How To Moonshine

Fermenting &
Distilling Basics
Making Equipment
How to Make Moonshine Using Sugar How to Make Moonshine Using Grain Moonshine Recipes

Gelatinize the Grains that Require It

Please read this carefully as gelatinizing grains is not necessary for many recipes and gelatinizing the wrong grains will kill the enzymes required in the mashing process resulting in failure. If you are using certain grains such as corn, millet or other starch sources such as potatoes to make your moonshine you may need to gelatinize some of your grains before mashing. Malted barley and other grains such as rye do not require this step and enzymes present in your malted barley will be rendered inactive above 72°C or so, so high temperature gelatinization of these grains is definetely not a good idea. If your using grains that dont require gelatinization before mashing you can skip straight to Step 2 - Mash the Grains.

The process of gelatinization is necessary to break down the molecular bonds of starches so that the enzymes such as amylase used when mashing may act more efficiently on them. This increases the amount of fermentable sugars converted from starch stored in the grain and results in a higher yield of alcohol. Gelatinization occurs in the presence of water and heat and as such is easy to perform for the home distiller. Successfully gelatinized grains will often appear thick, gluggy and somewhat plastic.

Starch gelatinization is an important part of the mashing process when distilling moonshine but it is only necessary to perform it as an additional step when mashing certain grains. If you take a look at the table of gelatinization temperatures on this page you will notice that many of the most commonly used grains gelatinize at the same temperature we would normally mash them, 63-67°C (140-145°F) so gelatinization will occur in the mash tun anyway making the additional step unneccessary. Those few grains that require this extra step as their gelatinization temperature is higher than the normal mashing temperature must be gelatinized seperately to other grains so that the higher temperatures do not kill the enzymes required for mashing.

Part of the reason Bourbon was selected as our example for making moonshine using grains is that Bourbon is typically at least 51% corn. Our sample recipe is 60% corn, 20% malted rye and 20% malted barley so corn is most certainly a large percentage of the grain bill. Corn requires gelatinization prior to mashing so it makes a great example. Corn also seems to be one of the more challenging grains to beginners however it isnt that difficult to deal with once youve had alittle bit of practice.

The corn used in this example is cracked corn purchased from a livestock feed supplier, it is not treated with any chemicals to preserve it or combat fungus making it quite suitable for human consumption. There are a number of different approaches to gelatinize corn, like many things when distilling moonshine you should choose the method that works for you. If several methods work for you then choose the one you like the most.

My preferred method is to start by soaking the cracked corn in water overnight or better still for about 24 hours. Cracked corn is dry and brittle when you buy it and hydrating it in advance will make gelatinization easier when the time comes. Put the corn into a bucket or other suitable sized container and pour water in it until the corn is covered by about two inches of water. Cover it to keep bugs and pets out and let it sit. Fill your boiler with the water for your recipe and add the corn. Turn on the heat and let the water temperature reach near boiling point (90°C or so) at which point you can turn off the heat. Keep the corn at this temperature for at least 45 minutes stirring every few minutes. At the end of 45 minutes you will see that the corn would have started to gelatinize. Keep it between 80-90°C until you are satisfied. At this point a lot of the corn will have dissolved into the water and you will have a thick porridgy mess thats ready to be allowed to cool for the mashing stage.

A variation on this theme that I have heard is widely used is to simply boil the corn for an hour or so prior to mashing. I have tried this and it works just fine. Perhaps a better approach may be to soak the corn first in water overnight as it will probably require somewhat less boiling and be ready faster.

Once your corn (or whatever grain or starch source you elect to use) has gelatinized allow it to cool to about 70°C (160°F) before adding any additional grains, particularly your malts as any hotter than this will affect the performance of the enzymes they contain. You will find that the temperature will drop into the ideal range when you add the additional grains as they will absorb the heat.

  Gelatinization Temperature°C°F
  Barley Malt63-67°C145-152°F
  Corn (Maize)62-77°C142-170°F