Grains and malts

You can make alcohol from many different things, even plain sugar! Many traditional recipes however, use grains, especially corn, rye and barley. If you choose to make a traditional brew, there are many different recipes which will cover quantities. See below for more tips on how to buy grain.

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Making grain alcohol

It is important to know that when using grain, it is the starch in the grain that is converted to sugar, which is then consumed by the yeast and produces alcohol. In order for this conversion to happen, a malt is used which contains an enzyme that helps convert this starch into sugar. 

There are a lot of YouTube videos on how to make your own moonshine, corn mash, grain mash, etc., but most give bad advice. You CAN make an all grain mash, but you WILL need malted grain. If you don't use malted grain, then basically your grain's starch won't be converted and all it adds is some flavour.

You can either buy malted grain in combination with your chosen grain (you'll need about 10% - 20% malt), or use a chemical enzyme known as amylase to do the converson for you. If not, then much of the starch in your grain won't be converted and you will be wasting grain that could have been converted into sugar and then into alcohol!

You can combine different kinds of malted grain with your chosen grain, and some people vary their flavour that way. For example, you can use 10% malted rye with 90% cracked corn to add a little 'spice' to a corn based moonshine! Or, for a true rye, use 90% rye (rolled or cracked) and 10 % malted rye, to make a 100% authentic rye. Your choice, there are many combinations you can make! Find a good recipe book for examples and quantities of ingredients! One reason old time Moonshiners used corn is that it was cheaper than anything else, and corn is a sweet grain.

With all grains, be sure to buy untreated varieties. Seed grain is often treated for pest or viral control. Also, animal feed sometimes contains other nutrients. You want to avoid this altered grain. Stick to plain grain, either ground, rolled or cracked.

There are many recipes out there, but some are better than others. One new book that has a good selection of recipes is "How to Master Moonshine" by R.W. Marshall. Besides recipes for all kinds of liquors, it also contains recipes for dozens of liqueurs you can make with your commercially purchased spirits, or your moonshine.