Homemade “Vodka” Tastes Great

| 7/13/2010 10:10:01 AM

Tags: moonshine, homemade vodka, alcohol, distilling,

vodkaA small jar of clear liquid in a brown bag appeared on my desk this week. It was a sample of the moonshine one of my colleagues had just made and it was DEE-licious. He made it by simply adding a special type of yeast to a tub full of sugar and water, fermenting the mixture and then running it through his reflux still for about 4 hours, then filtering it through a long column of activated charcoal. The alcohol came out very smooth, at 160 proof (meaning 80 percent alcohol) so he diluted it half and half with water, producing an 80 proof vodka. Who knew making your own high-quality alcoholic beverages could be so easy? (And yes, we know the alcohol industry and federal tax folks have managed to make it currently illegal to do this in the United States.) 

Stay tuned — MOTHER EARTH NEWS has an article coming up next year about Artisan Alcohol Distilling.

Photo by Brenna Long

5/3/2014 12:38:49 AM

MomaSharon is completely right! The laws in the US are so crazy. It's all about tax money and the feds trying to keep their hands in our pockets as deep as possible (not in the fun way ;) I bought a still from www.copper-still.net to use to make my own "fuel" which is completely legal.

wally schiel
7/19/2010 7:59:10 PM

Here in Western Australia it is also illegal to distill your own spirits, but you can buy all the gear you need (still, condenser,yeast, flavours woodchips ec,etc)from homebrew stores. I have been distilling for about 5 years, and have not bought `commercial` alchohol for that long!! I use the by product (the first 100mils of alchol) as window cleaner, and it works like you wouldn`t believe!! The web site is www.stillspirits.com and it is very helpful. Regards Wally Master Brewer of the West!!!!!

charles j_3
7/19/2010 5:13:10 PM

Because the majority of us are forced to pay for the mistakes of the few. This is how it is all throughout society. Because a few foolish people will drink the alcohol straight without filtering it or diluting it they could injure themselves so the rest of us have to do without. This system needs to change.

7/19/2010 8:39:29 AM

I really do not understand why, in this day and time, it is illegal to make your own liquor. People are allowed to make their own wine, beer, etc. It stands to reason that they should be able to make moonshine, or whatever type of distilled beverage they care to make. If it is some type of gourmet liquor, then go for it. The bartenders are taking a generic bottle of liquor and flavoring it themselves, so why can't a person bypass that and make it themselves from the 'birthing' stages? We are so past prohibition, the lawmakers need to catch up!

7/16/2010 1:57:50 PM

I've been recently dealing with BATFE regs for Small Fuel Producers and the law states that you must add 10% gasoline (denaturing agent) to your ethanol fuel IF you sell it to someone else... but if you only use it for yourself and on your own farm, then you can use it straight. You have to pay your $500 a year for the license and privilege of having your own still, which they argue is because you're no longer paying road taxes at the pump buying gasoline... but I couldn't find any accounting that says the still licenses fees actually make it into the road maintenance fund **scratching head** All sorts of things make pretty yummy 'shine -- sugar beets are one with a unique flavor. Making fuel, you can pretty much use anything with enough carbs to support fermentation, since cellulose is mostly carbs sunflower and corn stalks work fairly well although your proof is going to be a little lower than if you used the corn itself (press those sunflowers for oil to make biodiesel). I, for one, am getting a lot tired of the government (state or federal) telling me what I can and cannot do or use on my own property for my own consumption and purposes.

jan steinman
7/16/2010 12:30:48 PM

Although alcohol for human consumption is what first comes to mind, a reflux still is very useful to have around. You can make fuel for your gasoline-powered tools and vehicles, but you can also make essential oils from herbs and medicinal plants.

keith karolyi
7/14/2010 4:47:51 PM

Actually, vodka can be made with anything that ferments and makes ethanol. By definition, vodka can contain only grain alcohol and water. and the differences between the different vodkas is largely a matter of what trace impurities or minerals are in the mix. BATFE (Bureau of Alcohol, Taxes, and Firearms, Explosives) says you are not supposed to use a still to separate alcohol from whatever you fermented at home unless you have a permit as an alcohol beverage production plant. That being said, my late uncle made 'shine for his own use for years saying it was "Better'n bar liquor!" He never sold any and he kept his production small and at home in his utility room. His take on it was, "Long as I'm not making money on it, Uncle Sam gots nuthin ta tax!" Fuel alcohol requires a different permit as an "Alcohol Fuel Producer and you're required to add a denaturing agent (like unleaded gasoline) to make it poisonous for human consumption. Hope this helped and enjoy yer 'shine!

tom roberts
7/14/2010 3:37:00 PM

I think the author of this article needs to come on down to Arkansas...where we can teach her how to make REAL moonshine. :-)

7/14/2010 11:14:43 AM

One has a moral obligation to disobey unjust laws. :)

7/13/2010 5:12:59 PM

Oh and BTW 80 percent alcohol mixed in equal parts is not 40 proof but 40 percent 40 proof is 20 percent.

7/13/2010 5:07:29 PM

I agree with ozarkie. That is by no means vodka, moonshine, bathtub gin, or even any whisky. Yes it is alcohol but it is ethanol to which it is not illegal to make provided your using it as a fuel and have a permit to do so. I've seen some farms that practice this by using thier farm byproducts to make the fuel.

tom roberts
7/13/2010 3:07:30 PM

That stuff is worse than just plain 'ole MOONSHINE. It's not vodka. Vodka is made from fermented grain, rye, wheat, potatoes, rice, or sugar beet molasses. Moonshine is usually made from fermented corn.

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