So, you’re finally done with your spirit run and can’t wait to get your hands (and mouth) on your homemade hooch.
Did your distillate came out of the condenser with a funny-looking color?
Or did you dilute with water only for it to take on a milky complexion?
Don’t be disheartened. This is a common occurrence even for the most experienced home-distillers. There are several reasons why your distillate is cloudy – which we’ll go into great detail in this article. Whether your hazy colored distillate is a result of a puke, louche, or water hardness, we’ll clarify all the confusion (and panic) that has to do with a cloudy moonshine, how to fix it, and how to prevent it from happening in the future.
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What Do We Mean By Cloudy Moonshine?
A cloudy moonshine is a distillate with a milky, hazy look to it.
Cloudiness is most commonly caused by your still puking, the interaction of the oils in the distillate and water added to it, water hardiness, and collecting too many tails can result in cloudiness.
Most cloudy moonshine is milky white, but you can wind up with a brown, orange, or red-colored distillate.
The color of your moonshine does determine whether or not it’s actually safe to drink. Below is an explanation of the different causes of opaque moonshine and how to fix it if it happens to you.
How To Fix Cloudy Moonshine
Murky moonshines are not all the same. You can have a cloudy spirit coming right out of the still or when you dilute it. Below is an explanation of the causes behind the two events, and how to fix them.
1. My distillate is cloudy coming off the still.
If your distillate is cloudy just after coming out of the still, there are two main reasons for this: puking still or collecting too many tails. Here’s an explanation of the two phenomena below.
Still is puking (too hot)
One of the tell-tale signs of a puking still is the color of the distillate. If your moonshine has a red, orange, or brown appearance with some foam to it, then it’s a case of puke. When you fill your boiler with a lot of wash and it starts boiling, it creates bubbles, foam, and froth. The foam and froth rise through the column, moving into the line arm, past your condenser, and into your collecting jars. Puke is not safe to drink, and the best thing to do is to redistill your spirit (more on this below).
Collecting too many tails
The tails contain fusel oils which get reactivated when you dilute your spirit. You can prevent this by only collecting hearts and adding your tails to your next spirit run.
It’s also good to note that collecting tails doesn’t only happen at the end of your spirit run. You can get tails during your spirit run. To avoid this from occurring, avoid running your spirit run as hot as you would when performing a stripping run. Too much heat doesn’t give the tails enough time to separate. Instead, it causes the tails to come out into your hearts.
2. My distillate is cloudy after cutting/proofing
Essential oils from the grains, plants, and flavoring botanically found in the distillate are a favorite amongst many distillers because of the flavor and aromas that come from them. But, when they react with water, they can have a hazy effect on your final product. Here’s an explanation of the connection between this hydrating liquid and oils, and how it brings about cloudiness.
Louching has occurred
Louching is a result of water interacting with the oils found in your distillate. Essential oils found in the grain or plant used in your wash often lie dormant in your distillate, but as soon as the water gets added to it when diluting the spirit, they get released from dormancy and form a milky color. The more water you add, the greater the chance of essential oils emerging from suspension.
Water too hard – Use filtered water
Water is typically added to reduce the alcohol by volume (ABV) of your spirit. But the type of water you use can be the culprit of cloudiness. Tap water has high mineral content which reacts very quickly with the essential oils found in your distillate.
It’s best to use filtered water when proofing your spirit because it contains minimal traces of nutrients, which eliminates any chance of haze forming. Filtered water also prevents what is known as the chill haze. Chill haze is a cloudiness that develops when oils are released from suspension during the distillate’s chill period.
Is It Safe To Drink Cloudy Moonshine?
Drinking a cloudy moonshine is safe to drink. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it except that water oozed and released the active compounds in the oils. But, it’s also important to pay attention to the color of the distillate. If it’s a transparent blue, it’s not safe to drink because there’s a huge chance that it contains copper sulfate from the copper in your still, so it’s best to discard it. If it has a hazy look to it, then you can consume it.
How Do You Clear Up Cloudy Moonshine?
Depending on the reason your moonshine turns out cloudy, there are two methods you can employ to clear your cloudy moonshine: adding ethanol or redistilling your moonshine.
Option 1: Adding Pure Ethanol
Adding a neutral spirit (ethanol) is a great way of giving your moonshine solvency power. If you increase the alcohol percentage of your distillate, the alcohol will dissolve the solution and the oils go into suspension, which in turn clears your moonshine. You can purchase 95% ethanol and add a few drops to your distillate, not a lot, just until your moonshine becomes clear.
Option 2: Redistill it
If you encounter puking during the spirit run, you’ll have to redistill your moonshine. This liquid is non-consumable and still contains impurities that should have been filtered out during the spirit run. Before redistilling, make sure you clean your still to remove any debris hanging around in any parts of your equipment. Then you can run your still at moderate heat (172℉-185℉).
If the puking happens during a stripping run, you can take the low wines and add them to your boiler when performing a spirit run. Make sure you keep the heat of your still between 172℉-185℉.
How To Prevent Cloudy Moonshine
Some instances of a cloudy moonshine, such as your spirit turning cloudy after you’re proofed it down, are not as bad as a puking still. Puking stills can be laborious when it comes to the cleaning aspect of a spirit run. Below are some tips on how to practice caution and hopefully prevent cloudy moonshine from happening again.
- Try not to fill your boiler up a lot. It’s best to give your wash some room to bubble up and not boil over into the condenser and your cut jars.
- Manage your heat. Too high a temperature causes puking. Make sure you keep your temperatures between 172℉-185℉ (78℃-85℃).
Having a cloudy moonshine can be frustrating and sometimes worrisome when you’re new to the whole concept of a hazy, milky distillate, but this is a fixable dilemma. One basic rule to follow when distilling is to always manage the heat of your still. This not only prevents your still from puking, but it reduces the likelihood of tails being carried over into your hearts.
Now that you have an idea of how to deal with a cloudy moonshine (and how to prevent it from happening again), you’re well on your way to becoming a master distiller.