Categories Moonshine

What Will Moonshine Foreshots? (Perfect answer)

The foreshots are the first vapors to boil off during distillation. These contain the most volatile alcohols and should not be ingested, as they contain methanol and other undesirables. Commercial distillers always discard the foreshots and never consume them.


Can moonshine turn into methanol?

Methanol. If the moonshine is not distilled properly, you could end up with high levels of methanol (methyl alcohol), which is indeed quite toxic. Our liver breaks down the methyl alcohol into formaldehyde and formic acid. And it’s the formic acid that can affect our eyes.

What are the effects of drinking moonshine?

What are the Side Effects of Drinking Moonshine?

  • Alcohol can increase your risk of certain cancers.
  • Alcohol can increase your risk of fatty liver disease.
  • Alcohol can increase your risk of heart disease.
  • Alcohol can damage your brain and other organs.

What Temperature Does alcohol evaporate in a still?

Since alcohol evaporates at 172°F (78°C), any sauce or stew that is simmering or boiling is certainly hot enough to evaporate the alcohol.

How much moonshine is lethal?

Methyl alcohol (methanol) is the bad stuff that could be found in moonshine (or any distilled spirit for that matter). Pure methanol is very dangerous and it is definitely able to cause blindness and even kill people. As little as 10 ml of pure methanol could blind someone and as little as 30 ml could kill someone.

How do I make sure no methanol in moonshine?

Always use a collection pot made of glass, never of plastic and preferably of small mouth. And remember to place this vessel away from any fire or other form of heat. Always dispose of the first bit of moonshine, in order to avoid contamination with methanol (which has a lower boiling point than ethanol).

How do you test homemade alcohol for methanol?

Add 25 drops of iodine solution to each alcohol. Add 10 drops of sodium hydroxide solution to each alcohol. Gently swirl the test tubes a few times. The dark colour of the iodine should start to fade.

Will moonshine give you a hangover?

The heads won’t make you blind, but the volatile alcohols they contain will give you a whopping hangover. The product also smells and tastes terrible, this is because of the acetone that is present.

Can you drink moonshine straight?

Definitely! Moonshine is traditionally sipped straight, right out of the jar. You can also drink it in shots.

Can bacteria grow in moonshine?

Changing temperatures can cause foreign bacteria to grow, which becomes another source of methanol. These dangerous bacteria may also produce the toxin that causes botulism, a type of food poisoning. When the process isn’t monitored correctly, a potentially good batch of moonshine can turn deadly.

What temp do you run a moonshine still?

You will not make any cuts at the different temperatures like you would with a typical pot distillation. Collect until the temperature reaches about 207°F/208°F (97°C/98°C). Turn off your heat source, but continue to run the cooling water until there is no vapor left in the moonshine still.

How do you proof down moonshine?

The solution is to proof down slowly, a few drops, or points at a time. 93% to 87% to 83% so on and so forth. If you are going to proof something down, you need to let it sit for at least 24 hours. That is called “marrying” This is especially important during bottling.

What proof do I need to stop distilling?

When the Distillation Process Ends Experienced commercial distillers generally run their stills until the alcohol from the wash has reduced to somewhere around 10-20 proof. It is not worth the time and energy to distill further to separate the little remaining alcohol from the water.

How many people went blind from moonshine?

“In the 1920s, that in fact happened.” Indeed, between 1920 and 1933 tens of thousands suffered paralysis or blindness through the consumption of homemade hooch. Hundreds, it is estimated, perished. So yes it’s true: moonshine can put your lights out.

Does moonshine go bad?

Although different sources will say different things, the answer for whether moonshine can go bad or not is clear – a bottle of unflavored moonshine, much like other plain spirits, has an indefinite shelf life.

Why can moonshine make you blind?

If you’re drinking moonshine, yes. Today the most common cause of blindness from drinking is methanol. Methanol, otherwise known as methyl alcohol or wood alcohol, can damage the optic nerve and even kill you in high concentrations.

Using a Pot Still: Where To Make Your Cuts

‘Moonshine’ produced in North Carolina When thirsty travelers ring the bell in this tree, take a short stroll, and then return, they will be met with a refreshing drink on the way. They would then leave some money in the tree when they had quenched their thirst, and then they would walk on. The photograph is from the John C. and Olive Campell Collection, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. According to the federal authorities, the true problem with moonshine isn’t the production of it, but rather the distribution of the substance..

The fight to collect taxes, as well as the resolve of moonshiners to avoid paying them, is at the heart of most of the conflict between moonshiners and the state.

If you’re looking for moonshine, you have to look in the correct areas and look for it.

When moonshiners begin to sell their products on a greater scale, the methods by which they supply their product alter.

  • Bootlegging is the process of transporting moonshine in a car or truck, and it is a legal activity in several states.
  • In order to “soup up” the engines of their automobiles, one of their most prevalent methods was to boost their performance by adding more fuel.
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  • Drawings from the John C.

Federal officials calculated that moonshiners were robbing the federal government of $2,500,000 in uncollected taxes each year based on the assumption that they worked 20 days a month, 4 months a year, and generated 15 gallons of whiskey each day.

They were persistent in their desire to keep the government out of their business, even when they didn’t pay their taxes.

In particular, they were drawn to the ideals of natural rights and republicanism that had spurred many of the uprisings against British authority, including the battle cry “no taxation without representation” that had been raised 100 years previously.

Additionally, it compelled many moonshiners to extend their markets; if they wanted to serve more and more individuals, they had to move the booze further and further away from their home base.

These included North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia, and West Virginia.

The majority of moonshiners’ clients came from small towns and mining camps, as well as bigger places such as county seats.

Numerous consumers were unable to afford to drink on a regular or frequent basis.

The photograph is from the John C.

It had already begun to develop an unpleasant connection with moonshine before the 18th Amendment made it illegal to sell or consume alcoholic beverages in the United States.

Moonshiners benefited greatly from the growth of the movement in the 1890s, which occurred across the country.

In the early twentieth century, Prohibition spread over most of the South on a state-wide basis.

Having little choice, thirsty consumers were not always discerning, and they often took “bad whiskey.” The anti-moonshine campaign shifted the emphasis of the fight against moonshine.

This proved to be a far more difficult assignment for both federal and local officers, and the task only became more onerous with the emergence of national Prohibition, which became law with the passage of the 18th Amendment in 1919.


The first substance to emerge from the still is the undesirable substance. Foreshots include methanol and other toxins that you do not want to be present in your finished goods. Not only do foreshots contain relatively little ethanol, but they’re also the source of the headache you experience when you’re hungover, as previously stated. In other words, this is what you want to collect—and then toss away. To collect the foreshots, you’ll need to wait until your vapor temperature hits around 175°F (80°C), and Rick suggests collecting at least 4oz each 5 gallon of distillate that you’re distilling.

Once again, this is the bare minimum that we propose for collection and disposal.


The heads are the next step, which you may keep for mixing or re-distilling at a later time. When the heads begin to appear, the vapor temperature will be more than 175°F (80°C), and this will continue until the vapor temperature is around 196°F (91°C). Heads are normally approximately 80 percent abv (160 proof) or higher in alcohol concentration. They contain a lot of evidence, but they’re not nearly as smooth as the hearts, which will be served next.


This is where the action is at its most effective. Hearts, also known as your Middle Run, start off at roughly 80 percent alcohol by volume (160 proof) before dropping to 60-65 percent alcohol by volume, or even 40 percent alcohol by volume if you want it stronger. Hearts provide you with the fresh flavor you’re seeking for. You’ll begin collecting hearts when the vapor temperature is around 196°F (91°C) and end when the vapor temperature is approximately 203°F (95°C).


In distillation, tails are the last component of the distillate, consisting of everything that comes out after the temperature of the vapor rises to 203 degrees Fahrenheit (95 degrees Celsius) – 207 degrees Fahrenheit (98 degrees Celsius) The use of tails for blending is popular, although Rick does not suggest it for palatable alcohol owing to the combination of lower alcohol level and increased congener content in tails used “as-is.” It is possible, however, to combine the tails with the heads that aren’t being used and re-distill the mixture to produce neutral spirits.

Again, the temperatures indicated here are excellent guides for beginners, but the more you distill, the more you’ll be able to choose when to make your cuts depending on your own personal preferences in flavor and scent.

More Distilling Info For Beginners

More articles containing tried-and-true advice may be found here. Take a peek if you have the luxury of leisure to go into the rabbit hole. Alternatively, you may view our full blog by clicking here.

Methanol – Will Moonshine Make You Blind?

When a commercial distiller manufactures moonshine (such as Ole’ Smokey or Sugarlands), a very serious safety risk is the possibility of manufacturing a deadly substance. In contrast to popular belief, professionally produced moonshine will not cause blindness or death or even a nasty hangover if some simple safety steps are observed and followed. What may cause someone to become blind from drinking moonshine will be discussed in greater detail in the following article, which will also show how a professional distiller can be absolutely, certainly, 100 percent certain that this will not happen.

Our distillation apparatus is intended solely for legal reasons, and the information contained in this paper is intended solely for educational purposes. We encourage you to read our comprehensive legal statement for further information on the legality of distillation.

Methanol Toxicity

When it comes to moonshine, the dangerous stuff to look out for is methyl alcohol (methanol) (or any distilled spirit for that matter). Purified methanol is extremely hazardous, and it has been proven to cause blindness and even death in some cases. Pure methanol at concentrations as low as 10 mL can cause blindness, and as high as 30 mL can cause death in severe cases. A shot glass holds 30 milliliters of liquid, which is the same quantity of liquid as 30 milliliters.

How is Methanol Produced?

Methanol can be found in naturally occurring quantities in various fruits and vegetables. It is also possible that it will be created as an accidental consequence of the fermentation process. methanol is more likely to be found in spirits distilled from fruits such as apples, oranges, and grapes than in others. Methanol may be found in small amounts in both beer and wine. According to studies, wine may contain as much as 329 mg/L of alcohol, whereas lager may have as little as 16 mg/L of alcohol.

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Why is Methanol A Concern for Distillers?

So why is wine possibly unsafe to consume after it has been distilled, even if it contains methanol and does not represent a risk of methanol poisoning? The distinction is that the methanol concentration in a given amount of wine (say, 5 gallons) is uniformly distributed across the whole volume of wine. More than 5 gallons, or 28 bottles, would be required for someone to drink a quantity that may be considered potentially harmful. Because methanol has a lower boiling point than ethanol and water, it is concentrated at the beginning of the distillation process.

Methyl alcohol has a boiling point of around 148 degrees Fahrenheit, which is much lower than that of ethanol (the good stuff).

This is why professional distillers always discard the very first drop of shine that they make from each manufacturing run they undertake (more on this below).

  • There could be as much as 8 milliliters of methyl alcohol in the first jar after distilling 5 gallons of wine with the abovementioned methanol concentration (329 mg/L), which could be potentially hazardous in high concentrations
  • If the wine contained the abovementioned methanol concentration (329 mg/L) and was distilled, there could be as much as 5 gallon of methyl alcohol in the first jar after distilling
  • If you scale this up to a 100-gallon batch that is distilled all at the same time in a large still, a commercial distiller may possibly be in for a very huge problem if the methanol is not dumped during the process. The distillation of 100 gallons of wine with 329 mg/L of methanol might result in a concentration of 40ml of methanol, which could be lethal if consumed in its whole
  • Nevertheless, it is not recommended.

How to Remove Methanol from Moonshine

The temperature of the still is one manner in which a professional distiller may assess whether or not methanol is present. methanol is created by the still if anything is produced by the still before the wash temperature reaches 174 degrees. It will be discarded by a commercial distiller. Again, methanol boils at a lower temperature than ethanol and will concentrate at the start of the distillation process, just as it did previously. Commercial distillers have also discovered that just dumping a set quantity of product every batch, dependent on the batch size, is sufficient to keep things safe.

When distilling wash, the rule of thumb is to discard 1/3 of a pint jar for every 5 gallons of wash that is being produced. How much of the first product should be discarded:

  • 1 gallon batch – discard the first 2/3 of a shot glass from the beginning of the batch
  • 5 gallon batch – discard the first 1/3 of a pint jar from the beginning of the batch
  • In a ten gallon batch, discard the first 3/4 of a pint jar of the mixture.

It’s a good idea to always follow this rule of thumb, regardless of the current temperature. Even though the first batch does not include methanol, the first batch that comes out of the still tastes and smells like rubbing alcohol. Nobody will be impressed by this, as it is by far the weakest material produced over the whole course of the show. It is impossible for a professional distiller to consume or sell the first product generated by a still. For more detail on this subject, please see our article ” Making Moonshine – The Dummies’ Guide “.

Check out the 10 most critical safety recommendations for distillers for much more information about safety.

Everything You Need to Know about Moonshine

Moonshine has the reputation of being a backwoods drink that can also be used as an engine cleaner, which isn’t entirely accurate. Moonshine, on the other hand, may be a premium spirit that aficionados throughout the world will willingly put a pinky in the air for a taste if they know what they’re talking about.

Don’t Worry, Drinking Moonshine Will Not Make You Blind

When talking to the general public about moonshine, the most often heard question is, “Won’t that stuff make you blind?” The answer is no, drinking moonshine will not cause you to become visually impaired. We’ve all had those regrettable mornings after consuming alcohol, if not more so than with other sorts of drink. The source of this worry stems from the fact that a byproduct of distillation known as methanol has been shown to cause blindness in certain people. Combine that reality with the fact that moonshine has an uncontrolled past, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Making Heads or Tails of Hearts

Distilling, like so many other things, is both a science and an art form. When it comes to distilling, a great distiller has his craft down to a science, and his product stands out in every manner. This covers the mash, the temps, the timing, and whatever infusions he may have under his sleeve at the time of writing. The appropriate isolation of the hearts, on the other hand, is the first thing a great distiller will pay attention to. This is most likely the most significant factor to consider while searching for excellent Moonshine.


When making a batch of moonshine, you must first heat your mash to the temperature you wish. Because of the fermentation process, the mash is a mixture of all of the ingredients you want mixed with a number of things you don’t want. The fact that the material you want will evaporate at a different temperature than the thing you don’t want allows you to take advantage of this fact by heating it. Immediately after you begin heating your still, the first distillate to emerge from the other end of the still is referred to as the foreshots.


Then there are the heads.

Although the heads will not cause you to become blind, the volatile alcohols they contain will cause you to have a severe hangover. Aside from that, the product has a foul smell and taste due to the presence of acetone in it.


The hearts come next, following the heads. The hearts are, without a doubt, the most essential stage in the process of separating exquisite Moonshine from degreaser for engines. Consider this transition to be a gradient, and you’ll begin to see why it’s so tough to make the move. It can be tricky to timing the opening and closing of your first and final jars of hearts, and what smells and tastes fine to you may be scoffed at by a seasoned shiner.


In order of importance: heads, hearts, and so on. When it comes to distinguishing delectable Moonshine from engine degreaser, the hearts are unquestionably the most crucial step. Consider this transition to be a gradient, and you’ll begin to see why it’s so tough to make the switch. It can be tricky to timing the opening and closing of your first and final jars of hearts, and what smells and tastes fine to you may be scoffed at by a more experienced shiner.

So Where Do I Find the Good Stuff?

If you look through internet spirits stores or visit a reputable spirits retailer in your area, the odds are strong that you’ll come across a fantastic brand of Moonshine. Unfortunately, there is no way to determine one brand is superior to another because they all compete for a little portion of the same market. Or perhaps the typical sweet-corn flavor that comes from a full-blown corn Whiskey mash appeals to you. If this is the case, Tim Smith’s Climax Moonshine is a must-try. Alternatively, you can like flavored Moonshine prepared from a sugar mash that is constructed on a more neutral-tasting basis.

If you have distilleries in your area, go visit them and sample their products.

How to “Cut” your Alcohol Distilling Run

Alcohol distillation is a centuries-old process that is both an art and a science, according to some scholars. It’s simple, but not as simple as simply turning on the computer and sitting back to watch it work. In order to produce the safest and finest tasting spirit possible, conscientious distillers understand that they must monitor temperature control when distilling, as well as the finished product – the distillate. When it comes to creating a high-quality result, one of the professionals’ secrets is their meticulous and accurate “cutting” during the still’s run.

It is necessary to “cut” the alcohol stream flowing from the condenser coil when moving between jars that contain distillate and those that are empty.

The Four Stages of Your Moonshine Run

Some old wives’ tales claim that moonshine would “make you go blind.” You may have heard something similar. Despite the fact that this is an exaggeration, it is true that moonshine that has not been properly prepared might make you sick. Read our guide on how to distill whiskey and moonshine to acquire a better understanding of the safety precautions you should take at every stage of the process. Keep an eye out for the different types of alcohols that are created during the various phases of your moonshine production so that you can avoid establishing a bad reputation for your moonshine by selling it to those who think it’s harmful.

Even if you need to use numerous containers for each stage of the run, this is OK. Only a change of containers should be considered a “cut” if you are transitioning from one stage of the run to another.

The Foreshots

At each stage of the race, different types of alcohol are vaporized and sucked into a collection cup at the finish line. Fine, high-quality moonshine is made from ethanol, which boils at a temperature of 175 degrees Fahrenheit when heated to a boiling point. The boiling point of other chemicals and alcohols, such as methanol, is much lower, and the resulting condensed liquid will gather in your cup or jar after being condensed in the coil. These compounds are extremely toxic. The presence of these contaminants in your moonshine (or whatever alcohol you’re distilling) will not only degrade the flavor of your product, but they may also make people very unwell.

If you reach this temperature, the ethanol in the wash will begin to evaporate, and you may be confident that the distillate collected before this point includes the majority of the methanol and other hazardous chemicals.

In this initial container, you will find all of the distillate that has been gathered before your run reaches this certain temperature.

Making the incision a bit later rather than early ensures that all of the potentially harmful substances are removed from the process.

The Heads

You will be distilling actual spirits as the temperature continues to rise. Even though the temperature in the still’s pot is rising to between 175 and 185 degrees Fahrenheit, the distillate will still contain significant amounts of non-ethanol chemicals that can be used to give your final product a bit more “bite” and flavor if used in conjunction with other ingredients such as spices. This may be great for a product such as whiskey or Scotch, because the complexity of those alcoholic beverages is derived from the mixing of several trace compounds.

The temperature range for the second cut you will make in your run will be between 185 and 190 degrees Fahrenheit.

Make a note of the heads and save them away for future distillation, or blend the appropriate quantity with the final distillate to flavor the alcohol to your liking.

The optimal strategy is to make this cut a bit later rather than earlier, and to gather some of the hearts with your heads rather than the other way around.

The Hearts

The distillate with the highest concentration of ethanol is the most desirable section of the run. This phase of your run is referred to as the “hearts” section. Many professionals and long-time distillers agree that this is the section of the run that takes place between around 190 degrees Fahrenheit and approximately 200 or 205 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. Without a doubt, it is dependent on the still. Despite the fact that ethanol has a boiling point of 175 degrees Fahrenheit, the mash in your still does not contain pure ethanol.

The hearts will most likely account for about 30 percent or so of the overall amount of your booze run’s ultimate tally.

It is usually preferable to perform this incision as soon as feasible in order to maintain the hearts as clean as possible. In this case, it is preferable to combine some hearts with your tails rather than some tails with your hearts.

The Tails

When the temperature of the run hits around 205 degrees Fahrenheit, it is possible that more steam will enter your distillate. There may also be other compounds present in the distillate that burn at a higher temperature than ethanol, which might impart a flavor to this component of the distillate that isn’t precisely what you were looking for. This section of the run is referred to as the “tails,” and it can account for as much as 20-30 percent of your entire distance. Remove the tails and set them aside for further distillation.

It is safe to cut off the heat source for your still after the temperature in the pot of your still hits 212 degrees.

Continue to collect whatever distillate comes out of the condenser coil, but it is not worth it to boil the water in order to extract every drop of alcohol from the alcohol wash, since this would waste time and energy.

Allow your still to cool completely before disassembling, cleaning, and storing it in preparation for your next use.

The “Feints”

Fients are the containers containing heads and tails that you have set aside for later use in the process. In this case, you may either add them to the wash with your next run or distill them separately from the rest of the brew. It is possible to distill the feints in a smaller-size still after each alcohol run if you do not want to combine different recipes or tastes from separate mashes. After collecting feints for several runs, some people perform an all-feints run in a bigger still; this is known as the “queen’s share” of feint collection.

  • When it comes to learning the particular qualities of your still that will inform you when to cut your alcohol run, it may take some time and trial and error.
  • This will help you repeat successful runs and figure out where you went wrong in a batch that wasn’t up to your standards the next time around.
  • Follow the rules, practice safe distillation, and learn how to get the most hearts out of each batch, and you’ll be able to sip your moonshine with a grin on your face.
  • Luann Snider Photography provided the image for this post.

Foreshots to tails

Are you intending to perform stripping runs as well as spirit runs, or will you solely do spirit runs? Run for Stripping A stripping run is the most effective method of removing water from within the wash system. Simply fill the still with wash and operate the still at a high temperature and speed. Everything should be gathered into one huge collecting container. Once numerous stripping runs have been stored, they can be combined into a single spirit run and conducted as a single operation. Consider the stripping run to be nothing more than an alcohol concentration step: if you conduct a stripping run, you will obtain a bigger, more refined spirit as a result of it.

  • Running a pot still as rapidly as feasible will extract the most amount of alcohol from your wash as it can be extracted.
  • Following that, the low wines from multiple stripping runs are gathered, and a spirit run is performed.
  • Spirit runs are used to separate the heads, hearts, and tails in preparation for the ultimate spirit, which is referred to as the spirit run.
  • Foreshots are the first vapors that boil out during the distillation process, and they are the most volatile.
  • Always discard the foreshots, which account for only around 5 percent or less of the total output gathered during a production run.
  • HeadsHeads are removed from the still immediately following the foreshots.
  • Paint thinner or solvent can be detected in the scent of the heads.
  • HeartsHearts are removed from the still after the heads have been removed.
  • The most straightforward technique to determine when you’ve achieved the hearts is as follows: As opposed to the roughness of the heads, this taste is gentle and pleasant in flavor.
  • The heart cut is very crucial, and it is here that the distiller’s talent comes into play, because he or she must be able to distinguish between the end of the heads and the beginning of the tails in order to produce a good product.
  • As soon as all of the lower boiling point alcohols have evaporated, the tails begin to form.

The tails contain largely water, proteins, and carbs, and they do not have a very pleasant flavor. The tails begin when the rich, deep tastes of the hearts begin to fade and the meat begins to taste thin. The tails account for about 20 and 30 percent of the whole run.

A How To Guide To Cuts and Fractions – Pot Still Run – Learn to Moonshine

This book will educate you about the many fractions that occur throughout the distillation process in a pot still, as well as how and when to make cuts, which will allow you to manage the final flavor and quality of your spirit.

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What are cuts?

During a distillation run, cuts are planned moments at which a stiller will split the product flowing from the still into different containers. The ultimate result is a number of various jars of finished goods. Each with its own distinct flavor and alcohol content.

How to know where to make cuts during distillation run?

The different fractions of a run must be understood and recognized throughout the distillation process in order to know where to make cuts during the distillation process.

What are fractions?

In phase transition, fractions are the individual components of a mixture of compounds that may be split into smaller groups of compounds. It is possible in our instance to separate fractions throughout the distillation procedure. If you have a lot of expertise, you can recognize fractions by utilizing still head temperature, abv percent, or by tasting to differentiate them. However, if you understand how your still works, detecting fractions becomes a lot more predictable. Also bear in mind that when the temperature of the still increases and the alcohol content decreases, the two are intimately connected to one another and provide an indicator of what is coming out of your still.

This will give you an indication of the temperature at which specific alcohols begin to evaporate from the wash water.

  • Acetone is 56.5 degrees Celsius (134 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Methanol (wood alcohol) is 64 degrees Celsius (147 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Ethyl acetate is 77.1 degrees Celsius (171 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Ethanol is 78 degrees Celsius (172 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • 2-Propanol (rubbing alcohol) is 82 degrees Celsius (180 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • 1-Propanol is 97 degrees Celsius (207 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Water is 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahr

Many times, while distilling with a pot still, it is desirable to perform numerous stripping runs before performing a final product run. This saves time and makes mixing a lot more convenient. Interested in learning more about how to distill a stripping run? Check out Fundamentals of Distilling A Stripping Run for additional information.

What are the main Fractions that occur during the distillation of moonshine?

There are four primary fractions that must be granted, and these are as follows:

  • First shots– The first shots fraction is collected during the distillation process and includes a high concentration of acetone. It is the first fraction to be collected during the distillation process. Don’t even consider of consuming this noxious substance. Generally speaking, we’ll allow 150 mL per 25L of wash for our Foreshot Fraction during a pot still run to be used. This is disposed of in the garbage disposal. At 50 degrees Celsius, foreshots can begin to emerge from the still. It is composed of acetone, methanol, ethyl-acétate, and ethanol in varying proportions. You should expect the heads portion to have a somewhat pleasant scent with a sting similar to that of a solvent. Because they contain a significant amount of ethanol, it is normal practice to remove the heads and incorporate them into the following distillation process. A general rule of thumb is to take 750 mL for Heads Fraction after Foreshots to ensure enough concentration. Personal preference plays an important role in this selection
  • Nevertheless, you can take more or less personal preference. Hearts– The hearts fraction has the maximum concentration of ethanol and will have a very clean taste, without the sting that may be found in the heads fraction. It can be collected between 78 and 82 degrees Celsius, or if you like a higher alcohol content, between 80 and 50 percent, with low wines of 40 percent. When combining fractions to create the ultimate outcome, keep in mind that Your product’s foundation is comprised of Hearts
  • Tails– The Tails fraction includes high concentrations of fusel oils, which can impart undesirable tastes to the finished product. The unique scent of wet dog distinguishes the tails from the rest of the pack. Aside from the fusel oils, there is a significant quantity of ethanol and rich tastes in the tails, which are frequently desired for creating rum or whiskey. A feints run can be used to extract the tastes from the mixture. The feints run will result in a very flavored product that may be used in the mixing of the Hearts portion when it is finished. When still temperatures hit 94–95°C, or when the alcohol content of low-alcohol wines reaches 20 percent, the collection of tails can be stopped.

For beginner distillers who are just learning how to make cuts, I’d recommend doing the primary cuts between heads and hearts and hearts and tails first. Before you begin mixing, you need get familiar with the process of blending. If you’re confident in your ability to make these basic cuts, then check out the Blending Guide for Newbies for further information. It will guide you through the process of mixing whiskeys and rums for those who are new to the technique.

Distillation – The science of distillation

In contrast to fermentation, distillation does not create alcohol; rather, it concentrates it. To make distilled spirits, you must start with an alcoholic liquid (called a “wash”) that will be used to distill your spirit. Pouring a wash through a distiller yields the vast majority of vodkas and all whiskies, which is essentially beer prepared by fermenting cereal grains. Potable alcohol (which is a fancy phrase for ‘drinkable alcohol’) is a liquid that goes by the name of ethanol. In addition, because ethanol alcohol boils at a lower temperature than water, the two liquids can be separated by evaporation from one another.

  1. Apart from the presence of ethanol, this procedure is complicated by the presence of many kinds of alcohol and other chemical compounds, all of which have distinct boiling points.
  2. During distillation, some congeners are beneficial in tiny concentrations, while others should be eliminated as fully as possible to get the best quality product.
  3. The boiling point of ethanol alcohol, the drinkable alcohol that the distiller is trying to capture, is 78.2 degrees Celsius.
  4. The more volatile alcohols, or those with the lowest boiling points, are the first vapours to boil off the water during the distillation process.
  5. If you reroute the flow of spirit issuing from the condenser, the heads may be thrown away while the hearts are preserved.
  6. In order to save money, it will not be necessary to further separate the small amount of leftover alcohol, and the ‘pot ale’ left in the still will either be processed or sprinkled over fields as fertilizer.

One of the distiller’s abilities is determining when it is appropriate to “cut” the still’s outflow from the heads to the hearts and the hearts to the tails. The purity of the heart increases as the proportion of heart decreases, but this comes at the expense of more valuable ethanol.

The Heads

Also referred to as ‘foreshots,’ these are volatile (low boiling point) alcohols that are released at the commencement of the distillation process and contain the following chemical compounds: Acetaldehyde (CH3CHO) is an aldehyde that is formed by plants as a byproduct of their regular metabolic processes. It can also be produced from the oxidation of ethanol. Aetaldehyde, which has a boiling point of 20.8 degrees Celsius, is thought to be a significant influence to the severity of hangovers.

It has a boiling point of 56.2 degrees Celsius and is a colorless, flammable liquid.

It is the simplest form of a class of chemicals known as ketones, which is comprised of a number of other compounds.

In addition to being a popular cleaning solvent, acetone is also the active component in nail polish remover and paint thinner, among other things.

When it comes to the perfume of fruits, esters are naturally occurring chemical compounds that are responsible for the aroma of many different fruits such as apples pears bananas pineapples strawberries Generally speaking, esters are created by condensing carboxylic acids with alcohol, and their presence in a distillate can contribute to the production of fruity fragrances.

  1. Esters include ethyl acetate (boiling point 77.1 degrees Celsius), ethyl butyrate (121 degrees Celsius), ethyl formate (54 degrees Celsius), and hexyl acetate (171.5 degrees Celsius).
  2. With a boiling temperature of 64.7 degrees Celsius, methanol (CH3OH, frequently abbreviated MeOH), also known as methyl alcohol, wood alcohol, wood naphtha, or wood spirits, is a colorless, extremely flammable liquid with a boiling point of 64.7 degrees Celsius.
  3. Methanol, on the other hand, must be separated and thrown since it is extremely harmful to the liver and has the potential to cause blindness if consumed in large quantities.
  4. A little amount of methanol (as little as 10ml) can cause lifelong blindness by destroying the optic nerve, while a large amount of methanol (as much as 30ml) is likely to be deadly.

Vodka must comply with European Union standards, which state that its methanol concentration “must not exceed 10 grams per hectolitre of 100 percent vol. alcohol.”

The heart (or spirit)

Foreshots, also known as volatile (low boiling point) alcohols, are released at the beginning of the distillation process and contain the chemical compounds listed below: It is created by plants as part of their natural metabolism, and it is known as acetaldehyde (CH3CHO). The oxidation of ethanol also results in its production. Its boiling point is 20.8 degrees Celsius, and it is thought to be a significant contribution to the severity of hangovers. It has a strong fruity odor that reminds me of a metallic green apple in a metallic green color.

  • It is the simplest form of a class of compounds known as ketones, which is comprised of a number of other types of substances.
  • Acetone is a cleaning solvent that is often used in nail polish removers and paint thinners.
  • Consequently, if you smell nail polish remover in a spirit, it is most likely Acetone you are detecting.
  • Generally speaking, esters are created by condensing carboxylic acids with an alcohol, and their presence in a distillate can impart fruity scents to the mixture.
  • The esters ethyl acetate (77.1 degrees Celsius), ethyl butyrate (121 degrees Celsius), ethyl formate (54 degrees Celsius), and hexyl acetate (171.5 degrees Celsius) are among the most common.
  • Wood spirits are a colorless, volatile, and extremely flammable liquid with a boiling point of 64.7 degrees Celsius.
  • Due to their similarity in structure and the fact that their molecules cling to one another, methanol and ethanol (drinking alcohol) are famously difficult to separate during distillation, despite the fact that their boiling temperatures are significantly different.
  • Malt whisky, for example, may include 4 to 5 parts per million of this substance, which is considered safe at these concentrations.

Vodka must comply with European Union standards, which state that its methanol concentration “must not exceed 10 grams per hectolitre of 100 percent vol. alcohol.”

The Tails

These alcohols and other compounds, which are sometimes known as ‘faints,’ have low boiling temperatures and are released at the conclusion of the distillation process. 1-Propanol (CH3CH2CH2OH) is a naturally occurring compound that forms in tiny amounts during the fermentation process. It has a boiling point of 97.0 degrees Celsius. It is utilized as a solvent in the pharmaceutical sector, and it is one among the alcohols distillers refer to as ‘Fusel Oils,’ which is a derogatory word for those who use them.

  • Butanol alcohol is often found in beer and wine.
  • Amber-colored liquid with a boiling point of 131.6 degrees Celsius, Amyl (Isobutyl Carbinol)alcohol is a colorless compound.
  • Fusel alcohols, also known as ‘fusel oils,’ are a word used to refer to the bitter chemicals found in the tails of distillation that are converted to alcohol.
  • FUSELS are higher-order alcohols, that is, alcohols that contain more than two carbon atoms and have a large solubility in water (more than two carbon atoms per carbon atom).
  • The term “fusel” comes from the German word for “poor liquor,” and because these alcohols have an oily viscosity, they are commonly referred to as fusel oils.
  • Acetic acid is responsible for the sour taste and pungent smell associated with vinegar.
  • Furfural (OC4H3CHO) is an aromatic aldehyde generated from grains such as maize, oats, and wheat bran, among other sources.
  • Colorless greasy liquid that immediately turns yellow when exposed to oxygen after being poured into a glass of water.
  • Indeed, charring is a common occurrence in direct fired stills as a byproduct of the firing process.

Given that furfural dislikes water, it attempts to vaporize during distillation earlier than would be predicted, despite the fact that its boiling point is quite high (161.7 °C). Furfural has an almond scent to it.

Moonshine’s Gone Legit But It Still Is Dangerous

Photograph by Scott Olson / Getty Images Home-distilled moonshine, formerly a closely guarded secret of Appalachian backwoods, is still in existence to this day. In fact, it is now officially legal. “White lightning,” as it is referred as, was originally considered an illegal and dangerous chemical by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, but it is now approved for sale and controlled by the federal government in select states in the United States. Several other states, including Alabama, Georgia, and Kentucky, have followed suit.

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Many believe that over a million illegal moonshine stills are currently operating throughout the United States, making the manufacture of clear, high-potency drink more ubiquitous and pervasive than at any other time in history.

What Is Moonshine?

When you make moonshine, you’re fermenting a sugar source to generate ethanol, which is also called as “hooch” or “homebrew.” The traditional method of making moonshine is to boil maize and sugar together. A distillation procedure is used to remove the alcohol from the mash after it has been fermented. One significant distinction between moonshine and other alcoholic beverages such as whiskey or bourbon is that moonshine is not matured. It is the end product of this process that creates an alcoholic beverage with a high proportion of alcohol, often several times larger than 100 proof (50 percent), such as white whiskey.

That is, the ability to purchase commercially made, all-copper moonshine stills on the internet has removed a significant amount of the danger associated with the moonshine distillation process.

Plenty of moonshine is still being produced in stills constructed from vehicle radiator components and other potentially hazardous items.

Impact of Moonshine

Once upon a time, moonshine was a significant financial component of the Appalachian economy, serving as a source of money during difficult economic times and in places where poverty was prevalent. Moonshine, like every other product manufactured in the United States, underwent peaks and troughs in the supply and demand cycle. When the price of sugar increased in the United States beginning in the 1950s, the moonshine industry suffered a severe downturn. The spirit appeared to be slipping away as the United States witnessed a surge in the use of marijuana and prescription medications, which reached epidemic levels in the region.

With the current trend toward increasing costs at the liquor shop, particularly for foreign spirits, moonshining has re-entered the public consciousness.

Tennessee legalized the sale of alcoholic beverages at large box retailers such as Walmart and Sam’s Club the following year.

They are available for purchase for anything from $150 to $11,000, and everything in between. The demand for copper stills, according to one supplier, has more than doubled in the last few years, and he has sold copper stills to every state in the United States.

Potential Dangers

Because illegal moonshine is manufactured in improvised stills, it remains a potentially lethal substance. It has the potential to be hazardous on two levels: during the distillation process and when it is consumed.

Distilling Process

The distillation process itself generates flammable alcohol vapors, which are released during the operation. The presence of flammable vapors is one of the primary reasons that moonshine stills are nearly always situated outside, despite the fact that this makes them more visible to law authorities. The danger of vaporous explosions is too large to be contained within the building. When it comes to eating the liquid, if the end result has a proof more than 100, the moonshine itself is incredibly flammable and may be quite hazardous.


However, while the flammability of the distilling process and the product itself is a concern, more people have died from drinking moonshine than have perished in still explosions owing to the poisons in the brew, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Despite the fact that the majority of stills in use today are of the all-copper form, there are still a significant number of old-fashioned handcrafted stills extant. Traditionally, antique stills have used automobile radiators in the distillation process, and they are more likely to contain lead soldering, which can contaminate the moonshine.

  1. Methanol tainting may develop in bigger quantities of distilled moonshine, and it is especially common in older batches.
  2. The greater the batch size, the greater the amount of methanol.
  3. Methanol is extremely dangerous and can result in blindness or even death if inhaled.
  4. Christopher Holstege, a physician affiliated with the University of Virginia Health System, conducted a research in 2004 in which he examined 48 samples of moonshine acquired by law enforcement from various stills.

How to Test for Purity

According to folklore, one method of determining the purity of moonshine is to pour some onto a metal spoon and light it on fire. Although lead is not harmful when burned with a blue flame, it is harmful when burned with a yellow or red flame, leading the ancient adage, “Lead burns red and makes you dead.” The spoon burning approach, on the other hand, is not fully dependable. Other poisons that may be present in the brew, such as methanol, which burns with a bright blue flame that is difficult to notice, are not detected by this method.

Public health experts are afraid that moonshine poisoning in unwell people may go unnoticed since most healthcare practitioners regard it to be an outmoded practice from years ago.

History of Moonshine

As far as historians can tell, the practice of manufacturing alcohol has been present since the dawn of civilization. Moonshine, in particular, is said to have been brought into the United States by Scotch-Irish immigrants in the late 1700s, notably in the southern Appalachian region. According to Appalachian anthropologists, the Scotch-Irish immigrants who relocated to the region in the late 1700s and early 1800s carried with them their practice of home brewing as well as their formula for high-potency hooch, which was popular during the time period.

As a result, it may be kept concealed from prying eyes such as the police or hungry neighbors “Jason Sumich, Department of Anthropology, Appalachian State University, believes this is correct.

The side of the antique clay jars was frequently marked with the letters “XXX.” Supposedly, each “X” reflected the number of times the drink had gone through the distillation process before it was bottled.

Can moonshine make you blind? – Truth vs. Myth

Moonshine Blindness is a condition that occurs when there is too much moonlight in the sky. One of the most often asked concerns we receive from those who are new to the distilling industry is, “Is it true that moonshine may cause you to become blind?” While it is true that moonshine will not cause you to become blind, excessive amounts of methanol will. So long as you do not completely botch the batch, you should not wind up with methanol concentrations that are high enough to cause harm (other than give you a bad hangover).

Methanol Toxicity

Methanol (also known as methyl alcohol) is the noxious substance that has produced a slew of health problems and contributed to the widespread belief that moonshine is responsible for the phenomenon of night blindness. So, what is the mechanism through which methanol causes blindness? Methanol, in its purest form, is extremely hazardous. During the liver’s processing of methanol, enzymes break it down into a variety of distinct chemicals, including formic acid and formaldehyde. It is believed that the formic acid is harmful to the optic nerve and is the major cause of moonshine blindness, whilst the formaldehyde is toxic to the rest of your neurological system and causes a variety of health problems.

How does Methanol end up in my wash?

Methanol is an organic chemical that may be found in naturally occurring quantities in various fruits and vegetables, among other things. This compound can also be created as a by-product by the yeast during the fermentation process, which occurs most frequently in fruit washes with a high pectin concentration (you can use apectic enzymeto try and remove as much of the pectin as possible). Because methanol is a naturally occurring molecule, however, it may be found in both beer and wine, which contributes to the urban legend about moonshine’s hazards.

It is clear from the examples above that if you are distilling a fruit-based wash, it has the potential to contain far more methanol. As a result, you may want to be more generous with your foreshots (we will discuss foreshots more later).

If wine/beer have methanol in them also, why do people make such a big deal out of moonshine?

The main difference is that methanol in beer or wine is equally distributed throughout the batch, whereas distillers are effectively concentrating the majority of the methanol in their batch into the first few milliliters that come out of the still after it has been distilled. Because the boiling point of methanol (148.5° F) is significantly lower than the boiling point of ethanol (173.1° F), it boils off at the beginning of the run and leaves everything behind, in the same way that the boiling point of ethanol boils off in the middle of the run and leaves everything else behind.

  1. The initial few drippings from your still are referred to as “foreshots.” As a result, most distillers just pour the first 50 milliliters of wash per 5 gallons of wash down the sink (or set it aside to clean with).
  2. A person comes along every now and then who is only concerned with the quantity of profit they are earning rather than the quality of the goods they are manufacturing.
  3. One method by which they accomplish this is by adding rubbing alcohol.
  4. Are you seeing where this is going?

So, if my wash alone doesn’t have much methanol in it, why should I care so much about it?

Methanol is one of the primary components of alcoholic drinks that contributes to the development of severe hangovers. Consider the following example:-Have you ever noticed how awful red wine hangovers can be? Now look up at the methanol concentrations that I stated before……………….. – Notice how the hangovers from high-quality vodka aren’t nearly as awful as they could be? Because they are obsessed with quality, it is likely that they are doing an excellent job of eliminating all of the undesirable elements.

But believe me when I say that you may absolutely drink too much of it….

Distiller Cuts: Separating the Heads, the Heart, and the Tails

When compared to the mind-numbing craziness of our everyday micro-verse, the ancient skill of distillation is rather straightforward. It acts as our modern-day alchemy, and it is far more delectable than the process of converting lead into gold would be. Even yet, the practice of distilling remains a mystery to the majority of the population. A tour of your local distillery will almost certainly include explanations for a variety of obscure words. You could find yourself feeling a little disoriented towards the conclusion of the trip.

This phrase is sometimes used in conjunction with other terms such as “heads,” “hearts,” and “tails” in order to further obfuscate the situation.

Few individuals outside of the sector have a clear understanding of what these phrases actually signify. They aren’t difficult to understand, but they do need some explanation.

A Distillation Refresher

During the distillation process, the liquid in the still is heated to the point of becoming vapor. The vapor is then pumped through the system to the condenser, where it is cooled and transformed back into a liquid. The distillate that is produced is higher in ethanol and some taste compounds than the liquid that was left behind in the still after the distillation process. During the course of the distillation process, as more alcohol is extracted from the liquid being distilled, the temperature of the still continues to climb.

  • Neil, Head Brewer at Waterford Distillery, decides when to make the cut / Photo courtesy of Waterford Distillery We refer to these lower boiling point compounds as “heads” since they are the first compounds to be released from the still as it begins to heat up.
  • The general odour of these substances has a solvent-like quality to it, which is not particularly pleasant.
  • Furthermore, excessive quantities of certain of these substances (looking at you, methanol) are hazardous to humans, so getting rid of as much of them as we possibly can is a good practice in and of itself.
  • Briefly stated, distiller cuts are nothing more than a judgement made by the distiller on the quality of incoming spirits.

Collecting the Heart

Once the first cut is made by the distiller, the heads are either discarded or redistilled in order to extract even more alcohol from the still. They will then cut to “hearts” if they have determined that the quality of the incoming distillate is sufficient for drinking purposes. In the end, it is the hearts that form the final outcome of a project. They contain the majority of the ethanol we desire, as well as tastes and fragrances that distinguish our spirit from the competition. Springbank Distillery’s spirit is poured out of the still / Photo courtesy of Springbank Distillery All wonderful things, however, must eventually come to an end.

This is the point at which the distiller will make another cut and divert the distillate flow to another container for the remainder of the distillation process.

Additionally, because to the increasing number of fusel alcohols in the still, increased levels of unpleasant odors are released into the atmosphere. Tails will be disposed of in the same manner as heads, or (in the majority of cases) redistilled to recover additional alcohol.

The Art

The number of heads and tails that are permitted to flow into the heart is one of the ways in which a distiller determines the house character of the distillery. Some distillers base their judgments on characteristics such as time and alcohol by volume (ABV). Others prefer to make decisions based on their sense of taste and smell. The process is both an art and a science in its own right. It might take years for a distiller to perfect their method and become consistent. Furthermore, while we’ve covered the fundamental concept of distiller cuts here, various distilling traditions employ a somewhat different approach to the craft.

Several mezcal and scotch whiskey distilleries gather a significant number of tails because they believe it helps to enhance the smoky scents in their finished product.

The notion of distiller cuts is not difficult to grasp, but mastering the technique of making them correctly is likely more difficult.

You will always know what is in the bottle before spending a single dime thanks to Distiller.

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