In the heart lands of Nebraska
Yesterday I had a chance to confirm that distilling alcohol with baking soda significantly removes undesirable off-flavors. I made a sugar wash consisting of two 20 liter containers with 5.5 kilo sugar and one packet of yeast in each of them. There were no additional ingredients added except a regular cold tap water.
After fermenting and some settlement time for a total of six days I racked each of water bottle (where mash fermented � thank you Poland Spring Co.) and quickly distilled it without worrying about refluxing or head-tail problem. Out of 40 liters of crude beer I had 5 liters of clear strong vodka with a distinct flower smell and bad taste. I measured its strength at about 55-60%
Second distillation was a little different. After I emptied stainless steel pot, cleaned it and rinsed all other parts I poured 5 liters of this first distillate in the pot and added another 10 liters of water. While the open pot was heating on the stove without any column assembly (this particular design is possible to disassemble and to attach the column later � look here if you want http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Distillers/files/OFTS/SR/SR2A.JPG ) I estimated the total amount of pure alcohol in the mix. It should have been at around 2.5 � 3 liters.
Experimenting with the quantity, I added a regular baking soda in proportion of full heaped table spoon of powder per liter of pure alcohol. Just around of three was enough. The mix turned milky and smelled clearly like baking soda. It happened at about half time through heating the second distillation of diluted product. On top of the pot went the bowl and the column assembly.
In about an hour of heating the temperature at the top surged up to 90 degrees centigrade and then settled at 77.8 after I reduced the heat. The mix stood at this temperature most of the run. I estimated that the main collection run should start after the first 75 - 100 mL goes to drain, then the next 350 � 400 mL are collected to be re-distilled. The first part is thrown away not because it is poisonous but because it contains too much of esters and I don�t want to deal with it.
The main run was steady and predictable. While doing it I converted movie �Sorority Boys� to fit on two CD-R (so called VCD or SVCD). I also read a little, watched TV, made and ate vegetable salad and had a very tasty cherry liquor made out of alcohol, cherry sugar syrup and pure water (1:1�:1). In all � the time whisked by in orderly manner.
I did not forget to taste the distillate and change collection bottles quite often because I was afraid that this �baking soda business� would not go right. A while ago this forum had an outcry that it is �risky� and �would corrode my copper still.� Some people did complain about blue distillate. Then it was said that distilling with baking soda second time is OK. Whatever� I kept doing it.
During a little more than three hours I collected about 500 mL of foul stuff, 2� liters of most pure alcohol and about 600 mL of such bad product at the end called �tails� that I can not describe it. What surprised me that there was no odor to it. There was none at all or very ever faint reminder of some sort of off flavor. But when I tasted the tails the sensation was horrible!
Most interesting observation is that adding baking soda delineates the border between the good and the bad stuff very sharply. In regular distillation tails presence increases gradually and it is very difficult to decide when to start separating it from the good collection. In presence of baking soda this division is much more defined. I determine it by half to three-quarter degree temperature rise. This is the time to taste very often. All of this meant for me frequent trips from computer table to the kitchen and back. But at the end it was well worth it.
Those who make pure alcohol and then discuss how it smells or even worse -- how it tastes are far, very far from truth. Pure alcohol does not taste and it does not smell. You could be dipping your nose in it and not to smell anything. If you open a hermetically sealed bottle and smell even ever slightly something in it, is not pure alcohol. When you take less than a tea spoon full of clean alcohol on your tongue you have a sensation of something, wet liquid and then it starts mildly burning. It subsides quickly and only the sensation of numbness is left. If anyone says �it taste like something� or �it smells like something� believe me those people didn�t feel pure alcohol.
This concludes my brief excursion in the literary fields of heart lands Nebraska .
I can be wrong I must say.
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