of alcohol is a subject that is considered illegal in many parts of the world. Australia
and New Zealand
being the notable exceptions. It can be very dangerous if done incorrectly. The stories you've heard of going blind
are 100% true. Done correctly the end result is very cheap, drinkable distilled alcohol
There are three steps to the whole process.
This is the easiest step and very hard to get wrong. It is exactly the same procedure as beer
. Basically you add yeast
and maybe some yeast nutrients
in the correct quantities, let them sit for a while, and siphon off the top liquids, leaving the yeast
which has settled at the bottom.
What you have now is basically a drinkable beverage
with the alcohol content of beer
. Depending on your ingredients this may be your desired end result. However we can take it to the next level by concentrating the alcohol
produced in a step that is called:
This is the only potentially illegal part. Since the government in the good ole USA
where I live cares about our safety, and wants our tax revenue
, they have outlawed the act of distilling alcohol
. Being that this could potentially be harmful, as well as rob them blind
(pun intended) of tax revenue
, it is illegal
to produce or sell distilled spirits
without the appropriate licenses. You also neet to pay the tax on the product. I do believe that the tax on distilled spirits
is paid at time of manufacture as opposed to the time of sale
The fun part :)
techniques say that the whole idea is to:
1. Heat a liquid to the appropriate temperature.
2. Collect its gasses
3. Run said gasses through a coil which is cooler than the heat source (thus condensing
the vapor) and collecting the distillate
Produced as a result of fermentation
are not only (hopefully) large amounts of ethanol
, but many other products as well. Here are the most important byproducts and their boiling points:
ethyl alcohol 78.5C
methyl alcohol 64.65C
ethyl acetate 77.11C
amyl acetate 149C
amylic alcohol 117.5C
butyl alcohol 132C
The entire point of distillation
is to reduce the byproducts and end up with mostly ethanol
.< br />
Some of the above listed byproducts
have a boiling temperature above and below the critical 78C point.
If we were to heat the product of fermentation
to ~65C and collect and condense its vapor, we would have nothing but pure methanol
. That would be very bad indeed. Increase the heat to the boiling point of ethanol
, and we output nearly pure ethanol
. However since this is above the boiling point of methanol
we produce that as well. However since heating usually occurs linearly
(gradually gets hotter) all the methanol
in the mix is expelled first, before the ethanol
Mix 1.25 lbs of Corn Meal
with 5 gallons of water. Boil this mixture for quite some time (this process converts the starch in the Corn Meal
.) Add 5 lbs of sugar
and mix very well. Allow to cool until the mixture is around 25-30C. Too hot will kill the yeast
. Add 2-4oz or so of yeast
. (this depends on the quality of the yeast which is used.)
Leave the mixture to ferment
for at least a week stirring (or shaking) daily, leaving it alone for the last few days. Ideally you want an airtight container to ferment the mixture, however since large amounts of C02
are produced you need to vent this without introducing outside (possibly contaminated) air. Use an airlock
. You can construct one by fitting some type of tube to the top of your fermenting vessel
, and dipping the free end into water. You can also measure fermentation
in this fashion by watching the amount of bubbles produced. When the fermentation
has trailed off you are ready to go. I wouldn't recommend drinking this mixture, but it is entirely possible to do.
Now available for you people who are lazy, don't mind spending money, or just plain bad with your hands: The Kenmore Water Purifier available at Sears for $129.99! This item looks like a coffeepot, and claims to distill 4 gallons of water daily. This item is essentially the same as any still, but is sold to the consumer to clean up their drinking water. The chemistry is exactly the same, but I would imagine it works like a coffeepot and tries to keep the vapor temperature around 100C. Experiment at your own risk, as the higher temp will produce more hangover causing fusel oils in the final product.
Siphon the liquid part of the mixture into your still
. This will consist of another airtight pot (pressure cookers
work well) with a metal tube protruding from the top. This metal tube is often coiled with fans blowing across or water, or even ice. You'll also want to fit a thermometer
inline with the vapor flow
. It is important not to fill the distiller
beyond the point where the boiling liquid would shoot into the tube. You just want vapor. Not liquid.
Heat the mixture and eventually you end up with condensed liquid
dripping out of the other end. The first 50ml or so that come out you will immediately discard as it is likely laced with methanol
. Once your thermometer reads at least 78C you are in the clear as most methanol has been distilled
out and discarded.
Do not let the vapor temperature
get too high or you end up with lots of other byproducts in the mix. Try to regulate it at just over 78C. You are finished when the still stops outputting liquid, or the distillate
turns a bit cloudy.
Repeat this process with your collected alcohol to refine it yet again. It is possible to achieve ~95% pure alcohol
using this procedure.
Water the mixture down with 2 parts water to 1 alcohol
for a nice smooth 35% alcohol
. Some people then filter the alcohol
through activated charcoal
which is said to remove more byproducts
, and make the alcohol
much more palatable. Age as long as you wish, you can even get fancy by storing it in an oak barrel, or in a container with oak chips
. The length of time it spends in the barrel is directly proportional to the smoothness and quality of the resulting alcohol
. This is because any remaining impurities are typically reduced or breakdown the longer it is aged. This is why premium liquors
cost so much money. Johnnie Walker Gold Label
for example is aged for 18 years! That means the fifth that sells for $125 in your local liquor store was fermented
- If constructing your own still, copper is the best material for the pot and the condenser tube. Copper will not react with anything in the mix like steel or iron will.
- Failing that, a pot coated in teflon is a good second choice.
- Common sense should tell you that if you choose to solder and joints in the entire apparatus to use LEAD-FREE SOLDER!! Very important as ordinary solder is filled with lead which is a poison!
- When heating the pot during the distilling process do not just crank your heater up to high, or use a roaring open fire until you are certain your still does not leak, and the collecting vessel is far enough away so as not to be ignited! You are dealing with nearly pure alcohol which is VERY explosive! A tiny leak can turn into a several foot long flamethrower, or it could flashback and ignite the entire still!