Basic Sugar Wash Recipe

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Yes, I know that all fermentations use sugar. After all, that is what fermentation is. When I say “sugar fermentation,” I am actually referring to the simplest of all washes, which is usually referred to as a sugar wash. As its name implies, the sugar wash is simply a combination of sugar and water. Because a simple sugar wash provides no nutrition for the yeast, you must either add a complete nutrient complex or use turbo yeast. I highly suggest a simple sugar wash as your first strides into fermentation, due to its ease and relatively low risk of mistakes. Because distillation is a two-step process—fermentation followed by distillation—this can help troubleshoot the process if your final product is not what you expected on your inaugural run.


  • 14 pounds granulated white sugar
  • 6 gallons of fresh, filtered, and dechlorinated water
  • 1 package of turbo yeast, sufficient for 6.6 US gallons (25L)
  • Clearing agent


  • 8-gallon or larger primary fermenter with tight-fitting lid
  • Airlock
  • Long-handled plastic spoon
  • Thermometer
  • Hydrometer
  • Test cylinder (optional)


1.) Clean and sanitize all the equipment using equipment cleaner according to package directions.

2.) Bring two gallons of water to a boil and add to fermenter. Dissolve sugar, adding more hot water if required. Top up fermenter with a combination of ice, cold water, or warm water to obtain a total volume of 6.6 US gallons (25L) at a starting temperature of 100° F (38° C) or other temperature as noted on turbo yeast package.

3.) Float your hydrometer in the wash, or add sample to test cylinder (the advantage to moving a sample to the test cylinder is that you are able to wait until the temperature is nearer the calibrated temperature of the hydrometer before taking your reading. Record temperature and hydrometer reading.

4.) Add turbo yeast and stir vigorously until all nutrients are dissolved and no clumps of yeast remain. Place lid on fermenter, fill airlock halfway with water, and place into lid.

5.) Aside from the numerous variables, such as the starting temperature and the specific turbo yeast that you have selected, you can usually expect to see some activity within 2 to 4 hours. That’s it. That is about all there is to it until fermentation has completed. Once fermentation has completed, you can add your clearing agent, and once the wash has cleared you can proceed with distillation.

6.) At this point, you can also add flavoring to the cleared wash without distilling. Adding a flavoring such as a specialty liqueur essence allows you to make many of your favorite styles of liqueur, from Amaretto to Irish cream to fruit schnapps. Of course, this will not offer the clean base character or high proof resulting from distillation, but is a completely acceptable option to some. 

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Excerpted with permission from The Joy of Home Distilling: The Ultimate Guide to Making Your Own Vodka, Whiskey, Rum, Brandy, Moonshine, and More by Rick Morris. Copyright 2014 by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.

Inspiration for edible alchemy.