How To Make A Charcoal Filter For Moonshine

We’re going to go out on a limb and make the bold assumption that you enjoy your own homebrew occasionally. Now suppose you have finished the distillation process, and your moonshine has a harsh taste and smell. 

You are probably feeling a bit defeated, seeing as you will have to water down your product to redistill it. Fortunately, you have the cheap option of charcoal filtering that will give you good moonshine without stripping it of its flavor. 

Would it come as a surprise if we pointed out that top distillers, including Jack Daniels, employ charcoal filtering to make their liquor finer? These distillers use a recirculating system that removes impurities while leaving the alcohol content intact.

If you are keen on creating a DIY charcoal filter for your moonshine, we have provided you with a simple-to-follow guide that should leave your moonshine tastier. 

Here’s What You’ll Need 

  • Activated charcoal 
  • Coffee filter paper
  • Finishing carbon
  • Polycarbonate tubing 
  • 5-liter plastic water container with a tap 
  • Glass container or a simple flagon bottle used for fortified wines 
  • Plastic six-inch-long cylindrical irrigation filter with a half-inch tube on each end 

Step 1: Assemble the Polycarbonate Tubing 

The first step in making your DIY charcoal filter is assembling the individual pieces of your system. 

First, attach one end of the six-inch length of polycarbonate tubing to the five-liter plastic water container tap. The other end of the tubing goes into the filter input. 

You should then attach the other length of polycarbonate tubing to the outer side of the cylindrical irrigation filter. The other end should then be attached to the other end of the glass container to capture the filtered alcohol. 

When purchasing these polycarbonate tubes, you want to be exact with the measurements of the tubing. 

Specifically, you want to go for a minimum of 61cm in length and 38mm in diameter for the second piece of polycarbonate tubing. You can still choose to go for a larger diameter, which will require that you pay a little more, but the tradeoff will be that you can filter a bit more moonshine at once. 

Note that when you go for a smaller diameter and a shorter tube, you will likely experience a walling effect. That’s when your ethanol and water go towards the wall and through the pipe without passing through the charcoal. As such, we advocate that you go for a larger tube even when it will cost more. 

Step 2: Create the Filter 

After that, you want to unscrew the bottom cap of the cylinder. On this end, place at least two sufficiently large coffee filter papers. These will act like carbon filters, ensuring that your moonshine does not look cloudy because some carbon got away. 

Once these coffee filters are in place, you should screw the bottom cap back on, ensuring that everything is tight. Trust us. It would be best not to go through the hassle of redistilling your brew because some of the carbon leaked through. 

You want to be careful about what type of coffee filters you use. Dig a bit deeper into your pocket to purchase a brand of coffee filters made of relatively sturdy material. 

Step 3: Create a Carbon Base 

Make sure the carbon you purchased is saturated, has no air, and is as clean as possible.

If you are not sure about the purity of the carbon, you can place about a pound and a half in a container with a cup and a half of hot water. Stir it up a bit and use some of the coffee filters you bought to strain the carbon. 

We have found some homebrewers prefer an acid wash on the carbon. This process fails to purify the carbon entirely and is very expensive. As such, we recommend just using hot water, and your carbon will end up as saturated as you want it for this process. 

Remember the top cap that you left in place? This step requires that you unscrew it and fill the cylinder halfway up with the carbon. 

After that, take one filter paper and place it inside the cylinder. Then, take the activated charcoal and fill up another eighth of the way to the top. Make sure the filter threads are clean before replacing the screw top. 

Check the glass container you will be using to capture the filtered moonshine. Sterilize the container by passing boiling water through it, as this ensures your final product will be as sterile as can be. 

Step 4: Pour Your Moonshine into the Charcoal Filter 

Once you have assembled the hardware and created the carbon base, you are now ready to pour in the moonshine. 

Set your rig upright and pour in the moonshine. After pouring, all you have to do is pay attention to your setup. Your filtered moonshine will collect in the glass container at the bottom of the structure.  

Frequently Asked Questions 

Can you make charcoal filters with sugar maple?

If you want your moonshine to have a unique taste, you can create the carbon base using chunks of charcoal derived from burnt sugar maple. 

The minuscule cracks within the charcoal do the same job that the carbon does, effectively purifying your moonshine while still leaving it with a lovely smell and flavor. 

What kind of charcoal do you use for moonshine? 

If you are a barbecue enthusiast, you should have no trouble sourcing charcoal to use in the moonshine filter. As you buy the other supplies for the filtration system, you should also verify the type of charcoal the store stocks. 

Overall, there are five different types of charcoal. You can either go with lump charcoal made through carbonization or go for charcoal briquettes that you will need to crush. 

If you want your moonshine to have an earthy taste, we suggest that you buy hardwood briquettes. Hardwood is best if you want your moonshine filtered to the highest possible purity levels because they are so dense, and as such, the filter will trap all the impurities. 

Suppose you want a product that will last you a couple of rounds of moonlight filtering. Consider getting coconut shell charcoal. Coconut charcoal lasts longer because it’s made through distillation. As such, it will not crumble and jeopardize the quality of your moonshine. 

If you want to impress your buddies with your superior setup, consider going with the Binchotan charcoal. This product might be hard to find at your local convenience store, but you can order it online. The charcoal is made of Japanese oak trees and is so pure that there is essentially no chance of compromising the quality of the moonshine.

We have found that most avid homebrewers have specific tastes and preferences when it comes to their moonshine. As such, most of these brewers will choose the charcoal for their homemade charcoal filters based on the flavor they want their moonshine to have. 

How can you check for the purity of your moonshine?

If you have yet to master the art of purifying your moonshine, you might be wondering if the product you collect from your setup will be pure enough and safe to drink. 

The best way to ensure that the final product is as pure as possible would be to double filter the moonshine. Use good quality yeast and sugars when you initially brew the moonshine to ensure the highest grade moonshine possible. 

How many times can you reuse the charcoal?

You can recycle your activated charcoal two or three times. However, before reusing it, you want to clean the pores to avoid contaminating the moonshine. 

To clean it, you could do a simple acid wash, but chances are you might not get rid of all the impurities. Instead, stir the used charcoal in some hot water, then rinse it out, and it will be ready for use.