How To Make A Sugar Wash 101

If your looking to make a simple neutral spirit like vodka with your reflux or column still a sugar wash is the recommended wash to use. This is because it’s simple to make and provides great results. There’s no point in paying more money for grains and malts not to mention the extra work involved with grain mashes if your reflux still is going to strip all the flavours from your final product.sugar wash moonshine

You can make either vodka or rum with a sugar wash but remember if you plan to make rum you will need to use a pot still. For detailed instructions on how to make vodka or rum check out my two recipes below:

Sugar Wash Recipes:

  • Vodka Recipes – This one’s great for making high proof base sprites
  • Rum Recipe – use a pot still and get a fantastic rum

Determining Final Alcohol content of Wash

You can estimate the potential final alcohol content of the sugar wash by either measuring the specific gravity of the wash before fermentation is started or by using the calculator I’ve posted below. Just enter the amount of sugar and volume of water your using for the wash.

Calculating Potential Alcohol Content

I’m using kg of sugar with L of water
This will produce a wash containing % alcohol.

Selecting Yeast for Wash

Every strain of yeast has a specific tolerance to alcohol content in the wash. The type of yeast you use will determine the amount of sugar that will ferment in the wash and the % of alcohol in your final product.  The Yeast you choose to use in your sugar wash will determine the amount of Sugar you can add to your wash. For example simple brewers yeast for making beer can usually produce a wash to an alcohol content of around 12% where some turbo yeast can withstand alcohol concentrations of up to 23%. These turbo yeast allow you to use much more sugar and also get a larger volume of alcohol from the same volume of wash. To learn more about yeast strains see our types of yeast page

The Importance of Yeast Nutrients yeast nutrients for sugar wash

Refined sugar lacks the nutrients yeast need to reproduce.  Without these nutrients the yeast will be unable to form sister cells causing poor fermentation. Also the alcohol produced will contain undesirable by products like higher order alcohols and aldehydes.

To be more specific yeast require minerals, enzymes and amino acids to reproduce so adding the yeast nutrients to your sugar wash is crucial for healthy fermentation. Some folks add tomato paste or vegemite to their sugar wash as a substitute however I always have the best results by using the yeast nutrients I get at my local brew shop.


 Preparing the Sugar Wash – Start To Finish

Below is a basic Sugar wash recipe the I’ve used in the past for making Vodka. It will show you the process to making a Sugar wash.

First up you need 8kg of Sugar and 30L of  water. You can also use tap water however you should let it sit for a few days so that the chlorine can evaporate out. Don’t want to kill your yeast. If your on a Well you’ll be fine.

Heat up half of the water and then start adding the sugar slowly so that it fully dissolves in the water. Warm water will dissolve the sugar with less effort. Once you’ve added all the sugar top it up with the remainder of the water. Remember you don’t want your wash to get hotter then 33 C or you’ll kill the Yeast when you add it.

Sugar !!! ( Food for the Yeast)

Adding Water

Mixing the Sugar into the Wash. Keep mixing until it’s fully dissolved!

It’s clear your all done mixing.

Using a thermometer heat the water to 30 C and then pour the contents into a Carboy or Fermenting Bucket.  with a package of Turbo Yeast.

Adding Turbo yeast and Nutrients to the  Mix. Once added let sit for 30 minutes before you stir it into the Sugar Wash.

Stirring it Up.

Seal up the Fermentor and add a Air lock to the top this keeps out any unwanted bacteria but allows the gasses produce in the fermentation process to escape. Make sure you stays above 20 C while fermenting. If it dips below this temperature you could risk stalling the fermentation.

Fermentation can take anywhere from 1- 2 weeks depending on temperature and health of yeast. You’ll know when it’s done because the Air lock will stop bubbling. The wash will look milky and if you taste it should have a strong alcohol flavor and lack any sugar as it should of all been converted to alcohol.

At this point your Sugar wash is complete and it’s time to distill your wash into Vodka/ Moonshine. To learn how to distill your Sugar Wash head over to Reflux Distilling 101

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