Poitin was typically made in a pot still. It would use the following components: the main pot (vessel), the arm, and a worm (coil) situated in a wooden vat. While most of these pieces are made of copper nowadays, an Irish peasant would have distilled their poitin in stills constructed of tin.
Irish Liquor Poitin
The pot and arm were constructed of copper for the more well off but the worm would have been the only copper mainstay across the board. This was useful because, once it had been distilled, the poitin still was rapidly dismantled and the parts disseminated around the countryside. Sometimes even in a local bog or river. It’s simple to come up with a reason for having a copper pot, but it’s more difficult to come up with a reason for having a copper coil.
The list of ingredients that have made their way into a ‘genuine’ Irish moonshine recipe is extensive. Poitin is still created today with a variety of ingredients. It’s also known for its wide variety of quality, ranging from divine elixir to certain death in a shot glass. It’s the same with traditional recipes. And, like many Irish foods, the moonshine recipe is simple and adaptable.
You made your poitin recipe from whatever you had because times were rough. Just as your family’s Irish potato soup arose from the ingredients you had on hand, so did your unique moonshine whiskey recipe.
Furthermore, your poitin showed not only your level of expertise but also your level of prosperity. It comprised of just what you could afford to spend. And that, too, varied a lot.
Moonshine set-up recipe
In reality, the range of components for poitin was much wider than that of even the most traditional Irish cuisine recipes. Each element was determined by one key characteristic; the potential to create sugars that could be converted to alcohol. This included whey from milk, sugar, treacle, sugar beet pulp, and any cereals you could get your hands on.
It was all based on what was available at the time. Poitin was traditionally manufactured from malted barley, but decades of lengthy restriction, taxation, and, eventually, prohibition meant that the Irish beverage was made from a variety of base ingredients in practice.
Irish potatoes are used to make moonshine.
This typically meant incorporating Irish potatoes into the mix for the impoverished tenant farmer living on 7 lbs of potatoes per day. The finest moonshine was expensive to make as it contained a lot of oats.
Moonshine Recipe for Beginners
The foundation for this simple moonshine recipe is potatoes and malted barley. Both of these substances could be used alone or in combination with additional ingredients, but the methods will be comparable. The quantities used makes a modest batch.
Moonshine Whiskey Ingredients – Makes enough poitin for a small party:
21g of distillers yeast
30 lb Potatoes
3 lb Malted Barley
2 lb White Sugar
10 litres of good quality water
water for cooling
For the uninitiated, the wash, often known as wort, is just the unfermented base liquid. The first step in making moonshine is to ferment your cereals by brewing them in the same way that you would beer. Although poitin is a versatile beast that may be made from a variety of grains, the greatest moonshine has historically been made from barley. Barley includes a lot of enzymes, which means there’s a lot of delicious starch to be transformed into fermentable sugars, and eventually into Poitin.
Different varieties of barley can be used, however regular malted barley or ale are frequently used in the best moonshine recipes. The most crucial element is that it be sprouted rather than spray-dried. This is due to the drying process destroying essential enzymes. The peasant would have submerged the grain in a bog and dried it in a kiln he’d dug expressly for this purpose.
- Soak your barley in water overnight (8 hours). A sanitized Fermentation Bucket is a suitable location for it to spend the night. The next morning, spread the grain out in a shallow layer on a clean surface and allow it to sprout. This procedure will take 4 to 5 days to complete. Every day, turn the barley to ensure that it dries evenly in the air. [If you’re not malting the barley yourself, skip this step.
- Crush the barley using a mill. but don’t grind it too finely. You want a rough consistency, and you can even make it by hand if necessary. This was traditionally done by the poitin maker with a millstone.
- In a large brewing Pot, parboil your potatoes for 12 minutes. They should be scrubbed clean but unpeeled. Once cooked they are then mashed.
- Step Mashing is the best option given the ingredients. Fill your brewing pot halfway with high-quality water and add the potatoes and malted barley. Bring the saucepan to 113 degrees Fahrenheit and keep it there for 15 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid sticking.
- Increase the heat to 131 degrees Fahrenheit and cook for another 15 minutes. Repeat at 149 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes, then at 158 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes. All the while, stirring.
- At this stage, the starches should have completely broken down. Raise the temperature to 176°F to complete the process. Reduce to a temperature where the yeast can be pitched as soon as the temperature reaches 176 degrees Fahrenheit. This isn’t a difficult task if you have a good cooling system. Otherwise, get your ice buckets and garden hoses ready. Before you start cooling, stir the sugar into your wort and make sure it has dissolved. The specific gravity should fall to 1.070.
- Fill your Carboy/Fermentation Bucket with the mixture. To aid the yeast give it a stir as it is added to the liquid. Back in the day, a poitin maker would have used bread yeast, but now distiller’s yeast does a better job. Turbo yeast isn’t recommended. If you do use it, go with the classic kind rather than the ultra-rapid version.
- Add an Airlock to your vessel and close it. Allow for many days of fermentation unless you’re using turbo yeast. When you no longer hear it gurgle, you’ll know it’s done.
- When the fermentation is complete, siphon the majority of the liquid from your bucket and transfer it to your still. This should account for roughly 80-85% of the contents. Leave the bottom half alone as it won’t be used in the final product.
- Now comes the fun part of this moonshine recipe: distilling all that beautiful alcohol. To prevent it from escaping, the poitin maker filled the cap with water and sealed all the joints of the poitin still with an oat paste. Keep the fire going and discard the first liquid that comes out. This is methanol and what can cause blindness. Methanol is found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, but taking large amounts of it can make you sick. Concentrated amounts can have major health consequences.
- It’s now time to pour the fermented liquor into your still. Irish moonshine is traditionally run twice through the poitin still. The first run is used to determine when the run is finished. This is accomplished by tossing a glass of it into the fire. The chase will continue if it sparks. You can quadruple distill for the most potent end product, although poitin already has a high alcohol concentration.
- The potent initial pint of the second run that poured out of the poitin still was traditionally kept for medical purposes to treat arthritis and other maladies. Repeat the fire test with the doubling, but when it no longer ignites, collect the watery ‘feint’ that has come out. Use this to proof the poteen to the desired alcohol content, and then dilute with water as needed.