Have you ever dreamed of becoming a whisky maker? Well, it all starts in your kitchen. One batch at a time, you’ll gain the experience to craft fantastic spirits you’ll then be able to enjoy with friends and family.
Making whiskey is no easy proposition, though; you need the right ingredients and equipment; a reliable recipe and some hours of study are recommended too. The good news is that the entire process is tons of fun, so congratulations, you’ve picked an awesome hobby.
Can you make whiskey at home?
Yes, you can if you have the right equipment and know what you’re doing. Making whiskey is a popular All-American pastime, but selling it might be a whole other matter, so make sure you’re not breaking any laws where you live.
How long does it take to make whiskey at home?
Making a 5-gallon batch of whiskey shouldn’t take much more than a week, mainly because fermenting the mash does take a few days. Of course, consider you might want to age the whiskey for a few months to infuse it with that lovely golden color and warm aromas.
How is whiskey made step by step?
Here’s a quick guide for making whiskey at home. The steps below will give insight into what distilling spirits is all about. If you’re still intrigued, consider researching all you can about the topic. Watch videos, read some books and talk to someone experienced before attempting to brew your first batch.
Step 1: Gear Up
To make whiskey, you need the proper ingredients and equipment. For starters, you’ll need some grains, but we’ll get there in a second. You also need brewers’ yeast and un-chlorinated water.
Have a large boiling kettle or pot fitted with a thermometer, a fermentation tank equipped with an airlock and a professional still designed for small batches. No, you can’t build your own still at home — you might end blowing up your kitchen!
Step 2: Choosing your grains.
To make American whiskey, you must use at least 50% corn, but you can use many other adjuncts, meaning other grains like rye, to add complexity to your whiskey. Don’t just go buy some corn, though. Visit a brewer store and buy grains grown explicitly for making whiskey. You’ll find a wide variety of ‘brewing and distilling kits’ to help you out.
The time and temperature needed to extract the grain’s fermentable sugars depend on many factors, so have a reliable recipe in hand. There are lots of free resources online.
Step 3: Prepare the Mash
The first step is preparing the grains for distillation, which means turning them into a mash by literally boiling and mashing them to get a sugar-rich pulp. Use a large pot filled with water and boil the sugar out of the grains.
If this is your first time making whiskey, you might want to start with a brewing kit, which provides clear and precise instructions. After a few batches under your belt, you can just eyeball the process.
Step 4: Ferment the Mash
Once we have a sweet mash, pour it into a carboy or fermenter (make sure it’s adequately sterilized first) and add the yeast according to the supplier’s instructions. Use a hydrometer to measure the sugar in the mash as it gets turned into alcohol; it should take from a few days to a week. Ensure the container is protected from oxygen at a steady, cool temperature, and don’t forget to fit in an airlock — the pressure building up the tank is massive!
Step 5: Distill the Spirit
This is the tricky part because distilling spirits can be dangerous. As the mash boils at a steady temperature of 80 degrees Celsius, the alcohols (yes, both ethanol and methanol) will evaporate and travel through the condenser to return to their liquid form.
Make sure you eliminate the first 100 milliliters (around 4 ounces) of distilled spirit from every standard 5-gallon batch; it contains too much methanol, which is deadly alcohol. The rest is totally drinkable.
Step 6: Chilling and Rectifying
Once the vapors coming from the still get condensed, you’ll get a clear, fiery spirit. Why isn’t your whiskey golden-brown? You still must age it! What you have right now is a very respectable batch of moonshine, and it’s ready to be enjoyed if you like stronger, less fragrant spirits.
Chilling the spirit for at least a day in the fridge is a good practice to allow the whiskey to settle. You can now rectify it with purified, non-chlorinated water to the desired strength.
Step 7: Age the Whiskey
Whiskey is not complete until you age it in an American oak barrel. It’s the wood what gives the spirit its golden color and fascinating scents of cinnamon, nutmeg, caramel and vanilla.
You’ll want to find a barrel of the right size for your whiskey batch. You want to fill it to the brim to prevent oxygen from oxidizing the whiskey. Consider natural evaporation or the ‘angel’s share’ and top the barrel often.
Step 8: Bottle the Whiskey
Looks matter, too, so make sure you have a nice glass bottle to store your homemade whiskey. Disinfect it, and air dry it perfectly before transferring your spirit, and do so as hygienically as possible — we don’t want any nasty bacteria ruining your new batch!
Store the whiskey bottles away from direct sunlight and heat sources, and cap them tightly to protect the whiskey from oxygen. Your new baby should keep indefinitely for future enjoyment!
Step 9: Make Notes and Adjust
The most important thing about making whiskey at home is getting better at it. You can only achieve that by tasting your final product, taking notes and finding areas of opportunity during the entire process.
Chances are your first batch won’t win the golden ribbon at the state fair, but you’ll get better at it. If you can’t wait to enjoy a premium spirit, get a bottle of fine whiskey at juicefly.com and receive it at your doorstep in minutes!