How To Moonshine

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

How to Make Malt Whiskey

Lets start our instructions on how to make whiskey by learning how to make a malt whiskey or whisky as it is often spelt. The grain bill of this whiskey will be entirely malted barley and these instructions will hold true regardless of whether you choose to use a single type of malt or a mixture. Peated or unpeated malt is also completely your choice and will allow you to imitate the slightly more complex flavours of a Scotch whiskey if you so choose.

You will need-
  • 6kg (13 pounds) Malted Barley
  • 23 Litres (6 US Gallons) Water
  • Distillers Yeast
The method used to make a malt whiskey is very much as described in the section of this website on How to Make Moonshine Using Grains with a very important exception, the first step, gelatinize the grains, is not required. In fact if you boil the daylights out of your malted barley it will indeed gelatinize but it will destroy the enzymes required for sacharification and turn your whiskey into a non-event.

Malted Barley gelatinizes at the same temperature that is required for mashing so gelatinization is both not needed and harmful and you should proceed directly to Step 2 - Mash the Grains.

There are a number of ways that you might consider mashing malted barley, as this moonshine recipe specifies that all of the grain bill is malted the easiest and most effective way is to heat the water to 71°C (160°F), transfer it to your mash tun and then add the malted barley. The temperature of the mash should drop down to the ideal 67°C (152°F) or thereabouts when the unheated malt is added. The mashing process should take perhaps 1-3 hours and the mash temperature should be maintained at 67°C (152°F) until the conversion is complete. The mash will become thinner in consistancy as the conversion takes place and will change to a golden brown or amber colour. Some homebrewers suggest using the iodine test to determine if there are any remaining starches. This is done by separating a small amount of the mash, say a half teaspoon on a saucer will do and adding a few drops of iodine. If there are any starches still present the iodine will turn purple. Discard the tested sample as iodine does not make whiskey taste particularly nice.

Once you are satisfied conversion is complete seperate the spent grain from the liquid and discard them. How you perform this sepearation depends on your chosen mash tun. I prefer to brew in the bag which has a number of advantages, one of the more important ones being the ability to lauter easily.

Allow the mash to cool to below 28°C (82°F) as any hotter than this will risk killing the yeast and transfer it into your fermenter. Make sure your fermenter, its lid and anything else that comes into contact with the mash has been sterilized beforehand. Pitch the yeast and seal the fermenter. Allow fermentation to take place, this may take any where between 4 days and 2 weeks depending on your yeast and the ambient temperature. Youw ill know that fermentation is complete when the airlock on your fermenter ceases to bublle regularly. You can double check by taking two hydrometer reading 24 hours apart, if they are the same then all of the fermentable sugars have ben consumed by the yeast and fermentation is complete.

Once fermentation is complete it is time to distill the fermented wash that you have made. Two passes through the still will be required, discarding the foreshots on both passes to ensure that there is no methanol present. On the first pass collect everything that is produced once the methanol has been discarded up to the point where the vapour temperature is close to the point where fusel oils will be produced. On the second pass through the still collect everything after the discarded methanol in one vessel up to a vapour temperature of around 89°C (192°F) and then collect everything after that in seperate smaller vessels such as small beer bottles, keeping these bottles in the order that they were collected.

As you may have surmised the seperation of the stills output as the vapour temperature rises is performed as these higher alcohols contain flavours as well as ethanol. A much more palatable whiskey is produced if they are added seperately and judiciously with a great deal of testing (yum!). This is often referred to as making cuts. The alcohol content of the spirit you have produced will be quite high so it should be diluted 50/50 with water to avoid possible alcohol poisoning and to get an idea of how the finished spirit will taste. Generally it holds true that what you collect at the higher vapour temperatures will have a stronger taste (and not necessarily a pleasant one) and that different flavours come off at different temperatures, which is why we collect the tail end of the run in several smaller containers rather than once big one. This is your opportunity to create a whiskey tailored to your personal tastes so go for it, bearing in mind that it has not been aged or flavoured by wood and may not taste much like whiskey at this stage. Consider focusing on getting rid of unpleasant flavours if you are unsure and bear in mind that if it doesnt work out you can just distill the entire second pass again or even leave out the bits you definetely dont want. A little practice is all you will need to get the hang of it.

Once you are happy with the distilled spirits flavour dilute it with a quality water down to 60% ABV using an alcometer to determine its strength. If you dont have an alcometer you can take a guess and assume the spirit is about 90% and reduce it with half the spirits volume with water. So if you have 6 litres of spirit add 3 litres of water to give you a total of 9 litres. A strength of 60% is required as the next step is to age the spirit in wood using either a cask or barrel or alternately woodchips (which are sometimes called staves).

It is unlikely that you will have produced enough spirit to even wet the bottom of a large barrel so a smaller barrel or staves is the most likely direction you will take. When you use a smaller barrel or staves the area of the spirit that is exposed to the wood is much higher so the aging process and the speed that flavours will be imparted on the spirit from the wood is much higher. You may have a perfectly aged spirit in as little as 21 days or so and this makes sampling the spirit on a regular basis a pleasant necessity. If the spirit spends too long in wood in will develop a woody flavour. You should also bear in mind that new wood will age a spirit faster than used wood. As you sample the spirit you may elect to top it up with new spirit to replace what you have consumed.

Your choice of staves or barrel is a personal one and will determine a great deal of the finished spirits flavour. Many choices are available at a homebrew supplier or can be readily sourced elsewhere. Some whiskeys are aged in new barrels of white oak, many are aged in used barrels that may have contained sherry, cognac, and even used charred oak barrels used for American whiskey. Of coarse if you are using barrel chips you might be a little limited to what you can find in a homebrew shop but even then the choices are somewhat surprisingly broad. Take a look and see what is available in your local area. Once you are satisfied with the taste of your spirit transfer it from the wood into glass bottles and store it in a cool dark place.