First off, we need to get one thing straight:
This entire article is basically hypothetical. While we do teach you how to make whiskey, attempting this project at your home can be very dangerous and is also very much illegal in many areas.
While it has been legalized and legitimized in some areas, the risks of both drinking and distilling homemade alcohol are still very dangerous.
However, it’s quite interesting to learn the process of how to make whiskey “at home” since, if it weren’t illegal and super dangerous, it would be very possible and fun.
Learn how to be a modern moonshiner, if only fictional!
Steps on How to Make Whiskey
So, if you’re interested in making whiskey professionally and don’t actually plan on making it in your bathtub (please don’t) these steps serve as an easy way to make whiskey without many complicated tools or pieces of equipment.
Before starting any professional endeavor, you should first visit your local distillery for information on safety precautions and how a professional distillery is set-up.
Step 1: Choose Your Base
To start off, you’ll need to choose a base. Since whiskey is traditionally a grain-based booze, you can start experimenting with rye, wheat, corn or barley. Alternatively, you can use a multi-grain blend.
However, that being said, it doesn’t exactly make for a huge difference in the creation, although it does, clearly, make a difference in terms of taste.
Let’s say you decide on corn. Corn is a good start because it produces the most amount of sugar, which will make the whiskey distilling process a bit easier for first-timers.
Also, corn will be the easiest to find and cheapest to buy in bulk. To start, you’ll need approximately 10 pounds which will equal to around 5 gallons of booze.
Step 2: Cook Your Base
So now that you have your specific base figured out, it time to cook the specific grain to bring out the flavor.
For corn, you’ll need to cook it at an extremely high temperature in order to reveal the sugars in the garin. Also, you’ll need to cook the corn in water.
This can prove to be a bit difficult by yourself, since professionals and distilleries usually have appliances that will cook the grain perfectly. On your own, gauging the exact temperature can be tough.
However, the best way to make sure your corn or specific grain is cooked to perfection is by purchasing a home brewing beer kit.
Then you can use the kit for the distiller purposes in the first stages. By using a kit, you’ll be able to regulate the cooking process with a step by step guide.
Step 3: Fermentation Process: Beginning Stage
Alright, so your grain or your corn is cooked fully. Now it’s time to mash it all up. You can do this by using a rolling pin.
After your corn is mashed up, it’s time to make the yeast.
Basically, this is the process of adding yeast to the mashed cooked corn or grain. It may be easier to use a home-brewing kit for this stage as well to make it a bit simpler.
A lot of home brewing kits make it easy to create fermentation in a controlled environment, seeing as the temperature of the concoction needs to be the right temperature. If the yeast is in an environment that’s too hot, it will die.
Once you add the yeast to the corn mash, you can use any sort of sealed container. The first stage of the fermentation process will take at least a few days. During this time, you can watch your yeasty mash transform and grow in exciting and weird ways.
You’re on your way to creating a delicious monster!
Step 4: Perfecting the Fermentation
If your mash has gone from a sweet porridge to a sour nightmare, you’re on the right track! This means your sugars are turning into alcohol and that the yeast has done well in transforming the sugars.
While this should only take a few days in a true distillery, at home, in a smaller, contained environment without any management of temperatures, the process can take a bit longer. When you’re figuring out how to make whiskey from home, the science isn’t necessarily exact.
That being said, again, a home brewing kit may help you with consistency and preciseness.
However, if you’re looking to straight-up rough it, then you should at least keep an eye, and tongue, out on your fermented mash throughout the process.
You typically should not ferment it for over a week and it’s recommended to taste test the mash throughout the process. A great idea would be to head to your local distillery and ask them to sample a pre-whiskey mash to see how it’s supposed to taste.
Step 5: Put the Mash into a Still
Now, you need to strain your mash through a kind of still.
Okay, this is where it gets super dangerous.
You need to make sure that there are zero leaks in your still.
As soon as alcoholic vapor is created, the entire situation becomes combustible, which leads to explosions.
That being said, it should be a relief to know that some companies sell small scale stills that are made precisely for this purpose and are more than likely safer than a DIY contraption you’d make based off a YouTube video.
Step 6: Wait it Out
So your boozy mash is in a still, secured. Now, it’s time to let it do its thing.
All you need to do is make sure that your fermented mash is at a whopping 80 degrees Celsius. However, if you purchase a still, it should come with a thermometer, built-in.
Once you make sure the mash is at this temperature, sit back and let it work its magic.
Step 7: Vapor Shocking
Science class at its finest. Once the mash reaches this specific level of heat, the alcohol found inside of the mash will be transformed into vapor and then into a distillate.
This is all with help from a condenser which should constantly have cold water running around it at all times.
This is actually shocking the vapor right back into a liquid form. This vapor that hovers inside of the still is transformed back into a liquid, which is poured into a different container. This, my friends, is your liquor.
8. Taste Testing Your Booze
Before tasting your new creation, first dump the first 100 milliliters. It’s both nasty tasting and potentially dangerous, in some instances, similar to methanol.
You’re doing this because you’re flushing out the still of the previous run, or whatever was distilled before. So you’re on a new, clean run.
This can also give notes and flavors that are off. W
So, while it may seem weird to throw away the first 100 milliliters of your new creation, it’s just something you need to do for flavor and safety.
Step 9: Age it in a Barrel
Before you go about calling your batch of booze “whiskey” it first needs to be aged in a barrel.
Without this aging process, you simply just made some mediocre-tasting moonshine.
When dealing with a smaller volume of alcohol, the size of your barrel matters. A small barrel will translate to decreased surface area, which means the alcohol will easily absorb the wood qualities such as delicious notes of cedar, oak or other woody flavors.
Small batches, therefore, need smaller barrels in order to reach their greatest potential in terms of taste. This will also help your whiskey absorb flavor faster.
Final Thoughts and a Huge Piece of Advice
If you’re searching around for the best way on how to make whiskey from home, the sites and advice that know what they’re talking about will all either highly recommend you don’t try this project at home, or they’ll direct you to your nearest distillery for more insight and professional information.
Even after this, making your own whiskey requires a lot of risk as well as trial and error. And remember, sometimes it’s more impressive to know how to do this stuff, then actually take the risk in doing it.
But if you already have all your supplies, as well as the thumbs up from someone at a professional distillery, it’s up to you. May the force be with you.