January 29, 2008
Why did the father operate his illegal distillery while his boys baled alfalfa? He wanted to make shine while the son’s hay!!!
Although making moonshine in a backyard distillery has lost a lot of its popularity due the proliferation of reasonably priced, safer and legal commercially prepared equivalents such as Everclear, at one time many farmers and ranchers would supplement their meager farm income by cooking up a batch of ‘shine’.
Moonshining was a natural for those in farming sector because of the simplicity of the distilling process, the ready availability of key ingredient and the inaccessibility of many of the homesteads made detection by the local constabulary almost impossible.
Because the initial fermentation process required little more than water, yeast and a carbohydrate source such as grain, potatoes or fruit, it was possible for just about anybody to get started. The fermenting mixture, called the mash, could only reach a maximum alcohol content of 15% before the becoming toxic to the yeast, and shutting down further alcohol production.
The secret to the distillation process was maintaining the temperature of the mash at around 85°. Since the ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, boils at around 80°C, compared to water, which boils at 100°C, the ethanol vapor could be collected and returned to a liquid by passing through a condensation chamber, while the water remained with the mash.
Surprising as it may seem, this is almost the exact same process that is being used to manufacture ethanol used in motor vehicles as a method of reducing carbon emissions. Maybe one day the backyard still will come into prominence once again, this time to fight global warming.