Ultimate Home Distillers Glossary


Understanding the home distilling jargon is one of the first critical steps in really diving into the art and science of home distillation. It can be really hard to learn from the experienced shiners out there if it seems like they're speaking their own language. We have compiled one of the most comprehensive glossaries of distilling terms on the webernet. You can leave a comment at the bottom of the page if you have any questions, or if you have a term that we should add to the glossary.

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Moonshine For Beginners

Glossary of Terms

ABV-Alcohol by volume. The Ethanol content of a spirit expressed as a proportion of its volume

Acetone-A colorless, volatile, flammable, and pungent substance released at the start of distillation.

Aging-Distilled spirit is stored in wooden barrels (usually Oak) to enhance the flavor.

Air lock-A valve often used in fermentation.

Alembic-A type of copper still design

Amylase-An enzyme that breaks down starch into fermentable sugars

Backset-What is left in your still after distillation. Referred to as” Dunder” when Rum has been distilled

Barrel/Cask-Aging-Aging the product of distillation in a wooden (often oak) barrel or cask that may or may not have been previously used to age another spirit and may or may not have been charred to blacken the inside. The aging process mellows some of the harshness of the spirit while also infusing it with both color and character from the wood itself.

Blending-The art of putting together the different collection cuts to achieve the best final product as possible.

Boiler-The body of the still.

Boiling Chips-Small porous stones used to create an even, smooth boil in heated liquids.

Bootlegger-Someone who sells moonshine or legal spirit under illegal circumstances.

Cap (2 meanings)-The removeable top of a pot still and the foamy krauesen that forms on the top of a fermenting liquid.

Cap Arm-The arm extending from the head of the still

Condensation-The process by which a gas or vapor changes to a liquid.

Condenser-A metal device cooled with water inside which alcohol vapors revert to liquid. Worm, Dephlegmator, Liebig and Shotgun are all examples.

Congeners-These are substances other than ethanol (see later) which are produced during fermentation. Their presence contributes to the flavor of the end product (positively and negatively)

Conversion-Enzyme conversion of starches to fermentable sugars. Also, can be called saccharification.

Cuts-The four stages of the distillation run. (See foreshots, heads, hearts, and tails). Collection in small containers to identify the changes from Heads, Hearts, and Tails before blending.

Degrees Lintner-A unit used to measure the ability of a malt to reduce starch to sugar, that is, its diastatic power. While the measurement is applicable to any amylase, in general it refers to the combined α-amylase and β-amylase used in brewing.

Dephlegmator-A reflux condenser able to condense all vapors and partially condenser column vapors. Used mainly in plated columns.

Diastatic Power (DP)- An indicator of the total enzymatic strength available to convert starches into fermentable sugars. Check out this article "Understanding PPG"

Distillate-A liquid condensed from vapor in distillation, a purified form, essence.

Distillation-The evaporation and subsequent collection of a liquid by condensation as a means of purification.

Doubler/Thumper-An airtight container that can be placed between the boiler and the condenser of a pot still to increase the proof of a single run.

Ethanol-The specific type of alcohol consumed in alcoholic beverages. A clear, colorless, flammable oxygenated hydrocarbon. Chemical formula: C2H5OH. It has a boiling point of 78.5°C in the anhydrous state. However, it forms a binary azeotrope with water, with a boiling point of 78.15°C at a composition of 95.57 percent by weight ethanol

Feints-Technically tails only. Often used to refer to a mixture of heads and tails to be recycled into a following batch. Feints are low in alcohol and are re-distilled.

Fermentation-The anaerobic conversion of sugar to carbon dioxide and alcohol by yeast.

Fermenter-The vessel in which the process of mash fermentation takes place. This is what contains all the ingredients of the mash during the fermentation process.

Filter-A device or technique used to remove unwanted particulates or congeners.

Final Gravity-Final Gravity (FG) is the final reading with the brewing hydrometer when fermentation is completed.

Flavoring-Intentional addition of extracts or fruit essences.

Foreshots-The first cut of liquid to emerge from the still.

Fusel oil-Bitter, oily liquid known as congeners composed of generally undesirable substances.

Grain Bill-Types and ratios of grains used in a whiskey recipe.

Heads-The second cut of distillate

Hearts-The third cut, and the sweet spot of the distillate

Hydrometer-Used to measure a solution in water. Home distillers use two specific types of hydrometers. In the brewing process, a saccharometer is used to measure the solution of sugar in water. In distilling, an Alcoholmeter is used to measure a solution of alcohol in water.

Infusion-The process of infusing a finished spirit with an added flavor, usually by putting the desired ingredient (fruit, vegetable, spice) directly into the spirit and letting it steep for a specific period of time.

Krauesen-Layer of foam that forms on the top of a mash/wash during fermentation.

Low wines-A low ABV liquid produced from a stripping run.

Malt-Germinated, sprouted, dried and ground grain. Malting initiates the process by which enzymes are produced that will convert the long chain starches into fermentable sugars. When the sprouts are dried this process is interrupted and suspended until the malted grains are rehydrated at specific temperatures to activate the enzymes in the mash process.

Mash-A mixture of ground grains, malt, water, and yeast. Can also be used to describe fruit-based mixes.

Mashing-The art of cooking grain and converting starches to fermentable sugars.

Mash Tun-A large vessel able to withstand high temperature used to mix a mash or a wash and can serve double duty as a fermenter.

Moonshine-Illicitly produced, distilled spirits on which no tax is paid.

Oaking-Adding color and character in glass with oak chunks, staves, or chips.

Original Gravity-The original gravity (OG) is the first reading taken with the brewing hydrometer to measure the specific gravity of a wash before fermentation has started. Also known as initial gravity or starting gravity

Parrot-A device connected after the condenser arm containing the alcoholmeter, which allows real time readings of alcohol level.

Peated-A term you might see on a Scotch whisky bottle, indicating the malted barley has been dried over a peat fire and the finished product will have a distinctive smokiness.

Poitin-Illicit, untaxed Irish moonshine.

Pot still-A traditional still generally used for the making of whiskey and brandy. Often made from copper and designed for quick passage of vapor with minimal reflux.

PPG-PPG stands for Points per Pound per Gallon. PPG is used as a measure of the available gravity points in a grain, sugar, or recipe. Check out this article "How to use  PPG"

Proof-The proportion of alcohol in distilled spirit.

Racking-The process of transferring mash/wash from one container to another.

Reflux still-This still uses a distillation column which facilitates greater separation of the mash, and results in a refined and higher proof distillate.

Rig-A distillation set up

Run-A distillation cycle.

Sediment-The settling of suspended particles to the bottom of the fermenter.

Sparge-Removing fermentable liquid from grain after starch conversion in order to strain off as many sugars as possible.

Specific Gravity-In brewing, Specific Gravity (SG) is used to measure the sugar in solution compared to just water.

Spirit Run-The last and final run of a multiple run process. Ran slow to get the best product.

SSBR-Stands for Super Simple Beginners Recipe. Here's the recipe.

Still-Any form of distilling device.

Stripping Run-The first runs of a multiple run process. Where the alcohol is stripped out of the fermented beer. To increase ABV and clean it up more. Producing what is called low wines. In preparation for a spirit run.

TPW-Tomato paste wash

Tails-The last part of the distillate. This phase of the distillation run has high volumes of congeners and oils.

UJSSM-Uncle Jesse’s Simple Sour mash. Here's the recipe

Wash-A liquid mixture containing sugar and yeast.

Worm-The condenser associated with a traditional pot still and thumper.

Wort-The solution of grain or fruit sugars strained from the mash tun

Yeast-A sugar eating fungus used in fermentation. Any of certain unicellular fungi, generally members of the class Ascomycetaceae, (although a few are members of the class Basidiomycetaceae). Many types of yeast are capable of producing ethanol and carbon dioxide by the anaerobic fermentation of sugars. Yeasts are composed of approximately 50 per cent protein and are a rich nutritional source of B vitamins


definitions, Distilling terms, home-distilling, jargon, moonshine basics, Moonshine for beginners

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