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Copper is a popular choice of material used in making a moonshine still. This is because it eliminates sulfur compounds that are produced during the fermentation process. Sulfur can cause a burning sensation or diarrhea and it will give an unpleasant taste to your shine. Copper is also better at conducting heat than stainless steel.
In this article, we will be looking at how to make moonshine in a copper still. However, before you start make sure that you have a permit. It is illegal to make moonshine or any other type of alcohol at home without a permit.
Table of Contents
Equipment Needed to Make Copper Shine
You will need a copper still which will hold at least 5 gallons. Any smaller and it’s not really worth making the shine. You will also need a mash pot, fermentation bucket, and a fermentation thermometer.
A proofing hydrometer is needed. It measures the density of the liquid compared to the density of water and shows what the proof of the alcohol is. You can get two hydrometers, one to check the proof during the brewing process and one to test the proof at the end of the run. To hold the hydrometer in place you will need a proofing parrot.
You also need a heat source and it’s better to have a flameless source to avoid flare-ups. Good choices would be an electric hotplate, an electric hot water element, or an electric controller.
Finally, you will want collection containers. Glass mason jars are a good choice and they are widely used.
Make a Mash
The first step in producing moonshine is to make a mash by mixing water, grains, corn, and sugar. Use 5 gallons of water, 8.5 pounds of flaked corn maize, and 1.5 pounds of crushed malted barley. Put the water into the mash pot and heat up to 165F. Turn off the heat and stir in the flaked corn maize for seven minutes. When the temperature goes down to 152F stir in the crushed malted barley. Stir every 20 minutes until the temperature has gone down to 70F. Before pouring into the fermentation bucket, it is a good idea to separate the solids from the liquids otherwise the solids could scorch and burn in the still. Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth or a mash bag.
Ferment the Mash
To ferment the mash you will need 1 tablespoon of yeast per 5 gallons of mash. To make the yeast mixture, put ½ cup of water which has been heated to 110F into a jar. Add two teaspoons of sugar and mix. Then add the yeast and mix. Leave it for 20 minutes until it has doubled in size. Then it’s time to add it to the mash. The fermentation period is 1 – 2 weeks and it should be kept at room temperature. If it gets too cold, the yeast won’t work.
Prepare the Still for Use
While you are waiting for your mash to ferment get your copper still ready for use. It is important that it is clean, so you do need to go through an intensive cleaning program even when it’s the first time you are using it.
To clean the still, fill it with a gallon of white vinegar, attach the column, and boil for an hour. Then pour the vinegar away and fill with powdered brewery wash mixed with water, let it soak, and then scrub. Get rid of the water and refill the still with clean water. Scrub the still one more time, get rid of the water, and you’re ready to go.
Put the Fermented Mash into the Still
There are two ways in which you can put the mash into the still. The first is just to put the mash straight into the still. However, this can transfer the yeast and other bits which can result in a cloudy moonshine. A better way to transfer it is by using an auto-siphon which will leave the yeast and other sediments in the fermentation bucket.
Apply a Flour Paste to the Still
When using a copper still, you need to apply flour paste to seal the two parts of the still together. Turn on the heat and apply the paste at 120F. The flour paste will then bake.
Distillation means separating the alcohol from the other chemicals in the mash. Slowly turn up the temperature until it reaches 150F. Then turn on the condensing water. Dial-up the heat until the still starts producing. Dial it down to medium when you get 3 – 5 drips each second. Collect the alcohol in a glass har, not plastic as this can be toxic.
The first 5% of the alcohol which is called the foreshots need to be discarded. This is because it can contain methanol which is poisonous to humans and can make you blind.
The next 30% are the heads which contain acetone and acetate. They will have a solvent smell and need to be thrown away with the foreshots. They are not as toxic as foreshots but would give you a big hangover.
The next liquid to be produced is the best. It’s called the hearts and contains mainly ethanol which is sweet and delicious. It makes up 30% of the liquid and this is what you can drink. It takes some skill to pick up the hearts at the right time, but once you have lost the solvent smell you should be there.
The final 35% of the liquid is the tails and should also be discarded. The sweetness disappears and the liquid has a bitter taste. You may see an oily top layer on the product which is a good sign that you have reached the tails. You can either toss them aside or keep them for future distillation.
At the end of the distillation, clean the still as we mentioned before. Dry completely and store away for future use.
We hope that you have enjoyed reading about how to produce moonshine at home and that you enjoy drinking the product. Making moonshine is both an art and a science and can take many tries to perfect, but it will be worth it in the end.