- Just as an introductory message the process of creating spirits at home
involves the following steps.
1. The Wash: A quantity of sugar, or dextrose, is dissolved in water and
yeast\nutrient is added. Over the period of a week or so this produces a
mixture of alcohol, water and other by-products. This is caslled 'The Wash'.
2. Distillation: The Wash is put in a still and boiled to extract the
alcohol. The process is temperature sensitive which is controlled by water
flow through the condenser. This usually takes about 4.5 hours.
3. Treatment: Activated carbon is used in a filter type system to extract
any unwanted components in the distilled alcohol. There is a noticeable
change in the taste and smell of the alcohol after the treatment process.
At this time it is similar to vodka.
4. Flavouring: The alcohol can now be flavoured with spirit or liqueur
flavours to give Whisky, Brandy, Bourbon, Gin etc. Liqueurs like Sambuca,
Triple Sec, Irish Cream etc can also be made by the same process.
This is just a basis run down of a relitively simple process which will take
about 2 weeks to complete.
This is my second message I'm posting because the reply from the
first one was a GREAT help! Thanks people!
I was just wondering, with the distillation process, what else apart
from pure ethanol is released? do you get methanol and other
hazardouse alcohols given off? I have heard a rumour that poisons are
released at the same time, is this true? If so, is there a way of
minimalising the amount you get, by fractional distilation or other
Any help would be great,
Most of your questions are answered at http://homedistiller.org/methanol.htm and http://homedistiller.org/dtw.htm
Yes, along with ethanol (good), the yeast can make small amounts of other organic compounds, such as methanol, propanol, butanol, acetone, ethers .... etc. Literally thousands of them. Thankfully, most are in the smallest proportions, only detectable with advanced testing techniques.
So all these are already present in your beer, wine etc.
The trick to make less of them is to keep your yeast happy while its fermenting - eg keep the temperatures in the right range (below 25C), not too high in sugar or alcohol concentration, right nutrient levels etc.
Distilling gives you the opportunity to separate them out, so that you can get clean ethanol, away from the acetone, methanol etc. That is if you're after a clean vodka. Its these same compounds that contribute to the "Taste" that we call rum, bourbon, whisky etc, if present in the right proportions.
As you begin distilling, the temperature in the boiler and column will increase as you add more heat. You will find that the various compounds tend to come off in the greatest proportions around their boiling point. So as the pot gets into the high 60's degrees C, you'll find the "foreshots" to contain most of the methanol and acetone, and hence can easily be separated and thrown away (as a rule of thumb, toss the first 100 mL you collect per 25L of wash boiling). The clean ethanol tends to follow, around 78C. After a while, as the amount of ethanol present decreases, the temperature will rise more, into the 80-90, and you're into the flavoursome "tails". At this point you stop distilling when you find the flavour is too much for what you want.
The real risk of poisoning comes from your good ethanol - simply having too much too fast - stock standard piss-as-a-newt alcohol poisoning as experienced by most high school students.
The risk from the methanol etc is highly over-rated. First, to consume it, means that you haven't followed about the only rule written in stone for this hobby - throw away that first portion you collect. To drink it would be bad enough, as it really stinks - you know its wrong. For the trace amounts that reside in the final alcohol, the proportions are far far too low to worry about.
Likewise the tails. These mostly taste bad, rather than be poisonous. For the levels present, you cant poison yourself. The link (above) goes through the numbers on this, if you want to get into the facts in a bit more detail.