Shining for Dummies

disobeyThis is presented for informational purposes only. Follow these directions at your own risk. I am not responsible for your actions!

This is the product of numerous discussions scattered around From The Trenches World Report. To date most of the information has been accurate and where it wasn’t I have attempted to set the record straight. In doing so I have seen an interest in the subject and a lot of questions. There have been a couple articles and links to videos, yet I detected a reluctance to attempt something that has the bad reputation of blinding folks. I think it may be a sense of distrust in the information of anonymous somebody’s.  

I consider many of you my friends and hope that one day those that have not will get a chance to meet me, as I hope to meet you. This should get ya in the mood:

That leads me to mentioning a couple of things. On the idiot box is a show called MOONSHINERS. I hate that damn show! It gives the impression that anyone can make a living on shine and introduces a ton of fictional drama. Maybe so, but realize that in the police state environment we live in what some old boy sees as a way to feed his family is viewed by TPTB as illegal. I have NEVER sold any and do not intend starting unless TSHTF in which case I’ll have something to barter. And considering what shine sells for now, in a collapse of society it will be worth its weight in SILVER!


Owning a still is legal! Running the still is legal as long as you are only distilling water (you can distill river or pond water to purify it for drinking) or essential oils (on your own there, sorry.) Or you can apply for a permit to experiment with fuel alcohol and pay another unjust tax. I see no reason for all that ATF extortion shit. Making beer and wine is legal for personal consumption. Well hell, if you do that you have made a mash for moonshine, all distilling these LEGAL beverages does is concentrate the alcohol!

Following that train of thought and the Fact the Constitution has nothing to say about it, if I want to make a little rhum or whiskey for personal consumption it’s my business.

Civil disobedience is the active, professed refusal to obey certain laws, demands, and commands of a government, or of an occupying international power. So leave me the f#@k alone!

You have been duly informed. That should be enough disclaimer.

The Still


Since this idea took root I have been experimenting with little stills. My intention was to try to find the smallest still possible for even the most inept. The results have been interesting but not as friendly as some would probably like. I found that the smaller I went the more difficult it was to make my cuts (a term I’ll explain shortly.) A one gallon still was a total waste of time. I have settled on 16 quarts (4 gallons) as the smallest still safely and easily usable for a stove top still. It’s also the smallest still that produces enough quality alcohol to be useful.

The diagram is from a now defunct New Zealand web page, thankfully I saved it. Although it is half the size I’m going with,it provides all the information to build a working pot still. This ain’t rocket science folks, for your tubing 1/4” copper is the bare minimum, the bigger you can use the better. The artist used silicon sealer, I would advise against it.

still 2

My first stove top still was made in the early 80’s based on the still in the SWAMP from the TV show M*A*S*H and the FOXFIRE BOOK. It worked but it was crappy. Probably because even though I had been making wine for about ten years I didn’t know anything about distilling. My dumb ass saved everything coming out of the still, I knew nothing about the chemistry or the toxicity of the foreshots. Thank God I didn’t go blind from my early experiments!

From that humble beginning I have played, learned and perfected the art of distilling. My first batches of shine were horrible tasting. In fact they tasted like they had been filtered through a polyester sofa rescued from a house fire! Being the bull headed sumbitch that I am I kept plugging away though. This guide will help you avoid those mistakes. So there, you now know a hell of a lot more than I did when I started.

Over time I have had the privilege of meeting some first class moonshiners and benefit from the education they gave me. And I have been allowed to use some large stills. I’m still dreaming of the day when I have room and time to build a 20 gallon still of pure copper like this 10 gallon alembic pot still! I think it’s a sin to use this in a landscaping design and if I were to spend $1000 + on a beauty like this I damn sure ain’t going to be happy just looking at it!

still 3

What are your choices for the kettle of your still? I chose to go the pressure cooker or stockpot style Pot Still. As they are the easiest to convert and be up and running quickly. Then I refined that choice by difficulty in building. Here I’m using a 16 quart Presto with a rocker. This is by far the easiest to make and will quickly revert back to a pressure cooker any time you wish.

still 4

This type has an air vent/cover lock that unscrews for removal. Go ahead and remove it. On the opposite side is a rubber over pressure plug, this is where you are going to insert your thermometer by poking it through. You might have to remove the plug to do this. Save these parts for re-use as a pressure cooker. I left the rocker assembly as is. Most people messing with PC stills remove it and attach their lyne arm there. I’m leaving it functional as a secondary safety. If the rocker is rocking you are using too much heat!

Next we want to make the lyne arm and worm. This is made from 15-20 feet of soft copper tubing. The lyne arm is about 18” straight up and then a bend to about 45 degrees down to your worm that will be in the condenser. I like as long a run as possible because the copper removes sulfites that occur in all fermented mash. It’s the sulfites primarily that cause hangover headaches. The perfect still, if such an animal exists is made of all copper for this reason!

You are going to want this to fit inside a 5 gallon bucket. Find something round, a log, bucket, pan, whatever. Take your time and you can roll this without a bending tool. Drill a hole in the bottom side of your bucket for the worm to stick out of and seal with plumbers putty. You could silicon this as no likker ever comes in contact with it just your cooling water. Plumbers putty is cheap and allows you to take this apart and put it back together without waiting for sealant to cure. We will seal the lyne arm to the still with a drilled out cork and if needed a little flour paste.

Have you noticed I have not mentioned a single tool? That is because I haven’t needed any in the making of this still! Hey there boys and girls, you now have a simple pot still! See how easy that was? So, if you have a shop full of tools you are itching to play with you might like to try this KIWI’s design. It really is a much better still than a pressure cooker! It’s just a bit more complicated to build.

still 5



(the fun begins)

I know, now you are eager to use your still! As the saying goes, “ You have to learn to walk before you learn to run.”

No still makes alcohol, they only condense it! So we need some alcohol, right?

The fastest way is to buy a few gallons of cheap wine. Or use the leftovers from that quarter barrel you didn’t finish last weekend. Hey, don’t knock it, this really works! Sour mash (Jack Daniels) anyone?

Better yet is to make your own. Mash has numerous alternate names, beer, low wines, wash, etc. This is where we begin. All shine starts with this. It’s decision time, whiskey or rhum? Your choice. Here are two of the easiest recipes to choose from:

Rhummy’s Rebellion Rhum

  • 3 lbs sugar
  • 2 lbs brown sugar
  • 5 pints (80 ounces) molasses
  • 2 Tbl yeast
  • water to make 4 gallons of wash


Ghetto Sweet Feed Shine (Whiskey)

  • 48 oz corn meal
  • 4 lbs sugar
  • 1 pint mollases
  • 2 Tbl yeast
  • water to make 4 gallons of wash


The basic process for creating a mash is to bring your water up to a boil, add in your ingredients of choice. Yes, I said boil but rhum can burn if you bring it to a boil. All grain and fruit based wash’s you are going to bring to a boil to release the sugars in the grain and fruit.

Here I’m working on rhum, it’s the same for a whiskey except as noted above.

In a large kettle (the PC pot of your still works fine for this) heat about 2 gallons of water to about 150 deg. For rhum the temp. is not overly critical, you want it warm enough easily dissolve the sugar. Very hot tap water is just about right.

For whiskey, bring it to a rolling boil then reduce the heat and simmer about an hour stirring frequently. If making corn likker, dump the cornmeal into the pot first. Start adding sugar a pound at a time until it’s all in there. Then add the molasses stirring continually to keep from burning. Add the remaining water to make about 4 ½ gallons. Remove from heat and let cool to about 90 deg. Be sure to stir well before checking temperature.

Now pour this into your fermenter. Add the yeast. Install the air lock and let it ferment for two weeks in a dark location. I’ve managed that with a paper grocery sack over the fermenter in a pinch. At 70 deg. sometime between a couple of hours and the next day your wash will be bubbling away quite rapidly. At 80 deg. I have had beer ready for the still in as little as five days.

Pay attention to this! Warmer will make this go faster, cooler slower. But too hot and you’ll kill the yeast, too cool and the yeast goes dormant.

Ok, I know most of us can’t maintain a constant temperature so I’ll tell you how I decide when its ready. As the yeast consumes the sugar it shits alcohol and belches carbon dioxide. That ain’t the scientific explanation, but I ain’t gonna write another dozen paragraphs to say the same damn thing. The CO2 makes the bubbles and when the sugar level drops the bubbling slows down as the yeast eats itself to death. As soon as the bubbling gets slow enough to count individual bubbles It’s time to distill into the likker we want.

Time To Distill

Becoming a shiner involves learning the quirks of your still and figuring out just how to run it. Some stills heat up very quickly and cool off quickly, while those that heat up slowly also cool at a slower rate and thus retain heat better. Once you have learned your still you can make awesome shine and never use a thermometer! The old timers didn’t use them and if you know your still as intimately as your girlfriend (you damn sure better get that loving with your still!) you wont need a thermometer either!

It’s time to transfer your beer into the still. Strain the beer through a t-shirt or cheesecloth and fill your still about 3/4 full.

If you wind up with too much wash for your still there are a couple of things you can do with the extra wash. Discard it or just hold it back and add to the still for a second run. Irish whiskey (Powers and Jameson) for example are triple distilled. Re-stilling your shine produces a purer finish by reducing the water content.

However for the home shiner this can be dangerous. The end product of a single run will power a gas engine, each time you re-distill it your increasing the volatility of your shine. That second run is damn near jet fuel! After its cut to a normal drinking strength of about 80-100 proof it is a much better end product. A third run? God help you, your braver than me! I ain’t fucking kidding!! Realistically lets just discard it until we have mastered the basic run. Safety first right?

Put the lid on and start cooking over medium heat. There are about as many schools of thought on this as there are moonshiners. Some like to bring the heat up fast and then cut back on the heat. Some say push it as fast as you can on a “stripping run” intended for a second run through the still. Due to the boiling points of the various elements coming out of the still, I’m of the school of thought that slow and steady is better for getting the foreshots (this is poison) off. Then I keep checking the temp and let it rise slowly through the rest of the run. Remember we have a thermometer in use so keep an eye on the temp and KEEP TOUCHING THE STILL AND THE LYNE ARM WITH YOUR HAND. Learn what the still feels like at all stages of the operation..


FORESHOTS (poison)

• Acetone: 134 degrees Fahrenheit
• Methanol (wood alcohol): 147 degrees F

HEADS (saved for next run)
• Ethyl acetate: 160 degrees F

HEARTS (this is what we want!)
• Ethanol: 172 degrees F
• 2-Propanol : 180 degrees F

TAILS (saved for next run)
• 1-Propanol: 207 degrees F

When the thermometer is getting close to 134 deg. Your first drips will begin. This is the foreshots, now you are distilling! The foreshots will be the first thing out of the still and are pure poison. They smell like industrial solvents because that is what they are. Foreshots are roughly 0.25% of your mash. That’s a little less than one ounce per gallon of wash. My rule of thumb is ruthless. I don’t give a damn about the math, throw out the first TWO ounces per gallon. For this 16 quart still that is the first eight ounces from the still is discarded. I find a Pyrex measuring cup perfect for grabbing foreshots. I don’t want my nose getting desensitized by this shit so a measured doubled cut is easy to monitor just watching the cup fill. A cup later swap out your collecting jar and smell and taste the drips. You just made the first cut. At this small scale I like collecting in half pint jars if I have them. Let them fill and then cover and set aside.

Don’t forget to mark the jars, you don’t want to mix the heads and tails with the hearts and ruin the taste.

Next up is the heads start running at about 160 degrees. Heads are mostly good alcohol but with some lingering foreshots still mixed in. Here is where smelling and tasting become important. You want to save this for your next run. Because you will only be tasting a drop at a time it is safe. Again, I cannot emphasize how important it is to learn the tastes and smells of your shine through the entire process. Four oz. Should be enough. At that point the drips will change flavor and smell. And the thermometer will be nearing 170 degrees.

This is now the hearts. The good shit my friends! Nuff said.

Collect everything until the thermometer reaches 200 degrees.

Pat your self on the back, you just made your first moonshine!

You are almost done. All thats left is the tails. Keep collecting distillate until the temp reaches about 200 degrees.

Shut off the heat let everything cool down and clean up.

There you have it. Soon, I hope to have a video made to go along with this tutorial, stay tuned!

I want to thank Henry for this fine site and Digger and Apple for goading me into this project. For all the frustrations involved in the writing of this tutorial, the experimentation with mini stills, the brain freeze when I couldn’t think, the writers block when I knew what I wanted to say but couldn’t type a coherent sentence to save my ass has all been worth it! Thanks guys!


Download the PDF here:  shine

35 thoughts on “Shining for Dummies

    1. Millard, I need your help. Check on Diggerdan for me please!
      I’ve not seen him on for a couple of days and he’s not answering his phone! Thanks

  1. Thanks!
    I notice that this is about half of the original. Not a problem though because my roommate saw it before I knew it was posted and told me it looked like some was missing. He saw this first and helped me with things that slipped my mind. When he saw that it was not complete he suggested making a web page of it.
    Now, myself, that’s a bit too much. I have mangled HTML so many times I wasn’t going to bother. An hour later, and we have this,
    The whole thing, from the start to take a sip. Or you can shoot me an email to xd45(at)hush(dot)com and I’ll send you a PDF.

      1. I wasn’t worried about it Henry. I know it was a long piece. And my formatting skills suck, it may well have been my fault!

        1. Well of course it was your fault. That’s not the point. This is not a half-assed site. LOL

          1. I figured that! 🙂 Getting ripped one drip at a time creeps up on a guy. And that reminds me, Guy’s when you are done distilling for the day and want to cut your shine to a drinking level STOP! Wait until the next day to blend and cut your shine. You want a clean palate and a clear head for the best results!

  2. Done right, home brewed is far better than commercial.

    Concerning alcohol though, my brother’s home brewed beer is the strongest I can handle, and still enjoy the experience.

    1. One bottle brew there #1? Ya just gotta love One Bottle Brew! It gets ya hammered without the bloated feeling! What is his 18%ABV?

      1. What’s one bottle brew, rhumstruck? He brews a whole keg at a time. (not a bar size keg, though).

        1. ONE PINT BREW? In other words, High ABV(alcohol by volume) one beer and you are done.
          Back when I was making beer I hated messing with the bottles. I quit because of it. About ten years ago I first saw the equipment available for homebrewers to keg their brew. That was all I needed to get interested in beer again. I found I like hard liquor much better though and didn’t bother with it.
          If I had about $400 to spare for the kegging equipment I would be brewing again. But if I had $400 to spare on that, I’d invest that money into another gun today!

  3. A few years back, when gasoline was approaching the $5 dollar a gallon mark, some entrepreneurs in the Ozarks were making ‘shine’ and using it for gasoline.

    1. E85 ethanol
      It’s in most gasoline today nationwide. It has gone mainstream and ain’t redneck anymore!

  4. “tasted like they had been filtered through a polyester sofa rescued from a house fire!”

    Priceless Funny! (at a time where not much is funny in the world)
    I can actually taste that.

    I am behind in this art. FAR behind…

    I’ve been experimenting 100% DIY, with grapes and making mead. More like prison pruno, but hey, I’m working on it improving. When ya have only grapes. Use grapes I say.

    My brew can be described, “It drinks like murky yuck water, nobody want’s a refill. Are you gettin a weird surprise drunk or just sick? ”

    I won’t be making any silver coins off of it any day soon. I probably should buy a beer kit, or something. But I didn’t want to buy ANYTHING except the yeast. Maybe doing beer would help my (if you can even call it skill)

    If your at the still level, you’ve long graduated from my playground. God speed.

  5. Thanks, rhumstruck…. I saved this one for my reference library, and I’m going to put the knowledge to good use.

  6. Rhumstruck
    I have a few questions.
    My main fuel goal as far as WTSHTF is to have enough fuel at our hidey-hole to run my 45kw Generac genset (w/ 350 Chevy propane), chainsaw, log splitter, and truck and trailer into where I would cut some trees down to haul the wood back to the house, and maybe drive the truck for other tactical business, also.

    Now, if it was only going to be used for fuel to where taste didn’t matter could you modify the formula to where you didn’t need the brown sugar and molasses, and only use sugar. And, could you just use everything that came out of the distiller as fuel. Or would it be better to separate it.

    I know, that it would be better to make it good drinking shine, because then I wouldn’t have a hard time finding help to do the log splitting, hahaha!!! But, a guy could make different batches for drinking, and for fuel, and maybe save on the brown sugar.

    It just happens that I already have 100’s of pounds of corn meal( for cornbread with the beans and rice) and sugar stashed up there, but is was for food, not engine fuel.

    Now, this summer while I am up there I am going to buy some copper tubing, copper plate, temp gage, solder, etc. Also, can a temp gage be mounted on the copper tubing as close to the pot as possible?

    1. Smilardog,
      For fuel use sugar, yeast and water is all you need. Or you could use some of your hundreds of pounds of cornmeal and yeast and water but this takes almost a month or longer at 70 deg to brew a mash). But you would have to use up more cornmeal than you wanted to and not get enough in return. For instance, this article works from a basic 4 gallon recipe, it will produce about 3- 3 1/2 qts drinking stuff. And you will need some of that to lubricate the brutes doing said labor.
      Fuel use only you can save all the distillate.
      One still, two products.

      1. Something else to think about. Sugar can be granulated, raw cane or juice, raw sorghum or juice, sugar beets, etc. There is a lot of room for creativity here.

  7. Long ago, back in the early 1970s, I made grape wine and left it on the skins too long, so it turned out bitter. I made brandy from it with a simple still. I put the bad wine in a canning kettle with the lid upside down, put a rock in it to set a bowl on, put a bowl on the rock inside the kettle, and filled the top of the lid with ice, then heated the wine gently on a gas stove. The alcohol warmed up and dripped from the upside-down lid into the bowl.

    1. DANGEROUS AS HELL TO DRINK! Acetone and methanol in drinkin likker? FORK NO!
      I need my eyesight for shootin revenuers and their bosses! And the paid HESSIANS they might send my way.
      It looks to me that you stopped that idiotic practice, that’s good. At least I hope you stopped that. Yes, you can distill alcohol that way, if its going to be used for fuel ONLY. BUT, if all you want is fuel for your vehicle, this is the LEAST efficient way to get there.
      It’s bullshite like this that gives good honest quality minded shiners a bad name!

  8. Just telling a story. It was inefficient. I’m not convinced there was methanol in it, but glad to hear your recipe anyway. I think they used a thumper back in the day to take the bad stuff out.

    1. Grasshopper, I hate to tell you this but, a thumper is advanced moonshining. This article was written from the “Moonshine 101″ introduction to distilling point of view. You have to learn to walk before you can run. You have to make simple shine before advancing on to a Bachelorette or a Masters level.
      Thumpers are masters level distilling. Personally, I love them, but they are a monumental pain in the ass for beginners. I have made shine in 50 gal. stills with both thumpers and slobber boxes in the same set up. It took me ten years to master this craft. Had I written everything I KNOW it would have intimidated virtually everyone interested in trying it themselves.
      You said,” I’m not convinced there was methanol in it…”
      Well, that tells me that you DID NOT read the article and I can guarantee 300% that your dangerous attempt did in fact have acetone and methanol in it. That is a simple scientifically proven fact of distillation.
      Have a nice day,
      Master Po

  9. Smilardog says:

    June 3, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    Rhummy… I looked up that term you used “reflux-pot hybrid” and ran across this site that has a bunch of calculators for determining different things when building stills and distilling that I thought might interest you in your build.

    JACKPOT!! I’m just an old ridge runner from Bath, KY. I learned the craft from men that made shine all their lives and knew nothing about the science of distilling. I bow to the master, Tony Aukland! (he’s an Aussie, it’s legal there)
    This is a goldmine of information, thanks! There is more there than I’ll ever know on his site. I’ll be visiting it often.
    When I have bought supplies, I generally buy from Midwest supply.
    I like their French oak, for American oak I toast my own.
    Milehigh distilling looks very interesting, lets call it Moonshiners (soft core) Porn!!!
    I think I’ll try some oak from them just to drool over the pictures of the stills, and the ladies. I could hardly take my eyes off of one to look at the still. I still don’t know which was hotter the still or the girl. Yup, definitely shiners porn! I LOVE IT!! How, in good conscience can I ever preach again?
    I suddenly feel like Jim Casey from Steinbeck’s GRAPES OF WRATH!
    Or should I say, I now understand Preacher Casey in a new way! And my exodus from the church.
    Smilardog, you have made my day! Thank You my friend!

  10. Steve Apple,
    Apples butter rum is not a workable name considering the taste. This morning with a clear head and clean palate I set up round 2 and then tasted round 1 again.
    JACKPOT!! 🙂 🙂
    Appleschlager is born! Quite possibly the crack cocaine of shine! I love it! I was so impressed by the taste and unsure of myself so armed with a half a shot of this stuff I visited my neighbor, both he and his wife thought it was a new Goldschlager!

    Everyone, I found a neat stove for outdoors cooking here,
    I’m going to find a pail and make and try one. It looks like another way to cut myself from a tether, electric or gas!

  11. I have a per-made still. the condenser tube has an internal copper coil. The still overheated and when i took it apart for inspection and cleaning i noticed a heavy scale build-up on the copper. i believe that it is sulfur based. the wash that i processed at that time cake out clear (as usual) at 95% alc vol (also normal). it only has a mild smell (good). the initial taste is good but the after-taste in the back of the throat is a little rough.
    I think it’s the sulfur build-up. as i can’t take the condenser tube apart i need to chemically treat it. have tried white vinegar and citric acid. very poor result. i have access to hyrodchloric acid and sulphuric acid.I intend to use a diluted mixture of one of these to strip the sulphates. if anyone has done this before i would like to know the result they achieved.

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