How People Use Activated Carbon to Make Moonshine

Vodka bottle and two glasses of vodka with ice on a wooden table.

Moonshine, a term often associated with illicit homemade spirits, has a storied history that dates back to Prohibition-era America. Despite its rebellious past, moonshine production has evolved, especially with advancements in purification techniques. One such critical component in modern moonshine craftsmanship is activated carbon. Known for its effective filtration properties, activated carbon has become an invaluable asset for distillers seeking to produce high-quality, clean-tasting spirits. In this article, we delve into how people use activated carbon to make moonshine and why it has become a staple in the distillation process.

The Role of Activated Carbon in Purification

Before diving into the specifics, it is essential to understand what activated carbon is and why it is so effective. Activated carbon is a form of carbon processed to have small, low-volume pores that increase the surface area available for adsorption or chemical reactions. This property makes it exceptionally efficient at capturing and holding impurities, odors, and unwanted chemical compounds.

When producing moonshine, there are numerous potential contaminants, ranging from fusel oils to unwanted esters, that can affect the flavor and safety of the final product. Activated carbon serves as a robust filtration medium to remove these impurities, lending to purer and smoother moonshine.

The Filtration Process

The typical home distiller can incorporate activated carbon filtration in several stages of the moonshine-making process. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how activated carbon is used:

  1. Initial Distillation: The initial distillation helps to separate the alcohol from the mash. This step may already reduce some impurities, but it is not sufficient to produce high-quality moonshine.
  2. Dilution: After the initial distillation, the distilled alcohol is diluted with distilled water to bring down the high alcohol concentration. This dilution is crucial before the filtration process as it improves the effectiveness of activated carbon.
  3. Filtration Setup: The diluted spirit is then passed through a filtration setup containing activated carbon. This can be a simple DIY setup involving a column packed with activated carbon or commercial filtration systems designed for home distilling. The alcohol moves slowly through the carbon, allowing maximum contact and absorption of impurities.
  4. Secondary Distillation (if needed): In some cases, distillers might choose to perform a secondary distillation after filtration to further refine the spirit.
  5. Final Adjustments: Following filtration and any additional distillation, the moonshine is often adjusted for final flavor profiles, which may include aging or adding flavors.

Benefits of Using Activated Carbon

Using activated carbon in moonshine production offers several advantages:

  • Improved Quality: By effectively removing impurities and off-flavours, activated carbon results in a cleaner, smoother moonshine.
  • Safety: Filtration helps in eliminating toxic compounds that might be present in the distillate, making the spirit safer to consume.
  • Customizability: Activated carbon allows for fine-tuning the flavour and purity of the moonshine according to the distiller’s preference.

Choosing the Right Activated Carbon

Not all activated carbons are created equal. It is crucial to use food grade activated carbon to ensure it is safe for use in consumable products. Activated carbon designed for other applications might contain additives or impurities not suitable for food and beverage use. Distillers can source activated carbon from specialty suppliers that cater specifically to the food and beverage industry.

For those interested in sourcing high-quality activated carbon, Puragen offers a range of options tailored for use in the food and beverage markets. Their products help ensure the highest standards of purity and safety for moonshine production.


The use of activated carbon in moonshine production underscores a commitment to quality and safety that modern-day distillers uphold. This seemingly simple addition to the distillation process can dramatically improve the final product, turning a rudimentary homemade spirit into a smooth and enjoyable drink. Whether you are a seasoned moonshiner or a novice, incorporating activated carbon into your distillation routine can take your craft to the next level.

Back To Top