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Preparing Grain Worts or Mashes

The following information is provided by

To make a grain mash for whiskey : Heat 4 kg cracked or crushed malt with 18 L of water to 63-65 °C, and hold there for 1-1.5 hours. Heat to 73-75 °C, then strain off and keep liquid, using 250 mL of hot water to rinse the grains. Cool to below 30 °C (should have an initial specific gravity of 1.050). Add hydrated yeast & leave to ferment.

To get the same effect, you can also do a malt-extract brew (like making beer kits), then boil 1-2 kg of grains or cracked corn and add them for flavour.

Only use a grain mash if you're specifically after a whisky/bourbon, of if making a vodka and it is cheaper than sugar to do so.

You need to use either malt or enzymes to convert the starch into sugar so that the yeast can use it.

To make a grain wort requires Malting, Gristing, Mashing, Brewing, and Fermenting. Check beer related books, homepages or discussion groups (eg Alan & Melissa's Homebrew, Spensers Beer page), for heaps more details, but don't get put off by some the minutia they sometimes get into.

See also ...
Avoiding Post-Fermentation Problems
How the Mash Makes Wort
Boiling and Hops
Bodensatz Brewing

Only use grains if you are after flavour (eg making a bourbon or whisky), or if for some reason they are really cheap for you to obtain. Generally, a reflux still will strip out all the flavours and leave a neutral spirit. But, you can actually use a reflux still to make flavoured spirits such as whisky, provided you detune them a little, and then carefully pay attention to how you make the cut. Details are given by Ian Smiley in his book "Making Pure Corn Whisky" (

An excellent way to remove the grains after fermentation is to have used a "grain bag" - eg a large bag made of mesh or muslin to hold the grains. You then simply lift this out of the mash when they're all spent, and its easy to rinse them. Far easier than using strainers, seives etc.

Big tip ! It generally pays not to distill a grain wort with a still with an internal element. You get too many solids / complex sugars remaining that WILL burn onto the element. The whisky will stink, and the burnt flavour can't be removed. And its bloody difficult to clean the element properly & remove all the char (trust me). The one thing all the old time moonshiners always talk about is the skill needed to "fire a still without scorchin' the whiskey". Jack has a theory "everyone should have 2 stills: one column equipped, run on heating elements (for sugar spirit), and one stovetop potstill (for whiskey and rum mashes)".

The differences between Scotch whisky, Irish and American whiskeys is outlined at 'The Macallan' site:
    Scotch whisky
    It is now generally agreed that there are six regions and these are based on taste as well as geographical location. Lowlands, Highlands, Speyside, Campbeltown, Islay, Islands. The distillate is 75%abv, which is diluted to 63.4%abv and stored in oak casks (average is a 250litre hogshead). Depending on casks used, the spirit picks up color and flavor. Casks that held bourbon, sherry and port are reused.

    Irish whiskey
    Irish whiskey differs from Scotch Whisky in that it is usually distilled 3 times. The malting process is also different as the Irish use sprouted barley dried in a closed kiln which is then mixed with unmalted barley before being ground into a grist. This can be said to account for the lightness of Irish whiskey and its 'non peaty' taste compared to Scotch.

    American whiskey
    North American whiskies are all-grain spirits that have been produced from a mash that usually mixes together corn, rye, wheat, barley and other grains in different proportions, the resulting distillate then generally aged in wooden barrels. These barrels may be new or used, and charred or uncharred on the inside, depending on the type of whiskey being made. The U.S. government requires that all whiskies have to be made from a grain mash and be distilled at 90%abv or less. The whisky has to be reduced to no more than 62.5%abv before being aged in new oak barrels (American white oak) and then be bottled at no more than 40%abv.
Why go to the bother of using grains ? and why do you need the malt present ? Cornfed explains ...
    Malted grains: Are grains that are sprouted and then have the growth stopped. This process naturally produces the enzymes necessary to convert starch to sugars. The enzymes are called amylases. You can also get enzymes from a supplier and add them.

    For an extremely over-simplifed botany lesson: Plants exist to survive and reproduce. They are only tasty to us by coincidence. A kernal of grain needs to be mostly a sugar form in order to grow larger than a sprout. The kernal is meant to supply the necessary food so that it can grow. But sugar is prone to spoilage and to rapid fermentation from natural yeasts and from insects. So the food is stored as starch for safekeeping. When needed, the kernal produces enzymes to convert that starch to sugar. You add malted grain to mashed grains to convert the starches in the entire bunch to sugar. Mashing is the process of heating grain to the point where the starches are released from the solid kernal.

    The reason to ferment grain is to get the flavor from the grains and save it in your beverage. The cut off points when distilling determine how much flavor or odor is included in your beverage. Same theory as getting too much instant coffee in the cup. Too much makes it a nasty sip. Just enough makes it pleasant. Not enough makes it weak and watery.

    You need to use grains to make a traditional whisky recipe. Otherwise you are making a clear vodka and then adding syrups to flavor it enough to call it whisky. If you grind up a steak and drop it on a bun after frying it, is it still called steak or is it hamburger? If a tree falls in the woods with no one around does it still make noise? If a man speaks when no women are around is he still wrong? Lots of questions with out clear answers.

    The payoff for the effort that is invloved is the satisfaction knowing that you accomplished something diffucult, and did it with a certain amount of skill. Bragging rights are important sometimes. The proof is in the cup.
Where do you find cracked corn and other grains suitable for brewing with ? Try rural feed supliers. As long as you get the grain after the cracking process and before they add the fortifications to the animal feed you will be alright. Tell then you want cracked corn to make homemade corn meal or flour and they should give you the right stuff.

Using Malt Extract

I'd be really keen to hear if you've had success, experience or otherwise using either just beer kits (liquid malt), or partial mashes of kits and a small mash. Please e-mail me with your comments.

Donald advises ...
    Malt (unhopped) extract makes great whiskey, never boil the extract just stir it into warm water. Boiling can carmelize the malt extract (which has already been boiled once) making more non-fermentable sugars. Obtain the lightest all malt non-pasturised extract possible for the best results. Mixed extract (50% wheat 50% malt) with or with out corn sugar, produce flavorful products which are greatly inhanced by yeast strains.
A mate of Jacks has had sucess with just using malt extract ...
    I have tried a whiskey made out of unhopped liquid malt extract. It was made with 12 pounds of pale malt syrup boiled for 10 minutes in 5 gallons of water and was fermented with a dry ale yeast with a high alcohol tolerance. It was distilled in a 5 gallon pot still equipped with a one liter mason jar as a "thumper". It was then distilled out to 80% alcohol, diluted down to 63%, aged in charred American oak with a splash of cream sherry, then when the distiller thought it was ready, it was cut to 50% and bottled. One of the best I've had. The only problem is that the mash liked to foam A LOT in the boiler (yes, it was finished fermenting), but the thumper caught the spillover. It would be a good idea to keep a close eye on the temp when distilling this one, and/or use an anti-foaming agent.
If you are planning on using a malt extract, make sure that it doesn't contain any hops ! They will do serious bad things to the flavour, and basically ruin any chance you had making a half-decent product.

Jack suggests about this is ...
    I just talked to the man that made the batch of whiskey out of malt syrup and found out it was his third attempt to make it. The first 2 got contaminated (I don't know how, he is known to be a beer maker with solid sanitary brewing skills) , and the 3 foamed over, and there was no thumper to catch any of it. The reason heavily hopped beers don't spoil as easy is because the hops have an antibacterial property to them. Unfortunately, the oils would carry over into the whiskey and ruin it's flavor.

    Here's the good part: While studying lambic brewers in Belgium, I noticed that they use AGED hops (mostly Northern Brewer hops) when they make their beer - aged hops offer almost NO bitterness, and NO aroma to the beer, but the antibacterial properties REMAIN!!! Lambic brewery hops are typically three years old; rather than go to that extreme try leaving them in your car in the sun so they go stale quickly, then when you make a malt extract whiskey add them (maybe 1/2 to 1 and 1/2 ounces) to the boil. Boiling for about 45 minutes should do it. Since the mash will most likely end up around 10% alcohol, the amount of syrup in the mash will make it so thick that what brewers call "hop utilization" will be low (another way of saying the mash is so thick that the bitterness can't get out of the hops- but the antibacterial effect can). Granted, I haven't tasted any whiskey made this way, but it would have saved my friend a couple of spoiled batches.
Tim writes:
    I am a beginner at the home distilling lark but I have made some pretty good whisky with the following :- 2 tins of Maltexo brand malt extract and 1 kg of ground roasted malt + 1kg of sugar made up to 20 litres , fermented out (using Still spirits Turboyeast) and distilled twice with an electric pot still - resultant spirit aged on sherry soaked oak chips. I made a cock up with calculating the OG and likely yield (didn't allow enough for the non fermentable solids in the ground malt) and ended up with a low total yield of whisky(approx 1.5 litres 43%) however it is has an excellent taste and is indistinguishable from a scotch single malt.

    Also an easy recipe for cider brandy / calvados - 20 litres apple juice 3kg sugar - turbo yeast , 2 x pot distillations- need to carefully fractionate heads and particularly tails and biff anything with an off smell , cut to 40% and age for a few weeks oak chips-this is also a good tasing drink.

Grain Recipes

  • Bourbon Whiskey - 6 parts Corn, 2 parts Rye, 2 parts Barley. Only malt the barley, but grist all the grains and proceed.
  • Pure Rye Whiskey - either only Rye (malted, gristed etc), or 9 parts Rye (not malted) and 1 part malted Barley.
  • Irish Whiskey - 10 parts malted Barley, 7 parts fresh barley grain, 1 part fresh Oats, 1 part fresh Rye, 1 part fresh Wheat. Grist & proceed.
  • Gin - 16 parts Corn grain, 3 parts malt, 1 part Rye
Ian Wisniewski (whisky and spirits writer, and author of Classic Malt Whisky (Prion Books)) wrote about barley at Whisky World (big thanks to Whisky World for letting me copy these extracts !)
    The main talking point is always a distillery’s water source, with the influence of the stills, peating levels and wood policy more recent additions to the debate. But what about barley, which seems to be taken for granted, as though it’s merely a starting point before all the other influences take over? Ordering barley is, however, far more involved than simply stipulating quantities and delivery dates, with numerous options for the distiller to consider.

    Most of the current barley varieties used for malt whisky are two-row, as opposed to six-row (which is indigenous to countries such as Sweden, Norway and Finland, where it is the basis for Finlandia vodka). This numerical distinction refers to the fact that the ear (or ‘head’) essentially contains two rows of seeds, while six-row barley contains six rows of seeds. An ear of two-row barley contains a total of around 24 to 34 seeds, depending on the variety and environmental conditions. Those with higher totals can have smaller-sized seeds, while varieties with lower totals may have larger-sized seeds, which pretty much evens it all out. Moreover, the amount of seeds is not as important as the overall weight of the grain. Another distinction to draw is between winter barley (sown in August to September and harvested in late July to early August), and spring barley (sown in March to early April and harvested in August to September).

    While both can offer the same flavour and level of quality, spring barley is a standard choice in the industry. This is despite the fact that agricultural yields are typically slightly lower, between 2 and 2.75 tonnes per acre, compared to winter barley at around 2.5 to 3.5 tonnes per acre. However, as spring barley usually has higher levels of starch and lower levels of nitrogen, the yield of alcohol is higher – which clinches it for the distiller. Barley is generally cultivated along Scotland and England’s eastern coastline, locations that offer the most favourable conditions. How influential any element of terroir may be, in comparison to the barley variety cultivated, is another consideration. As a barley variety that may inherently give a good level of starch also depends on the climate to achieve this potential, it’s generally considered to be a fairly even split between the barley and the climate. While annual weather conditions can affect starch and nitrogen levels, some barley varieties are better at surviving adverse weather, and are more resistant to certain infections. This explains why another school of thought is that the barley variety is slightly more significant than climate.

    Scotland’s milder climate, with long daylight in summer, can certainly be a great advantage. Steady amounts of rainfall are ideal after sowing spring barley, while sunshine is required when it flowers in late June. Flowering lasts about a week, and the seeds begin to form after pollination occurs (conveniently, barley is self-pollinating).

    Although lower levels of nitrogen are ideal for the distiller (it’s a straightforward formula, the less nitrogen, the higher the starch content), nitrogen is added to the soil, together with phosphate and potash. These are combined in a compound fertiliser, usually applied a couple of times, at sowing time and mid-way through the growth cycle. The farmer calculates the mineral levels in the soil, and how they need to be supplemented, with each element of the fertiliser performing a strategic role. Nitrogen promotes growth and the production of green pigments which are used for photosynthesis, while phosphate and potash benefit the roots.

    Photosynthesis (which occurs during daylight) starts to build up starch granules within the seed, together with rising levels of nitrogen. Starch continues to develop until the grain is harvested, with a straightforward hierarchy emerging: the largest starch granules being the oldest. A ripe grain contains numerous larger and smaller starch granules, with the aim of the plant being solely to produce seeds that ensure the subsequent generation of barley. Different barley varieties are termed ‘early’ or ‘late’, depending on the date of maturity, Chariot being early and Optic late. The difference between early and late can be a case of one to two weeks, which may not sound long, but this is a significant time-span for the farmer (particularly in September when the weather is certainly less than reliable).

    Once harvested, most maltsters subject the barley to indirect air drying, using a system of heated pipes, like central heating. The other option is direct air drying, when air is heated by a flame created by a furnace. Either way, barley is dried to a moisture content of up to 12%. At this point the grain is dormant, a schedule imposed by nature to ensure that grains begin growing during the appropriate season.

    As barley can only be malted once ready to germinate, the length of dormancy is a relevant factor. A traditional variety such as Golden Promise can be dormant for around two months, whereas Optic is ready for action after four to six weeks.

    Emerging successfully from dormancy also depends on appropriate, watertight storage at the right temperature, which enables barley to be stored for up to a year, or longer (though supply and demand essentially determine the length of storage).

    The main barley varieties currently used are Optic, Chalice and Decanter, which were developed during the 1990s. Optic took the top ranking from the previous leader of the pack, Chariot, in the year 2000. Chariot had commanded 40 to 45% of the market since the mid-1990s, but as it’s a fast-moving business Chariot is now fading from the scene. In fact, the rate at which newer varieties replace earlier generations has become more rapid, and is currently around three to five years. This compares to Golden Promise (originally developed in the 1950s) which reigned supreme from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s.

Yield from Grains

How much alcohol can you expect to make, based on your Grain recipe ?. Check out Mash Effficiency and Yield which I have stolen in its entirety, from a posting from John Palmer which was sent to the rec.crafts.brewing discussion group. Sorry, but its still in imperial units (points/pound/gallon (ppg)).

Whats the differences between 6 row and 2 row barley ? Dick explains ..
    The numbers refer to the number of ears around the central stalk. Two row barley has the ears lying (believe it or not) flat in two rows either side of a central stalk while in 6 row barley the ears are all round the central stalk. The important difference is that 2 row barley tends to have a much lower nitrogen content than the 6 row and is therefore much more suitable for malting for brewing and distilling. A high nitrogen content in the barley results in a high protein/lower starch content in the malt/mash which in turn results in less ethanol & more higher alcohols + other nasties after fermentation. 6 row barley is used to produce bread flour etc., while whisky distillers/ maltsters will put very strict limits on the nitrogen & moisture content of any barley they buy. One of the reasons Scotland started producing such good spirits & beer was that 2 row barley would grow in our much poorer soils and needed much less fertilisation than 6 row.

Andrew adds ...
    A few weeks back I wanted to work out optimal vs actual conversion rates for a few different mashes. I converted a few of the points/pound/gallon rates on your mash efficiency and yield page to points/gram/litre, and thought I should send the formula through to you as well:

    x p/p/g = x / 119.8264 p/g/l

    1/2 kilo 2 row lager malt
    3 kilos wheat flakes
    17.5 litres of water

    using the optimal column:
    37 ppg for the 2 row is 37/119.8264 pgl, or .30878 pgl
    36 ppg for the wheat flakes is .30043 pgl

    500 gms x .30878 = 154.39
    3000 gmx x .30043 = 901.29
    total: 1055.68
    1055.68 / 17.5 = 60.32 points
    divide the actual number of points the mash yielded by 60.32 and you have your mash efficiency, just like using the original imperial rates in John Palmer's post.
    It took me quite a while to find the correct conversion method so I thought it might help out someone else trying to do the same thing without thinking in imperial.
    PS -- I assumed the author was using US Imperial units -- if you know that they were in fact UK units please let me know. The conversion factor in that case would be x/99.77633.


Malting is the process of allowing the grain to start to germinate & sprout, so that it will generate enzymes (amylase) to convert its store of non-fermentable starch to a sugar.

If there are no enzymes present, the yeast will not be able to use the starch - it must first be converted into sugars.

Not all the grains in each recipe require malting. As long as some (at least 20%) have been malted, there should be sufficient enzymes (amylase) present to convert the starch in the other grains. Note: this is why you can add amalyse (Speedase? - commercial name ) to help speed/complete malt and grain beers & worts, but it won't do a thing for thin sugar based worts (no starch to convert).

Jack advises ..
    Malting for home use is not a difficult procedure, but it should NOT be attempted with oats or with rye.

    These grains, when malting, tend to attract butryfying bacteria - these organisms, by themselves are poisonous, and so is the butanol isomers that these bacteria produce (see page 127 (for oats) and page 130 (for rye) in the book "The Homebrewer's Garden" by Joe Fisher and Dennis Fisher, Published in 1998 by Storey Books (

    If you have a need for a malt of either of these grains - purchase it ready made rather than poisoning yourself with the homemade type.

    If you want a good rye flavor that can add a bit of flavor to a vodka, you would be better off using flaked rye or ground rye from a feed store that you boil for 30 minutes, to gelatinize the starch, then cool down to 155F before adding 10% by weight of six-row malt. I've tried it both ways, the malted rye tastes alot like malted barley when run up to 90%abv- the spicey/creamy flavors from the rye totally vanish- you might as well be working with barley malt syrup for all the rye flavor you get. When made with flaked (or boiled) rye and a little 6-row is added, the rye "heaviness" tends to come through a lot better, and makes for a more interesting spirit, vodka or whiskey.

I haven't done the following, as malted grains can normally be bought from beer-homebrew shops. Check beer related homepages for more details; I've summarised the following steps from a couple of books.
  • Soak grain for 24 hours, change the water, and soak for another day. Toss away any thing that float. Try to keep the water between 17-30 C; too cold and the grains won't grow.
  • Spread grain out (2-5 cm deep) on a wet surface, and keep at 17-30 °C, until it sprouts (7-10 days). Turn grain over daily & keep moist, so that all get a chance to sprout. Wait until sprouts/rootlets are 5 mm long.
  • Dry the grain - either spread out real thin in front of a breeze, or oven dry SLOWLY. Don't exceed 50 C until grain is dry (couple of hours), then 55 C for an hour, then 66 C for an hour. If it gets too hot, the enzymes present will be destroyed, and not work during mashing.
  • Clean and de-sprout the grains - place in a sack/bag and bang against a hard surface to knock off rootlets. Shake & toss in a sieve to allow crap to fall through holes.
Drying the grain isn't always necessary if you're going to be using it all straight away. Ted advises ..
    There is no reason that you must dry your malt before mashing. My grand father would soak bags of corn until it sprouted and then grind it up and mash with it. The reason brewers dry the malt is to remove DMS from the grains, this isn't necessary for distillation but it is always better to have a clean smelling ferment for the peace of mind that it gives.
Jack gives his method for malting ...
    Malting is easy -
    • Soak the grain for 72 hours (change the water every 24 hours) while soaking put an aquarium pump/airstone in the water so it bubbles through the bed of grain (it should have a good few inches of water over the top of the grain).
    • After the soak, put the grain in a bucket with hundreds of little holes drilled in it, then sit this bucket into another bucket that has a couple of inches of water in it. Put the airstone from the air pump into the bottom bucket so it bubbles up through the water- leave the lid on loose so the air can be exchanged by the pump. The air pump is scrubbing out the CO2, preventing mold growth, and preventing heat buildup.
    • Once the rootlets are roughly the length of the grain (for barley- for corn, wait until the root is about 2" long), dry the malt- this must be done in the dark - a food dehydrator is best.
    • You can also use the malt without drying it- this is called "green malt" just make sure the original weight of the grain is recorded to make recipe formulation easy.

      It's a pain to get it to grind when it's wet, though. It will have a higher enzymic activity - but not noticably. The real problem is that green malt (if you are making a malt whiskey) can give a funny flavor to the spirit. If the wet malt is only used for it's enzymic ability (ie. Bourbon) then it won't make a difference - use it wet in that case.

      Drying is complete when the malt weighs the same as the original amount of grain you started with.

    This system (using 5 gallon buckets) works best with 5 pound amounts at a time (starting weight).

    To make Scotch, just put the malt in a commercial bar-b-que smoker and smoke the grain dry (using the coolest heat possible), but use peat from the garden store as your fuel/smoking agent. Baled peat can be had for about $16US for 4 cubic feet at most big garden stores- just make sure there is no fertilizer in them (read the label). That's all there is to it.
Jack offers more help on How to peat your malt
    Right, some people on the distillers' group asked for help with Scotch- now I find out "I can't get peated malt in Austrailia"- fine- here's how to do it at home

    You can peat either barley you have malted your self or malt purchased from the homebrew shop: If it's home malted, then just take the freshly sprouted grains and dry them for 24 hours in the lowest setting of your oven (they should be half-dry at this point), for purchased malt, buy some 2-row from the homebrew shop and soak it for 24 hours in cold water, the grain is now ready to smoke. Soak the peat (from a garden store- a 4 cubic foot bale costs $15US) overnight in water. Prepare a bed of coals in the normal manner in a standard bar-b-que grill, or set your gas grill to low/medium. Drain the water off of the peatand place it in an even layer over the hot coals/burner. Put the grain on a clean, fine-mesh screen over the fire/peat bed. Cover the grill (with the vents wide open) to get the smoke in solid contact with the grain. Stir the grain every 5 minutes to prevent burning/scorching. Smoke the grain from 15 to 40 minutes until the grain is fully dry. When it's cool, it's ready for use.

    Update ! I just got through talking with someone at the Hugh Baird malting company- this is what I found out: By soaking some basic 2-row malt in water until you get a 28% moisture level, and then dring the malt with an open (low) peat fire, you can make your own peated malt. No need to mess about with smokers or charcoal grill. i.e.:
    • soak 1,000 grams of 2-row in water (unmilled, from the homebrew shop), until it weighs 1,280 grams (when the excess water is allowed to drain off).
    • Take this grain and place it on a tight-mesh screen, like metal window screen, and then put another layer of screen over the top of the grain, to prevent ash from falling onto the grain, which would cause a creosote like flavor in the malt.
    • Start a small fire under the screen with a bit of peat from the garden store.
    • Dry the malt over the fire slowly to prevent the malt from browning/charring- misting the fire and the grain with a water spritzer helps.
    • When the grain is back down to weighing 1,000 grams- you're done- you now have peated malt.
    • Mix it 50/50 with some unpeated 2-row, and brew an all-grain malt batch.
    • Ferment and distill it however you like- if it is too heavy in peat for your taste, just make a batch of straight 2-row malt whiskey, and blend however you like.

    I also finished an experiment in Scotch moonshine- "peatreek". Soaking a pound of commercial or homemade peated malt in a gallon of water at 155F for 40 minutes, straining out the grain (and rinsing with a cup or two of 155F water), then bringing the water to a boil and adding two pounds of table sugar, makes a nice, but one-dimensional Scotch. No nutrients are needed- the one pound of grain provides enough free amino- nitrogen to get a healthy ferment for that much sugar. It has a nice smokey flavor, with no real malt to back it up. It's nice in cocktails and the like, on it's own, it tastes like a bottom- shelf, bargain basement blended whisky- with better wood aging, a dash of sherry, a dried apricot or two, and it could compare nicely to the essence based Scotches made out of sugar spirit/vodka.
For more on malting, see :
Chris' Excellent Home Floor Malting Adventure
Malting Equipment
Malting process in a nutshell

Ian Wisniewski (whisky and spirits writer, and author of Classic Malt Whisky (Prion Books)) wrote about malting at Whisky World (big thanks to Whisky World for letting me copy these extracts !)
    Malting comprises three essential stages: steeping, germination and kilning, which provides the distiller with direct access to the grain's starch content. Starch is present within the endosperm (the main interior section) and serves as a food source, enabling the grain to produce the energy required to develop roots and an acrospire (shoot). The starch is initially enclosed within protein-lined cell walls, which the embryo begins to break down as it grows, in order to utilise the starch. Once the starch has been liberated, further growth is arrested by kilning (applying heat), otherwise a lower starch level would reduce the yield of alcohol.

    Steeping effectively 'awakens' the barley by hydrating the grains in steeps (vessels), with up to three separate batches of water raising the moisture level from around 12 per cent to 40 to 45 per cent. Simultaneously, 'pressure aeration' can be applied, which means blowing compressed air from the base of the vessel. This aeration is assertive enough to move barley from different levels of a steeping vessel, but gentle enough not to cause any damage; some movement promotes more consistent growth. Otherwise, barley remaining at the bottom of a steep would receive less oxygen during what is termed an 'air rest', diminishing the growth rate.

    Draining the steeps in between each batch of water gives the grain an air rest of several hours, or longer. During this period 'suction aeration' can also be used to introduce fresh air into the steep, while carbon dioxide is removed to ensure even growth.

    Air rests may seem to extend the timetable, though grain left continually underwater can actually take around twice as long to process. Air rests provide more oxygen which raises energy levels, and makes it easier for the grain to absorb water. This explains why the uptake of water is far more rapid after the first air rest, once the grain is 'energised'. Moreover, the micropyle (opening) at the tip of the grain is the most efficient conduit for taking in water, whereas the outer layers of the grain are relatively waterproof (and water uptake through these outer layers is slow).

    The water used for steeping at Port Ellen Maltings on Islay is piped direct from Leorin Loch in the nearby hills. A seasonal adjustment involves heating the water to between 13.5 and 14.5°C from mid-September to late May. Otherwise, adding colder water would simply prolong the time required to initiate germination, and enforce longer air rests. Moreover, as grain generates heat during steeping, adding a subsequent batch of water at a cold temperature would instigate thermal shock (grains loathe abrupt temperature changes).

    Visible confirmation that the grain is responding to its wake up call is the appearance of a 'chit', a small white root tip at one end of the grain. Diastase also begins to form, and continues to develop during germination (this combination of enzymes subsequently starts to break down proteins and starch in the barley, making them soluble, which is essential for the conversion of starch into sugar during mashing).

    Barley can be germinated either spread evenly across stone or concrete malting floors, or in germination vessels such as drums. On a malting floor this may take five days in summer, seven in winter, reflecting the ambient temperature. The barley is aerated by 'turning' (redistributing) it every few hours using a 'malt shiel' (spade), which helps control the temperature and rate of germination. Alternative options are a 'plough' (a three-pronged rake) or a type of rotivator, supplemented by another basic form of temperature control, either opening or closing windows.

    The germination drums at Port Ellen Maltings are not only the UK's largest, but also have the ultimate pedigree of being manufactured by the firm of Robert Boby. Each of seven steel drums holds the contents of two steeps (i.e. 50 tons of barley at original weight, 65 tonnes after steeping).

    Loading the grain into drums inevitably results in two separate piles of grain. As this would foster uneven growth rates in different sections of each pile, the drum is rotated twice. This procedure is assisted by angled fins bearing a corkscrew pattern set within the drum ensuring the grain spreads evenly across the floor.

    A perforated steel floor enables carefully controlled volumes of air, generated by large fans, to be blown through the grain. This maintains the appropriate temperature, and as the air is humidified with fresh water it also promotes the right humidity for growth (ordinary air would simply dry the barley too soon).

    The air flow, humidity and temperature are adjustable in order to control the growth rate, with the temperature not exceeding 25 to 26°C. Too high a temperature entails a risk of the embryo dying and damaging the enzymes. Another factor promoting consistent growth rates is that the circulating air also removes heat and carbon dioxide from the drum (exiting through vents). Continued growth sees the grain beginning to break down the cell walls and protein lining to access the starch. Meanwhile, developing rootlets also consume protein, which is another advantage. Protein must be carefully managed in order to avoid problems at subsequent stages in the production process. Higher levels of protein diminish the effect of hot water on the starch during mashing, for example, which compromises the rate of conversion into sugar. Protein can also burn onto the surface of the wash still, contributing undesirable caramelised flavours to the new make spirit.

    However, if rootlets were left alone to do what comes naturally, they would intertwine and create a dreadful tangle. This is countered by rotating the germination drums every eight hours, a leisurely turn lasting five minutes at Port Ellen Maltings, with the fins gently teasing the roots apart.

    After about five days the grain reaches an optimum stage of growth when most of the protein has been utilised for root growth, and the cell walls have been broken down, providing direct access to the starch. The acrospire (shoot) also extends under the skin (husk), along around three-quarters of the grain's spine. Any longer would indicate excessive growth. Any shorter, and it's not quite ready.

    A traditional method of checking growth was for the Maltman to inscribe his initials on a spade using a grain. If legible, the malt was ready. Another low-tech option is the 'rub test'. By splitting a grain open with a fingernail, a small amount of the endosperm can be rubbed between the thumb and forefinger. If this leaves a fine white powder mark, it confirms that the starch (in the form of barley flour) is ready for kilning. A lack of white powder indicates the starch is still enclosed by cell walls and protein.

    The aim of kilning is to arrest growth by drying the malt as quickly and uniformly as possible, with the moisture level typically 40 to 50 per cent at the beginning of the process. Taking care not to damage the heat-sensitive enzymes, the initial temperature is around 40 to 50°C. Once the grain reaches the 'break point', when the surface moisture has been driven off, the temperature is gradually increased to around 75°C.

    For malt that is being peated, an important factor is that moisture promotes the absorption of smoke, essentially by the husk. As the surface begins to dry, it becomes harder for the grain to absorb smoke, until reaching the 'break point'.

    Once the peating has been concluded, kilning dries the malt further (essentially the interior of the grains) to a moisture level of about 4.5 to 5 per cent. This can take from 25 to 40 hours, using either hot air or firing the kiln with gas or fuel oil. In addition to peaty, smoky flavours created by peating, kilning also develops the malt's flavour profile with a range of sweeter, biscuity notes.

    After the rootlets have been removed, malt is subsequently rested in sealed bins for several weeks. As the heat of kilning concentrates residual moisture in the centre of the grain, the resting period allows this moisture gradually to extend back and be evenly distributed throughout the grain. This ensures milling is more even, promoting fermentability and consistency.

    The rootlets aren't wasted either, serving farmers rather than distillers. Mixed with dust from incoming barley to form 'malt residuals,' then dampened with water and shaped into pellets, this is used as cattle feed. Islay cows are used to the peaty flavour that their local 'take-away' serves up, whereas mainland cows are not. However, Port Ellen Maltings also caters for them by adding a small amount of molasses to the recipe, which sweetens the flavour.
How much peated malt to use ? Jack writes ...
    if you get the same malt that I do (from Hugh Baird malting company), it comes in 3 strengths of peat: low (5ppm), medium(10ppm), and high(15ppm). This means that you CANNOT make a heavily peated malt like Ardbeg, Lagavulin, or Laphroaig- they are in the 40 to 50ppm phenol content range. You can come close to Bowmore (20ppm). And Aberlour, Glenfarclas and Cragganmore are easy to do - they have peat/phenol content of 2ppm. Deanston and Glengoyne have no peat at all.

    To make a Scotch, just make an all grain batch of beer using peated barley, either straight (most homebrew shops, like mine, only have the heavily peated malt in stock), or mixed in with some domestic 2-row to cut the peat levels. I'm an Irish lover, mostly- so I make mine unpeated, and I use the corn whiskey books' tips on "making the cut" to make the smoothest stuff you could ever find on the planet. I've made Scotch by mixing 2-row and peated barley in a 50/50 mix and double potstilling it. It was great when aged on sherry wood- but I gave it to a family member who likes Scotch more than I do.... (by the way, mixing unpeated malt whiskey with corn whiskey (80%malt/20%corn) and aging on old bourbon chips with a dash of sherry makes a great copy of Bushmill's Black Bush Irish blend- my favorite.)
More from Jack ...
    After re-reading some of my books, I found some numbers that might help those looking to copy Glenmorangie Scotch. On your commercial stills photo page, Laphroig is listed as a 10 in peat, Glenmorangie is listed as either a 2 or 3. From another book, I found out that the ppm of phenols (from peat) in Laphroig whiskey are in the 40 to 50ppm range (the heaviest)- but I couldn't find anything on Glenmorangie. After comparing the numbers, I ran the estimates as given Laphroig= 40 to 50ppm which equals a rating of 10, and Glenmorangie is a rating 3 to 4, which gives X for the peat levels. Going from the highest to the lowest- I found these possible peat levels (in ppm of phenol) for Glenmorangie= 8,10,12,15ppm are all possible levels. Another published ppm level states that Bowmore is about 20ppm- medium peat- far too heavy for the likes of Glenmorangie, ruling out the 15ppm rating by tasting. I then found a Scotch retailer online listing his products- he has Glenmorangie listed as a "North Highland" type of Scotch- other retailers list it the same. The same book that lists the ppm of Laphroig and Bowmore states that The north highland style sits between the lightly-peated Speysides (like Aberlour and Glenfarclas at 2ppm) and the medium-peated Bowmore.

    The average of 2ppm and 20ppm is 11ppm- right between the mid-range numbers I calculated above for Glenmorangie "possibles". This, added to the fact that on Glenmorangie's OWN WEBSITE, they state that they take a middle cut of only one-fifth of the second run, to get a delicate, light Scotch. Comparing these cutoff points to the corn whiskey book, which takes a full 57.1% of the available alcohol as a middle cut, makes Glenmorangie an even tighter cut than the already smooth-as-water corn whiskey type of cut. Hugh-baird malting company sells three levels of peat malt: low (4-6ppm) which is of no use here. Medium (7-12ppm), which could be used as-is. and high (13-20ppm) which should be cut by about one-third with unpeated 2-row, in order to get about the same levels of peat as Glenmorangie, That is, enough to provide a complexity to the malt flavor, but not enough to make the whiskey taste like dirt.

    To sum up- find out what peat you can get from a brewshop, cut it with 2-row if you need to. Mash it, sparge it, cool it, then ferment it. Keep in mind that the water in the Glenmorangie distillery is considered "hard", but not as much as Burton water- I would leave it alone if I have good luck with all-grain beer already. After the ferment, Distill the stuff in a "beer stripping run" to collect about 1/3 of the original mash volume until you get enough to fill your spirit still (using a stovetop potstill in the 5gal range, with a one-gallon ice-water-wok evaporative still works very well in giving a light spirit on the second run). Put your "low wines" into the smaller still, and collect out only about the middle 20% of the run to save as drinking spirit. For example, mix 5 pounds of 2-row with 10 pounds of heavily peated brew-shop malt, mash and ferment as for allgrain beer with hard water. Distill out of this mash about 1.5 gallons (6L), run this into a small potstill, then collect out about 50ml of foreshots, 300 to 400ml as heads, approximately 500ml as your "keeping spirit", then save the rest as feints to be redistilled. Aging on ex-Bourbon wood, with a bit of finishing on ex-sherry wood completes the drink. This is not a cheap drink to replicate, but it is very good, and cheaper than $50US a bottle Glenmorangie.

    Spirits & Cocktails by Dave Broom (Carlton books, 1998)
    Making Pure Corn Whiskey by Ian Smiley (self-published, 1999)
    Classic Beer Style Series #8 Scotch Ale by Greg J. Noonan (Brewers' publication, 1993)
    Classic Beer Style Series #18 Smoked Beers by Ray Daniels and Geoffrey Larson (Brewers' publication, 2000)
    Malt Advocate Magazine, Volume 9, number 2, 2nd quarter, 2000 issue, Glenmorangie advertisement, pg3 online distillery tour. - Commercial distilleries photos and links page.
Ian Wisniewski (whisky and spirits writer, and author of Classic Malt Whisky (Prion Books)) wrote about peat at Whisky World (big thanks to Whisky World for letting me copy these extracts !)
    In addition to the level of peating, another consideration is the origin of the peat. As coastal and inland peat has differing characteristics, this yields a varying range of phenolic compounds – though exactly how influential this terroir is in the resulting dram depends on who you ask (particularly as the production process has a significant effect on the phenolic level). Peat cut from inland moors features a higher level of forestation and bracken, with Speyside peat for example comprising plenty of Scotch pine, roots, heather and spagnum moss (which has a great ability to retain water). The closer to the coast, the higher the level of sand, which means a looser texture, with coastal peat bogs, particularly on the west coast, also characterised by seaweed.

    Islay peat is a prime example, comprising pine trees, grasses, bog myrtle, heather and mosses, alongside a significant level of seaweed and sea spray influences, while sand contributes additional saltiness (being historic ‘ocean sand’). These components combine to give a lightly oily peat with iodine, medicinal, salty and even tarry notes (which can be readily identified in Islay malts).

    Extracting peat is obviously eco-minded, only cutting the amount required for that year, with the surface layer of turf reserved and placed over a previously cut trench, ensuring regeneration. The peat cutting season, typically April to September, reflects entirely practical considerations as peat bogs must ‘dry’ to the point when they can be walked on (or take tractors, which have been known to disappear in peat bogs). Having worked a short shift on Islay, I know I would never be hired in that capacity. It’s skilled and exacting work. The hours are awful too, a 4 to 6am start, finishing around 9 or 10 pm, as favourable weather means cutting as much as possible.

    Hand-cut peat is typically extracted from a trench in two stages, using a peat cutter (or peat spade) to cut a piece around 60cm long and 15cm wide. After cutting an initial surface layer, another cut is taken directly below, with each piece laid on adjacent turf to begin drying. Mechanised cutting entails pulling a machine behind a tractor, fitted with either a ‘circular’ or ‘chain saw.’ This cuts a line several centimetres wide, which can be adjusted to various depths, cutting between 0.5 and two meters (so it can be a shallower extraction than hand cutting).

    Different machines have individual methods of extruding peat, which can be compressed in a chamber, prior to evenly spaced bricks of peat around 10cm square being deposited in the machine’s wake. Ready to dry where they fall, the pieces are collected a month or so later. Alternatively, peat can be continually squeezed out (like toothpaste) for the full length of the trench being worked. With a diameter of around 15cm, a skin forms on the surface within three or four hours as the peat begins to dry, preventing absorption of any rainfall. Continual shrinking, as the peat dries over the next couple of weeks, also breaks it up into manageable lengths, around 10 to 40cm long, with a diameter of five to 10cm.

    Hand-cut peat typically takes longer to dry, while also requiring an additional step. It takes about two weeks for a skin to form, enabling the peat to be handled and carefully stacked with several other pieces to form either a small tower or wigwam. The wet side (the one that lay on the turf) is placed outward to ensure even drying over the next four weeks or so. Judging the moisture level is down to the experience of the peat cutter, though it’s obviously not an exact science. Consequently, peat arrives at the distillery with moisture levels that can vary from 10 to 45%, and balancing this range is part of the skill of peating.

    The aim of adding peat to a fire, which may even be started using redundant pieces of whisky casks, is to create a consistent level of smoke, not flames. As phenols are flammable, they can be destroyed by a flame breaking through onto the surface of the peat. Controlling the fire and peat reek entails various parameters. The more fibrous top layer of peat provides more smoke, but is more reluctant to burn than darker, underlying layers which produce more heat. Very dry peat gives plenty of heat but not enough smoke, and so not much of that distinctive flavour. Adding smaller blocks of drier peat and crumbly debris – known as ‘caff’ or ‘peat fines’ – can help impede air flow and so produce more smoke. This type of peat can also be hosed (being very dry it holds water well) and used in its rehydrated form to help cool the fire down (being careful of course not to extinguish it) and promote smoke. To maximise the influence of the smoke, which at a traditional floor malting ascends through a wire mesh floor on which the malt is spread out, mechanical turners and fans are used to help draw the smoke through more evenly. Historically malt was turned manually on the wire floor by distillery employees. As one of the distillery’s least popular jobs, it was at usually rewarded by a dram.

    Peating times vary from around 16 to 24 hours. This reflects the moisture level of the malt, typically 40 to 50% at the beginning of the process, with moisture promoting the absorption of smoke, essentially by the husk. As the surface of the malt begins to dry, it becomes harder to absorb smoke, until reaching the break point when the surface moisture has been driven off. Once peating is concluded, the malt (essentially the interior of the grains) needs further drying to a moisture level of around 4.5 to 5%. This entails kilning, with the kiln fired by various types of fuel, such as coke, or by using hot air, with kilning taking around 25 to 40 hours.

    Malt is subsequently rested in sealed bins for several weeks, which is an important procedure. As the heat of kilning pushes remaining moisture to the edges of the grain, the resting period allows this moisture to gradually extend back, and be evenly distributed throughout the grains. This ensures that milling is more even, promoting fermentability and consistency. Peating levels are measured as phenolic parts per million, with a lightly peated malt around one to 10 ppm, a medium level around 10 to 30 ppm, and 30 to 50 ppm for a heavily peated malt. Commercial maltsters, which can do the job at a far more competitive price than in-house floor maltings, originated in the 19th century, but really took off in the late 1950s to early 1960s. That’s when many distilleries increased their production capacity, but without extending malting floors. This meant maltings could not keep up with new production levels and numerous distilleries closed their malting floors. The minority retaining them include distinctive drams Bowmore, The Balvenie, Highland Park, Laphroaig and Springbank.

    Whoever peats the malt a similar degree of accuracy applies, with peating levels generally between three to five ppm either way of a distiller’s specifications, a range which is not significant enough to cause any concern over consistency of the new make spirit (distillers inevitably prefer the peating level slightly over rather than under). Specific peating levels can also be attained by combining peated with unpeated (or lightly peated) malt, a practise known as blending.

    The peating level within the malt decreases during the production process. Although this varies among distilleries, a typical reduction of 10 to 40% could apply to the new make spirit. The largest degree of loss is typically attributed to distillation, with feints, pot ale and spent lees carrying a significant level of phenols.

    During maturation the peating level can also affect the influence of the cask. This is usually said to account for up to 60 or 70% of a malt’s resulting flavour, though it’s more like 40 or 50% with heavily peated malts, as phenols mask the oak influence.

    The type of cask is another consideration. Bourbon barrels promote phenols and distillery character more readily than the richer flavour profile and sweetness of a sherry barrel, where phenols are either masked or more integrated, depending on your perspective.

    Peating levels do not seem to be affected during the first 20 years or so of maturation. The level can actually rise during this period, due to similar compounds, polyphenols, released by the barrel’s toasted / charred layer. While the visible longevity of phenols varies among malts, one theory is phenols begin fading after 20 years. Another opinion is that the phenol level remains constant, and as other flavours derived from the oak become more pronounced, phenols are masked. My current opinion is that I need to do a lot more tasting, then I’ll see how I feel …
Note that "live" malt is NOT the same as just "liquid malt" commonly bought in a can from your homebrew shop. If you are using it with grains, you need a malt that still has the enzymes present & active in it. They will not be present if it has been heated up over 70 ish degrees. Harry explains ...
    There are two broad types of malt extract. Brewers (non-diastatic) and Bakers (high-diastatic). I've been a baker since 1969 and we always used malt in the old days to convert some of the starch for yeast food. I guess what I'm saying is that if you used bakers malt instead of brewers malt, you would achieve a result, and probably cheaper too.

    Have a look at this site in U.S.

    This extract from their products page...

    Malt, the Natural Flavor, Sweetener, and Coloring Agent is available in many forms.

    Liquid, Dry, Diastatic, Non-Diastatic, Dark, Light, Extracts, Syrups and Powders with Cereal Adjuncts.

    Diastatic Malts (with the natural barley enzymes still active). are used primarily by bakers to supplement the amylase in the wheat flour to provide sugar for fermentation, improve pan flow, improve crumb color and break and shred in bread type products.

    Nondiastatic Malts (without active enzymes), are used as flavoring agents, for color sweetness and humectancy. The nutritive materials present promote vigorous yeast activity, accelerate dough conditioning and add flavor and aroma to finished baked products.
So... if you are trying to convert other grains, make sure that the malt you use is "diastatic", or else you will need another source of the enzymes. If you simply want a malt for use on its own (ie as a quick and simple whisky base), then the "non diastatic" is ok.


Gristing is cracking/crushing the grain to expose its center (the starch). You can use rolling pins (tip: put grains in a zip-lock bag - no mess), coffee grinders, mills, etc. Again, home-brewers get quite detailed (fanatical ?) over exactly how this should be done. Just get it broken into 3-5 pieces, but don't turn it to dust or flour. If you're using a mash tun etc, you want the gristing to pretty much keep the outer hull of the grain intact, so that it can form a filter bed during sparging. Generally mills are used to do this - they sorta "pop" the grain out of its skin, without breaking stuff up too much.


This step converts the remaining starches to sugars. Heat the grain (and malt or amalyse) to 62-63 °C for 45 min to 1 hour (stir occasionally), using 4.5L water per kg grain, then strain out the grains (use a kitchen sieve), keep the liquid (the wort/mash). Some methods involve bringing it to temperature, then holding it there for 2 hours in a big pot etc in the oven. When straining out the grains, rinse them several times with a small portion of the wort to fully wash them clean. Take care when heating the wort - it will easily boil over, quickly getting you banished from the kitchen. Watch it carefully, and enjoy the aroma.

When due to separate the grains from the liquid (lautering), raise the temperature to 75-77 °C. At this "mash-off" temperature the wort viscosity is favourable for quick & complete separation, enzymes are mainly inactive, and bacterial action is precluded.

It can be a differcult exercise to rinse the grains - getting them to soak through a collander or using a brewers "false bottomed" pail. John V writes ..
    Herewith a tip for those stuck with draining mash. The ideal item for this is the nylon paint straining bags sold at paint supplies stores. It comes in two sizes, the larger ones fits over an average-sized kitchenpan. I now use them for straining mash; my wife 'borrow' them for straining berry juice for jams and jellies. They clean very easily, just hold under running water.
To which Tony adds ...
    The nylon paint straining bags work well for me as well. I prefer using them over the top of large food grade plastic pails (available free at restaurants or deli's). The deep pail gives lots of capacity for strained liquid and leaving it drain overnight recovers prety much all of the available liquid from the fruit or mash. When the mash is too heavy the strainer elastic can't hold the weight, in this case use a stainless hose clamp (band clamp)to secure the strainer to the top of the pail. If you can't find a large enough clamp to fit around the bucket two smaller clamps can be easily assembled end to end and they are less expensive than one large one. I paid $1.70 Cdn. for a pair of small clamps a few days ago.

There are two enzymes which convert the starches to sugars & dextrins. Beta-amaylase "chops" the long starch molecules in half into shorter chains, whereas Alpha-amaylase "breaks off" the branches in the starch structure. Working together they do a great job, and convert 60-80% of the available starch to fermentable sugars.

Of the malted barleys, their enzyme potency is (in decreasing activity) 6 Row by a country mile, then 2 Row, Pilsner malts, Lager malts, Ale malts then Viennas and then Munichs.

    Starch Conversion / Saccharification Rest
    In this stage the diastatic enzymes start acting on the starches, breaking them up into sugars (hence the term saccharification). One group, the amylases, are enzymes that work on the more complex starches and sugars. The two main amylases are Alpha and Beta. Alpha works by breaking up long, branched starch chains at the branch points, leaving behind a variety of straight chain starches and dextrin-type sugars. The reduction of these large branched chains reduces the viscosity and "liquifies" the mash. Beta amylase works by separating these straight chains into fermentable maltose sugar units.
    Beta amylase works by hydrolyzing the straight chain bonds, but it can only work on "twig" ends of the chain, not the "root" end. It can only remove one (maltose) sugar unit at a time, so on amylose, it works sequentially. (A maltose unit is composed of two glucose units, by the way.) On an amylopectin, there are many ends available, and it can remove a lot of maltose very efficaciously (like a hedge trimmer). However, probably due to its size/structure, beta cannot get close to the branch joints. It will stop working about 3 glucoses away from a branch joint, leaving behind a "beta amylase limit dextrin."

    Alpha amylase also works by hydrolyzing the straight chain bonds, but it can attack them randomly, much as you can with a pair of clippers. Alpha amylase is instrumental in breaking up large amylopectins into smaller amylopectins and amyloses, creating more ends for beta amylase to work on. Alpha is able to get within one glucose unit of a amylopectin branch and it leaves behind an "alpha amylase limit dextrin."

Alpha-amylase works best between 65-67 °C, and dies within 2 hours at 67 °C.
Beta-amylase works best between 52-62 °C, deactivating within 40min at 65 °C.

(To understand how enzymes work, see Enzymes, a useful email from Stephen Alexander to the Homebrew Digest about enzymes, explaining how they affect the rate of a reaction, and how they work in the conversion of starch to glucose.)
You really need a mixture of the amalyses. Baker explains ...
    If you have a purified Alpha you're going to want to add a gluco with that, or you'll end up with a low DE syrup. Even if your amylase contains a Beta you won't get full conversion. Beta can't get past the branch points, and the mash will end up full of beta limit dextrins.

    An alpha beta combo will only give you a theoretical 42DE, if you add a pullulanase (a de-branching enzyme) it goes up to 50DE, and Alpha/gluco combo has a theoretical DE of 95.

    By the was DE stands for dextrose equivalent, it is a measure of the percentage of glucose bonds that have been hydrolyzed.  Pure dextrose has a DE of 100.

    I'm pretty sure that Beano is a 1,4-alpha-D-glucan glucohydrolase (a type of gluco-amylase)  

    One of the things to keep in mind when you are thinking about what enzymes you want to put in your mash is what enzymes are commercially available. There are probably thousands of starch degrading enzymes out there, but only a handfull are produced industrially.  

    Let me back up a bit, there are two types of starch, amylose, and amylopectin. Amylose is a straight chain of glucose molecules, linked at the alpha 1,4. Amylopectin is a highly branched chain starch molecule, the straight part is linked at alpha 1,4 the branch points are alpha 1,6 linkages.  

    Wheat starch is about 24% amylose and 76% amylopectin.  

    Alpha amylase randomly breaks alpha 1,4 linkages  

    Beta amylase starts at the non-reducing end and breaks off two glucose molecules at a time(maltose). Beta only breaks alpha 1,4 linkages and so can chomp right through an amylose molecule, but will get stuck at the branch point (1,6 link) on amylopectin leaving large "beta limit dextrins".  

    Pullulanase is known as a "de-branching enzyme" it cleaves alpha 1,6 linkages leaving nothing but straight chains for the beta amylase to chew through. However you'll still be left with a wort full of maltose.  

    A gluco-amylase, sometimes called amyloglucosidase, will break both alpha 1,4 linkages and alpha 1,6 linkages leaving glucose (dextrose) molecules in its wake.  

    Since what you want to do is break down the starch and create dextrose as quickly and efficiently as possible my recommendation is to add alpha amylase and gluco-amylase together. I personally use a high heat stable alpha amylase to thin the mash and a gluco-amylase when the temp drops, I often add more gluco when I pitch my yeast just as a precaution. what the hell it can't hurt right?   

    Is the Pullulanase enzyme also in the malted wheat? No, but you don't need it if you're adding a gluco-amylase
Zoran adds ...
    Termoamylase break down starch at high temperature, above 100deg C to short polysaccharide chains. The starch glue became liquid. These chains are attacked by glucoamylase not galactosidase,to give glucose as a final product. These 2 enzymes gave 95% yield glucose. The rest are not important for convesion, but can split to glucose with pullulanase, not pectinase. It is important to have appropriate pH check. Information,usage and prices for these enzymes you can find on net

The higher mash temperatures (65-70C) will produce dextrinous (heavy bodied beers, lots of "mouth feel") in a shorter period, whereas lower mash temperatures (62-63C) will produce more fermenatble (more alcoholic) beer over a longer time period. So go for 62-63C.

If you don't want to use malted grains, you can use amylase from a packet. Ted advises ...
    boil the unmalted grains then cool them down to 148 to 155 degree F (64 °C to 68 °C), then add the amylase and let it sit for 60 min. Test the liquid with iodine for starch conversion ( if there is starch present it will turn purple) Let it sit until it has converted. Don't seperate the wort from the grains untill after this process has finished.
You can use Iodine to test for starch - add a couple of drops to a spoonful of wort; if it turns blue starch is still present, and it needs more mashing. It has no reaction / colour change if there is no starch present. Iodine is poisonous, so toss away the sample you tested.

Jack warns ...
    few of the books on brewing/distilling say that weak sulfuric acid can be used to drop the Ph of grain mashes. According to the e-chapters you sent me, and the Seagram's distilling textbook I have:THE PRESENCE OF SULFURIC ACID DIRECTLY RESULTS IN THE FORMATION OF ETHYL CARBONATE IN THE FINAL SPIRIT!!!- THIS CHEMICAL IS A KNOWN CARCINOGEN AND IT'S PRESENCE IS RESTRICTED BY ALL GOVERNMENTS IN SPIRITS CONSUMED BY HUMANS!! I've always used lactic acid (or backset) for adjusting Ph in my beers ,etc.- I'm glad I've never used sulfuric acid.

The reaction taking place during mashing is one of hydrolysis and all the components of the grain particle are subject to varying degrees of changes. While the conversion of starch results mainly in fermentable sugars, the degradation products of the proteins and other components will ferment into fusel oils, aldehydes, esters and acids, which are grouped under the generic title of "cogeners". The composition and concentration of these cogeners determine the quality and characteristics of a whiskey. Thus corn, with its high starch content, provides the source of alcohol, while rye, with its high protein content, provides the "flavour". The variation of the respective proportions of corn and rye leads to different mash bills which exhibit different levels of flavour. The malt, with its unique function (to provide the amalyse to break down the starch), always occurs at a constant predetermined percentage, typically 10-12% of the grain bill.

Reese answers some common questions ...

    Q1) I have thought about using a different corn - but would the chopped or cracked corn not behave in the same way as flaked corn? Would it not absorb the water in the same way, after all it is still corn starch? It absorbs water, yes, but it only swells and remains relatively intact. Flaked corn, on the other hand, is corn that has been ground, rolled and then cut into flakes. When it absorbs water, it reverts back to its finely-ground state, hence your porridge problem. Chopped or cracked corn, while it absorbs water, will do so slowly, so you need to cook it longer and at a higher temperature. I kept my water at boiling through out the whole cooking process. Q2) Also, I take it that you suspend the boiled cracked corn inside a feed bag during fermentation? Yes. I have a large brewers bag that fits over the opening of my fermentation bucket, reaching to its bottom. After filling the fermentation bucket with sugar water, I line the bucket with the bag, cook the corn/malt and then simply pour it (and the excess water in which it was cooked) in. Then I tie the bag off with a loose overhand knot and put the lid on the bucket while it cools. It remains in the bucket and tied during the whole fermentation process. Afterwards, the bag will be emptied and washed for use in my next go. Q3) How do you get the wort off the fermented corn - squeezing with your hands? Some sort of press? A lauter vat/set-up?
    It should be possible to just simply rinse the bag with warm water, capturing what drains through. A good squeezing might help, but what you would get off wouldn't match the quantities of wort already suspended in the remainder of your now-brewer-bag-free fermentation bucket. The excess water that was available after cooking the corn/malt mix (and the corn's action on the wort while in the bucket) should have already contained enough starchy goodness to flavor the sugar-water wort base well enough.
Scott writes ...
    I'm no expert, but I do know from reading and personal experience that it's best to boil corn for 30 or 40 minutes to soften it up and gelatinize the starches (unless it's flaked corn, which has already been gelatinized). Make sure you use a stockpot that won't scorch the corn (e.g. thick stainless with a copper or aluminum bottom -- expensive! Or, like me, a non-stick aluminum pot -- less expensive). If you scorch the corn, your hooch will have a nasty stink (personal experience). If you don't free up the corn starches with a boil, your yield will be significantly lower. 1.040 is actually pretty good condsidering your mashing method, the amount of grain and the volume of water you used. You should be able to get closer to 1.060 if you add something like the enzyme gluco-amylase to the mash or wash.

    Why don't you get as much as with a sugar wash? Grain is about 50% starch, and you're never going to convert 100% of that to fermentable sugars. If you convert 75%, you're doing well.

    As for the iodine test still showing starch, there could be several reasons. Did you mix the malt throughout the mash (i.e. did all of the corn have a chance to get exposed to the enzymes)? Was your mash evenly heated throughout? Mixing/stirring to evenly distribute the heat is a good idea. You don't want hot spots destroying enzymes.
Should you ferment on the grain, or sparge the grains ? Ian Smiley suggests..
    If you're doing an all-grain mash of corn, rye, and or wheat, just ferment it all on the grain and strain it out later. It'll strain much more easily and efficiently after the fermentation. In fact, this is exactly what the commercial whiskey distilleries do.

    If you're making an all-barley-malt malt mash, you should sparge the grains out after mashing. Again, this is the way the commercial malt whiskey distilleries do it. However, keep in mind that malt mash does not undergo a kettle-boil the way an all-grain beer mash does, so you must limit the amount of sparge water you use or you'll over dilute the mash.
Brainsolenoid cautions ...
    I must admit humbley that I get a bit skiddish when I hear folks talk about fermenting on grains. There are a few items surrounding the mystery of fermenting / boiling grains, and in the Brewing community, these are some of the more basic items:

    1.) Grains were boiled in the late 1,700's up through modern times by Belgian Monks and German Brewers. They were performing what was referred to as a "decoction" mash, which was used to guarantee a cotrolled mash temperature in the times prior to thermometers. Part of the mash (and a little liquid) was pulled off the tun and sent to the kettle, where it was brought to boil, and then added back into the mash. This doesn't kill the enzymes as they survive in the liquid part of the mash. It makes a great Bock or other fuller bodied lager.

    2.) Brewer's boil their wort for numerous reasons, but mainly for reducing wort volume (and increasing sugar content), breaking proteins out of the wort for clearer beer, and for another extremely important reason......sterility. I get nervous when folks walk away with a snippit of info and fail with it. Yes, you can make a wash without boiling, but you are running some risks, sterilization wise, and will require an good size pitch of fast yeast to get things moving quickly. Even after boiling, I answer a lot of questions by Homebrewers who's wort has gone to mold even after boiling and pitching yeast. Long lag times produce off-flavors and and infections, and boiling helps at least to minimize what's carried over from the bacteria on the grains.

    3.) Now, I will preface this by saying I'm no chemist, but it is our belief that you have to boil for quite a while......say 90 minutes at least and it's still a function of wort get even close to the type of flavors found in extracts. Extracts, so we believe, gets that band-aid type background from overworked melanoidens. These produce the type of extreme maltiness you feel in Dopplebocks and higher gravity beers. Extracts are just worked to hard to get them in extract form and in contest tastings I can taste them right off.

    4.) Brewer's don't ferment on grains because it produces off-flavors as well as clarity nightmares. It's been written in brewing circles as well that fermenting on the pulp material produces methanol, though I have read to the contrary in (2) distillers resources that only pectins produce methanol. Since it is considered a "wood alcohol", we have always considered it as a byproduct of pulp fermentations. Though the "pectin" story seems to be spread throughout messages on this site (their source being the same (2) I've seen, no doubt), the Brewer / Engineer in me will stick with the logic that if fermenting on cellulose is a good thing, then we'ld all be cutting our trees down for hooch.

    It may be true that some Distillers are boiling their washes and are fermenting on grains, I'm sure you'll find some that aren't. The use almost laboratory standards that we don't have access to. Further, their pitching rates / oxygen contents are much higher than the amatuer distiller.
To which Ian Smiley replies:
    The information that BS gives is very accurate and completely consistent with the regimen I've learned and have been using for many years as an all-grain beer brewer, and achieving excellent results. I've done triple decoctions and cold lager fermentations to make continental pilsner, and I've done heavy English ales with dark specialty malts using other methods that BS mentions.

    I'm also aware that to ferment a beer on its grains would not only impart all kinds of off-flavours and undesirable bitterness from the husks, but it would engender yeast autolysis later in the fermentation cycle. And, for beer mashes, one definitely has to boil for about 90 minutes. This is not only important to achieve the hot break and to stabilize the flavour, but it's the only workable way to perform and control the hop extraction: bitterness, flavour, and aroma.

    Having said all that, I must point out that in my last contribution I was referring to whiskey mash, and not beer mash. There's a significant difference in the two processes. Whiskey mashes that are fermented on the grains are high-adjunct mashes (typically 80+% corn, rye, or other cereal grains) and mashed to optimize fermentability. The mashing temperatures of around 65C (149F) for 60 to 90 minutes are more than enough to sterilize (i.e. Pasteurize) the mash.

    Whiskey mashes are fermented from 60 to 84 hours, then they are strained and distilled. Given that the substrate is reasonably free of bacterial contamination (as it would be after 90 minutes at 65C) and that a copious and clean yeast starter is added, there's insufficient time for an infection to establish itself before the mash is brought to boil in the still. This is very different from a beer mash that has to undergo primary, secondary, and tertiary fermentation over numerous weeks, which would afford amply time for bacteria to thoroughly establish itself.

    Whiskey made from mostly cereal grains are not only fermented on their grains, but in some pot-still bourbon operations that use steam pipes to heat their still boilers, the grain is even placed in the still. Now, a flame fired still could never do this without burning the suspended grist on the bottom of the still pot.

    Malt-whiskey mashes are sparged the way beer mashes are, and are not fermented on the grains. But, they are usually not boiled, they go straight to the fermenter, are oxygenated, and are fermented for 60 to 84 hours, then distilled.

    I hope this helps to clarify my prior contribution re fermenting on grains and not boiling.
Raoul suggests that root ginger is a source of amalayse, decreasing fermentation times down from 15 to 3-4 days ...
    Try 1/8 tsp of fresh ginger root and 1/2 tablet of Beano with every gallon of whole corn and 8-10 pounds of sugar you use. I then dilute to 1.090sg (about 4 1/2 USGallons) and chuck in 1 oz of Fleischmanns ActiveDry, RapidRise or breadmachine yeast. After 3-4 days it is at 0.992sg and it has stayed above 95 degF. The ginger is a really cheap source of alpha-amylase and the Beano seems to act as a catalyst. No need to boil the wash either.

    A reliable source of a-amylase enzymes is ginger and I believe the inside white part of a banana skin. Also it is present in saliva but I don't like the idea of spitting into my wash. It replaces the function of 6-row barley or malting the corn. To prepare the ginger, add 1 cup of cold water (40deg F) and the ginger root into a blender and get it as fine as possible.

    You can also use the mash 2-3 times or so I have been told. Some old timers in the woods here report up to 5-6 times. This suggests that they do not have an efficient starch conversion but they didn't use ginger either.

    Use a paint strainer (or a stocking leg) as a bag to hold your grain. This solves the straining issue.

Stanford writes:
    I have produced a very favorable distillation by using Aspergillum oryzae during the fermentation process. One must first make a loose or watery, fully cooked porridge of grain mixture, cool to below 95 F, then sprinkle the inoculants over the porridge. No malting is needed! When the porridge has reduced to a more watery consistency, yeast without vitamins is added. Kept at blood temperature for a week or more will COMPLETELY exhaust the grain!

    The A. oryzae is much more effective in breaking down the starch to sugar than malt. This is how the Japanese make Sake from rice. I believe the results are superior, the AO produces more pleasurable aldehydes than malt, and retains more of the corn flavor.

    Additionally, as with sour mash, a little of the reserved ferment beer added to a new batch, alleviates the need for additional yeast or inoculants. Near continuous process! However, others have indicated that as batches progress, mutations can occur that will deviate from the original strains of both yeast and inoculants. Let your tongue be your guide!


The best yeast to use with a grain mash is a basic beer yeast. Scott recommends
    I would use an ale yeast that supposedly gives a complex and balanced flavor profile. Maybe something like White Lab's Edinburgh Ale Yeast (#WLP028). I just finished using this yeast to ferment an all-grain mash (I fermented on the grain). I ended up with about 8% alcohol and the final gravity after 72 hours was around 0. I used it at the slightly higher than recommended temperature range of 75F-80F. The whiskey tastes pretty good. It won't put Lagavulin or Laphroaig out of business, but what the hell it's a lot cheaper.

Jacks "No Cooking Needed" Mashing Technique

If you've read Enzymes, you'l know how how they affect the rate of a reaction, and how they work in the conversion of starch to glucose. The normal temperatures recommened are those at which the alpha and beta amylase work fastest. If you're prepared to wait a little longer, and not get quite the same conversion, you can mash without cooking. Jack reports ...
    I just finished my experiments with this method (after reading about how old-time moonshiners would make their whiskey by just boiling some cornmeal, letting it cool, and adding yeast).

    Using flaked corn from my homebrew shop, I tried this: Mix 2 pounds of flaked corn (and 70 grams of high enzyme, six-row barley malt- crushed) into one gallon of cool tap water. Add one tablet (or 5 drops) of the medicine called Beano per gallon of this mash (I use the liquid, because I know it dissolves better) and your yeast- I use a dry ale yeast. This mix- without cooking, heating or stirring- will ferment out into about 5-7%abv!!

    I know it sounds hard to believe, but it's true- it comes out to 10 pounds of flaked corn , and 2 pounds of six row malt per five gallons of water.

    For those who want to make corn whiskey or bourbon, but have no all-grain brewing experience, don't worry- just mix the grain, and add yeast and Beano. Beano is an enzyme that will break down starches in the stomach so they don't down break down in the intestines and ferment (the cause of gas)- and, since it works in the body, it works at room temperature. I have made 2, five gallon batches in this way ( using a wine yeast- lavlin k1v-1116- makes for a better, more delicate, corn whiskey. The competative factor also prevents infection).

    Just distill this in a steam jacketed potstill, or an ice water bath still. This system uses about 20% more grain than is needed using normal mashing methods, but, if you have no time for holding grain at 155F for 90 minutes (or if you just aren't familiar with all-grain brewing) this system works great.

Basic Whiskey Recipe

So a "no frills" whiskey recipe might go as ...
    Heat 4 kg cracked or crushed malt with 18 L of water to 63-65 °C, and hold there for 1-1.5 hours. Heat to 73-75 °C, then strain off and keep liquid, using 250 mL of hot water to rinse the grains. Cool to below 32 °C (should have an initial specific gravity of 1.050). Add hydrated yeast & leave to ferment (maintain at 26 °C) until airlock stops bubbling and final SG of around 1.010. Let settle for a day, then syphon carefully into still.
Jack recommends (highly) ..
    Bring about five gallons of water to a good boil, then add 12 pounds of (unhopped!!!) pale malt syrup and dissolve it, then boil it for a good 15 minutes, then cool (I use a wort chiller, it takes me 20 minutes to get this much water down to a pitching temp)- pitch with either 60 grams of dry bread yeast, or any ale or lager yeast that (This is important) has a reputation for producing low to no amounts of esters (these are nasty in whiskey). after about 3 to 4 days distill it and make the cut according to the corn whiskey book. I put mine in a bottle with some toasted American oak chips, diluted down to 50%abv - The best malt whiskey I have had in a long time! YOU HAVE GOT TO TRY THIS !!! (yeah, I know, three exlamation points- the sign of a true madman-trust me anyway). The next experiment is to steep 50 to 100 grams of peated malt (grains) in the 5 gals of water (at 155F for 45minutes) before bringing to a boil and adding the malt syrup- You guessed it- SCOTCH!!! and IRISH WHISKY from a store bought still (a eurostill) and maybe an hour or two of stove work- no mashing temps, no worrying about water hardness or Ph or iron content- simple, easy- you gotta love it.

    Update ! ... Just tried out something new- if you add 3 tablets (dissolved in a little water) of Beano- (it's found in the pharmacy- it's an enzyme that breaks down long chain starches into short chain sugars to help with gas problems) to the malt whisky mash recipe - it'll increase alcohol yields a little (like 2-3%) as well as make the stuff less likely to foam in the still- also, if you have a twin element still, let it heat up on the lower setting to slow down the heat up time and prevent foaming even more ( I even add a half teaspoon of mineral oil to break up the foaming - it's a lot of work to keep malt syrup mashes from foaming in a still) A variable power setting would also be helpfull.
Rob advises ..
    for corn mash, I just use the cracked corn as is. I do grind up the malted barley but just cracking it is fine. I use about 2 lbs barley and 8 lbs corn. Get the water to boiling, about 6 gallons depending on the size of your pot. Add the craked corn and let it simmer at around 180 degrees (82 °C) or so for about 1\2 hour.. This softens it nicely. Temperature for this is not critical. Turn heat off and let temp drop to about 145 F (63 °C) and add the malted barley. Keep temp at 143 or so for about 2 hrs.. This results in dextrous for a high alcohol mash. Then what I do is take my primary fermenter and cover it with some filter cloth and hold the cloth in place with a bungie cord. The cloth I use is the kind with holes that is used to make soccer jersies. I dump the mixture about 2 quarts at a time and sprinkle hot water(160 F (71 °C) or so) over it. This washes the sugars out of the grain. Once each 2 quarts is finished, I scoop out the spent grain and repeat the process. The resulting wash is fermented for 5 days or until it slows. Then I siphon it into a secondary fermenter and let it finish working and so it will clear.
CornFed writes ...
    for those that want to use corn or a all grain base mash... First of all when using corn meal various problems can occure, so proper lautering and filtration is needed to seperate the wort from the meal. This can be problematic in itself. The use of micron bags and or screens are needed. I get around some of this mess by using cracked,crushed or whole corn, though whole corn needs to be worked a little longer so that total starch conversion can take place. Steeping for 40 to 50 hours in a mixture of hot water (110F.) potassum metabisulfite which releases sulphur dioxide and lactic bacteria (Lactobacilus) to aid in softening the corn. After the corn has soften and swelled in size, I then add more water and raise the temp up to 140F. Now I add a Enzyme cocktail this is very important as corn has very little if any enzymes in it that can convert the starches over to usable sugars. I keep the mash at this temp. for 3 to 4 hours then raise it to 155F. for 30mins during this time you must keep the whole thing stirred. I use a turning gear motor and a paddle to get the job done. Now for the time being lets talk about These Enzymes as they are very important. I use a Enzyme cocktail of more than one or two enzymes Mainly because I'm striving to convert the corn down as much as I can to usable sugars. I don't have a constant recipe as of yet that I use, because there is so many types of Enzymes and all have different actions. Finding the right ones require the study of these actions and how each Enzyme works to help other Enzymes in breaking down cellwalls, protein, glutens and starches. Cellulase is a enzyme that breaks down Plant fibers and cellwalls, Proteinase breaks down protein. Glucanase breaks down gluten, Amylase of which there are two types Alpha and beta breaks down starches both are found in malted barley. The list of Enzymes goes on and on, Amyloglucosidase, Ferulic acid easerase, Xylanase, Alpha-acetolatate decaboxylase are just some of these. You can obtain some of these Enzymes under different names some of which are Cellulase 13L, Combizyme 108L, Depol 112L, 670L, 740L,Maltamyl, San Super, Ceremix. Ok now that you are totaly confused lets get back to the mash , after conversion has taken place add more water and lauter then filter the wort, this will remove any unwanted particles.

Jack describes his new recipe ...
    I found an AMAZING way to make malt whiskey Brew an all-barley malt (2-row) batch like normal; mash/rest/sparge. Rather than just cooling the sparged wort- boil it (a good strong rolling boil) for 90 minutes, then cool it with a wort chiller or a bathtub (it should be at 70 to 80F in 45 minutes).

    Here is the new twist- Pour the mash into a sanitized glass carboy, sit it in the bathtub and surround it with cold water. Let it sit until ALL of the trub (the white, brain like sludge that settles out to the bottom) has finally settled out. Once the trub has ALL settled out (it must be perfect- the wort must be sparkling clear)- this can take about 4 hours, THEN siphon off the PERECTLY CLEAR wort into another fermenter (I use the stainless steel pot I boiled it in), and add your yeast and Beano.

    Once fermented and cleared (about two weeks), freeze concentrate, then potstill it using the "making the cut" numbers from the corn whiskey book.

    This is the BEST whiskey I have EVER HAD (my wife's family goes to Scotland to get their stuff- this is better!). Not only is it smooth from the tight middle cut, but the long boil and PERFECT trub separation (I boiled 5 gallons, I only fermented about 3- I didn't let ANY trub carry over into the fermenter. Like I said it must be perfect separation) will give you a whiseky malt flavor that is so clean and clear, the spirit's finish actually tastes like you are chewing on a grain of 2-row- It is the most amazing, soft, grainy finish (without being harsh) that you will ever try. The long boil, and the perfect separation from the sediment is what does it. Give it a try- you will never go back to malt syrup whiskey again.

Rev. Cunninghams Family Recipe American Whiskey
    • 2 pounds Corn (off of the ear, can, or thawed from frozen)
    • 1 pound of raisins (if you can, use light raisins)
    • 3 Oranges
    • 15 Peppercorns
    • 1 Gallon of water
    • 3 pounds Sugar (the recipe calls for regular table sugar, but I like brown sugar)
    • 3 teaspoons of acid blend
    • 1/2 teaspoon of nutrient
    • 10 grams of champagne yeast

    Place the corn into a blender and process it until it is pulp-like. Pour the corn pulp, zest of the 3 oranges, and peppercorns into a nylon straining bag (tie the top) and place into the primary fermenter. Boil the one gallon of water and put it into the fermenter with all of the other ingredients EXCEPT THE YEAST. Stir, cover, and let sit for 24 hours. After the 24 hour wait, stir in the yeast. Stir daily for 3 days. After 2 weeks, strain the juice from the bag and rack the wine into a secondary fermenter. After about 4 weeks (making sure the wine has fermented out all of the sugar and cleared) distill.When distilling, be careful that you have fermented out all of the sugar, because if too much sugar is left, it may caramelize while distilling.
Carolina Shiner writes ..
    I have used the cornflake recipe 2 times a week for a month,dont ask why. It has been taste tested by several old timers who could not tell it was not the original corn moonshine recipe. Here is the whole thing,
    • 19 ltr of well or spring water or water with NO Chlorine,
    • 10 lb white sugar mixed in the 19 ltr water. Blend well to put sugar into solution
    • add 1 lb of cheap or even out of date corn flakes ground into almost powder
    • for more corn flavor just add more flakes
    What you are doing is making neutral wash and adding flavor. For exact instructions on neutral wash visit Sugar Washes.
For quite a large scale operation, The "Household Cyclopedia" recommends to make Malt Spirit by ...
    Mix 60 quarters of barley grist, ground low, and 20 quarters of coarse ground pale malt, with 250 barrels of water, at about 170°. Take out 30 barrels of the wort, and add to this 10 stone of fresh porter yeast, and when the remaining wort is cooled down to 55°, add 10 quarters more malt, previously mixed with 30 barrels of warm water; stir the whole well together, and put it to ferment, along with the reserved yeasted wort; this wash will be found to weigh, by the saccharometer, from 28 to 32 lbs. per barrel, more than water. In the course of 12 or 14 days, the yeast head will fall quite flat, and the wash will have a vinous smell and taste, and not weigh more than from 2 to 4 lbs. per barrel more than water. Some now put 20 lbs. of common salt, and 30 lbs. of flour, and in 3 or 4 days put it inside the still, previously stirring it well together. Every 6 galls. of this wash will produce 1 gall. of spirit, at from 1 to 10 over-proof: or 18 galls. of spirit from each quarter of grain.

    Note that 1 quarter = 2 stone = 12.7 kg, and 1 barrel = 42 gallon = 160 L, along with the usual 1 lb = 0.45 kg.
Another helpful post from Jack offers ...
    Most extract- beer brewers (as well as home whiskey makers) tend to have some trouble with grain based whiskey mashes- I've found a method that makes it much easier:

    Grind all of the grain in whatever mill you have (most homebrew shops have these on site) and get 2 quarts of water per pound of grain ready by adding 2 teaspoons of gypsum per 5 gallons and then adjusting the ph with citric acid to about 5.8 (for the best results, measure out all the water you need 2 days ahead of time and bring it to a rolling boil for 25 minutes, let it cool with the lid of the pot on. This will drive off any chlorine, as well as produce a white powdery precipitate on the bottom of the kettle- this is the remains of temporary "carbonate" hardness in the water and is not good-pour off the water and leave this stuff behind. after it's cool treat it as above). The cheap pH strips at the homebrew shop will tell you when you've reached the right pH.

    Heat the water about 165 to 170F, then slowly (with stirring) add in the grain. The grain should cool the water down to about 152F. Using either an insulated picnic cooler, or your stovetop, try and hold this temp for 90 minutes. NEVER let it go above 160F or you'll kill off the enzymes.

    After 90minutes is up, most brewers involve themselves in the frustrating idiocy that is called "sparging"- this is where you slowly sprinkle water over the grain (now in a container with a screen covered outlet at the bottom) to rinse the sugar off of the grain- It normally takes a good hour to do this right, and those using a lot of corn or rye, it won't work- these grains stick together and won't allow the water through. Instead, after the 90 minutes is up, since you haven't stirred it, the mash will have separated into a top clear layer, and the grain will be on the bottom. Using a measuring cup, scoop out the clear liquid into another kettle (don't disturb the sediment), until there is no more clear layer to scoop off. Measure how much water was taken out- take some more water (treated as above) and bring it to 160F or so and add that back to the grain bed.

    Let it settle for about 30 minutes, and scoop off the clear layer again. Add more preheated (and ph adjusted) water to repplace what you took off, and let it sit for another half hour. This time, when you scoop off the clear layer, gather up the grain in a fine mesh bag, and squeeze out all the water you can.

    Taste the grain after doing this, if it is still sweet, you may want to soak it in more water.

    Combine the batches of clear mash and boil them (to sterilize them) for about 15 minutes.

    This is known as "no-sparge" brewing and is said to make the best malt flavored beers. For those of you with a spigot on a bucket (or kettle), just open it up and let whatever water that will run off by itself do so. As long as no husk material is in the "Freerun wort" there is no need to recirculate it. I found this method listed in an 1800's distilling book, and have found it usefull because when making grain mashes with lots of flaked grains (or alot of wheat), my sparging runoff always got stopped up. Because you can't boil a mash with a lot of grain in it (the husk causes off flavors), just mashing the grain and cooling it to ferment it would always give me a contaminated batch with some really nasty flavors.
Blueflame uses his cousins corn whisky recipe, which ...
    for a 25 gallon wash use
    • 1/2 cup of dried yeast
    • 50#'s cracked corn
    • 50#'s sugar
    • 25 gals water
    • 2 gals.honey
    Let it work for 7 to 9 days, strain off then distill until to 60 - 70 proof then he stops (he uses a pot still and catches everything.) Then puts it to age in charred kegs and uses burnt apricots in the kegs (6 apricots to 10 gal of whisky). He then lets it sit for 6 to 8 months then dispenses it to the family members at out annual gatherings. Its really smooth and taste like Crown Royal
later, Blueflame mentions ...

    It usually distills off about 90%
    We dilute down to 45%alc then keg with about 300 of 3/4 by 3/4 charred oak blocks per 16 gals
    We use 12#s of honey and about 2 dozen black peppercorns also
    Let sit-- or charcoal filter--- really smooth.
Yet more recipes from Jack ...
    .. using 12# of pale malt syrup and "making the cut" according to the corn whiskey book (I went by taste, when there was no bite at all- that's when I collected) and aging on a small amount of heavily charred american oak (1/2 teaspoon per 750ml bottle at 55%abv) makes something that can give any irish malt a run for the money.

    I've also been working on a "cheap scotch" method. In 2.5 gallons of water, steep five pounds of peated malt (homebrew shop) for an hour at 155F. Once done, filter out the grain (rinse the grain with another gallon of water at the same temp), and bring the water to a boil- add ten pounds of sugar, ferment with an ale yeast, then either double distill it in a potstill and mix with some polished sugar spirit, or make the cut in a reflux still like with corn whiskey (I haven't tried the reflux still method but the blended potstill batch was declared "a fine batch of peatreek" by a visiting Scot- appearantly, peatreek is another word for "moonshine").Give it a try.
Yet more from Jack (an all-in-one summary) ...
    Making decent Scotch whisky is very easy to do at home (provided you know anything about all grain beer brewing). Even if you don't all grain brew- peated malt and malt syrup can be made into very nice Scotch (I've never tried the synthetic flavoring route- and I never will). Mash preparation will be first, then distillation:

    Allgrain method - (I'll assume you can brew your own all grain batches)- start with a mix of 10 to 15 pounds of common 2-row malted barley, and mix in anywhere from 0 to 5 pounds of peated malt (both commonly found in homebrew stores) into the 2-row. grind the grain in a mill, then mash the grain at about 150F for 90 minutes, using 2 quarts of water per pound of grain. After 90 minutes is up, draw off some clear liquid, and add a drop of iodine tincture, if it turns purple, there is still starch in the mix- mash another hour at 150F. If there is no change, sparge (rinse) the grain slowly (maybe 30 minutes) with water heated to 170F. Continue until 6 gallons has been collected. Bring this to a boil for 5 minutes, then cool it by using either a wort chiller or a bath of ice water (don't add ice to the mash). Once cool, add your yeast (a dry ale yeast works best)- this should come out to about 7 to 11%abv once it's finished fermenting. Adding some Beano (an anti-gas enzyme sold in the US) is also a good idea- it will break up more complex starches and turn them into fermentable sugars- jaust add it with the yeast.

    The easy way of making Scotch is to go to the homebrew shop and buy 3.75 pounds of peated malt and Steep it for a half an hour in 3.75 gallons of water at 155F. After steeping (nylon stockings work well as a giant "tea bag" for the grain), remove the grain, pour another gallon of hot water over it (no hotter than 170F) to rinse out any more flavor. Bring the 4.75 gallons of water to a boil, take it off the heat source (this is done to prevent scorching the extract), and dissolve 12 pounds of pale malt extract (UNHOPPED!!) in the water. After the malt syrup is dissolved, cool the mash. After it's cool add your yeast (and Beano).
    I asked about why the rinsing water had to be at exactly the right temperature, and Jack replied .. You never allow the water to go above 170F because it will leach tannins out of the grain husk (it'll end up so astringent that it tastes like straw). In this "steeping" procedure, your not really converting any starches, just leaching out flavors from the grains, but you must stay below 170 or you leach out some really nasty flavors. 155F is the perfect temp. This is the same technique used to add "specialty grains" to homebrewed beer made with malt extract. I just found it worked well to put the smoky flavor into malt whisky as well.

    Once the mash is fermented, load it into a potstill (making a heavier Scotch from the start is best- if it's too strong you can blend in some polished neutral spirit later on). If you have done a 5- gallon batch, distill the mash until you collect 1.6 gallons of "low wines" (it will be anywhere from 17 to 30%abv). After the batch has been "reduced" it can be stored with no danger (not flamable- can't spoil, etc)- but it must not be ingested (it will likely be cloudy- this is the heavy alcohols we'll get rid of them next). Take the 1.6 gallons of "low wines" and put it back in your potstill, distill until you collect 0.4 gallons of Scotch. On this second run- discard the first 100 ml of spirit that comes out as "heads"- throw them out. The 0.4 gallons you collect is to be checked to see what strength (about 70%abv) it is, water it down to about 60% and age it on some toasted American oak (heavy toast- used if you can find it) age it in the bottle at about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of oak per 750ml of spirit. Every month, add a little water as it ages. one month at 60%, one at 50%, and the final at 40%, will extract both vanillins and sugars from the wood, and be very smooth for it's age. This is a wastefull, low yield method- but it produces the smoothest spirit (close to Glenmorangie). A splash of port or sherry (1.5ml per bottle) is also a nice touch. The potstill should be on a burner- it should not be an element- run still. Too much of a chance of scorching the whisky. If you have an element run reflux still, procede as above, then freeze the fermented mash in plasic jugs, then let the spirit thaw and drip into a collection container- collecting 1/2 of the 5 gallons (leaving the rest as ice in the plastic jug). Put this "freeze concetrated" mash in your reflux still, add an equal amount of water, and distill it. The freezing concentrates the alcohol/flavor, and the watering of the mash prevents foaming and burning on the heating element of the still. This makes a lighter, but just as good spirit- collect the 100ml of heads, then run as per a normal reflux still, and age the spirit as above.
Jack also writes about Japanese (Scotch) whisky production ...
    I went to a Scottish games festival here last week and picked up an unusual book. It's titled Japanese Whiskey, Scotch Blend by Olive Checkland (Scottish Cultural Press, 1998). It's a look at the life of the man responsible for bringing Scotch-style whiskey making to Japan: Masataka Taketsuru- who was sent to Scotland to learn the trade of whiskey- he stayed for three years, and returned to Japan, setting up a distillery for Suntory (they financed his trip), then a few years later, he established his own distillery: Nikka. Most of the book deals with the problems his Scottish wife had to go through living in Japan during WW2- but the appendices has about 3 pages of notes recopied from the notes Masataka wrote down while he was learning. Appearantly, in 1919, the Scots were not overprotrective of "trade secrets" as they are now. After reading the book, and the notes, I did some math to reduce them down to a "homedistillers" level. A lot of the notes were concerned with prices for malt, peat, and taxes- but there were a few gems in it:
    • The yeast was obtained from a brewery in Dublin -it was tan/brown in color. (in 1919 this means the leftover yeast from a batch of stout).
    • Four runnings were taken from each mash- the first two were fermented and distilled, the third and the fourth were used to start the next mash. (this means you mash the grains with water, wait, then drain all the water off, add an equal amount of water to that which was drained off, wait again, then drain that off, and repeat twice more- saving the first two mashes for the ferment).
    • The mash temperature was 144F (62C) and was held for 90 minutes on each of the four mashes.
    • The grain to water ratio was 2 to 3 pounds of malt per gallon of water.
    • The ferment was held at a temperature of 78 to 97F (25-36C) and was complete in two days.
    • The specific gravity of the first mash was in the 1.067 to 1.080 range.
      The second runnings were at a gravity of about 1.037 to 1.025
      The third runnings were at a gravity of 1.009 to 1.007
      The fourth runnings were at a gravity of about 1.004
    • The mash was considered "ready to distill" when it fermented out to a gravity of 1.002
    • According to the Hazelburn distillery, a 5 gallon (20 liter) batch of mash should get you 75.47fl.oz. (2264ml) to 60.37fl.oz (1811.1ml) of "proof spirit"- this is based on their use of 42,400 gallons of mash to get between 4,000 and 5,000 proof gallons of spirit each week. (they used 6,000gallon fermenters).
    • Drinkable spirit is identified by adding water till it's 45.5%abv, and checking for clarity. (if it's cloudy- it's tossed in the feints receiver)
    This is the historical info:
    • Before WW1, one gallon of whiskey was 3 shillings (15p), after WW1 it went to 10 shillings (50p)
    • A plain oak cask costs between 2pounds and 10 shillings- sherry casks cost as much as 4 pounds.
    • The non-sherry casks are made of Canadian oak. 4.8 bushels of barley (one bushel=54 pounds) costs 71 shillings (pre WW1 it was 30 shillings)
    • A distillery worker's wages was 4 pounds a week - they worked 10 to 12 hour days.
    • Peat (post WW1) cost 7 shillings per cubic yard (pre WW1 it was 3 shillings, sixpence)
    • In one week the distillery uses 40 tons of coal (2 shillings per ton pre-WW1, post WW1 cost 2pounds per ton.
    In other news/advice, I have been playing about with more dry yeast- the dry yeast made by Muntons and Fisons is PERFECT for distillers of grain whiskey (malt especially), three, 5 gram packets of this yeast will drop the gravities listed above in the time stated above (2 days to go from1.080 to 1.002!). If you want to make authentic Scotch- this info would be of use. To make it more authentic use the Muntons and Fisons yeast in a stout recipe first, then recollect and re-pitch into the whiskey mash. For those who have access to it, Hugh Baird malting company sells peated malt that, cut 50-50 with plain two-row malt will give the 17ppm phenols that the heavier whiskeys use (the lighter brands drop down to 2 to4 ppm phenol). Hope this is usefull to someone- I've found it helpfull in my malt whiskey experiments.
Bob offers ...
    I have found that trying to ferment only grain is a loosing proposition. I use the grain as a flavor additive and a nutrient source for the yeast. It can be done, but the yield is low. This is a receipe that I have developed over a number of years that gives very good results.  Here it is: This is for a 15 gal. mash batch:
    • Add 25 lbs. (11kg) of sugar to about 10 gal. (38L) of warm filtered water. I use water at about 100 degrees F (38C).
    • Stir with vigorous agitation until sugar is completely dissolved. I have a home made stirrer that chucks into a drill that I use. While stirring, raise the paddles so that air is whipped into the sugar water solution.
    • On a stove or hotplate, stir 2 pounds (1 kg) of unhopped dark malt extract into 3 gallons (11L) of boiling water.
    • After the malt is dissolved, add 5 pounds (2.25 kg) of corn chops (a grind that is not as fine as corn meal so that it will stay in a grainbag). Stir, while boiling for 1 hour.
    • For the first 15 minutes or so, you need to stir almost constantly, as the corn will stick to the bottom of the cooking vessel.
    • Let malt/corn cool until you can pour corn into a grain bag. The liquid is added to the sugar/water solution.
    • Tie the grain bag with the cooked corn and add to mash.
    • After mash has cooled to 75-80 degrees F (24C) add 1 tablespoon yeast that has been dissolved in a cup of warm mash. I use distillers yeast.
    • Let fermentation go as long as possible to get highest yield.
    • Distill, pressure filter through block charcoal, cut to desired proof and enjoy.
    For added variety add 2 drops of double strength vanilla extract to a liter. A vanilla bean should work great also. Another good drink: Add 4-5 mint leafs/liter. Shades of mint juleps
Paul describes his recipe ...
    All these are in U.S. measurements. I'm also look for the easiest way that takes the least amount of time. I start with 10 lbs steam flaked corn purchased from a feed dealer. Every dealer varies in the quality of his or her product. I guess I lucked out because mine is pretty much all corn no other garbage. 7$ a 50 lbs bag. Some times I'll substitute 2 lbs of flaked wheat, rye or both. Those get a little pricey @1$ lbs.

    Along with being short on time I'm cheap. I boil 4 gal of tap water. Mine is well water so it is acidy and has calcium in it already. When the water is boiling I put it into a 6 gal. bucket that is insulated. I then pour in the 10 lb mix of grain. I stir it with a portable drill with a 5 gal paint stirrer attached. I keep a cap on the bucket to keep the heat in. Every 10 min or so I stir the heck out of it. Helps break up the corn and gelatinize it also aerates the oxygen free boiled water. When the temp hits 150 I throw in 2 lbs of cracked malted barley. I stir this with the drill, keep it covered and insulated and stir every 10 min or so. Hopefully the temp doesn't go down more then a few degrees. If it does I throw what I can into a pot (4+ gals) and bring the temp up to and hold it at 149 give or take for the remaining time. I then throw it all back into the 6 gal bucket take the insulation off and top off with ice- cold back slop. When temp hits 118 I check the SG. (12 to 14) There is usually 2-3 inches of clear yellow liquid on top.

    I take 2 cups of liquid put into a bowl add some water and pitch 1/3 cup of bakers yeast. Let it foam up good then toss it in and stir. I have made 2 side by side batches one with bakers and one with distiller yeast and you can not tell the difference IMO. With insulation back on bucket ferment for 3 day or less. (When airlock bubbling slows down.)

    I have a 2 bucket system I use to separate the grain from liquid. A 6 gal bucket with a tap on the bottom and a 5 gal bucket that fits into the other. I cut 2/3 of the bottom out of the 5 gal and have a fine mesh nylon bag that fits over the top. I tie wrap the bag around the lip of the bucket so the bag doesn't slip with the weight of the grain. I let the whole thing drain over night. (I collect almost 4 gals of liquid not bad) By this time any yeast sediment has settled to bottom of the 6 gal bucket. I open the tap and slowly drain off the liquid so I don't disturb any sediment. I liquid is see-thru clear.

    I then throw into a pot still distill 2x and add distill water to taste. Oak it with toasted oak or if I want it quicker JD chips and a dried apricot (2 weeks) in a mason jar. I think that's everything. Cost about 5 bucks for 6 quart of fine bourbon.
Tarvus describes his recipe ...
    All grain brewing for distillation is much simpler than all grain beer brewing. You can eliminate the hassles of lautering altogether and ferment "on the grain". You can even distill "on the grain" if using propane, but I think you might have scorching problems trying that with electric elements. You can also eliminate all the hassles of protein rests and mashout since you won't be worrying about "mouth feel" or lautering. And you don't have the hassle of doing a boil and hop additions either. You won't have to worry about some of the things that can spoil a beer - like hot side aeration and grain astringency since they don't affect the distilled product. Grain mashes seem to naturally create the ideal ph for fermentation and the grains themselves contain all the nutrients necessary for a good ferment. Finally, the need for post-fermentation sanitization is not as high as for beer. After all, you are going to be boiling the stuff right away in your still rather than bottling and storing it for weeks or months like you would beer. Unlike beer, the risk of infection bacterial infection of the final product is nil.

    I have brewed nearly 100 all grain beer batches and 4 all grain batches for distillation so I have a bit of experience with both. If you plan on an all barley malt brew, it's very simple. If using a high percentage of adjuncts like corn, it gets just a bit more complicated, but still easier than beer brewing.

    Most of the equipment you will need, you probably already have - except, perhaps, for a copper immersion chiller and a sturdy wooden paddle for stirring a thick mash.

    Here is my recipe and procedure for all-grain bourbon:

    Grain Bill (Scale down as necessary for your equipment)
    25 pounds cracked corn
    5 pounds rye flour
    17 pounds crushed 6-row malted barley

    32-gallon Rubbermaid trash barrel (fermenter)
    20-gallon stockpot mash tun (doubles as my boiler)
    8-gallon stockpot
    Outdoor propane cooker
    2-quart pitcher
    Oak paddle

    Mash Procedure
    For the mash-in I use all the corn, all the rye and 8 of the 17 pounds of barley malt for a total of 38 pounds of grain. You want about 1.25 quarts of water per pound of grain in the mash-in, so that rounds off to about 12 gallons of water

    Pre-heat 12 gallons of water to 162F. This is a little over 1.25 quarts per gallon. You can expect roughly a 13 degree F drop in temp when the grain is added to the water. It is better to undershoot than to overshoot since it is easier to heat up than to cool down the mash. The target mash-in temp is 149F. You can slowly add heat if you undershoot. If you overshoot by a degree or two, don't worry about it. If you overshoot by a lot, you will quickly have to add more cold water to drop the temp before the amylase enzymes become denatured from the heat. (We are shooting for high fermentability in our mash)

    Be sure to stir the mash thoroughly with the paddle. 38 pounds of grain in 12 gallons is THICK, so the sturdy paddle is a necessity! You want to make sure all the grain is moist, that there are no pockets or clumps of flour and that the temperature gradient is the same top to bottom of your mash tun and center to edge as well. Eventually we are going to boil this mash to gelatinize all the cracked corn, but if we don't do at least a partial starch conversion first, it will set up so think and gummy it will be impossible to stir! (Trust me on this - it happened to me!) I like to let the mash sit about an hour at this point. With the thermal mass of this size mash, the temp drop is only about 5 degrees in that period of time and most of the readily available starch converts. If you scale down the recipe, you may need to occasionally add heat to maintain the temp in the 148-149F range. We want full fermentation in order to maximize the amount of alcohol produced so we want to hold 148-149F as much as possible. Going higher than this will cause un- fermentable dextrines in the mash. This is good for beer, but bad for bourbon!

    After an hour, light the burner and slowly raise the temp while stirring constantly. Grain scorching is not a problem unless you forget to stir every few minutes. We want to bring the mash slowly to a full rolling boil. The water loss due to steam is about a gallon an hour. Boil the mash for about 30 minutes to an hour to gelatinize the corn and release additional starch into the mash. Don't forget to stir constantly! The mash will start to get real gooey! Use the blade of the paddle to continually scrape the bottom to keep the grain from sticking! At the end of that time, add cold water to make up the volume lost to steam, (one quart per 15 minutes of boil time) and add an additional 12 quarts of water for the 9 pounds of malted 6-row barley to be used shortly.

    Monitor the temp closely. At this point, you will want to rapidly lower the temperature of the mash to 152F. Do this by using the immersion chiller. Keep stirring as you chill to assure an even temp gradient.

    Once 152 F is achieved, remove the chiller and add the remaining 9 pounds of 6-row malted barley. Once again, stir thoroughly! The temp should fall to the 148-149F range when you add the barley malt. If it drops below 148F, then slowly bump up the temp by adding heat and stirring. I usually let the mash rest at this temp for at least 90 minutes. The previous boil will have released a lot of additional starch into the mash and you want to achieve as much starch conversion as possible. Only occasional stirring is necessary at this point. In between stirs, you will start to notice clear syrupy wort forming on the top of the mash.

    After 90 minutes, you will have achieved about as much starch conversion as you are going to get. Don't worry if you don't have full conversion. Starch haze is a defect in beer, but no starch haze will come over in your distillate. You are never going to achieve 100% conversion of all available starch. I feel like if I can get 28- 30 points per pound per gallon in my mash that I'm doing pretty well. Milling the cracked corn even further before the mash would probably release more starch, but that's an additional step, requires a mill set up for milling corn, and is something not worth hassling with - particularly since corn is like $6.00 per 50 pound sack! Grain is cheap, time is expensive!

    After the 90 minute conversion rest, again use the immersion chiller and chill the mash down to yeast pitching temp. I use a 2 quart pitcher to ladle the mash into my 8 gallon stock pot and empty the stock pot into my fermenter 4 gallons at a time (I ain't into lifting anything heavier than 4 gallons!) Be sure to splash and aerate the mash thoroughly as you dump it into the fermenter! After all the mash has been transferred, I usually top off with a bit more water to bring the gravity of the wort down a bit. I feel like wort in the 1.050 range seems to bring more of the grain flavor across into the distillate than higher gravity wort, but that may just be my imagination. It's up to you whether or not to do the dilution.

    The wort chiller is made from 50 feet of 5/8" OD soft copper tubing. This is the same OD as 1/2" rigid copper pipe so the same fittings will work on both. I've used chillers made from smaller tubing, but between the greater surface area and the increased throughput volume, this chiller is far more efficient.

    My chiller was formed by winding and gently bending the tubing around around a co2 tank. It comes coiled up already from the hardware store so really the only thing required is to tighten the coils a tad and provide verticle elevation to each sucessive coil. There are 15 coils on my chiller and each coil is about 12 inches in diameter. The completed chiller stands about 12 inches high. Stainless hoseclamps hold clear vinyl tubing to both ends of the chiller. The input end has a hose fitting so a standard garden hose can screw into it. The output is just a plain vinyl tube which I use to feed the hot water coming out into my swimming pool. That saves water and helps warm the pool at the same. time. Since the surface of the mash is the hottest part of the mash, the chiller works most efficiently by feeding the cold water into the top coil since the greatest delta T and hence greatest cooling happens there. The output end comes up from the bottom of the coil (inside the loops) and exits out the top.

    It's a really simple, quick and dirty gadjet to build and it's well worth the effort if you contemplate all-grain brewing. I even use it to chill a sugar wash down to pitching temps - so it's useful even without doing all-grain worts.

    My mash tun/boiler is wide enough that I can use my little paddle to stir both inside and outside the coils of the chiller. Stirring really speeds the chilling process. Back in the days when I was brewing lager beers, I would use my RIMS pump to recirculate a 10 gallon GOTT cooler full of ice water through the chiller. I could take 10 gallons of wort from mashout temps of 170F down to 55F in about 15 minutes.

    I don't mess with an air lock; I just put the lid on the garbage can fermenter. It outgases so much co2 that the chance of anything getting in is nil. Besides, the fermentation is so rapid that the wild yeasts and bacteria never get a foothold. If the average ambient temp over 24 hours is going to be less than 70F, I use an aquarium heater immersed in the fermenter to maintain 70F minimum. Within 24 hours, there will be a cap of grain husks covering the top of the liquid in the fermenter. Within a week, (sooner if you've use a turbo yeast) the cap will drop back into the wash. The wash will taste dry and a bit bitter at this point. It will be a neat looking light golden color. It's ready to run.

    I use a stillmaker type fractionating still for my run. I don't do anything like removing packing to de-tune the still, but I run it HARD to minimize reflux for this type of run and I seem to achieve pot still type results. By running hard, I'm talking about running nearly 5 quarts an hour - about like I would do a stripping run.

    I discard about the first 100 ml of heads, then start collecting. I collect in half-quart increments and label them with a marker as they come off. I use taste, smell and visual inspection of a sample of each collection jar mixed with water to determine when I have started collecting tails. Tails get added to the wash for the next run in the series.

    I should note that typically, I wind up with about 30 gallons of wash after topping up my fermenter which I run in 3 ten gallon increments. 10 gallons half fills my boiler which is critical since I distill "on the grains" meaning that a good deal of grain remnants are scooped up in the process of charging my boiler. There is a real risk of a clogged column when distilling on grains and I had a narrow escape from disaster once when this happened to me! Since then, I never fill my boiler more than half full when distilling on grains to allow sufficient headspace so as to avoid clogging the column with spent grains.

    I usually time my distillation day to coincide with mash day. I can get two separate mashes out of a 50 pound sack of corn using my recipe, so I repeat the mash process the day I do the run-off of the previous mash. Accordingly, I leave a goodly quantity of spent grains in my fermenter and add the new mash on top of them. Doing this, I avoid having to pitch new yeast and maintain good flavor continuity from batch to batch.

    Another trick to flavor continuity is called "slopping back", and I use this as well. After my last run, I save 5 or 6 gallons of the spent liquor remaining in the boiler and use this as a portion of my initial mash-in water for the next mash. This assures ideal ph for the new mash, provides good flavor continuity, and eliminates what would otherwise be a disposal issue.

    Once I have determined which of the jars collected are going into my final mix, I blend them together and take a spirit hydrometer reading. Usually I find that my taste, smell, visual examination of the distillate assures that my final mix will be in the 62-63% alcohol range - which is ideal for aging. If it is higher than this, I add bottled spring water to dilute it down to 125 proof for aging.

    It takes at least 4 runs to accumulate enough 125 proof bourbon to fill a 5 gallon oak barrel. Consequently, while waiting to accumulate enough to use in my 5 gallon aging barrel, I have been keeping the hooch in a 5 gallon stainless soda keg. I have a lot of white oak lumber available and after heavily charring some chunks and slivers with a torch, I add the scrap oak to the soda keg to give it a head start on aging. The bourbon develops a nice golden color and begins to pick up a nice oaky taste after just a few weeks. I sneak a soup ladle full on occasion, water it down to 80 proof and enjoy a mighty fine tasting bourbon that continues to improve with age. The only problem is, at this rate it's gonna take me more than 4 batches to accumulate enough reserve to fill my barrel and have enough on hand to top off the angel's share when necessary.
Jack writes ...
    This is an 1842 recipe for poitin (pronounced Pah-cheen) - I have modified it for modern "ease-of-use"
    • boil 5 gallons of water and pour it over a mix of ten pounds of rolled oats (unflavored oatmeal) that has had a pound of 6 row barley (ground) and mixed in to it.
    • Allow this to sit until it is cool enough to add yeast, then add a dry ale yeast and 15 drops of liquid beano (or three of the pills). When you add the yeast/Beano enzyme to the cooled mash the stuff may be thick - like stiff oatmeal- don't worry. The yeast breaks it down with the beano as it is fermenting. Within a day it will be a liquid with grain floating in it.
    • ferment until dry
    • double distill in a potstill.
    • Don't age drink it white.
    From what I have read, oat whiskey is the ONLY spirit to have totally died off.. The last commercial distillery was in Ireland- and it shut down in 1975. Oats are a relatively expensive grain, as well as being very sticky, so distillers don't like it very much. If it is filtered well, and run on a water-bath still (or an ice water/wok still) there should be no problem


Teemu writes about Akvavit ...
    Here is a recipe for the most popular flavoured vodka in Scandinavia.

    Akvavit -The Scandinavian flavored vodka.

    The most famous flavored vodka from Scandinavia is probably Akvavit (or Aquavit if you ask from any Dane.) Akvavit is not actually vodka, it is just specially made grain based spirit flavoured with caraway seeds and sometimes aged with oak. Most fanciest type of Aquavit, the Norwegian "Linie Aquavit" even travels in oak barrels on a ship from Australia and back, just for getting the special flavor... Other well-known brands are the Danish "Aalborg" and the "Aalborgs Jubilæums Aquavit".

    Akvavit has quite long roots, the oldest recipe that I found is dated back to year 1642, this is a Finnish recipe is from year 1802, and this is how it goes (converted for home distilling purposes):
    • 1 kg of barley flour
    • 1 kg of oat flour
    • 2 kg of rye flour
    • 5 kg of cooked and smashed potatoes
    • 5 kg of gristed rye malt
    • about 30 L of water
    • 15L of sour mash (from previous batch) or 20g of citric acid and 10l of water
    • couple of juniper branches
    • ½ L of beer sediment

    • Clean linen cloth and some rope
    • 50 - 70L bucket

    • 100 g of coarsely chopped caraway seeds
    • 500 g of powdered charcoal (made from birch if available)
    • 20 g of coriander seeds
    • 10 g of dill
    • Couple handfuls of washed sand
    • Cotton bag, big enough to hold all these

    • Copper or silver coin

    • Large bottle (and optionally some oak (and sandalwood) chips)
    Put the grains and potatoes in the bucket and soak in the sour mash for couple of hours. Boil the juniper branches in 30litres of water; remove the branches and pour the boiling water on the grains and potatoes and stir well. Leave there over night, and in the morning check the temperature (must be 20 - 27 degrees Celsius) and add beer sediment (or about 50g of ale/porter yeast). Stir. Cover the bucket with the linen cloth and secure tight with rope. (You'll see why in a day or two). Let ferment until there is about 10cm (4") deep layer of clear liquid on the top (this should take about two weeks or so). Distill in a water/steam bath pot still (with the tails from previous batch) three times (just like you were making Irish-type whiskey).

    Fill the still with the middle run from third distillation and put the coin in the still. Fill the cotton bag in the following order: first put sand in the bag, enough to cover the bottom of the bag. Then put the spices (caraway seeds, coriander and dill) in the bag. Mix the charcoal and the remaining sand and put in the top of the bag. Hang the bag below the stills outlet tube, so that the distillate can drop through the bag to the receiving container. Distill slowly; the heat input to the still is correct when the coin rattles about once in a second (col... col... col...). Collect until the tails show up. Cut the distillate down to 50vol.% with spring water (use bottled water if you can't obtain fresh spring water) and age in the glass bottle at least for two months. (Add couple of oak (and sandalwood) chips if available).

    Simplified recipe (of my own invention)
    • 4 L of 40 vol.% vodka (or well made Moonshine...)
    • 30 g of caraway seeds
    • 5 g of coriander seeds
    • 5 g of dryed dill
    • Some oak chips
    • Splash of Irish whiskey
    Combine all in a large jar and macerate for a week. Filter trough a coffee filter and ad a teaspoonful of glucose (dextrose), age for a month or so.

    Akvavit is mainly used for aperitif, and it is commonly served ice cold from 4cl shot glass. Traditionally there is some salted Baltic herring or smoked salmon served as "sakuski" with it. Another traditional way of serving any type of vodka is that you put a silver coin in bottom of a large cup and pour coffee on it until you can't see it anymore, then pour enough vodka in the cup so that you can see the coin again; drink the whole cupful with one swig...(Warms well in the winter). And, of cause, the real smorgasbord is never complete without an ice-cold bottle of Aquavit...
Wal writes about Poitin...
    Quite possibly poitin distillers in the west of Ireland do not have computers so cannot post their recipes to us! Based on background information, together with parallel developments with U.S. moonshine (by Scotch-Irish immigrants) and Russian samogon, here are some possible recipes for Irish poitin.

    1) Single Malt Poitin
    (This would be the original raw 'uisce beatha' before cognac aging techniques were adapted. Prior to this cognac method, dried fruits were used to provide flavor)
    • 20 litres water (5 U.S. gal)
    • 5 kg (10 lb) crushed malted barley grain
    • Yeast (preferably beer yeast)
    Barley is malted by soaking and spreading out in a 25 mm (1 in) layer to sprout. Wait until sprouts ('acrospires') are 5 mm long. You can then use this 'green malt' immediately by crushin lightly and adding to water at 65C (149F) for a 90 minute conversion rest. Leave to cool to fermentation temperature of 24C. Add yeast. (It is possible to harvest yeast from the sediment in bottle conditioned Australian or Belgian beer.)

    2) Grain Poitin
    You only need about 10% malted barley grain to provide the enzymes to convert starch to fermentable sugars. According to the literature rye, oats and wheat were used. About 1-1.5 kg (2-3 lb)/4 l (5 US gal) is used.

    a) Single Grain
    • 20 l water (5 US gal)
    • 4 kg (9 lb) crushed and cooked grain (barley, rye, oats, wheat)
    • 500 g (1 lb) crushed malted barley grain
    • Yeast

    b) Mixed Grain (from )
    • 20 l water (5 US gal)
    • 2 kg (4 and 1/2 lb) crushed malted barley grain
    • 1.5 kg (3 lb)crushed barley grain (cooked)
    • 250 g (1/2 lb) crushed oats (cooked)
    • 250 g (1/2 lb) crushed rye grain (cooked)
    • 250 g (1/2 lb) crushed wheat grain (cooked)
    • Yeast

    3) Sugar and Treacle
    This recipe came from County Fermanagh and is from 'In Praise of Poteen'
    • 20 l water (5 US gal)
    • 3 kg (61/2 lb) brown sugar
    • 250 g (1/2 lb) treacle (molasses)
    • 65 g (2 oz) hops
    • 450 g (1 lb) bakers yeast
    Steep ingredients in 2 l (1 qt) of lukewarm water. Add additional cold water and yeast.

    4) Grain and Sugar
    • 20 l water (5 US gal)
    • 4 kg (9 lb) crushed barley (cooked)
    • 500 g (1lb) crushed malted barley grain
    • 2 kg (4 and 1/2 lb) sugar
    • Yeast
    1 kg of grain is equivalent to about 600 g of sugar. Beer yeast would ferment out about a maximum of 5 kg(10 lb) sugar/20 l (5 US gal) of water, so you can juggle the proportions to suit.

    P.S. Do not forget to throw out the first 50 ml to "the fairies"

    I have formed the opinion that early poitin was raw single (barley) malt whiskey. Peat was the heat source. Later to cut costs (possibly in line with Scottish practice) malted barley and other grains (wheat, oats, rye)were used. The use of treacle (molasses) is mentioned, as is raw (brown) sugar, (one source says sugar was used after 1880). Currently barley and sugar, or even sugarbeet pulp is mentioned. I would imagine if potatoes were not suitable for eating, that they would be used too. Potatoes, were once an essential staple in the Irish diet (in 1845, consumption was 5 kg/day), and even now 140 kg/head/year are consumed. 1 acre could feed a family for a year. Larger farms grew grain that was used as a cash crop. It is all a matter of convenience and economics. I doubt whether potatoes were used before the 1900's the time they became the principal source for vodka in Estonia. A similar story is seen with U.S. moonshine and Russian samogon. The Irish pot still and the Scottish pot still are similar and have basically simplified the geometry of the alchemist's alembic still. A similar shape is often seen in the U.S.probably brought over by Celtic immigrants.

    Found one sugar based recipe for Poteen -'Poteen from Ireland' down to 20 litres or 5 US gal -

    • 20 l water
    • 450 g bakers yeast
    • 3 kg brown sugar
    • 250 g treacle (molasses)
    • 65 g hops Steep ingredients in 2 litres of lukewarm water. Add additional cold water and then add the yeast and ferment for several weeks. Transfer to still.

      See also: 'Poteen - making on Tory' ".....ingredients, including barley, oats and rye...."

      'Illicit stills....Poteen....' ~ "It is a curious fact that in parts of Donegal they grow a crop of oats and barley mixed; they call it 'pracas' (which is the Irish for a mixture), and use it for no other purpose but illicit distilling."

      'History of Potcheen' 'Bunratty Potcheen' (a legal poitin)

      It is often said that the 'exise free' Irish poitin (poteen) is made from potatoes. Home distillation is still a word-of-mouth tradition in Ireland and I have not been able to find actual recipes for poitin, but I picked up some interesting clues.

      Potatoes were actually introduced by Sir Walter Raleigh onto his plantation in Cork in 1589, and quickly became a staple in the Irish diet. But was it fermented and distilled? In Poland, until the 18th century, vodka was produced chiefly from rye, wheat, barley and oats. Johann Joachim Becher developed a method of producing spirits from potatoes in 1669, but it was not until 1798 that the first instructions for "a practical way of distilling vodka from potatoes" was published. Distillers did not begin to use potatoes on a large scale until 1820. The potato is a relatively expensive source for alcohol. Potatoes contain 15-18% fermentable material while grains contain 50-67%. 10 kg of potatoes produce 1 litre of alcohol while 10 kg of grain produces 4 litres. Because of the 1845-1849 Famine in Ireland, some 1 million people died and some 1 million people emigrated. The immigrants to the U.S.A. brought their distilling knowledge with them but they did not use the potato, preferring the native maize. This suggest that a poitin made from potatoes is a late innovation and it is more than likely this began after 1900.

      Here are some quotes from 'Google groups' on the subject of poitin:
      • 'Beercommie' "Poteen is Irish moonshine, it is pronounced 'pocheen', and is usually made from grain, barley, wheat, or rye. I'm not ruling out potato, but its safe to say that potato is not the fermentable of choice."
      • 'Fintan Swanton' "Poitin (literally 'little pot', meaning the still in which the drink is made) is an illicit spirit made from just about anything which comes to hand - grain, potatoes, or probably commonest these days, just yeast and sugar."
      • 'Ross McKay' "I recently saw a documentary on Poteen, and IIRC, you start off by brewing an ale from barley and oats (maybe about 20:1 ratio?),then double distilling it."
      An interesting article on poitin appeared in the Malt Advocate: 'The Poteen Game' by Cormac MacConnell "The beer is created by fermenting barley, yeast and sugar for about three weeks in wooden barrels. though sometimes in Connemara, the moonshiners use sugar beet pulp purchased from Irish sugar plants in the South." "....about 100 gallons of 'baor' produce 12 gallons of poteen,...."

Jack Daniels Black Label Recipe

Jack advises ...
    I just found the "mash bill" that the black labeled Jack Daniel's bottle is made of. It consists of 80% corn, 12% rye, 8% malt (a high enzyme 6-row variety will be needed). It is distilled once in a pot still with a thumper, then filtered through a 10 foot layer of maple charcoal (this takes about 4 days). It then is placed in new, charred American oak barrels where it ages for 5 years, 6 months before it is bottled.

    The premium brand called Gentlemen Jack is aged in the same way, with the same grain bill, but it is filtered through maple charcoal again after aging. By the way, it was 1941 when the American government gave Tennessee whiskey it's own classification.
regarding a homemade version, Jack adds ...
    I have tasted Jack Daniels that was homemade that was better than the original, using the JD mashbill. The distillery uses 80% corn, 12% rye, 8% malt (6-row). They ferment with 25% backset from a previous distillation run- homemakers should do the same. They use a 64inch diameter copper beer still with a doubler- but a homemade potstill with two runs (collect one-third of the mash volume out of the still as low wines, then re-run it, collecting from 75%abv to 55%) works just as well. The resulting spirit is then aged on charred American oak, and sweetened with a dash of REAL maple syrup (the kind that has a slight smokey flavor)- this will taste JUST like the store bought spirit- but will be a LOT smoother. The spirit should be aged at less than 65%abv, to prevent vanillins from clouding up the smokey sweetness from the maple syrup.

Bushmills Black Bush Recipe

    The recipe for Bushmill's Black Bush whiskey: Mash a grain mix of equal parts (by weight) of malted and unmalted barley. Shoot for an alcohol level of 8%. Triple distillation in a pot still is the method they use but anything you can do to get it to 80% should work. Dilute down to 63% and age in Oloroso sherry casks for about ten years (keep in mind the Irish climate is a cool, mild one), then mix it with aged corn whiskey of the same strength then reduce to 40% and bottle. (20% corn whiskey, 80% of the malt whiskey). The strain of barley they use is Golden Promise. An ale yeast should be used for the ferment.


A "genuine" moonshine recipe, as still being used by Deb Brewer is ...
  • 5 gallon bucket all grain horse feed (we use MannaPro Hi Grain sweet feed)
  • one package of yeast (using bread yeast now--others will increase quality and ferment time)
  • 5 pounds sugar
  • water

    Put enough feed to cover bottom of 5 gallon bucket a good 4 inches deep Add 5 pounds of sugar. Fill 1/2 full with warm water--warm enough to melt sugar but not so hot as to kill yeast. Mix until sugar is dissolved. Add yeast and mix some more finish filling with warm water--again not so hot to kill the yeast. Cover with lid--our lid has a little cap that screws on, leave it loose to breathe.

    4-5 days later it's ready to run! This is an old-timer recipe and works quite well. Our liquor is always 170-190 proof. You can substitute corn meal for the grain (horse feed) but I don't recommend this for pot stills cuz you can't filter it well enough. The meal will settle and burn in the bottom of your still. The old-fashion way of making corn liquor--with real corn--just is not feasible time wise.
Diamond writes from Kentucky ...
    the only way I can tell you is by the barrel full. We used 55 gal. barrels or 53 gal. oak whiskey barrels. Take 100 lb. of cracked yellow corn ( this corn needs to be air dried, not dried by gas, gas dried takes the goodies out of it) Put the meal in the barrel, put about 40 gal. of good water in your cooker and heat the water to about 100 degrees, drain the water by the bucket full and stir your sugar in so it dissolves good, we used 50 lbs. sometimes 60 lbs. of sugar on the first barrel.

    Here's probley whats different, we DID NOT add any YEAST of any kind to this. If the weather is in the mid 90's this would work off in 5 to 7 days, about day 2 or 3 it sounded like Rice Crispie's that just had milk poured over them, agin no yeast was added. We did take a wood paddle and maybe stir it once or twice a day. In those days all there was available was baker's yeast, and adding baker's yeast caused an off taste, hic-ups, indigestion or heartburn so thats why it was left out. In cold weather sometimes yeast was used to get the first barrel going.

    When the mash got "dog heads" on it, that's when the large single bubbles come about 20-30 seconds apart it was ready to cook off, its better to cook a day early than a day late. The mash also had a sour taste to it. On a 50 or so gal. cooker with two propane burners, shine would start running in about an hour. The cooling barrel was also about 55 gal. with a 5/8 inch by 40 foot copper worm, had cold water running in the top and discharging water coming out mid ways or most time at the bottom of the barrel. This first run would usually start at about 120-125 proof and let it run down to about 80 proof, this was strained through a heavy white felt hat, sometimes a double hand full of hickory charcoal was used in the hat also. You put this 80-125 proof to side to keep, but kept running from the 80 proof on down to about 45-50 proof, this would be about a gal.and we called it singles. The 80-125 proof would be about 4 gal.

    You cut your cooker off when you got to the 45-50 proof and let the beer cool down to about 100 degrees. You took about 3, 3lb. coffee cans of your meal out of the barrel and put the same amount of fresh back in ( this makes a difference in your next yield and proof) mix another 60 lbs of sugar to your warm beer and put back in your mash barrel and stir up, let it work off agin.

    On your 2nd run, put your beer in the cooker and also the gal. of singles you saved out. This run here should start out about 135 proof, have seen it go to 140, after a gal or so it may be 120 and stay 120 for an hour or better before it drops lower in proof, this run usally last about 2 1/2-3 hours and makes about 9 gal. agin quit saving it when it gets to 80 proof but keep running till down to the 45-50 proof for your singles, it will make about 2 gal or so this run, repeat the whole process 2 more times or more, don't forget to take some old meal out and put same amount of fresh back in each time and also pour the singles back in the cooker. I don't think I've ever seen the proof get above 140, but have seen 11 gal. yields.

    On your very last cooking, pour all your previous runs of the 80-140 in a barrel and run your last cooking, keep adding your makings to the barrel stirring and checking till you get the proof you want, most times we done 97-100 proof. But this could be drinked as is or if you wanted it much better, you put all of this finished shine back in the cooker and cooked it agin, this time it comes out at 170 proof and let it run to about 150. Take this and put in a barrel and mix well or spring water with it to get the proof down, it still makes about the same amount, 3 runs always made 22-23 gals. REMEMBER NO YEAST WAS ADDED!!!!!!!!!
MooNShiNeR reckons ...
    I've always gone with my tried and true, except for brandies and split-brandies. LOVE making split-brandies!! Large batches of mash ferment the best! Like in 55 gal wooden or plastic (new of course) barrels.

    • Wheat Bran ~~~~> a five gal. bucketfull and then another half bucket.
    • Sugar ~~~~~~~~~> 50 lbs. (Sam's club is the deal!)
    • Fleishman's (Bakers)Yeast ~~~~> 3 packs
    • Filler up with water.

    That'll make anywhere from 6-8 gallons of fine liquor, uuhhh Fuel, yeah fuel...

    First batch in will ferment 5-7 days and then form a cap. If you "slop-back" that mash it will work off in 3 days after the yeast is growing up to around 6-7 times. Then it's time to start a fresh mash. When the cap falls, and the beers getting a bitter taste to it, she's ready to run. If it has any sweet taste at all it is too "green" and will not produce as much and will kick and buck and act wild in the still with a posibility of blowing the cap. Not a happy experience. It can ruin yor hole day. Never knew I could run so damn fast... I know a few good common sense tricks on what to do when as far as the mash goes. If is it not workin good or too good for that matter. You make all the alcohol in the barrel. If you don't do it right there, the prettiest still in the world won't do you any good at all. Still just separates the juice from the water. Hell, you all know all that by now, I'm sure of that.

    Wheat bran: when U go to the feed store where they mill 'th grain, specify unsalted wheat bran. If the feller looks at you twice or reaaal hard, mumble kinda under yor breath, "damn horse is so constipated..."
    Sugar: Go 't Sam's Club or anywhere thet they would sell you sum 50 pound saks 'O sugar and load a couple up on yor cart. Take 'em to 'th check out counter. Whistle a tune, soft and slow like. Don't forget to whistle... And if the checkout countr gurl looks at you funny like or says sumthin smart, you jess say, "Yep, the church is havin a bake sale t'morrow and they all put me in charge of buyin 'th sugars." This'll covr you fer buyin all them packs of Fleishman's Bakers yeast too.
    Werks for me...

    My notes on sloppin back, ya'll folks've caLLed it yeast recyclin. That's just fine (must be city folk) Ya'll alright. I luv ya jess 'th same.

    Ok, see... What I'm tryin to say hear see, is... After yor first run 'O mash, save about half 'O that slop thar in thet cooker 'O yors and put thet rite back in thet there barrel. OK, bucket for you short runnrs. Add half agin as much new fresh grain to hit. DON'T put n'more yeast inner. She's got enuff rite thar whare shes at. OK, put the usual amounts of sugar rite in thar as well. Watchr work up a STORM and make sum goooood likker my frens. Specially on the thrice batch like I toldja b'fore. Now do this up to 6-7 times. Toldja thet one too. Man, ya'll gonna make sum goood sh*t, I tell ya.

    When I'm through witchall, ya gwon 't make sum two shot stuff. Two shotz and you'll be bouncing off 'th walls to find jore bed at night.

    See the Moonshine Stills Photos page for photos of his still (75 gallon & shotgun condensor) and construction details.
Brandon makes a corn whisky :
    try 25 pounds cracked corn, 25 pounds sugar, 12.5 gals water. First wash your cracked corn really good to get most of the trash particles out-- put in in a large vessel-- (we use a food grade plastic drum with a snap on lid)--in a seperate container collect 6.25 gals hot water--add sugar to this and stir unitl it is all disolved--pour into the drum with the corn-- then add another 6.25 gals. cold water -- stir mixture till u get a thermometer reading of 78F to 80F deg (25C). then add 1.5 pkgs turbo yeast(if u use it) or 4 to 6 ozs. bakers yeast-- stir for a couple of minutes and let it sit -- it will begin to ferment in a couple of hours it the temp is around 80 to 90 deg.--when the wash has quit bubbling and the liquid is clear -siphon off and distill
Wal summarises a few moonshine recipes ...
    If you want to make your own recipe, keep in mind grain contains about 60% fermentable material. About 1 to 1.5 kg of grain is normally used / 4 L (1 US gal) as the mash is quite thick, the rest can be sugar. 1 kg grain/4 L water would be equivalent to 600 g sugar/4 L, so you could add an additional 200 g sugar/4 L to give a 10% alcohol yield which beer yeasts should handle. The crushed grain needs 10% crushed malted grain for malting. e.g. a generic moonshine mash for 20 l could be 5 kg crushed grain, 500 g crushed malted grain, and 1 kg sugar. Other combinations are possible.

    Kentucky Sweet Mash
    20 L water (5 gal)
    2 kg (4 and 1/2 lb) corn meal
    500 g (1 lb)
    50 g malted grain

    'Alcohol Fuel Manual' grain mash
    20 L water (5 gal)
    4 kg (9 lb) crushed grain
    400 g (1 lb) crushed malted grain

    Ian Smiley's Corn Whisky
    20 L water (5 gal)
    3.5 kg (8 lb) flaked maize
    750 g (1 and 1/2 lb) crushed malted grain

    Moonshine : 'Old John Barley'
    20 L water (5 gal)
    2 kg (4 and 1/2 lb) crushed corn
    700 g (1 and 1/2 lb) crushed barley
    300 g (3/4 lb) malt syrup
    1 kg (2 and 1/2 lb) molasses

    20 L water (5 gal)
    3 kg (7 lb)crushed grain
    4.5 kg (10 lb) sugar

    20 L water (5 gal)
    2 kg (4 and 1/2 lb) corn meal
    300 g (1 lb) malted corn
    2.5 kg (5 and 1/2) lb sugar

    20 L water (5 gal)
    6 kg corn meal (uncooked)
    0.6 L malted corn

    The Fine Art of Moonshining
    Fermenter - barrel (55 gals or 220 l)
    1/2 bushel (30 lb or 14 kg) Corn Meal
    3 & 1/2 lbs (1.5 kg) malted corn
    2 handfuls raw rye to form cap on fermenting mash
    Optional - sugar, 40 lbs (20 kg) in 2 lots - 10 lb (5 kg) then 30 lb (15 kg)
    Yeast not mentioned.
    1 bushel (60 kg) corn meal
    1 & 1/2 gal (6 l ) malted corn
    Yield -
    Pure Corn 1.5 gal (4-6 l)/bushel (28 lb or 13 kg)
    Corn & Sugar 6 gal (24 l)/bushel (28 lb or 13 kg)
Shawn is learning corn whisky from an elder neighbour...
    He has learned this through trial and error but he is willing to try and teach me. For example there is not allot of exact science that he uses. Its mostly by site, smell, tasting and touching.

    Please remember allot of hard work goes into making the mash if you do not use sugar. The problem that I have now is that there is not a local mill here in C that will grind the malt without asking questions.

    He does not use a hydrometer but he reads the bead. Here is how he does it. He takes a quart mason jar half full of the distillate with a lid on it. He holds the top of the jar in his right hand and hits the inside of his left hand with the bottom of the jar three times. This causes the distillate to bubble inside the jar and before the bubbles settle he turns the jar onto its side and it will break into three consistent pools. Thus he said is 103 proof. He was right because I checked it with a hydrometer and its between 100 and 104 every time. Nothing replaces experience

    The still ...He has had several different sizes over the past several years but all of them were made of copper. Typically they were pot stills that had thumpers attached to them. He primed the thumpers with what he refers to as backings. Which I have interpreted as (what was at the end of the previous run.) The actual boiler was surrounded with a type of clay and rock mixture and was heated with propane burners. The boiler did not sit on top of the heat source. It was heated indirectly. The large still that he used for corn whiskey had a tank that set beside the still with tubing that ran from the cap of the still through the container. This was filled with mash and was preheated by the current alcohol of the mash being distilled. When he had gotten to the end of the first run the old mash was discarded through a valve at the bottom of the still and the new preheated mash was drained into the still from a valve at the top therefore eliminating the slow heat up of the new mash. Just in a few minutes there would be distillate running. The cooling was done by a 1inch worm in a 55 gallon barrel with cold water being piped up from the creek.
Things have changed quite a bit since the "real old" moonshine recipes ... Jeff wrote of
    • 1 bushel of hard (seed) white corn
    • bury corn in horse manure
    • pour 5 gallon of water over the corn
    • corn sprouts in about two days
    • remove corn and wash
    • roll the corn to crack it
    • put corn in a 55 gallon barrel
    • add 1/2 bushel of corn meal
    • add 5 pound of sugar
    • fill barrel with water
    • in 21 days a red skim will form and it is time to cook it put a hose with a stopper in the end and push it to the bottom. Blow out the stopper and siphon off the mixture until about 4 inches is left in the barrel
    • strain remaining liquid, put in cooker, cook it till it boils, then simmer.
    • yields 1.5 gallons of 105 proof moon shine!!!

    • 1/2 bushel of corn meal in 55 gallon barrel
    • 5 pounds of sugar
    • 1/2 pounds of "Red Star" yeast
    • Scald the mixture with 5_10 gallons of boiling water
    • fill barrel with water till five or six inches from the top.
    • cover barrel with cloth and wait till it quits working (about 2-3 days)
    • cook mixture until it boils
    • put a hose with a stopper in the end and push it to the bottom. Blow out the stopper and siphon off the mixture until about 4 inches is left in the barrel
    • strain remaining liquid, put in cooker, cook it till it boils, then simmer.
    • yields 4 gallons of 90 proof moon shine!!!
Dave replied to these with ...
    Your recipes are interesting conversation, but I don't think you would want to drink the whiskey made from either. Whiskey made from corn exposed to horse shit will have a flavor dissagreable to most. The amount of whiskey produced by the second recipe is way off base. A good rule of thumb is that there is one US gallon of 100 proof whiskey in a bushel of corn. Also, one gallon in 25 pounds of sugar. Here is how my late grandfather made

    • Take one bushel of untreated seed corn.
    • Put it in two croaker sacks ( burlap bags to any Yankees reading this).
    • Put each sack in a #2 washtub of water at about body temperature.
    • Weight each sack down with a concrete block.
    • Soak the corn for 12 hours,
    • Bury the sacks about 4 inches deep in the compost pile.
    • He had a special compost pile for this. It was composed entirely from oak leaves.
    • When the sprouted corn root is about half the lenght of the corn grain you are ready.
    • Wash the corn in clear water. Grind the corn very course. He used a Corona mill.
    • Put the ground corn in a 50 gallon wooden barrell. Finish filling the barrell with water.
    • Add 12 packs Fleishmans yeast. Let ferment until complete.
    • Siphon off the liquor, leaving behind any dead snakes, rats, birds or other varmits.
    • Put it in the still. Fire it off slowly.
    • If anything came out in under an hour, you are too fast.
    • Run it through the still 3 times. Catch the first pint of each run. Save it for your Coleman lamp. It ain't fit to drink. That is where your headaches are.
    • Yield should be about 1 US gallon of pure 100 proff, triple distilled whiskey.
    • Don't empty the spent grains outa the fermenting pot just yet. You can use it to make seconds or " backins" as the old timers called it. To make 'good stuff' add another bushel of sprouted corn ( no more yeast) . Let it work and repeat the above procedure.
    • To make rot gut for your brother-in-law add 20 pounds of sugar and proceed as above
    • Keep in mind: Never, ever under any circumstances whatsoever let anything touch your whiskey except wood, stainless steel, copper or glass. Age your whiskey in charred oak barrels for at least a year. Or for small amounts, tale a wide mouth gallon jug. Add lump hardwood charcoal ( NEVER use briquettes, only REAL charcoal). Fill with whiskey. Age at least a year. Filter through a coffee filter & drink it.
    Nearly 40 years ago, as a young scientist, I took a sample of grandpaw's whiskey and several storebought whiskeys to the lab & ran 'em through the gas cromatagraph. Grampa's was much more pure !!
Mark found an old recipe ...
    "It is many years ago that this Norwegian recipe was used and I put it down here just for a matter of record. It would be a blessing if modern distillers would adopt this old pure old formula.

    Take one bushel of corn meal and one-fourth bushel of malted barley meal. Place them in a large kettle and cover with enough good well water to cover the meal at least four or five inches. Slowly bring to a low boil and simmer for at least one hour, preferably two hours, and keep adding water to keep up the water level as the meal absorbs the water. Stir to keep from burning. This cooking or mashing gives the malted barley enzymes a chance to change the starch in the corn to maltose which is an easily fermented sugar. Yeast cannot change cornstarch or any other starch to sugar. Remove the pot from the heat. Let cool and strain the liquid from the cooked meal into a fifty gallon oak barrel. Add well water to the cooked meal mass. This is called "sparging" it and stir and again squeeze out the liquid. Repeat until all of the liquids possible are washed out of the cooked meal. Add about one hundred pounds of corn sugar or invert sugar or cane sugar, if you do not have the others, and stir in well. Fill the barrel about three- fourths full by adding good well water. Take a saccharometer and test the solution. By adding sugar or water, adjust the solution so that it will produce sixteen percent alcohol. Add a gallon of top fermenting yeast "starter" or about five pounds of yeast skimmed off from a previous mash or bakers' yeast if you have no top fermenting yeast. Put a cover on the barrel as yeast produces alcohol much faster if it does not have too much of a supply of air. Never set a mash where it is windy or drafty as then the yeast will turn the sugar into carbon dioxide and water, not carbon dioxide and alcohol. Let ferment at not colder than 75 degrees. Test the wort or liquid every day with a saccharometer. Let the saccharometer go between 996 and 998.

    Then siphon and run the wort through a pot still, not a patent still, in not less than three hours time producing not more than ten to twelve gallons of whiskey running about 90 proof. Strain the whiskey through a three-foot-thick layer of hard maple charcoal. Add one quart of dry sherry wine and the juice from a level tablespoon of nutmeg boiled in a half cup of water to the whiskey. Store in oak barrels or in glass jugs with a few oak chips in the bottom. The oak barrels or the oak chips will give the whiskey color. No modern maker has ever equalled this whiskey and will admit it if asked. It is so smooth that you can drink it down like water, needs no mixing with anything. Any Scandinavian worth of the name was highly insulted if you ever tried to diulte this drink of the gods." Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes -- G.L. Herter, circa 1969

Sour Mash

One style that is sometimes used for whiskey is that of a "sour mash".

Jack explains ...
    The reason sour mashing is done is to lower the pH of the fermenting mash in order to help prevent bacterial infections. It is used in both rum and bourbon making because both grain and sugar cane/molasses have a large amount of naturally occuring yeast and bacteria growing on them because of the high sugar and starch content these products tend to have. It is much easier (on an industrial scale) to reuse the liquid left in the still after the run is finished to adjust the pH of the next batch, rather than using higher cost food grade acids. It will also help to create a more consistant product from batch to batch.
Jack on how to do a bourbon/sourmash ...
    All the grains you listed (I'd used rye flakes, corn grits & barley flakes but got into trouble) look like a de-husked, pre-processed variety (that will prevent any husk flavors - wheat is (I think) the only grain you can leave in the ferment without worrying about off (tannic) flavors developing. The husk on any other grain will make a drink that tastes like hay horse bedding). It also looks like a bourbon recipe, so, keeping with the industry standard, you ferment on the grain (only malt whiskey is sparged, anything with corn or rye in it is fermented on the grain).

    Here is how I do it.
    • Mix your grain bill together and weigh it out. For every 3 pounds of grain (1344 grams) you will need one gallon (4 liters) of water.
    • Put the grain-I use 15 pounds (6.75 Kilos) per 5 gallon (20L) batch- into your fermentor (sanitized, 20+liter buckets are best), pour in 10 liters of room temperature water, and mix it with the grain. Make sure there are no lumps or clumps, and that all the grain has been wetted down (no dry spots are allowed). The first water mixed with the grain MUST NOT BE HEATED!! If it is, the grain will clump together, leaving dry spots in the middle of the clumps, leading to an infection.
    • Take the next 10 Liters of water and bring it to a boil in a pot on the stove. Once it's boiling, pour it into the bucket with the pre-wetted grain, and stir it up to prevent any clumping. This will liquify the starch, and sanitize the batch (the precooling effects of the grain/water in the bucket will prevent the bucket from warping/melting).
    • Leave the hot water/grain filled bucket overnight. When cool, add your yeast and your enzyme, and let it ferment. Depending on the grain, when you add the yeast, the mash may be as thick as oatmeal- don't add any more water, it will thin out in a day or so, during the ferment.
    • Wait until all foaming and bubbling has stopped, and all the grain settles to the bottom (3 days to 2 weeks, depending on temperature), filter this through a layer or two of cheesecloth, and distill it.
    This is how bourbon is made commercially in the US. It's also how I've been doing it for the last year.

    If you want a true sourmash bourbon, after the distilling of this whiskey, save 4liters of slop from the still (it will be sour after it's been stripped of it's alcohol) and add it to the grain, along with 6 liters of room temp water, instead of just adding 10 liters of cool water. The idea is to get a mix of water/still slop that is 25% still slop (this is the minimum amount required by law to call the stuff sourmash bourbon in the US). The sour slop will lower the pH dramatically, helping to prevent bacteria, and helping to promote enzyme activity. There you go- no extra equipment needed, and you can fill your fermentor up to just about the top.

    Mashing (holding the temps, etc) is a waste of time for whiskey- the enzymes work in about 90 minutes at mashing temperatures- at room temp, they take about 2 or 3 days (you know, about the same amount of time for a seed to sprout- this is a natural proccess, after all). Because the yeast is in the mix all ready, no time is really lost. As soon as starch converts, it's fermented.

Ted Palmer advises
    In distilling 'sour mash' is the process of using up to 1/3 of the stillage (ie the grains left after in the wash after fermentation & distilling) in the next batch of mash. The pH is low and it helps save water in the distillery.

    (This is different from 'sour-mash' as done by beer brewers, where sour mash is made by allowing lacto baccilus bacteria to lower the pH of the mash before or during ferment. No distiller would ever add lacto or any other bacteria to his mash, for the reason that the bacteria lower the yield of ethanol. If you want to try making a lacto culture take barley malt and soak/cover it with water and let it set for a day or two. You should smell a vinegar aroma, if not, toss it out and try again. Lacto bacillus live on grain)
Brad also adds ...
    I have never done it but it is used occasionally in brewing. Some like a sour tang in stouts and Belgian wheat ales. The procedure is very simple. Bring a few handfuls of cracked pale malt in a small mini-mash up to a warm temperature, around 50 °C or so. Hold for a few hours and leave for a couple of days covered with aluminium foil. Some people put it inside a thermos flask to keep the temperature up. The naturally occurring lactobacillus on the grains will multiply and acidify (lactic acid) and sour the malt. It is then added to the main mash. I don't know the theory or practice behind sour mash whisky nor why it is done.
Jeff writes about the "backset" coming from still residue...
    The most explicit is Waymark & Harris _The Book of Classic American Whiskeys_ (although they contain some other inaccuracies) (p. 59 - 60): "Meeting the fresh mash in the fermenting tub is some of the leftover 'distiller's beer' from the lasts distillation. Called by many names - - thin slop, backset, setback, yeast back - the proportion of this 'yeast back' tends to be around 25 per cent of the total volume of the new mash. The high temperature of the distilling column has taken out the alcohol and killed the yeast, but the leftover spent beer is mildly acidic as a result of the fermentation process. Added to the new mash, the boost in acidity provided by the spent beer inhibits undesired bacteria and yeasts, making the mash - technically, but rarely by distillers, called 'wort' at this stage - safe for the desired distiller's yeast. it also provides a certain continuity in character between batches. It is from this step that we get the term, 'sour mash.' Because of the limestone character of the water, a sweet mash, that is, a mash not using any of the acidic 'yeast back,' would be pH neutral or even a bit alkaline, and hence at high risk of spoilage through undesired microbiological growth."

    BTW, backset is also added to the mash, not just the fermenter (from Murray's _Classic Bourbon, Tennessee and Rye Whiskey_): It is also at this stage [the mash] ,that the sour mash process is introduced (adding an amount of the backset, that is the spent grains from the previous distillation, the thin stillage, to the mash). This succeeds in controlling the acidity of the mash and helps prevent bacterial infection."

    Regan & Regan define backset in their _Bourbon Companion_ (p. 173): "Liquid strained from the mash after its primary distillation. Sometimes referred to as sour mash, stillage, spent beer or setback."

    So here we have it described as both spent grains and as liquid. It would appear that since the writers are neither distillers of even brewers that they are not writing from a position of first hand familiarity with the processes.

    Regan & Regan write in their _Book of Bourbon_ (p 211): All sour-mash whiskeys use a measure of backset to bring continuity of style to subsequent batches of fermentable mash. _Every_ straight bourbon, rye and Tennessee whiskey made at present is made by the sour-mash method. [I don't know if they are including Anchor's Old Potrero - JSR] Regulations used to require a minimum of 25 percent of the total mash be made of of backset in order for a whiskey to use the words "sour mash" on the label. Although that rule no longer applies, most distilleries still use upwards of 20 percent."

    Regan & Regan list the percentage of sour mash used by different distillers in their _Bourbon Companion_ (although I think this should be taken with a grain of salt - for one thing, Murray says that Beam declined to provide details of their processes and recipes but the Regans give details). They range from 20 - 25% at many distilleries to 32% at Maker's Mark to an astounding 41% reported for Jim Beam!

    As an example of how backset is used in both the mash and the fermentation, Murray reports (p. 50) that Bernheim uses 12.5% in each, for a total of 25%.

    I have seen some authors (but can't find it right now) compare sour mash to sourdough in that it provides a continuity of process, but as a baker who knows sourdough, this is not an entirely apt comparison. Sourdough, after all, contains live organisms.
Ian Smiley explains how the sour mash recipe is a variation on the "no-cook" technique :
    The reason that modern mashing methods use specifically optimized temperature, pH, water chemistry, etc is to maximize the efficiency of the operation. And, some distillers over the years have argued that such practices over-process the mash and produce a much less natural or desirable flavour.

    No-cook recipes have been around for centuries and there are people even today that swear by them. However, a no-cook recipe is very slow and extremely inefficient, and that is why the old-time sour-mash methods were developed, probably about 200 years ago.

    The sour-mash method involves the mixing of corn pone (i.e. meal), and other grains such as rye or wheat, with water, and sometimes barley malt, at ambient temperature. Almost all no-cook recipes nowadays involves the addition of sugar as well. A large charge of whiskey yeast is added and a very slow and inefficient fermentation takes place. When the fermentation is complete, the spent grains that float to the top are skimmed off and discarded. The liquid is strained from the mash and distilled into whiskey.

    A mixture of about 50% backset (i.e. the left-over liquid in the still after the distillation is finished) and 50% water is added to the remaining grain in the fermenter, and some additional grain is added to make up for what was skimmed off and discarded. There's ample yeast left in the grain sediment in the fermenter so no additional yeast is required. And, a second batch is fermented. When the fermentation is complete, the process is repeated, and so on.

    This no-cook sour-mash method is very inefficient by commercial standards, but in the end almost nothing is lost. The same grain and the same liquid (backset) is recycled again and again, with only the spent grains removed. Even the residual alcohol and non-fermentable sugars in the backset is cycled back for another enzyme exposure and fermentation.

    It was by this sour-mash method that distilleries were achieving very high grain-to-alcohol conversion efficiencies 200 hundred years ago with very little scientific understanding of the process.
Regarding Old Prorero Jack offers ...
    Rye mash is fermented on the grain- it is not sparged, or boiled.

    Old Protrero recipe:
    • Mash 100% rye malt at 110F for 30minutes, then 145 (30minutes), then 155 (30minutes) to get the best conversion, then cool with a wort chiller to 80F and add your yeast. (if you wonder about water chemistry, use the kind for "California common" styles of beer)
    • The 110F rest is called a "beta-glucan" rest- it is done to break up the gums in malted and unmalted grain, and in beer brewing can increase sugar yields by as much as 15%.
    • Double distilling in a potstill (collect the run in separate lots, say 100ml, and blend them together by taste) is what is done for Old Protrero (they use an old fashioned alembic style still- it looks like a onion-topped Cognac still).
    • It is aged for just about one year in UNCHARRED American oak barrels- he did this to allow the peppery/honey quality of the rye to come through more strongly than the vanillins from charred oak, plus, he admits to trying to replicate an early 1800's whiskey, and charred barrels were not required in America until 1933- he ("he" being Fritz Maytag- the founder of the distillery, and founder/owner of the Anchor Steam brewery) is also experimenting with some new charred oak for his later runs- but I don't think any has been released


Jacks recipe for "liquid golden heaven" ...
    Try this-
    • Soak 50 grams of peated malt in a gallon of water at 155F for 45 minutes- remove the grain, add another gallon and a half of water and bring to a boil- stir in 12 pounds pale malt extract-top up to 5 gallons and cool. Ferment with a dry ale yeast.
    • Then put this five gallons into 10, half full gallon milk jugs and freeze them SOLID in your freezer. Invert the jars over some one quart canning jars and allow the liquid to drip out (no external heat) until the quart jar is full- the result will be about 2.5 gallons of malt wine at about 17%abv.
    • Use the "brewing schnapps without a still" type of still (the ice water bath still) to turn this liquid into a 55% abv spirit.
    • Then blend this unaged spirit 50/50 with some sugar spirit (double distilled and carbon polished- diluted down to 45%abv then aged for one week on virgin-new, uncharred, American oak- 1cup of oak per gallon of spirit) then add one tablespoon of honey per quart bottle (dissolved and boiled until clear in some water- just use equal parts water/honey)
    TA DA!!! liquid golden heaven. For a slight fruitiness to this, toss in a raisin or two (per bottle), and let them soak for a week. Having alot of pure sugar spirit around thats really clean tasting is a good thing for anyone (including traditional potstillers') to have laying about! Without blending, pure malt (made with extract) costs about $10US a litre- this makes it more economical, but just as tasty!!
For a wheat whisky, Jack writes ...
    This is the grain bill for Maker's Mark "red wax seal" whisky (the founder of the distillery insisted on the Scottish spelling, instead of the Irish "whiskey):
    • 70% corn
    • 14% wheat
    • 16% 6-row barley malt.
    Mash in the 150 to 155F range for 90 minutes, then ferment on the grain, strain out the solids, then distill to about 70 to 80%abv. If you have any soured mash (from previous whiskey runs) or "backset" use a mix of backset (33%) and water (67%) for your mashing water- this is how the distillery does it. If you want a more neutral flavor, Stoli vodka is wheat based, just distill an all-wheat mashbill (ferment on the grain again) then distill to a higher proof- around 90%abv.

Beer Schnapps

Jack offers ...
    Beer schnaps are a somewhat unheard of spirit. for the most part, it is made privately among brewers in Germany, and shared among other brewers. Of the beers turned into schnaps, the pilsener style tends to produce the most complex distillate. With a complex malt profile and a powerfull hop bitterness/aroma they make a great spirit to show off to any commercial brewers you happen to know. One of the best pilseners I've turned into schnapps was a clone of a Czech pilsener: Pilsener Urquell. Here is the beer/mash recipe.

    Steep in a half gallon of water at 150F for 20 minutes:
    • 1/2 pound 2.5 lovibond German light crystal malt
    • 2 oz German Munich malt
      Strain the water into your brewpot, rinse the grains with 1/2gallon of 150F water.
    • Add water to the pot to bring the volume up to 1.5 gallons, bring to a boil and add:
    • 6 pounds extra-light dry malt extract
    • 3.5 oz of Czech Saaz hops @3% alpha acid
      Add water to bring volume up to 2.5 gallons, bring to a boil and boil for 45 minutes, then add:
    • 1oz Czech Saaz hops
    • 1 tsp Irish moss
      Boil for 15 minutes, then add:
    • 1oz Czech Saaz hops
      Boil for 3 minutes, remove the pot from the burner, put the lid on the pot, and cool with an ice water bath or a wort chiller. Top up with cool water to 5 gallons, put into a sanitized fermentor and add your yeast. The best yeast is Wyeast's 2278 Czech pilsener lager yeast. If you don't want to go to the trouble of fermenting it at 45F for 3 weeks, you can use two packets of EDME dry yeast. Just make sure you add the yeast when the beer is at 70F - NO HIGHER!! OFF FLAVORS WILL DEVELOP AT HIGH TEMPERATURES!!
      After 7 days soak 1/2 oz Czech Saaz hops in a quarter cup of vodka, and add to the beer (the vodka sanitizes the hops and acts as a carrier for the aromatic oils).

    14 days later, run it into a potstill, collecting the first 75ml as heads, then go by taste. Keep a teaspoon by the collection jar and taste it as the run progresses- it will end sooner than you think due to the lower alcohol. Don't try to adjust the recipe to get more alcohol in it- it will ruin the balance of the malt and hops. Some like to end the run at higher strenths, making the hops more dominant, some like to let the run progress a little farther, so the malt can come through a little more (my preference).
    You should make an attempt to ferment with a good liquid lager yeast at lager temps. A five gallon carboy fits into a 5-gallon bucket, which can then be filled with water. Ice can be added to the bucket when you leave for work, and when you come home, to maintain lager temperature. This gives the beer/spirit a better aftertaste/finish. If you decide not to distill it, just bottle the five gallons with either 3/4cup of corn sugar or 1.25cups of light dry malt extract, boiled in water. You now have something German brew masters talk quietly among themselves about.

Russian Vodka (Samogon)

Volodia reports ...
    I was under the impression that vodka was made from unmalted grain until I came across a Russian language site: site gives instructions for making a simple pot still and a Chinese still (using a central wok-like condenser), and samogon recipes. For the social and economic background to samogon production (in English) see See also ..

    Measurements are given in buckets, the size of which is not given, but the old Russian bucket measure was 12litres. When yeast is not available, a sourdough starter of 3l of boiled hops and 1.5l of stillage(back slop) is recommended. A fully malted grain based mash recipe from malted rice, wheat, barley, millet, maize or peas is suggested. The consistency of the mash is to be a watery gruel (kissel). 500g of yeast is recommended for 12 buckets of mash.

    Recipes from Samogon site:
    • Wheat grain malt. 10kg malted wheat, 30l water, 500g yeast.
    • Potatoes and malted grain. 5 buckets potatoes, 2 buckets malted grain.
    • Bread and malted grain (1). 20 loaves of bread, 2 buckets malted grain.
    • Bread and malted grain (2). 12 loaves of bread, 1/2 bucket malt grain, 15l water, 750g yeast.
    • Sugar mash. 6kg sugar, 30l water, 200g yeast, bunch currants or morello cherries or dill for flavor.
    • Sugar-beet. 30l of shredded and cooked sugar-beets, 200g yeast.
    • Sugar-beet and sugar. 15l shreded and cooked sugar-beets, 6kg sugar, 10l water, 500g yeast.
    • Sugar-beet molasses. 1 bucket molasses, 25l water, 250g yeast.
    • Starch. 2 buckets water, 10kg starch, 2kg sugar, 500g yeast.
    • Medovukha. 3kg honey, 3l sugar syrup, 27l water, 300g yeast.
    • Mixed mash. 20 glasses wheat grain, 1kg sugar 21litres water.
    Other recipes are for fresh apples, pears, plums and dried apples and pears (in winter I gather).


Wal writes ...
    Bread is already a baked (cooked) milled grain i.e flour, and seems like an great waste product to ferment. At least 50% starch apparently.


    I collected over a period 7kg of left-over bread. Dried it to make sure it did not go mouldy, and just treated it like a milled and cooked grain. You have the option of adding 10% malt to convert the starch to sugars or using amylase enzymes. Yield is apparently about 60% sugar from the starch in the bread. I used 1 kg bread/5 litres of water. (1 lb - 2 lb/gal seems the norm)


    • Crush bread (gelatines easier)
    • Raise temperature of water to 75C ( I used a 60 litre HDPE open-top plastic drum with 2/1500W jug elements screwed in)
    • Add crushed bread
    • Wait for temperature to drop to 65C
    • Add malt or amylase enzymes (I used enzymes)
    • Hold at 65C for at least 1 hour.
    • Cool to 24C (overnight)
    • Add yeast (You could first strain off the sugar rich liquid for a clean wash)

    Left over bread can also be used as a supplement with a sugar wash to provide nutrients for the yeast.

    'Bouza' which has been known in Egypt since the days of the Pharaohs. See Here is a redacted version.

    Bouza (Egyptian beer):
      To get a 5% abv beer you would use
    • 4 kg coarsely ground wheat
    • 1 kg wheat grain
    • 30 litres water
    Knead 4 kg coarse flour with a quantiity of water into a dough.
    Cut dough into thick loaves and bake lightly.
    Moisten with water the 1 kg of wheat grain and allow to germinate (3-5 days).
    Sun dry grains, crush and mix with the bread loaves which are soaked in water in a fermenter.
    Add active slurry from previous mash. Ferment. Bread is also still fermented to make a 'bread kvas' by the Eastern Slavs (Ukrainians, Belarusians, Russians) and the word 'kvas' is mentioned in 10th century Kievan chronicles. 'Kvas' is a generic word covering weakly fermented drinks from malted grain, bread, fruits and tree saps (maple & birch). Red beets were also fermented to make a sour 'beet kvas' for borshch before the introduction of tomatoes which provided sourness. 'Bread kvas' which is allowed to go sour, is also used as a natural vinegar for borshch. Sometimes one comes across the word 'kvas' and for comparison purposes here are several redacted recipes.

    Green malt and rye bread kvas:
    • 1 kg green rye malt (barley & oats were also malted)
    • 1 kg sliced dried dark rye bread
    • 20 litres water
    For a reddish color, roast a small quantity of the malted grain) Crush malt lightly. Add green malt and bread to water (65C). Allow to stand for several hours. Add sour dough starter (or 30 g yeast) and allow to ferment for several days. Strain. Keep in cool place. Drink when still effervescent or bottle as for beer.

    Rye bread kvas:
    • 1 kg sliced dried rye bread (lightly toasted in oven)
    • 1 kg honey, molasses (or sugar)
    • 20 litres water
    Pour boiling water over bread, honey/molasses. Allow to cool (24C). Add sour dough starter (or 30 g yeast) and allow to ferment for several days. Strain. Keep in cool place. Drink when still effervescent or bottle as for beer.

    Crabapple and wild pear kvas:
    • 7.5 kg apples (cores removed)
    • 7.5 kg pears (cores removed)
    • 20 litres water
    Pour water over apples and pears. Cover and allow to ferment (traditionally by wild yeasts). Strain. Keep in cool place. Drink when still effervescent or bottle as for beer.

    Kvas is a folk beverage, and there are many variations depending on available material and personal taste. I have seen recipes using mint or horseradish root for flavoring.


Jack experiments again ...
    A friend of mine wanted me to try and make for him a traditional Korean spirit. I'm not sure how traditional this is, but, judging by the info on ancient Chinese distillation techniques, this stuff would be considered a high quality drink.
    • Go to an asian food store and look in the fridge section for something called Koji (it's a mold culture used to make soy paste, sake, etc), it typically comes in a plastic, 20oz container (round, taller rather than wider- I used Cold Mountain brand rice koji).
    • Soak an equal VOLUME of short grain rice in enough water to cover it overnight (just dump the koji into a bowl and use the container to get an equal volume of rice/koji), then, steam the rice for 45minutes. After steaming, add 20fl.oz. of cold water and 1.25teaspoons of Morton Salt Substitute (no other brand is allowed- this is the only stuff with the right chemical composition)
        (The salt substitute is a mix of potassium chloride, fumaric acid, tri- and mono- calcium phosphate. It's not essential to the brewing proccess (I've made 2 batches, one with one without- I couldn't tell the difference) as far as I can see, but the book on sake brewing I have reccomends it. If you can't find it- don't worry, for this recipe it's not critical. It's more of a requirement for plain sake brewing, though. I guess it acts like a micronutrient source for the yeast and the koji. The sake book also adds a little winemaker's yeast nutrient, but I ran out while trying out the recipe- it didn't harm it any.)
    • Stir the rice/water until there are no clumps of grain, then add the koji.
    • Cover and let it sit for 2 days, then add a wine yeast (I used lalvin k1v-1116).
    • Allow to ferment at LAGER temperature (50F) until the rice settles down to the bottom of the fermentor.
    • Distill this sour smelling sake twice in a potstill- that's it- a traditional korean folk liquor.
    If you use sorghum instead of rice, you get a drink highly prized in China called Mao-Tai. I personally hate sake ( I thought tequila hangovers were bad!),but this distilled product is pretty good- It has a buttery, grainy smell/flavor that is really quite good (the sorghum version has the same taste but with an underlying soy flavor- my personal favorite). Forget all the sake you have tried- this stuff has none of the sourness of the mash. It is, in fact, not sweet, but almost malty in texture (like a thick beer-despite being out of a still), and is definitely the strangest batch that you can bring to any homebrew tasting. Something grand from those who brought you Kimchi!!
Wal writes ...
    Japanese rice wine or 'Sake' is distilled to make the spirit 'Shochu' ('Soju' in Korean). Koji mold (Aspergilus ssp.) is traditionally used to make the mash, but enzymes (amylase) and citric acid are also being used currently to make shochu. This could be copied by homedistillers. See:
    'Sake World' Click on 'How Sake is Made'
    'Ingredients of Japanese Sake'
    'The Chemistry of Sake Brewing' Click on 'Top' to go to the Index
    'Production of Shochu Spirit from Crushed Rice by Non-Cooking Fermentation'

    A Japanese experiment by Kenryo Nishimura and others proved that it is not necessary to cook (to gelatinize) or convert (malting) milled grain prior to fermentation. Milling, soaking, adding enzymes and citric acid is sufficient - "....the product obtained by the non-cooking fermentation method was superior to that obtained by the cooking fermentation method in terms of both aroma and flavor components." The product referred to is 'shochu', a Japanese distilled spirit from rice. The non-cooking fermentation did take only one day longer than the cooking method due to the initial concentration of glucose in the cooking method. The method eliminates the messy cooking part of using grain and should encourage more to try grain-based washes. Here is a suggested quick moonshine mash for 5 US gals or 20 litres:

    Quick Moonshine
    5 kg (10 lb) crushed grain (grits)
    2 and 1/2 kg (5 lb) sugar
    20 L (5 US gals) water
    2 tbsp acid (2 g acid/litre)- a pH 4-5 is required.
    2 tsp amylase enzymes (alpha-, beta-, gluco-) or 750 g (1 and 1/2 lb)
    crushed malted barley grain (15% by weight)
    Suitable ale yeast
    Yeast nutrient (D.A.P.)
    This should produce about 10-12%abv.
    No pre-soaking of the crushed grain is required as there is sufficient sugars for the yeast to begin the fermentation process while the grain soaks.
Steve explains about Koji ...
    Kojiis a type of mould similar to that which turns bread green and furry. Scientific name: Aspergillus oryzae. It breaks down starch with an enzyme called amylase, the same one as in saliva and malted grains (the very same enzymes we activate when we mash malted barley, wheat etc to produce wort.)

    Koji comes in two forms. First is koji kin, in other words, seed koji. This is generally in the form of rice grains on which the mould has been allowed to run rampant and go to spore and then dried. This is now the inoculum.

    The second form is what is more commonly referred to as simply koji, but to distinguish it from koji kin is referred to as kome koji (kome means rice in Japanese--it is pronounced as two syllables, the "o" should be as in of, and the "e" as in egg.) So this koji is steamed and cooled rice that has been inocculated with some koji kin and then incubated at 30 to 35 degrees for a few days. The mould hyphae grow right through the rice. You need to stir it every 6 to 12 hours and stop it by bunging it in the fridge if it starts to go yellowy green--that means it is trying to form spore. In Japan, it is possible to pop down to the local supermarket and buy koji in this form fromm the cool-goods section as it is used for making miso paste and a few other food-related things.

    In sake making, it is this kome koji that is mixed together with a larger quantity of steamed rice, some water and yeast to get the fermentation underway. At coolish temperatures (10-15 deg) the koji chugs away making amylase, the amylase converts the rice starch to sugar, and the yeast does what yeast does best. And yadda yadda yadda, eventually you get sake.


Steve writes to the dbd ...
    Scotch is made from traditionally manufactured 2-row malt (no bromates of giberellic acid to speed the process). Takes about 15 days. The malt is similar to a lager malt (less modified than a PA malt) and some or all is smoked above peat fires for flavor. Green malt contains hexanal related chemicals which impart a grassy flavor. Distillers malts are low kilned like lager malt, since they want to preserve beta-amylase. There is no crystal malt used in whisk[e]y making since the Maillard flavors are left behind in the still. Scotch starts with a ~65C mash. That wort is run-off into a fermenter, then more water is added to the spent grist for a second mash around 74C. After that is runoff there is a third mash at around 80C. The three runoffs are combined in a wort around SG=1.050. I think the first mash is thinner than the second and third, but I don't recall the figures. The total mash time is around 8 hours if I recall correctly. The wort is never boiled and the enzymes are still active in the open fermenters. The wort is allowed to undergo some small amount of lactic fermentation before yeast is added - a 12 hour delay before pitching I think. The yeast is conventional brewing yeast from local breweries - random stuff. The fermentation is brief - like 4-5 days before distillation begins. They don't wait for the full completion of fermentation since there is a loss of about 5% of the ethanol to the yeast, which convert it to acetolactate and use it for energy, if they wait. It's distilled in intentionally low efficiency pot stills either 2 or 3 times. The ~5% ABV 'beer' first becomes ~ 15-20% "low wines" then 55-60% barrel strength whisky. The scotch is stored in used oak barrels (bourbon or sherry use) for a number of years - typically a minimum of 10 to 12. It is then diluted with water (various sources) to bottle strength - 43-50%ABV.

    There are several US whiskey making variant, but basically they perform a cereal mash with a large portion of grain - majority is corn typically with some rye (spicy flavored) and wheat (dull flavored). They will then perform a single infusion mash of the result. This thin mash - grist included - is cooled and pitched. US mfgrs are quite picky and secretive about their yeasts. The open fermentation proceeds and the active enzymes continue to produce fermentables during the fermentation. The fermented mash - grist and all - are distilled in a column (coffey, continuous) still. The result cannot be more that 80% pure alcohol in order to retain the name whiskey (US law). The alcohol must be stored in new charred oak barrels at no more than 125 proof for 4 (3?) years before it can be labeled whiskey.

    During distillation the early runnings (foreshots) are removed. This contains a high concentration of acetic acid, esters and any methanol. This only occurs in the first distillation for double or triple distilled pot stills. Late runnings containing fusel alcohols are also removed by stopping the distillation process as the vapor temps rise. When pot distilling Scotch the liquid remaining from the 2nd distillation is added back to the 'green beer' for redistillation.
    Pot stills are basically a pot with a gooseneck lid - alembic stills. Continuous stills are a tall column with several condensation "plates" inside. You can think of the pot still as sort of a broad or crude filter since it doesn't control the vapor temp very accurately. The column still's plates cause a very tight temp control of the vapor at the top. For whatever reason it appears that the pot still does a better job of preserving the flavor components at a given ethanol concentration IMO.

    Properly speaking, sour mash is a US whiskey making term for mash after yeast+lactobacilli have decreased the pH making it acid. US distillers pitch a fraction of sour mash (backset) into the upcoming batch. It adds an active yeast (and lactic) cultures to the new batch and also decreases the pH which makes fermentation easier for the yeast and harder for their competition.

    Jeff adds .."I don't think it contains active yeast and bacteria even though it's often written that it does. Backset is the low pH solid leftovers from the still as I understand it that is added to the mash. A great deal is used in some distilleries, (a quick look at Regan & Regan's "Bourbon Companion" shows 20% (Old Forester) to 41% (Jim Beam)). This was a method that was developed by Jim Crow, a Scottish physician who was an early distiller in Kentucky in the min-19th century and essentially developed modern bourbon."

    HBers sometimes speak of an extended bacterial acidification rest (lactobacilli rest really) as a sour mash, but it's not quite the same thing.

    The book I mentioned "Whisky Flavour:..." by Piggott has a lot of great detail on Scotch mfgr.
Jeff gives me more details on producing a whisky ...
    For a Scotch-style malt whisky, I'd use all malt (duh!), of the palest, lowest protein variety available. I'd mash with water that gives an appropriate pH (just like beer), and aim for a high gravity (1.070 or so, I think). No need to boil as for beer, but the second runnings will dilute. Scotch distilleries do three runnings and use the third running to mash in the next mash. You probably aren't going to have successive mashes.

    For a bourbon I'd use 70 crushed maize, 15% crushed rye and 15% crushed barley malt (highest diastase possible, such as pilsner malt if you can't get distillers malt). Aim for a gravity of 1.070 or so. Add a little malt to the maize and hold at 65C, then raise to a boil for 30-40 minutes, then let cool and/or add cold water to bring to 75C, add rye, hold 30 minutes to gelatinize, then add malt, aiming for 65C. Hold until conversion is complete as indicated by an iodine test. No need to run off the wort - just ferment the entire mash.

    For bourbon's first cousin, rye whiskey, you could use 60% rye, 15% barley malt and 25% maize, or all malted rye (my preference), or other combinations of malted and raw rye.

    To do a sour mash (traditional), first sour some grain by doing a small mash as above, then throwing in some crush barley malt into the cooled mash and hold at warm temperatures for several days. Then add this to main mash with the yeast.

    Cool to 25C and pitch lots of highly attenuating yeast. Dry yeast should work fine. Maybe Danstar Nottingham, perhaps followed by champagne yeast, which is less characterful but more attenuating.

    Keep the temperature between 20-25C if possible.

    Scotch is made from wort that is fermented into beer. With traditional North American whiskeys, the whole mash is fermented and distilled. I would think you'd have to worry about scorching the grains on the bottom of the still.

    Charred oak barrels and warmer year round temperatures contribute to the faster maturation of bourbon (4 - 8 years) as compared to Scotch (10-15 years). Bourbon and rye are greatly influenced by the charred oak barrels. I'd like to make a 100% malted rye and age in uncharred and/or old barrels, much as Anchor Distillery is doing.
Alex H writes :
    you can make very good malt whisky from malt extract and grain mash. I find that it is best to use a blend of two row pale malt extract and pale malt powder. The liquid malt extract has been boiled heavily and adds a nice rich, deep chocolate flavour to your wort and the powdered malt gives it that round fresh malt flavour.

    I use a blend of cracked maize and the above malts in my wort and find that this gives a balance of flavour that is a lot like an Irish Whisky. Due to using malt extracts instead of malted grain I never cook my wort as this would caramelise the malt and give a nasty flavour to the distillate. I used to always use malted grains and cook my wort and go through the whole process but I have found that using malt extract is just as good and so much easier. A lot of emphasis is placed upon SG, enzyme conversion of starches into fermentable sugars and many other esoteric factors but the truth is that these factors are more important in the making of beer or if you are not using added sugar and are relying upon the sugars from the grain starches.

    I use a 120 lt pot still and run to a high wine of 30%, empty the still and then re-distill the high wine to 60%. After distillation, I run the entire run through activated charcoal to remove any impurities. To age my whisky I use a 225 litre American oak barrel that I have heavily charred inside, this is the only way to age whisky as wood chips do not simulate the many chemical reactions that go on inside the barrel over time. You can get smaller barrels but they must be American oak and they must be charred (you can do this yourself.) I use used red wine barrels from Margaret River and rinse them out well with a few litres of white lightning to get the excess red wine out before I char the inside. A famous distillery in Scotland who I will not name has just released a premium scotch whisky aged in used French red wine barrels, selling for over 250 pounds per bottle (my idea first!!) The red wine remnants in the oak give a beautiful, round flavour to the whisky.

    My recipe is as follows;
    10 kg cracked maize
    2 kg liquid malt extract
    2 kg pale malt powder
    22 kg sugar
    1 pouch Alcotec turbo yeast
    Water to make 100 lt (inclusive of above ingredients)

    Fill fermenter with 50 lt hot water.
    Add sugar, malt extract, malt powder and maize. Stir until sugar dissolved.
    Add cool water to fill up to 100 lt mark (will be less than 50 more lt as dry ingredients displace water)
    When mash is approx body temp cast your yeast over the top and stir well.
    Mash will be rich brown colour.
    Seal the fermenter (I never use an airlock. Trust me, you do not need one as the fermentation and escape of co2 is so rapid that nothing will get in)
    Wait approx 10 – 14 days depending on ambient temp.
    Mash is ready when it has gone a lighter colour, has no sweet taste and is non reactive (no foaming response) to added sugar.
    Strain grain out and run through still.
    Age and enjoy!

    Obviously you will have to adjust this recipe to suit your still and fermenter size. This is a great recipe and will produce sublime whisky!!