits, yeast nutrients or even more alcohol into the process, called a “thump.”
To successfully do a run of moonshine you’ll need the following equipment:
- Mash pot – used to mix the mash and heat the mixture to generate the alcohol steam
- Heating source – this can be an electric or gas burner underneath the mash pot
- Distilling Column – this is where the the alcohol vapor rises and moves through the cool vertical copper column
- Condenser, or Lyne Arm – once the highest percentage alcohol steam travels through the distilling column it condenses into another cooler metal pipe where the mixture cools down and turns back into a liquid
- Barrel or Aging – the clear ethanol typically needs to go through some sort of flavoring or aging process, so most distilling setups have a post run flavoring/storage component like oak barrels
If you’re interested in getting into moonshine and home distilling, you can get all the essential ingredient and supplies over at Hillbilly Stills.
So you’ve decided to get in the moonshine business, eh?
It doesn’t matter if it’s just a hobby or you’re looking getting in commercial micro distilling, the first thing you do is search for the perfect still. When buying a still, do yourself a favor and always ask the manufacturer where the copper still came from. Are they made in house, or do they order from China? This is a major decision point for you. If the still came from China there’s a very good chance that it will contain lead. If a still contains lead there is a good chance down the road it will cause issues for you! Nobody wants issues!
Chinese Made Stills
The Chinese make some beautiful equipment and at first glance, they appear to be very well made. Don’t let this fool you, do your research before you make this big investment! You want to save yourself from as many problems down the road as you can when buying a still.
When buying a still, ask yourself these questions:
- What kind of alloy does the company uses for the joining of the metal (Welding)?
- Who are you going to call when you have a problem with the equipment?
- How long will it take me to get any replacement parts that I may need?
- What is the best way to communicate? (maybe you work and can only communicate via email, it’s across the world will they be available 24/7?)
The last thing you want is a batch of ‘shine coming out tastin’ like metal.
Moonshinin’ is hard work, and nobody wants to see their hard work going down the drain. We hear it over and over again, “My moonshine taste like metal!” Well there’s an easy solution, BUY AMERICAN MADE! When buying a still, if you buy your equipment from an American builder you shouldn’t have any problems with customer service and replacement parts. You will also increase productivity and quality when you purchase a serious still. Plus who doesn’t want to support American Made Products and American Jobs? USA! USA! USA!
OTHER IMPORTANT QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN BUYING A STILL:
- Do you make your copper products?
- Can I come by and take a look at your facility? (if not beware they are hiding something from the public)
- Are they willing to set down and discuss your options?
- Can you reach the manufacturer by phone?
The first thing that comes to everyone’s mind when they hear home distiller or home distillery is a picture of that prohibition era man in his overalls distilling in the woods. This is not the case! Home Distilling is becoming more popular by the day. So what should you do if you want to begin distilling?
1. Check the Law Book
First and foremost, you need to be up to date on the laws in your state and country. Every state is different and requires a different set of forms and permits to get your distillery up and running. We in no way condone the illegal distillation of alcohol at home, but information is not illegal! You may want to use your home distillery for fuel, essential oils or even water!
2. Be Safe
Let’s assume you have checked out all of the laws, filled out all of the forms, and obtained all of the permits. Now you need to be sure you are being safe. Distilling can be dangerous if you aren’t smart about it. The first step you should take is to buy a high quality still for your home distillery.
- Don’t distill in a closed room.
- Don’t use a leaky still
- Keep a tidy workspace
- Always have a fire extinguisher handy.
- Don’t drink on the job – you can partake of your product other times, not while you’re distilling.
- Don’t smoke around the still. Seriously don’t. Just don’t.
3. Have Fun!
Home distilling is really fun! It really isn’t as crazy or dangerous as it has been made out to be. Many of the urban myths you hear are just that, myths brought about by the prohibition era bootleggers. The whole idea that it will make you go blind is a myth from when bootleggers would cut their shine with methanol to save on the bottom line. So, don’t listen to those naysayers and have fun!
If you want to learn more about home distilling head over to stilltalk.com, our online forum for all distilling enthusiasts!
Health Benefits of Whiskey
When you hear the word “whiskey” many images may come to your mind: dirty cowboys around a campfire, the country girl who wouldn’t be caught dead with a margarita, or your grandfather who likes to drink it neat and talk about the good ol’ days. I’m pretty certain, however, that whiskey doesn’t make you think of health or wellness. But it should!
There are many health benefits of whiskey but I know you don’t want to read a book about them (or maybe you do, in which case there are probably many books out there that you can buy). So, I will cover 5 health benefits that I think are pretty cool.
1. It lengthens your lifespan.
Whiskey is chocked full of antioxidants that help fight disease and in turn helps you live longer.
2. It helps keep the pounds off.
That’s right! Thanks to the low sugar content, whiskey is a much better choice than beer, wine or cocktails when it comes to calories.
3. It helps boost memory
Have you heard the saying, “drink to forget”? Well, that isn’t the case with whiskey. The antioxidants in whiskey and its circulation-increasing effects work together to actually improve your memory.
4. It helps fight stress.
When come home from a hard day at work and just wanted a drink did you know there is some science to that? Whiskey increases circulation which provides your organs with much needed oxygenated blood, calming those fried nerves.
5. It helps prevent cancer.
Whiskey has a very high level of ellagic acid, one of the most powerful antioxidant compounds. This powerful antioxidant makes whiskey a great step in preventing cancer.
Now when your neighbor is showing off his new home gym and juicer, show him your Hillbilly Stills hobby distillery. Tell him you’re being healthy and having a lot more fun!
All of these benefits are based on light to moderate drinking of whiskey. Alcoholism and binge drinking bring about many health issues that far outweigh the benefits. Always drink responsibly!
To be properly Prepared for what ever catastrophe that is going to hit our country you need to be able to make fuel and alcohol for medicine. You may also need an accessional drink to deal with what your facing.
Why should distillation equipment be added to your prepper equipment checklist? Here are 3 excellent reasons, to name a few: distilled spirits, fuel alcohol, and antiseptic. These goods would be highly valuable during a SHTF event and can all be easily manufactured with simple, small-scale distillation equipment. As a bonus, all of these goods would be highly desirable in a barter economy.
Fuel is included on many, if not all survival prep lists. Here are a few things to keep in mind on this topic: first, that there are many types of fuel and the different types have different uses. Second, a good fuel strategy is one that provides fuel based on expected need as well as one that provides provisions for replenishment. We’ll address all of these issues below.
The two primary fuel categories are stationary and mobile. Here are examples to help clarify. Wood and coal are both stationary fuels and are appropriate for heating and cooking, in a set location. Gasoline and diesel are mobile fuels and are appropriate for powering mobile equipment such as a cars, motorcycles, and tractors.
Some fuels can be used as stationary and mobile fuels while others cannot be or at least should not be. For example, wood is great for heating and cooking but it’s useless as a mobile fuel. Gasoline, a mobile fuel, will power a small engine, but it’s not the best for cooking, and relying on it as a long term heating strategy would be very unwise considering the amount of fuel that one would need to keep on hand.
Finally, mobile fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and kerosene have limited shelf lives and will be subject to supply issues during instances of widespread infrastructure meltdowns.
Considering the abovementioned facts, one potential fuel supply strategy would involve a good stockpile of wood and relative close proximity to a source for more, as well as a renewable mobile fuel source. Because the mobile fuels listed above will be subject to supply limitations and producing them will be very difficult, if not impossible, we cannot recommend them. Natural gas and propane could also be used as mobile (and stationary fuels), but they’re subject to the same limitations as the others. Fortunately, there is a mobile fuel that is quite easy to produce, keeps well, and doubles as a mobile as well as a stationary fuel: alcohol.
To use alcohol as a fuel in a small engine, it must be 90% pure. This is an issue, albeit only a small one, as fuel alcohol produced by means of distillation maxes out at a purity of 95%. Re-distilling will not result in a higher proof product. To remove the last bit of water from the fuel, it must treated with a drying agent. Fortunately, corn grits
actually work very well to accomplish this.
Fuel alcohol can be produced in any still but column stills are the most appropriate for this task, as they’re more efficient at making the high alcohol contented need for use in engines. Though, considering that there are many uses for alcohol, all requiring different proofs, the best still for a prepare would be a reflux still
for fuel alcohol, or can be left empty for making whiskey, antiseptic, and distilled water. This tip of still can be very versitile.