Preparing a Sugar Based Wash

Dissolve 5 kg of sugar & 60g of nutrients in 20L of water, and cool to below 30C before adding hydrated yeast.

Different sugars will result in sweeter or drier alcohols.

Ok, either knock up a "thin" wort (pronounced "wurt") for vodkas, etc (via a reflux still), or get fancy and do a full grain recipe for whiskey (using a pot still).

If you are using a reflux still, it's no point using anything other than a thin sugar/water wort, because the reflux will strip out all the flavours. So no point in paying heaps for grains, malt extract etc, when sugar is so cheap.

If you're after a neutral spirit, one thing you can do different is to add some activated carbon to the wash (eg with the sugar). This will take out the cogeners as they form. Just make sure that you filter/decant off this carbon with the yeast, so that it doesnt go into the still (and release the nasties when heated).

Thin Wort

This is by far the easiest to do, to produce basically a flavourless vodka, which can be flavoured using either commercial flavourings, or use fruits to convert to liqueurs.

See Mikrobios' pdf Wine for Distilling on this topic - you still need to take some care to get a really smooth neutral spirit.

Also Viktors econ-o-wash.doc A cheap, well researched (720 litres over 6 batches) supermarket ingredient sugar based wash.

Thin Wort Recipes


Basically the same as for beer making, but a lot easier. Use a 25L beer fermentor, sanitised by soaking full of water + 150 mL bleach for half an hour.

Dissolve 5 kg of white table sugar and 100g of yeast nutrients in 4L of boiling water, then top up to a total of 20L using cold water.
sugar made up to total volume
should have an SG and only require of water
and should produce a wash of % alcohol

You require approx 17g of sugar for every %.litre of alcohol you want to make. Eg if you want to make 20L of a 14% alcohol wash, you need 17 x 20 x 14 = 4760g = 4.76 kg of sugar.
kg sugar made up to L total volume
should produce a wash of % alcohol

Dr. Legendre's One Dollar wash (TM)
(Product name may not reflect actual cost)
Smudges Recipe :


For more details about sugar, see the Sugar page.

Wal summarises ...

Yeast Nutrients

The yeast nutrient is necessary because refined sugar has no additional nutrients in it. If you try using just sugar, water & yeast, with no nutrients, you will get very little alcohol. Not much will happen without nutrients present. The alcohol you do make will contain more of the undesirable byproducts, like aldehydes and higher order alcohols. To grow, yeast needs amino acids, minerals, and enzymes, so that it can form the proteins the new cells will need during its "budding" to form daughter cells. It provides the necessary potassium, nitrogen, and phosphates needed (that would in other brewing usually be provided by the malt). If it can't "bud" to form daughter cells, it will still be able to reproduce a couple of times, but it does so using up its own reserves. The resulting cells aren't quite so skilled at the job of making ethanol, and tend to do a couple of extra other things instead.

Use yeast nutrients at the rate of 3 grams per litre of wash (eg 60 g for 20 L). It is typically made of the following, and/or similar:
The "Great New Zealand Home Wine Making Book" suggests to ... "buy some ammonium sulphate or ammonium phosphate, and some pottassium phosphate or potassium sulphate and add 2g (1/2 teaspoon) of each to every 4.5 L. Another valuable addition is vitamin B1. You can buy these as tiny 3 milligram tablets from your local chemist or pharmacy and add one of these each 4.5 L" ...

This is why sometimes in some recipes you might see tomato paste or vegemite being touted as a "secret ingredient" that helps produce cleaner alcohol with less off-flavours to it. This is because they are acting as a primative mix of nutrients. It is far better however to use the prepackaged nutrient mixes, as these specifically target the needs of the yeast, based on quite a bit of laboratory testing & research. See the Turbo yeast and AllTech company web pages for more details about yeast and nutrients.
Jack writes ...


The other important thing is the acidity of the wash. Getting it right should achieve better utilization of the sugar, a slightly higher alcohol %, and less other alcohol congeners. The wash should also take less time to ferment. The "Autofuel Manual" recommends that the optimum pH for mash is between 4.8 and 5.0 to keep the yeast happy, and to retard the growth of lactic acid micro-organisms. They also state that .. "Most grain mashes have a naturally acid pH of between 5.4 and 5.6 after malting or conversion has been accomplished. Other materials, notably saccharine substances like molasses and fruit pressings, have a naturally alkaline pH and must be acidified prior to fermentation." For sugar washs, the optimum pH is more like 4.0 to 4.5
If using citric acid ....
To get a pH of you need to use grams per litre
ie grams in a L wash to use

Wal writes ...
Tim Watkins comments .. Don (Nighthawk) adds Asking at my local homebrew shop, I was told that the yeast nutrients in with the Turbo yeasts etc can often contain up to 45% citric acid, purposely to acidify the sugar washes. I can't confirm this myself, as I can't even find decent Litmus paper in this wee town ...

Using the new alcohbase yeasts, the mixture can ferment up to 21% alcohol.

Inverting Sugar

Some people "invert" their sugar, saying that it makes it easier for the yeast to ferment it. Others reckon that it makes no difference at all. For more details see the Sugar page. Wal writes ... From :


How much alcohol can you expect to make, knowing how much sugar you put in ? Easy. The theoretical yield is 51.1%, but you will get less than this, around 48% because you lose some of the sugars to forming the small amounts of other alcohols, esters, etc (eg 480 g (610 mL) of ethanol for every 1 kg sugar). All going well, you should be able to capture approx 90% of this, ie 550 mL pure (100%) ethanol per kg of sugar. So ... for say 5 kg of sugar, you should be able to get 0.55 x 5 = 2.75 L of pure ethanol. I collect mine at 75% strength, ie I get around 2.75 / 0.75 = 3.7 L of distillate . If you run a pot still at 40%, this means you will get around 6.9 L of distillate. Knowing how much alcohol is present then lets you know when your run is about to finish.
If start with sugar and the still makes % alcohol
You should collect around of Distillate

Bakers yeast will produce a maximum of around 14% alcohol, whereas the "turbos" can generate up to 20% alcohol. Obviously you'd use different amounts of sugar for either case. To estimate the sugar you need, multiply the wash % alcohol by the volume and by 17 grams, eg to make 20L at 13% you'd use 20 x 13 x 17 = 4400 g = 4.4 kg.
To make L of wash at % alcohol
Use kg of sugar

Glucose (dextrose) can be used instead of sugar, and is sometimes said to produce a "cleaner" wash. You will need to use slightly more (12.5%) by weight to get the same result as using sugar (eg use 1.25kg of glucose for every 1kg of sugar needed).
To get the same result as using kg of sugar,
use kg of dextrose (glucose)

Maximum Sugar Concentration

Why not just add heaps of sugar ? Because the yeast won't be able to handle it, and will burst. The better yeasts (ie alcobase) can take up to 0.35 kg of sugar per litre of water, but most other mortal yeasts won't. Keep it to around 0.20 to 0.25 kg/L unless otherwise specified on the packet.
To make L of wash at kg/L
Use kg of sugar

However, Donald advises ...

Simple Moonshine

Patrick writes ...
Harry's Grand-dads recipe:


Maurice writes ... This is a recipe from County Fermanagh, taken from a book called "In Praise of Poteen". I've never tried it myself.

Samogon (Vodka)

Wal ...


To find large quantities of molasses, try farm stock feed dealers. They will sell black strap molasses for horse or cattle feed supplements. Different types of molasses have different sugar contents. (See for different kinds of molasses and the mills and plants / procedures that go into making them.) It therefore pays to measure the specific gravity (SG), until you get the desired concentration. Due to its high osmotic pressure, it needs to be diluted to less than 25 Brix (weight % sugar), or else the yeast wont be able to get started on it. Unfortunately, due to it sometimes only having around 46% sugar, this means you only get a sugar content of 14%, and a final alcohol of around only 6-7%. To get around this, you may need to feed the molasses to the wash in several stages.

In response to some questions about using molasses ..
David replied .. Randy writes ...


Make sure you read the section on distilling rum too.

Wal summarises the various recipes ...

Jack writes ...
PK writes ... In a later update, PK writes ... The "Household Cyclopedia" advises ... Andrews tale ... Jeanette writes ... Mike writes ... Mike elaborates on his recipe ... Wal writes ... John offers his recipe .. Hector writes .. Flaming Pinto writes ...


Wal writes ...

Honey Mash

One of our Utah mates recommends this. Ferment for 75 days and distill. Said to taste great and the mash comes to about 18% alcohol.

Mead Brandy

Jacks recipe for Mead Brandy ...
For more on mead :

Maple Syrup

Your Brother in Magick, The Omnipresent Mecakyrios writes about using maple syrup..


Wal writes ...
Don advises ...     This page last modified 07/22/2009 22:32:3706/20/2007 01:15:21