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How To Make Corn Whiskey (2024 Updated)

How To Make Corn Whiskey

Last Updated on March 13, 2024 by Lydia Martin

Making your own moonshine is very interesting, especially if you’re into whiskeys. However, it can be intimidating for some because there are different ingredients for the recipe to choose from. But if you want to keep it old-school, nothing beats a traditional corn whiskey moonshine.

In this post, we will guide you on how to make corn whiskey.

5 Steps in Making Corn Whiskey At Home

1. Prepare the Materials

Materials for Corn Whiskey

Prepare the basic equipment. You need a heat source, a fermentation bucket, a large pot for mashing, cheesecloth, a brewers thermometer, a plastic funnel, a wort chiller to cool liquid, and a spare plastic bucket for the mashing equipment. 

Meanwhile, you also need 5 gallons of water, 8.5 pounds of crushed corn (sometimes called flaked maize), 1 tsp sugar, 1.5 pounds of crushed malted barley,  and 1 tbsp (14g) bread yeast for the corn whiskey mash.

2. Make the Corn Mash

Corn Mash

Heat Water in a Pot

The first step in making mash is heating 5-gallon water to roughly 165 °F in a mash pot. Turn off the heat once 165 °F is reached. Immediately pour the maize into the water and stir for 3-5 minutes.

Read: How To Make Whiskey At Home

Constantly Stir & Check the Temperature

Making of the Corn Mash

After that, stir for 5-10 seconds every 5 minutes until the temperature drops to 152 °F. At this point, the corn starts to gel. This is because the corn is being broken down and starts to release starch.

Put in Malted Barley & Stir

As it drops to 152 °F, stir in 1.5 pounds of crushed malted barley. Stir for 1-2 minutes and cover the mixture for 90 minutes. As you let it rest, enzymes in malted grains like malted barley convert the starch in the corn into fermentable sugar. 

The sugar is needed to ferment the corn. It’s important not to use regular flaked barley.

Create a Yeast Starter

It’s time to create a yeast starter. Add 1 tbsp of active dry bread yeast and 1 tsp sugar to a glass of warm water to rehydrate the yeast. Mix until the yeast and sugar dissolve in water. 

When there’s a yeast cake formed on top of the water, it’s working. This allows the yeast to have a head start. The rapid fermentation process will begin as soon as the yeast is added to the moonshine mash.

Cool (or Chill) the Mash

Cool the mash down to 70 °F. You can use an immersion chiller to speed up the process or let the mixture sit for a couple of hours. Cool the mash as early as possible to lessen the chance of contaminating the mash with ambient bacteria.

Check out some amazing books about whiskey here.

3. Strain & Wort the Mash

Strain the Mash

Corn Mash with strainer

Scoop the mash to the cheesecloth bag, a little at a time. Squeeze the cheesecloth bag to separate grain solids from liquids. Placing a little amount of mash allows us to wring out the bag.

Aerate the Wort

Pour the mash back and forth between the two buckets to aerate the wort. Do this at least 15 times. Pour back and forth aggressively to see the formation of froth and bubbles.

Take the Specific Gravity Reading

Gravity Reading

At this point, it’s time to take a specific gravity reading. Fill a test tube using a hydrometer. Determining the specific gravity allows the distiller to know how much alcohol will be in the wash if the fermentation goes well. 

Take a reading after the fermentation as well.

Read: Popular Corn Whiskey Brands

4. Ferment the Mash

Add Yeast Into the Wort

Add the yeast starter to the corn mash to start the fermentation process. Once the yeast is added, the wort is now called wash. For 5 gallons of mash, add 1 tbsp of active dry yeast.

Air-Tight Seal It

Hudson Whiskey

Transfer the wash into a fermentation vessel and seal it with an airlock. Use a rubber stopper, clear plastic hose, and zip ties to create your own airlock. Bubbles appear through the airlock of the fermentation bucket after several hours.

Ferment It For A Week

Leave it in the fermenting container for at least a week. Let it sit until it stops bubbling. The presence of bubbles means it’s still fermenting. When you don’t see any bubbles, it’s ready to distill.

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5. Start Distilling

Transfer Into A Pot Still Using a Siphon

Pot Still

Using a siphon, transfer the fermented wash to a pot still. You can also use cheesecloth. What’s important here is to reduce the sediment in mash water close to zero. 

Heat for 30-60 minutes

Now comes the distilling of your moonshine. The distillation process separates liquids from nonvolatile solids, separating alcoholic liquors from fermented materials [1]. Heat the wash over medium to medium-high for 30-60 minutes. 

Turn in the Condenser


As the temperature hits 120°F – 140°F, turn on the condenser. You should be able to see the liquid dripping out the tube of the condenser at this point. Methanol starts to boil at 140°F.

Read: Popular 100% Corn Bourbon Brands

Remove the Heads

During the distillation, the earliest liquid fermented should not be consumed. Remove the first 1/4 cup of heads that comes out of the condenser tube. The heads contain a high concentration of methanol which is poisonous.

Collect the Body

Corn Whiskey

Collect the usable moonshine after removing the heads. Use 500 ml bottles to make it easier to collect the liquor. You would want the temperature to be between 175 and 185°F.

Throw Away the Tails

As the temperature reaches 205°F, stop filling the bottles. At this point, you’re not collecting the body of the alcohol. It’s the tails that are coming out of the condenser tube. Tails are fusel oils that need to be discarded because they can ruin the flavor of your moonshine.

Dilute the Corn Whiskey with Water (Plain)

Corn Whiskey with water

At this point, you have finished making a great corn whiskey. It does not need to be aged, unlike other whiskeys. It’s imperative to dilute the spirit with plain water to make it smoother. Start pouring a small amount until you reach the ratio you prefer.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How much does it take to make a gallon of whiskey?

It takes 8.5 pounds of crushed corn to make a gallon of whiskey. You also need 1.5 pounds of malted barley, crushed, and 5 gallons of water in this mash recipe. But how many gallons are in a barrel of whiskey?

Can you make whiskey from sweet corn?

Yes, you can use sweet corn to make whiskey. You can find a recipe on the internet that uses sweet corn.

How is corn whiskey made?

Corn whiskey is made through a process involving the fermentation and distillation of a mash primarily composed of corn. The general steps include:

Mashing: Corn, along with other grains like barley and rye, is ground into a coarse powder. This mash is then mixed with water to convert starches into sugars.

Fermentation: The mash is left to ferment, allowing yeast to convert sugars into alcohol. This results in a liquid called “wash” with low alcohol content.

Distillation: The wash is then distilled in a still to separate alcohol from impurities and increase alcohol content. The distilled liquid, known as “white dog” or “new make spirit,” is collected.

Aging (Optional): Some corn whiskeys are aged in charred oak barrels to develop flavors and character. However, not all corn whiskeys undergo aging.

Bottling: After distillation and, if applicable, aging, the corn whiskey is filtered and bottled for consumption.

How long does corn whiskey take to ferment?

The fermentation process for corn whiskey typically takes several days. The exact duration can vary based on factors such as the specific recipe, yeast strain used, and environmental conditions.

Fermentation is complete when the yeast has converted most of the sugars into alcohol, resulting in a wash with the desired alcohol content.

Can whiskey be 100% corn?

Yes, whiskey can be 100% corn, and such a whiskey is referred to as “corn whiskey.”

To be labeled as corn whiskey in the United States, the spirit must meet certain legal requirements, including being made from a mash bill consisting of at least 80% corn and being distilled to not more than 160 proof.

Unlike bourbon, corn whiskey does not have specific aging requirements, but if it is aged, it must be in new charred oak barrels.

How do you distill alcohol from corn?

Distilling alcohol from corn involves using a still to separate alcohol from the fermented mash. The process includes heating the fermented liquid to create vapor and then cooling the vapor to collect the distilled liquid.

The alcohol-rich distillate, known as white dog or new make spirit, is collected and can be further aged in barrels or bottled as is.

What kind of corn is best for making whiskey?

The type of corn used for making whiskey can impact the flavor and character of the final product. Common types of corn used include:

Yellow Dent Corn: Widely used for its high starch content.

White Corn: Known for its milder and slightly sweeter flavor.

Flint Corn: Offers a nuttier flavor.

The choice of corn variety is often a matter of preference and the desired flavor profile of the whiskey.

How long is corn whiskey aged?

Corn whiskey is not required to be aged by law, but if it is aged, it must be done in new charred oak barrels. Some corn whiskeys are released as unaged white whiskeys or moonshines, emphasizing the raw spirit’s flavor.

If aged, the duration can vary, and some expressions may be aged for several years to develop complexity and character. The aging process allows the whiskey to interact with the wood, gaining color, flavor, and aromas from the barrel.

Can you use fresh corn to make whiskey?

Yes, fresh corn can be used to make whiskey. In the production of corn whiskey, corn is typically ground into a coarse powder, and this mash is then mixed with water to facilitate the conversion of starches in the corn into fermentable sugars.

The mash is an essential step in the whiskey-making process, serving as the foundation for fermentation and, eventually, distillation.

Is corn whiskey aged?

Corn whiskey is not required to be aged by law. While some corn whiskeys are bottled and sold without aging, often referred to as “white whiskey” or “moonshine,” others may undergo aging in new charred oak barrels.

If aged, the duration can vary, and some expressions may spend several years maturing in barrels, gaining color, flavor, and character from the wood.

Why is corn whiskey sweet?

Corn whiskey can have a sweet character due to the high sugar content in corn. Corn is naturally sweet, and during the fermentation process, yeast converts these sugars into alcohol.

The residual sweetness from the corn can contribute to a sweeter flavor profile in the finished whiskey.

Additionally, the use of new charred oak barrels during aging can introduce caramel and vanilla notes, further enhancing the perception of sweetness.

Is Jack Daniel’s made from corn?

Yes, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey is made from a mash bill that includes corn. While the exact proportions of the mash bill are proprietary, it typically includes a mixture of corn, barley, and rye.

After the fermentation process, the whiskey undergoes the Lincoln County Process, which involves charcoal filtering before aging in new charred oak barrels.

How is corn turned into bourbon?

To turn corn into bourbon, the process typically involves the following steps:

Milling: Corn, along with other grains like barley and rye, is ground into a coarse powder.

Mashing: The ground corn is mixed with water to create a mash, initiating the conversion of starches in the grains into fermentable sugars.

Fermentation: Yeast is added to the mash, leading to fermentation where sugars are transformed into alcohol, resulting in a liquid called “wash.”

Distillation: The wash is distilled in a still to separate alcohol from impurities, producing a distilled liquid known as “white dog” or “new make spirit.”

Aging: The new make spirit is often aged in new charred oak barrels to develop flavors and characteristics, as required for bourbon.

Bottling: After aging, the bourbon is filtered and bottled for consumption.

Is corn whiskey good?

The quality of corn whiskey, like any other type of whiskey, is subjective and depends on individual preferences. Some people appreciate the unique sweetness and character of corn whiskey, especially when it is well-crafted and undergoes proper aging.

Others may prefer the complexity of bourbon or other types of whiskey. Ultimately, whether corn whiskey is considered “good” is a matter of personal taste.

Exploring different brands and expressions can help individuals find the corn whiskey that aligns with their preferences.Top of Form

Final Verdict: How To Make Corn Whiskey?

Corn whiskey is a spirit made from a mash bill of at least 80% corn. The mash can also include malted rye, wheat, and other grains. As with any other spirit, you can pull up any recipe from the internet to make moonshine, a batch of it. You can enjoy a glass of homemade alcohol. 

However, it’s important to note that distilling alcohol is illegal without proper licensing.


  1. The Science Of Distillation
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