This how-to courtesy of RolandTower over at something awful. Here is the thread for reference: http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=1549400
Preparing the wash
If you're doing real moonshining, you'd mix cornmeal, malt, and water to form a "mash." My recipe just uses sugar, so it's called a "wash"
Mix ~2.3 pounds of sugar into every one gallon of water you're using—make sure the water is fairly warm, around the hottest your tap will put out. Get out your super yeast (Super yeast is a generic term for temperature resistant yeast that has nutrients already added to the packet for simple use):
And add one heaping tablespoon of yeast per gallon of water. Stir vigorously, and add to your fermentation containers. seal the containers with the rubber stoppers, and run the aquarium tubing from the stoppers to the small bottle full of water to produce an airlock. The setup should look something like this:
The airlock is important for two reasons: 1)Yeast produces alcohol most efficiently in an anaerobic environment, since it must rely on fermentation to produce energy 2) If exposed to air, the wash could be ruined by aerobic bacteria that convert ethanol into vinegar
Anyhow, you'll need to let that sit for at least 5 days.
Most of this should be built beforehand, but I'll just show the still in action, with explanations of each part.
Essentially, the distillation process takes advantage of a special property of mixtures of volatile components. If you have a mixture of two volatile compounds, and you bring the mixture to a boil, the vapor produced will be richer in the more volatile of the two compounds than the original solution. In short, if you have a mixture of alcohol and water, and you boil it, the vapor produced is much richer in alcohol than the original solution.
This effect can be compounded with the addition of a fractionating column. This is, four our purposes, a pipe stuffed with steel wool, or some other material with a lot of surface area. As the alcohol and water vapor passes through the pipe, it condenses on the steel wool. Eventually, the vapor heats the steel wool enough that the condensed liquid starts to boil off. This results in an even more alcohol-rich vapor, which condenses further up the pipe where the temperature is not quite as high. The process repeats itself:
Onto the actual setup: The fermented wash is added to the teapot, which is placed on the hot plate.
The Kettle opening is stopperred up, and copper tubing forced through the stopper. The tubing channels vapor into the fractionating column
Which, as I mentioned, is a pipe stuffed with steel wool. more copper tubing leads out of the column, channeling the vapor into the condenser.
The condenser is simply a length of copper tubing curled by hand into a spiral, then installed into a cheap trash can by cutting small holes in the walls for each end to pass through. The trashcan is then filled with water and a ton of ice to act as a heatsink. Coming out the bottom of the condenser is the spout, where ice-cold, federally-prohibited, white lightnin' emerges:
I personally use an empty bottle of Corona, la cervesa mas fina, to collect the product:
This is what the whole assembly looks like:
For me, this first run produces about 1 liter of 120 proof juice for every gallon of wash (which ferments to around 40 proof). It also tastes like the unfathomable suffering of an orphaned child.
This vaguely ass-like taste is caused in part by the sheer strength of the alcohol, but mostly by various by-products of yeast fermentation that get concentrated during the distilling (Note: methanol is NOT one of these products, and is chemically impossible to produce through the fermentation of sugar). Most of these compounds, however, are easily adsorbed and removed by activated carbon. So, if you want to improve the tase, mix in some activated aquarium carbon and let it sit for a week:
Then decant the filtered product back into the tea kettle and distill it again:
An additional effect of this second distillation is that the moonshine gets significantly stronger. After all is said and done, 1 gallon of fermented sugar water will, after two distillations, yield just over half a liter of ~166 proof alcohol. You can test your alcohol's strength with an instrument called a hydrometer, which measures the liquor's density relative to pure water:
As you can see, this shit is rocket fuel. It's also beautifully crystal clear:
All In all, I made a handle of moonshine. What could I do with that handle, though? Where could I find a high enough concentration of nut-jobs willing to drink this crap? Clearly there was only one thing to do. I grabbed a bottle