Having watched a few episodes of the Discovery Channel reality-show "Moonshiners," I'm somewhat surprised about a number of things shown on there relating to making alcohol.

I've been a hobby winemaker for about a decade, and I'm assuming that if one produces a TV show about a topic, then one has hired at least a consultant to get the most striking facts approximately right. But I'm really wondering here.

  • Setting up mash means dropping some corn and water into an ugly barrel, and add a sack full of sugar (like... 25 kilograms?), this gives you alcohol ready to distill in two, at most three days. Old barrel with wooden lid, no fermentation lock needed.
    In winemaking, while adding sugar is often frowned upon anyway, regardless of what you do, you generally try hard not to get the sugar contents too high at the beginning since that inhibits fermentation. Using any old barrel for fermentation is... well, something you can probably do, but would one want to?

  • 20 liters distilled give 8 liters of 50-55% moonshine. Since alcohol does not appear out of nowhere, this means the mash must necessarily have 20% of alcohol. That's quite steep for a random mix of stuffs in an old barrel. My yeast usually tolerates 16-18% at most. Admitted, there are special high-alcohol yeasts as well as "turbo" yeasts, but they make no mention of any such thing.

  • You get mash ready to distill in two days (20% in 2 days, that's, well... wow) but if you heat it up to around 70°C (so, basically killing the yeast!), you can do it in hours, not days.

  • Using a "booster" which is basically a second cooling spiral in a box, doubles the amount of alcohol you get out. As does a cooling spiral in the main tank. Since the booster cannot possibly create alcohol out of nowhere, does that mean that one normally operates at below 50% efficiency?

  • Making the distill from copper is useful because it absorbs the large amounts of sulfur dioxide that are generated during fermentation. More copper, more good.
    In winemaking, if you get noticeable amounts of sulfur dioxide, it means you fucked up the fermentation (except when making fruit wine from oranges, there it's pretty common).

  • Malted corn needs no yeast for fermentation, and you get no headaches from it that way. I'm inclined to believe the opposite as far as headaches go, since no yeast means you run a wild fermentation. In winemaking, this is normally something that you absolutely want to avoid if you can help it. Wild fermentation, and rapid, ultra-high alcohol production?

  • Moonshine sells for 25-30 dollars per liter. Not sure about alcohol prices in the USA, but I can buy alcohol legally (and not made from river water in a dirty barrel) for that amount of money here.

So, is there anything in there which (apart from running when police shows up) is even remotely realistic?


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