There are several different varieties of whiskey made around the world, but the basic procedures for making any of them are similar. Making this drink on your own only requires a few tools and ingredients. The whiskey making process is divided into a series of stages that span a few weeks. This recipe will show you how to steep the corn, ferment it, distill it, and finally age the spirit to create an authentic whiskey.
- 4, 5 kg of whole and unprocessed corn kernels;
- 19 L of water and additional hot water to germinate;
- Approximately one cup (237 g) of champagne yeast (see manufacturer's instructions for specific proportions);
- Large burlap bag;
- Clean pillowcase.
Makes about 7.5 L of whiskey
Part 1 of 4: Germinating the corn and making the wort
Sprouting corn kernels is a simple matter of moistening them and letting the small shoots grow. Once the corn is germinated, it will be ready for the steeping step. This step consists of a mixture of hot water and malted beans (newly germinated). The enzymes in the wort break down the starch in the grains and produce sugar.
Step 1. Start the malting process by soaking the corn kernels in hot water
To do this, place 4.5 kg of whole corn kernels in a burlap bag and place the bag in a bucket or larger container. Then saturate the burlap bag with hot water. Make sure the corn is completely and evenly dipped.
Why sprout corn kernels to make whiskey? In short, germination eliminates the need to add sugar to the wort, allowing you to get a more authentic whiskey. Also called “malting,” germination causes enzymes in corn to convert starches into sugar. In this way, these sugars become the fundamental building blocks of alcohol in whiskey
Step 2. Let the corn kernels germinate for 8 to 10 days
Keep the bag in a warm, dark place such as a well-insulated basement or garage. The corn should remain moist for about a week and a half. During the germination phase, keep the temperature of the beans between 17 ° and 30 °C.
Step 3. Remove the sprouted tips from the corn kernels
To do this, wait for the sprouts to grow to 0.6 cm in length and then rinse the corn in a bucket of clean water. While doing this, remove as many sprouted roots as possible with your hands. Discard the sprouts and reserve the corn.
Step 4. Crush the corn kernels
Using a roller with a solid tip, pestle or other large implement, crush the beans in the primary fermenter. Stop when all grains are broken.
- If desired, you can also use a mill to grind the corn kernels. However, you can only do this if the beans are completely dry, as wet corn does not pass through the mill properly.
- To dry the corn before passing it through a mill, proceed as follows: place the beans in a thin layer on a clean, flat surface. Place a fan next to the beans and turn it on. Allow the fan to dry the damp beans, stirring them a few times a day.
Step 5. Add 19 L of boiling water to the corn mash
It will now be ready for fermentation.
Part 2 of 4: Fermenting the wort
During this phase of whiskey making, it is especially important to keep all utensils and containers clean. A little contamination can ruin the entire whiskey batch. Sterilize any thermometers, container lids and locks you are going to use, and sanitize your hands.
Step 1. Allow the wort to cool to 30°C
Use a thermometer to check the temperature. The wort needs to be cool but considerably hot for the yeasts to do their job.
Step 2. Add yeast
Add them to the top of the wort and close the lid of the fermenter. For about 4 to 5 minutes, toss the yeast diagonally, slowly moving them back and forth to stir them.
Step 3. Vent the fermenter with an air lock
A lock is an essential tool for fermentation. It allows the CO2 exhaust, but outside air does not enter the wort. If air came into contact with the wort, it would minimize the effect of the yeasts.
You can make a lock yourself quickly and easily, but buying one is also cheap
Step 4. Let the wort ferment in a relatively warm place
The fermentation process can take 5 to 10 days depending on the type of yeast, the temperature and how much grain is being used. Use a hydrometer to find out when the primary fermentation is complete. If the reading on the hydrometer is the same for two to three consecutive days, you are ready to begin the distillation.
Try to keep the wort at a constant temperature of 25 °C while it is fermenting. Again, enough heat will be needed for the yeasts to be activated and consume the starch
Step 5. When the wort is at the end of fermentation, strain or siphon it into an alembic
If you want to strain the wort, use a clean pillowcase. Try to keep solids away from the still when transferring the wort.
Part 3 of 4: Distillation
The wort free of particulate solids is called “wash”. At this point, the wash has approximately 15% alcohol in its composition. Distilling the wash will increase the alcohol content significantly. For best results, purchase a pot still. If you are especially skilled and have the time, you can build your own still.
Step 1. Heat the wash in the still slowly until it starts to boil
In the manufacture of whiskeys, the distillation must not be speeded up; heat the still over medium heat for 30 minutes to an hour until it starts to boil. Heating the wash too quickly will cause it to burn and lose flavor. The ideal temperature for distilling alcohol is between 78 ° and 100 °C.
Why this temperature? Alcohol and water have different boiling points. the alcohol starts to evaporate at 78 °C. On the other hand, water only evaporates when it reaches 100 °C. So if you can heat the wash to at least 78 °C but not more than 100 °C, the liquid evaporated in the still will be just alcohol and not water
Step 2. Connect the condensing tube after the wash reaches 50°C – 60°C
The condensing tube absorbs the evaporated alcohol and quickly cools it, returning it to a liquid form. Slowly, the condenser tube will start to spray the liquid.
Step 3. Throw the heads away
The heads are a mixture of volatile compounds that evaporate from the wash and should not be consumed. They include methanol, which is lethal in large amounts. Fortunately, they are the first fraction to come out of the wash. For a 19 L wash, be prepared to discard the first 50 – 100 mL of condensed liquid for safety.
Step 4. Collect the body in 500 mL batches
After collecting and discarding the “heads”, you are ready to harvest the good part. When the thermometer in the condenser tube reaches 80°C - 85°C, you can start collecting the part of interest. This fraction is also called the “body” of the distillate.
Step 5. Throw away the “tails”
Continue collecting the body until the thermometer in the condenser tube reads 96°C. At this point, the evaporated liquids you start to distil will be fusible oils. Discard them.
Step 6. Turn off the heat source and let the still cool completely
Let the distilled body cool as well.
Part 4 of 4: Diluting and Aging Whiskey
At this point, you have the distilled body - a high-alcohol whiskey. To make it look like what you find commercially, you will need to dilute it and age it until it reaches 40% to 50% alcohol.
Step 1. Use a hydrometer to test the alcohol content of your distillate
You want to know how strong it is, both to age it and to get an indication of the quality of its distillation.
Be careful not to confuse the measurement of alcohol content on the hydrometer
Step 2. Age the whiskey
If you decide to age it, make it in a barrel when it contains between 58% and 70% alcohol content. Aging will make the whiskey smoother, giving it a distinct flavor. The whiskey will only age in the barrels. When it is bottled, the process will be stopped.
- Whiskey is usually aged in oak barrels. The barrels can be carefully scorched or roasted first. You can also purchase them from another distiller that you have used to prepare another drink, which gives your whiskey a distinctive touch.
- If you want to add oak flavor to the spirit but don't want to chase after a barrel of that stuff, add toasted oak chips to the whiskey. Toast them in the oven over low heat (93 °C) for an hour until they are flavored but not singed. Remove them and let them cool. Then transfer them to the whiskey container and let them steep for 5 to 15 days, depending on your preference. Strain the whiskey through a cheesecloth or clean pillowcase to catch any wood chips.
Step 3. Dilute the whiskey.
After you have aged the drink, dilute it before bottling and drinking it. At this point, the whiskey will likely be 60% to 80% alcohol, which would provide a burning and uncomfortable drinking experience. It should be diluted to around 40% or 45% alcohol content for a more enjoyable experience.
Step 4. Finally, bottle and enjoy
Bottle the whiskey along with a label bearing the date of bottling. Drink consciously and responsibly. Never drive after drinking alcoholic beverages, as the consequences could be disastrous and you will be held civilly and criminally liable.