How to Make Whiskey

Four Parts:Sprouting the Corn and Making the MashFermenting the MashDistillationDiluting and Aging the Whiskey

There are many different varieties of whiskey made all over the world, but the basic procedures for making any kind of whiskey are similar. Making your own whiskey requires only a few tools and ingredients. The process of making whiskey is divided into a series of stages that are carried out over a few weeks. This recipe will show you how to make a corn mash, turn it into a wash, distill it, and then age the spirit to create an authentic whiskey.


  • 10 lbs. (4.5kg) whole untreated kernel corn
  • 5 gallon (18.9 L). (18.9 l) water, plus more warm water for sprouting
  • Approximately 1 cup (237g) champagne yeast (refer to manufacturer's instructions for specific proportions)
  • Large burlap sack
  • Clean pillowcase

Yield: About 2 gallons (7.5 l) whiskey

Part 1
Sprouting the Corn and Making the Mash

Sprouting kernel corn is a simple matter of getting it wet and allowing small sprouts to grow. Once the corn is sprouted, it's ready to be made into a mash. A mash is a combination of warm water and grain. The enzymes in the mash break down the starch in the grain and produce sugar.

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    Start the sprouting process by soaking the corn with warm water. Place 10 lbs. (4.5 kg) of untreated kernel corn in a burlap sack and place that burlap sack in a larger bucket or container. Then, saturate the burlap sack with warm water. Make sure the corn is completely and evenly soaked.
    • Why sprout the corn for whiskey? In short, sprouting eliminates the need for added sugar in the mash, allowing you to get a more authentic whiskey. Also called "malting," sprouting causes enzymes in the corn to convert starches to sugar.[1] Those sugars then become the building blocks of the alcohol in the whiskey.
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    Let the kernel corn sprout for 8 to 10 days. Keep the bag in a warm, dark environment, such as a well-insulated garage or basement. Make sure the corn remains damp for about a week and a half. During the sprouting phase, keep the temperature of the corn between 62° and 86° F (17° and 30° C).
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    Remove the sprouted ends from the corn. Wait for the sprouts to grow 1/4 in. (0.6 cm) long, and then rinse the corn in a bucket of clean water. While doing so, remove as many of the sprouted roots as possible by hand. Discard the sprouts. Reserve the corn.
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    Crush the kernels. Using a rolling pin with a solid end, a wooden muddler, or any other large implement, crush the kernels in the primary fermenter. Stop when all the kernels have been broken apart.
    • If you want to, you can also use a grist mill to crack apart the corn. You can only do this, however, when your corn is fully dried; wet corn won't go through the grist mill properly.
    • To dry your corn for use in a grist mill: Lay the sprouted corn in a thin layer over a clean, even surface. Place a box fan near the corn and turn it on. Let the fan dry out the damp corn, stirring a couple times a day.
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    Add 5 gallons (18.9 l) of boiling hot water to the corn mash. You're now ready to ferment.

Part 2
Fermenting the Mash

During this phase of the whiskey making, it's especially important to keep all the instruments and containers you'll be using clean. A small contamination could ruin the entire batch of whiskey. Be sure to sterilize any thermometers, container lids, and airlocks you might be using, as well as sanitize your hands beforehand.

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    Allow the mash to cool down to 86º F (30º C). Use a thermometer to test the temperature. You want the mash to cool down but still be considerably warm for the yeast to do its job.
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    Pitch the yeast. Add the yeast to the top of the mash and close the lid on the fermenter. For about four to five minutes, carefully pitch the fermenter at an angle, slowly moving back and forth, to agitate the yeast.
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    Vent your fermenter with an airlock. An airlock is an essential tool for fermentation. It allows the CO2 to escape but no air to get into the mash. Air getting into mash would minimize the effect that yeast otherwise has.
    • You can make an airlock yourself quite easily, but buying one is cheap. It's possible to get one for under a couple of bucks.
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    Allow the mash to ferment in a relatively warm environment. The fermentation process will take anywhere from 5 to 10 days, depending on the yeast, the temperature, and how much grain you're using.[2]Use a hydrometer to tell when the primary fermentation is complete. If the reading on the hydrometer is the same for two to three consecutive days, you're ready to begin distillation.[3]
    • Try to keep the mash at a steady 77° F (25° C) while it's fermenting. Again, you need enough heat for the yeast to activate and consume the starch.
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    When the mash is finished fermenting, strain or siphon the mash into a still. If choosing to strain the mash, use a clean pillowcase. Try to keep as much of the solids as possible away from the still when transferring the mash.

Part 3

Mash cleared of particulate solids is called the wash, wort, or sour mash.[4] At this point, the wash has about 15% alcohol by volume. Distilling the wash will increase the alcohol content greatly. For best results, get a pot still. If you're especially handy and have the time, you can build a still yourself.

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    Heat the wash in the still slowly, until it just reaches a boil. With whiskeys, you don't want to rush the distillation; heat up the still on medium heat over the course of 30 minutes to an hour until it just begins to boil. Heating the wash too quickly will result in burnt wash and off flavors. The temperature zone in which you'll distill your alcohol will be between 172° and 212° F (78° and 100° C).
    • Why this temperature? Alcohol and water have different evaporation points. Alcohol begins to evaporate at 172° F, whereas water doesn't begin to evaporate until 212° F. So if you can heat the wash up to at least 172° F but no more than 212° F, the evaporated liquid in the still will be alcohol and not water.
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    Turn on the condensing tube after the wash hits 120º - 140º F (50º - 60º C). The condensing tube takes the evaporated alcohol and cools it quickly, turning it back into liquid form. Slowly, the condensing tube should begin to spit out liquid.
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    Throw out the heads. The heads are a mixture of volatile compounds that evaporate from the wash and should not be consumed. They include methanol, which is lethal in large quantities. Luckily, the heads come out of the wash first. For a 5 gallon (18.9 L) wash, prepare to throw out the first 50 - 100 mL of condensed liquid just to be safe.[5]
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    Collect the body in 500 mL batches. After the heads is collected and dumped, you're ready to collect the good stuff. When the thermometer on the condensing tube hits 175º - 185º F (80º - 85º C), you're starting to collect the valuable prize — moonshine. This is also referred to as the "body" of the distillate.[6]
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    Throw out the tails. Continue collecting the body until the thermometer on the condensing tube begins reading 205º F (96º C). At this point, the evaporated liquids you start distilling are fusel oils, which should be thrown away.[7]
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    Turn off the heat source and let the pot still cool down completely. Allow your distilled moonshine to cool off as well.

Part 4
Diluting and Aging the Whiskey

At this point, you have moonshine — high ABV whiskey. In order to get it resembling something like you'd find at the store, you need to age the whiskey and dilute it down to 40% - 50% ABV.

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    Use a proof and tralle hydrometer to test the ABV (alcohol by volume) of your moonshine. You want to know how strong your moonshine is, both for aging and as an indication of how well your distillation went.
    • Be sure not to confuse the proof and tralle readings on the hydrometer. Your proof will always be two times the amount of the tralle.
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    Age the whiskey. If you do decide to age your whiskey, you want it to go into the barrel at around 58% to 70% ABV.[8] Aging will make the whiskey smoother and give it its distinctive taste. Whiskey will only age in barrels. When it is bottled, whiskey will stop aging.
    • Whiskey is generally aged in oak barrels. The barrels can be carefully charred or toasted first, or can be sourced for another distiller that's kept another spirit in the barrel for added flavor.
    • If you want to add oak flavor to your moonshine but don't want to have to spring for a barrel, you can also add toasted oak chips to your whiskey. Toast your oak chips over low heat (200º F) in the oven for an hour, until they are aromatic but not yet charred. Remove and cool. Transfer to whiskey container and steep for 5 - 15 days or longer, depending on your tastes. Strain the whiskey through cheesecloth or a clean pillowcase to catch all the wood chips.
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    Dilute the whiskey. After your whiskey is aged, you'll want to dilute it before you drink it and bottle it. At this point, the whiskey is still probably 60% - 80% ABV, which would make for a fiery, uncomfortable drinking experience. It should be diluted to around 40% or 45% ABV for a much more pleasant drinking experience.
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    Bottle and enjoy! Bottle your whiskey, along with a note on when you bottled it. Always drink responsibly.


  • The recipe provided shows the process of making a corn whiskey, which is a type of grain whiskey. Grain whiskeys are North American and use a variety of different grains in their production. Bourbon is one of the best known grain whiskeys. Scotch and Irish whiskeys are typically malt whiskeys, which use malted barley instead of grain.


  • Do your own research about obtaining the proper equipment for making your own whiskey. If you believe that you may have done the procedure incorrectly, or something is wrong with the whiskey, do not drink it.

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Categories: Spirits and Liqueurs | Alcoholic Drinks