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.
Making Moonshine in its simplest form, involves making the mash, fermentation and distillation. In this post, we will be mainly discussing mashing and fermentation. We will be covering distillation in a different post in the future.
A moonshine mash is made using malted grains such as a region’s traditional wheat, corn, barley or rye. A malt is created by letting the grains germinate, and once it has, drying it in a kiln. Roasting is sometimes a part of the mashing and fermentation process, and each step helps create enzymes such as alfa-amylase and meta-amylase to distill starch into sugar within the grain. Depending on the amount of roasting, malt takes on a dark color, and it often influences both color and flavor of moonshine. With alcohol, different materials used have similar effects, determined by the color of the mashed contents.
Malt is then crushed within a malt mill, and this breaks up grain kernels, increases their total surface area and separated into smaller pieces from surrounding husks. Then, the resulting grist is mixed with heated water within a vat labelled a “mash tun”. The process is appropriately labelled “mashing”. Within the process, the malt’s natural enzymes break down a portion of the starch into sugars, and these sugars play important roles within the fermentation process.
Mashing, itself, normally takes between one and two hours, and different temperature rest periods activate various enzymes within differently produced malts, modification levels and the brewer’s desires. These enzymes convert grain starches to dextrines, and they become fermentable sugars, like maltose.
Once the mashing is completed, the mash is directed to a lauter tun. Within the lauter tun, the liquid is strained from grains in a process called “lautering”. The lauter tun normally contains a “false bottom” slot or a collection of manifolds utilized to strain and separate liquid and grain from one another. The resulting liquid is called “wort which is a clear brown liquid. Then, it is boiled so that the temperature is between 25 degree Celsius and 30 degree Celsius. Ensure that the pH of the mash is between 4 and 4.5 before adding the yeast. This boiling process normally serves to as the step for adding the yeast to begin the fermentation process. This is when the sugars produced in the previous step are combined with yeast to product alcohol (or moonshine). In a previous blog, we have discussed the importance of yeast in detail.
During the fermentation process, it is suggested to seal the fermenter tightly and then to pour boiling water into the airlock. The fermenter should be placed in a cool dark place to avoid any changes in temperature. The whole process can take anywhere between 5 and 10 days depending on the type of yeast. Avoid opening the lid of the fermenter and instead use a hydrometer to track the progress of fermentation.
The best way to know when the fermentation process is complete is to measure the specific gravity of mash before and after fermentation using a hydrometer. Usually the pre-fermentation specific gravity of mash will be higher than 1 because of the sugar in the mash. And as the fermentation process occurs, the specific gravity will start dropping. When the gravity remain the same and stop dropping over a period of time, you know that the fermentation process is complete.
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.
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?