Sugar washes are one of the first recipes that the beginner distiller will learn. They’re cheap, easy, and produce a high-ABV wash ready for distilling. If you’re making vodka or gin, most people will start with a sugar wash.
A sugar wash comprises sugar, water, yeast, and nutrients. It makes a decent neutral spirit that serves as a base for other drinks like gin and whiskey. The best recipes are Birdwatcher’s tomato paste wash, Still Spirits turbo wash, and Ted’s fast fermenting vodka. They all produce a smooth neutral spirit and are suited for any budget.
Carry on reading this article for 3 recipes you can take advantage of.
Table of Contents
What Is a Sugar Wash?
A sugar wash is a recipe made from a combination of sugar, water, nutrients, and yeast. The purpose of preparing it is to create a neutral spirit (vodka) that you can flavor as desired.
It serves as a base for spirits like gin and vodka, but can also be used for whiskey and rum.
Most importantly, a sugar wash is an easy and cost-effective wash for beginners.
Our Tips When Making A Sugar Wash
A sugar wash may be simple, but there are some nuances to producing a good final product.
These include adhering to a specific sugar-to-water ratio for your wash, using a suitable yeast to ferment the wash, tracking the gravity of your wash, and clarifying the wash. Here are our tips when making a sugar wash.
1. The Type Of Sugar:
The aim of a sugar wash is to make a neutral spirit (devoid of taste and scent). So, when choosing the type of sugar you want to use, we suggest you use white sugar (plain table sugar). It has the essential foods (glucose, fructose, and sucrose) to kick-start fermentation, and it produces smooth vodka without an intense taste.
Conversely, corn sugar (dextrose) has up to a 100% conversion rate, so you’ll wind up with a sharp-tasting spirit, which leaves little room to play around with flavorings.
Read More: In this article we round up the best sugar for home brewing and distilling
2. The Brew Ratio:
The amount of sugar you use is also vital. For every gallon (3.8 liters) of water, we recommend using 2 pounds (900g) of sugar.
The sugar-to-water ratio does affect the gravity reading, which ultimately affects the alcohol by volume (proof) of your final product.
3. The Starting Gravity:
A gravity reading of between 1.070 to 1.092 is ideal because it will yield between 12 and 16% fermented alcohol. We believe this is the sweet spot (excuse the pun) between efficiency and taste. Pushing most yeast past 16% tends to produce poor flavor congeners.
It’s recommended to take a gravity reading before you pitch your yeast, so you have an idea of whether or not to add more water to dilute the sugar or add a tiny bit more sugar to the mix.
The more sugar you have, the higher the gravity. And vice versa. Having too high a gravity can stress your yeast, resulting in an off-tasting final product.
4. The Type Of Yeast:
Normal baker’s yeast works great! It can produce up to 17% ABV from your fermented wash. When using baker’s yeast, you’d have to supplement it with nutrients to aid the process of fermentation.
Some distillers use turbo yeast because it has added nutrients and amino acids however we find turbo yeasts horrendously expensive and produce a bad tasting wash.
We strongly recommend you buy a proper distillers yeast like those made by DistillaMax or SafSpirits. In this article we share our top 5 yeasts for making vodka and neutral – which is ideal for a sugar wash.
5. Adding Yeast Nutrients:
Nutrients fuel your yeast, which helps to speed up the fermentation process. In addition to an acidic environment, yeast thrives when provided with food so it can produce a delicious final product.
You can add store-bought tomato paste, yeast nutrients, or turbo yeast which includes nutrients in the packet to complement the yeast.
Read More: This article talks about our favorite yeast nutrients and also how you can make your own yeast nutrient at home.
6. Clarification Of The Wash:
We highly recommend you clear your wash. Clarifying your spirit entails removing any yeast sediments that might potentially scorch at the bottom of your boiler.
Also, having these sediments when distilling does result in an off-final product.
To clear your wash, you can use a clearing agent or siphon your wash into a clean carboy and let it sit to allow the sediments to settle at the bottom.
The 3 Best Sugar Wash Recipes (For The Home Distiller)
There are tons of sugar-wash recipes on the internet, but we decided to provide you with the most basic ones. Once you’re comfortable preparing this wash, you can tweak it as desired. Here are 3 of the best sugar wash recipes.
1. Birdwatcher’s Tomato Paste Wash
Yields: 80 liters (21 gallons) wash
- 3 cups tomato paste
- Juice of 3 lemons
- 18kg (39lb)sugar
- 225g fresh baker’s yeast
- Mix the paste, juice, 14kg of sugar, and 60 liters (15 gallons) of water. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
- Take a gravity reading, you should get 1.09.
- Add the remaining 4kg (8lb) of sugar and 20 liters (5 gallons) of water to bring the mixture to 80 liters. Take another gravity reading, it should still read 1.09.
- Take a temperature reading. You should get 30-35°C (86-95°F).
- Pitch your yeast and stir until dissolved.
- Take another temperature reading. It should still be between 30-35°C (86-95°F).
- Check the gravity and temperature daily. Also, stir the wash daily.
- On day 3, siphon the wash into an airlocked container. Take gravity and temperature reading.
- After 7-8 days, the (final) gravity should be .995.
- Now you’re ready to distill.
2. Still Spirits Turbo Wash
Yields: 25 liters (6.6 gallons) wash
- 150g Still Spirits Distillers Nutrient Light Spirits
- 1 sachet Still Spirits Distillers Yeast Vodka (20g) OR Still Spirits Distillers Yeast Gin (20g)
- 6kg (13lb) sugar
- Still Spirits Turbo Carbon – to absorb impurities during fermentation (optional)
- Still Spirits Turbo Clear – to speed up the clarification process (optional)
- Add 21 liters (5.5 gallons) of water at 30°C (86°F) to your fermenter.
- Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
- Pour the distiller’s nutrient and yeast. Stir well.
- Cover with the lid and place the airlock.
- Allow the mixture to ferment at 20-32°C (68-90°F). If using, you can add turbo carbon.
- When the airlock stops bubbling, fermentation is complete.
- Take the gravity reading, it should be below 1.
- Let the wash stand for 1-2 days to clear. Or add the turbo clear to hasten the process.
- Now you’re ready to distill.
Ted’s Fast Fermenting Vodka
Credit: The homedistiller forum
As the name implies, this recipe makes a fast fermenting vodka – within 3 days. This recipe yields a 23-liter (6 gallons) wash. Here’s how to make Ted’s fast-fermenting vodka.
- Fermenter (preferably 30 liters/ 8 gallons)
- Large stainless pot
- 4kg (9lb) sugar
- 250g wheat bran
- 1 Multivitamin tablet (crushed)
- Pinch Epsom salts
- ½ tsp di-ammonium phosphate (DAP)
- ½ tsp Citric acid
- 50 g baker’s yeast
- Boil 2-3 liters (0.5-0.8 gallons) of water in the pot.
- Stir in the bran and boil for approximately 15 minutes. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until it becomes a thin porridge.
- Dissolve the sugar in warm water. Pour it into the fermenter.
- Top the fermenter with water until it reaches 20 liters.
- Add the tablet, Epsom salt, and DAP.
- Pour the bran into the fermenter.
- Add the citric acid.
- Dissolve the yeast in 100ml of water, and pitch it.
- Take the temperature reading to ensure the temperature is below 30°C (86°F).
- Take the gravity reading. It should be 1.060.
- Stir the mixture well.
- Leave the fermenter unsealed for 24 hours. After 36 hours, attach the airlock.
- After 3 days, take a gravity reading. It should read .990.
- Rack off the wash by siphoning it into a clean carboy. Let it settle for a couple of days.
- Once cleared, you’re ready to distill.
Sugar Wash FAQ
Q. How much sugar do you put in a 5-gallon sugar wash?
A good starting point is to put in 10 pounds (4.5kg) of sugar for a 5-gallon (19L) sugar wash.
Q. How long can sugar wash sit before distilling?
A sugar wash can sit for a month before distilling (sometimes longer). If you plan on distilling it a month later, ensure the fermenter is airtight to prevent any bacterial growth.
Q. How much sugar do you need for a sugar wash?
It depends on the amount of wash you want to make. We recommend you use 2 pounds (900g) of sugar for every 1 gallon (3.7 liters) of water.
Q. What is the best yeast for a sugar wash?
Q. What temperature do you ferment sugar wash?
This will vary based on the yeast you choose and the recipe. As a starting point, 25C is a good balance between getting a good fast fermentation without stressing the yeast too much.
Q. Do I need to clear my sugar wash before distilling?
You do need to clear your sugar wash. Doing so removes any yeast sediments that might scorch at the bottom of the boiler and prevents any nasty taste in your final product.
A sugar wash isn’t only limited to the beginner distiller, advanced distillers swear by it because it yields a smooth neutral spirit. Most recipes are very straightforward and serve as an excellent basis to experiment with the craft – given you adhere to the tips mentioned in this post.
Once you’ve tried one of the recipes, you can blend in flavors of your choice to produce a tasty final product.