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Thread: Moonshine stills

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    Member Nukalpiaq's Avatar
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    Default Moonshine stills

    Anyone know how to build a moonshine still, I am just curious. Been watching a few shows on the history channel and also researching on the internet. From my research there is a long history of moonshine making in America, interesting culture associated with moonshining also. Makes for interesting research. Diagrams, pics etc. would really add to this thread. Thanks. Hey is my thread 2nd on this new forum?

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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Pretty simple concept, but harder to construct & operate. A basic still has a vessel where you heat a fermented alcohol solution to 175F (for ethanol). The alcohol boils off, but leaves most of the water and all the solids behind. You must be able to accurately control the heat and maintain the right temperature. The starting product dictates the ending product, so the fermentation of your sugars (corn, potatoes, etc.) is a very important part of the process. Without a good "mash", you will not have a good alcohol product.

    The next part of the apparatus collects all the vapors and directs them to a condenser where they are cooled back to a liquid. This often resembles an inverted funnel attached to the top of the heating vessel with an outlet going into a coiled condenser that has a means of cooling it. The condensed liquid is collected and will be primarily alcohol. Depending on the final product desired, this may be distilled several times over to increase the percentage (proof) of the alcohol and then it may be aged and/or filtered (charcoal filtering is common).

    Now here's your BIG CAUTION... do not use metal components in a still for producing "drinkable" ethyl alcohol. This is especially true for the condenser. It was common for folks to makeshift this out of copper tubing by bending it into a coil, then packing it with ice or submerging in cold water. You may very well end up with a poisonous product that can cause serious injury or death if consumed!

    Of course if you are just making alcohol to run your "green" automobile, you don't have to worry so much about a clean and safe still. Just ferment your sugar product and distill it several times into a flammable liquid. When a sample burns with a clean blue flame and leaves no residue, you've got a good fuel product. Commercial ethanol fuels are usually "denatured" by adding about 10% methanol.
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    Being from Kentucky, I've heard of people makin there own 'shine.
    My dad was an aircraft mechanic on a carrier in WW II. They would distill the alcohol used
    in the old radial P&W's. Makin them self's something to drink. (don't use a radiator for the
    condenser).

    Anyway a down & dirty way to make a quick drink. Put your mash in a big turkey pan,
    set it on the stove, crank up the heat. Get yourself a 10" thick (more or less) piece of
    cotton, big enough to cover the pan. When the steam rises thru the cotton, wring it out.
    There you go.
    Might have a little bite to it.
    I've seen a few thumpers when I was a kid in the '50's & 60's.

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    Member akfirefighter's Avatar
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    The Alaskan Bootlegger's Bible by Leon W. Kania has very detailed direction on making stills, brewing beer or making wine with the most limited supplies. This book was written for the Alaskan in the bush with limites supplies. I got my copy of the book at Fred Myers, but sure you can get it at most book stores. Here is a link to the website: http://www.happymountain.net/

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    Member Nukalpiaq's Avatar
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    Does the book have any historical information about shine making here in Alaska, like from the old mining days? or other times in our State's past? or historical pics? thanks

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    Member homerdave's Avatar
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    i was told by a seldovia old-timer that a fair number of "fox farms" down here in the early 30's weren't making their money on fur.....
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    Member Nukalpiaq's Avatar
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    Default "hooch"

    Heard that the word "hooch" has it's origins here in Alaska, anyone know where the word originated, and when ?

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    Moderator stid2677's Avatar
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    You ask for it.

    Hooch is a shortened version of Hoochinoo. Hoochinoo was a cheap whiskey that was a favorite of the miners during the Klondike rush of 1898. It was distilled by the Alaskan natives.

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    Member Nukalpiaq's Avatar
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    Hoochinoo, now that is interesting. Guess the natives back in the late 1890s knew how to make a little money off of the gold miners that were passing through, by making moonshine and selling it to them. Sounds like they were real entrepreneurs.

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    Member sayak's Avatar
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    Default Hootzinoo...

    Quote Originally Posted by stid2677 View Post
    You ask for it.

    Hooch is a shortened version of Hoochinoo. Hoochinoo was a cheap whiskey that was a favorite of the miners during the Klondike rush of 1898. It was distilled by the Alaskan natives.

    Steve
    ... was a Tlingit village in Southeast (maybe Angoon) where the residents were taught by some white Army deserters to produce rot-gut liquor. This became known as hooch.

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    Member Daveintheburbs's Avatar
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    Anchorage library system has a book call “Alaska Hooch” written some time ago. Kind of a dry read, but interesting take on the history of bootlegging in AK. Sorry, no still instructions although they did mention the use of a rifle barrel as a condenser (gave that mellow lead added flavor)

    The old Foxfire book series had a very detailed “how to” chapter on still construction and use in Appalachia. Don’t remember which book might have been #2

  12. #12

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    Nukalpiaq, may I humbly suggest that you start by making your own beer and wine, as it is quite easy and cheap to do, and is pretty much impossible to brew poisonous beer. Any number of books and websites can get you started on homebrewing beer and wine. If you make your own wine, you can safely do something called freeze distilling, in where you simply freeze wine to around the mid teens farenheight, which freezes most the water but leaves the alcohol and other contents liquid, leaving you with quite strong and somewhat palatable liquor.

    If you do intend to fully heat distill your own liquor, buy a book and follow the directions very very closely. It is quite easy to distill alcohol with enough methanol in it to blind or kill you with a just few drinks.

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    Default Hooch

    As I understand it, Hooch is the name given to the clear liquid that rises upon the top of sourdough starter when it sits for awhile. The hooch has a slight alcohol content created by the fermentation action of the the starter contents. The old timers could then distill the hooch to make pure ethyl alcohol.

    I might just try collecting enough "hooch" off my sourdough starter to take a hydrometer reading and see what the alcohol content actually is.

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    Member Nukalpiaq's Avatar
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    Now we know why everyone enjoys sourdough pancakes so much, my wife is making some for me as we speak. Please post your findings. Thanks

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    Member bushrat's Avatar
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    Default All stills use metal components

    Quote Originally Posted by Joat
    Now here's your BIG CAUTION... do not use metal components in a still for producing "drinkable" ethyl alcohol. This is especially true for the condenser. It was common for folks to makeshift this out of copper tubing by bending it into a coil, then packing it with ice or submerging in cold water. You may very well end up with a poisonous product that can cause serious injury or death if consumed!

    Joat, you may be confusing the use of lead-solder as was done by some and produced a poisonous product. There would be no real way to make a still without using "metal components." In fact, many distilleries still use copper because of the unique taste it gives their product. The thing is when you solder it all up you have to use lead-free solder! The other danger in producing your own ethanol to drink is separating out the methanol that distills at a lower temp than ethanol. And there is some danger too of course in any reflux tower or still, whether it is one used to make gasoline from oil or to make alcohol from mash, if it should somehow clog up and build up pressure. The most popular home stills nowadays are made from stainless steel. You can check out some of the designs on this site:
    www.brewhaus.com

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    Member shphtr's Avatar
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    Mark,
    You are spot on - Buick radiators are the worst for lead poisoning aka plumbism, and will leave a blue line on the victim's gums which I have seen in rural inhabitants in GA - an area of the country that is know for it's "rural spirits".

  17. #17

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    Alaska bootleggers is the book for you!
    I built a still and made shine for personal use (obviously i did so out of the country cause otherwise it would have been illegal). I used the diagrams from the book which was very helpful and informative. Also, it explains the dangers. For example, metal is ok to use but lead is not. stainless steel is best but copper is usable too. I had used a turkey deep fryer with a bowl turned upside down as a lid. i built the column out of copper rigid pipe and leadless solder. i used refrigerant soft copper tubing and ran it through a tub of cool water. also, using a straight granulated sugar/water solution prevents the creation of certain dangerous alcohols which come from the yeast feeding off carbs (only sugar is present). the book is great, i just can't believe i actually used it and then recently moved to alaska. it was a lot of fun and if you triple distilled and ran it through a brita filter once or twice, it was pretty good. i actually put vanilla beans chopped into mine for flavor. unfortunately i never took a pic of it or i'd include them. i never made much but just figuring out how to do it was great entertainment for a few weekends

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    Default Beewack (sourdough beer)

    I dug out my old Ruth Allman cookbook and on page 45, there is a recipe for an interesting beverage called Beewack, which is basically the hooch floating on top of the sourdough starter. With a large barrel, mix flour, starter and enough water to mix it into a batter-like consistency and let it sit for a week or two. A little sugar speeds the process up.

    Ruth states, "After the solids have sunk to the bottom all that remains is for the imbibers to gather around with tin cups, and dip deep into the malordorous liquid."

  19. #19

    Default still making

    theres several books out there im from georgia (jawja) as we say and weve been making shine since i was a kid... along with lots of wines.... look up james earl dabney... hes actaully a old relative of mine and he has several books on southern appalacian living there are pictures recipes and lots more in his books along with stories of the ATF running down my great uncle in a 40's ford and taking almost 200 gallons of white lightning.
    God Created Man Samuel Colt Made Them Equal

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    Member sayak's Avatar
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    Default "Beewak"= Pivaq...

    Quote Originally Posted by Coaldust View Post
    I dug out my old Ruth Allman cookbook and on page 45, there is a recipe for an interesting beverage called Beewack, which is basically the hooch floating on top of the sourdough starter. With a large barrel, mix flour, starter and enough water to mix it into a batter-like consistency and let it sit for a week or two. A little sugar speeds the process up.

    Ruth states, "After the solids have sunk to the bottom all that remains is for the imbibers to gather around with tin cups, and dip deep into the malordorous liquid."
    ... that is Yupik Eskimo for home brew.

    You can take some of this liquid and keep adding fruit and sugar to it to produce a mildly alcoholic concoction great for ice cream, pancakes, etc. I forget what we called it, but I used to make it when booze was hard to come by out in the village.

    When I was a teenager in Sitka, I made my own wine by combining mashed berries (huckleberry, high bush cranberry, high bush salmon berry, etc.), sugar and yeast in a bottle with a cork drilled to accomodate a rubber tube, which led to a water filled air trap. When it quit working and giving off gas, I would strain the mixture with cheesecloth in a funnel. My mom got wise to my operation when she was putting away some clothing, and heard "blup, blup, blup" coming from inside the darkness of my closet. Surprisingly, she didn't shut me down, and even sampled some of my ware. I think it would have been better with brewer's yeast, but all I had was regular baker's yeast.

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