I've listed down the most common stuff you'll need to start your moonshining habit! These are tools you want to have when preparing your mash up to the stage of reading the ABV (alcohol by volume) of your moonshine (or whatever spirit you're after).
You will need hot and cold water to prepare your mash so the fermenting vessel could be made of any material as long as it can handle tolerable heat. Glass demijohns (carboys) are what we commonly see as wash storage vessels but you can also use plastic food grade barrels, it is made up of special hard plastic that prevents warping. Any regular polythene containers (plastic with number 4 labels) can be useful.
The airlock, made of plastic, has a water trap that permits the escape of carbon dioxide produced as a byproduct of fermentation. The contained water and carbon dioxide altogether prevents air to enter the fermentation bucket. This protects the mash from oxidation and contamination.
Your fermentation lock should be tightly fitted to the plastic lid, cap or cork to completely seal the mash.
You can either use a pot or a reflux still, it depends on how you want your final product to be. The pot still has a basic design but can be reasonably efficient. Most DIY stills are created in the same way a pot still functions. It makes an incomplete distillation which positively retains the flavor of the mash. This is what you want if you’re after moonshine, whiskey, brandy or any flavorful drink.
Your distillate when redistilled multiple times in a pot still becomes clearer and neutral. This is what a reflux still does, it performs several distilling processes in one go. It’s particularly efficient when making vodka or rum.
Both types are commonly constructed either with stainless steel or copper although, most distillers prefer the latter for its various advantageous properties.
This one depends on your preference. It’s safer to work with electricity than open flame, although both gas and electricity are suitable heating elements to distill alcohol. When distilling indoors, especially with smaller stills (ten or less gallons), an electric stove or a portable hot-plate is an excellent option. Using natural gas or oil stove should be avoided indoors. Propane burners are very effective as well, but as with any heat source that uses flame, they should always be used outdoors.
A thermometer obviously gauges the temperature of the set up. This is an important equipment especially when working on a reflux still, it determines the temperature at the top of the column during distillation. Although not completely necessary, having one in a pot still guides novice distillers in monitoring the distilling activities inside the boiler. This temperature gauge is usually fitted in a thermowell before it is affixed to the still to protect the sensor from pressure.
Handheld temperature guns may also be used in the same fashion. They’re flexible as they usually come with both Celsius and Fahrenheit gauges, so no conversion is needed with any moonshine recipe. These are available at any local hardware store.
This instrument can measure the specific gravity, potential alcohol and sugar content of your solution. It's a little float that sinks or floats according to the density of the liquid it's floating in. The further it sinks means the higher proof alcohol you have.
Hydrometers can also determine when the fermentation has ceased activity although most distillers would know from mere senses when the whole fermenting process is completed.
Posted by Jason Stone on