After reading the melange of instructables on this website, there are many misconceptions about making moonshine and distillation etc
For this reason, i have decided to compile and publish the knowledge and data I have amassed.
This is going to be a long and detailed instructable that is a product of my many months of feverish research. This information was suppose to be the basis of my science fair project that never left the paper.
Remember, within the United States, it is ILLEGAL to distill any kind of alcohol without a license. Licenses to make alcohol for consumption are neigh to impossible to get. However, ones to distill fuel are more readily obtainable.
Additionally, the information on this Instructable is to be used as a GUIDE ONLY. Although it is long, it is not comprehensive and does not contain ALL the information you need. I have also never made a still for I never obtained a license to do so. However, the ones covered in this instructable will provide a basis for anyone to attempt to make one at their own risk.
I assume no responsibility for the use/misuse of the information presented in this instructable.
Please vote for this and the instructables to follow to be considered for the book contest.
Your favorable votes are much appreciated and the motivation to devote hours to typing this information.
P.S. If you want to me add something that should be here tell me and if I agree I will add it. Spelling mistakes and other stuff like that too will be appreciated.
Step 1: Fermentation
Anyway, lets start with the basics, Fermentation
Fermentation as known in biology, is a method used by organisms to break down glucose.
There are two kinds:
and Lactic Acid
For our endeavors, our only concern is the alcoholic fermentation.
The alcoholic fermentation process can be described as such.
In a Anaerobic (no oxygen) environment
Glucose(C6H12O6) + yeast = Carbon Dioxide (CO2) + Ethanol (C2H5OH)
In alcoholic fermentation, the yeast require an environment that lacks oxygen. That may sound difficult but there is a catch to this, yeast initial need oxygen to bud (reproduce) in large amounts. To start a successful alcoholic fermentation, it is very important that there is dissolved oxygen in the mash(substance that will be fermented).
So, to get a mass started you will need:
Base that will be fermented (Table sugar is fine if making vodka or other flavorless alcohols)
Yeast ( I recommend that you use brewers yeast as it is capable of producing more % alcohol)
Water ( spring water or any kind of water you would drink is suitable, hard water is not really a good choice)
Carboy ( a large glass container that looks like those jugs that hold water for those water dispensers, a carbon however has an angled top unlike the water jug that has a flat top.)
Air lock ( usually inserted into a cork which has a hole for it, its allows CO2 generated from the fermentation to escape by bubbling through water but does not allow atmospheric air to enter the vessel for the water is blocking it.
Hydrometer (This a floating device that will tell you the density of the mash, it will allow you to mix the appropriate amount of sugar, tell you when the fermentation is done/dry and the percent alcohol of the substance, a MUST have)
" sanitizer" (To have a successful fermentation, it is imperative that you have clean and sterile area for the yeast to bud. The reason behind this is, in the early stages of Fermentation, yeast buds much slower then bacteria. If bacteria is present, it is possible that the bacteria will overtake the fermentation and it will be ruined. For this reason, I used one step sanitizer that is non-toxic and does its job very well.)
Tactin acid ( its for wine, some recipes require it.)
'Pectic 'Enzyme( for wine, if your doing a fruit wine)
Yeast nutrient (While grapes provide a complete balance of nutrients for yeast, if using table sugar, there is little usable nutrients for the yeast to bud healthy. For this reason, yeast nutrient is added before to help augment the environment and providing the required nutrients.
Yeast Energizer (This is added to the fermentation if it seems unusually slow or stuck, more on this later)
Clearing Agent ( This will get your mass Really clear.)
Oak Cubes( This can be added if your making wine for flavor, the right amount depends on the volume you are making and the package/ store will tell you how much you need.)
Now, where to get these supplies?
1. The easiest way, is to go online and search for brew stores. They will sell everything you are looking for, atleast the list above anyway.
2. If you know of a brew store near you, that is not a bad place to look. Sometimes they may be more expensive then the online stores, but the plus is you don't have to pay for shipping. Also the staff (atleast at the one near me) , was very knowledgeable and friendly.
Now, as you were buying the items, you may have hit the problem of selecting the right strain.
There are many types of yeast available, some are better choices than others. Some are to be used for red wines, white wines, full body, half body, and all produce their own unique taste. I would not be able to advise you on what to select for I have only ever used Champagne yeast for its high yield of 18%
After you have all the ingredients, here is how to put it all together
1. Sanitize EVERYTHING!!! bacterial infection is no fun.
2. Rehydrate your yeast according to the package.
3. Dissolve sugar into the hot/warm water, the amount of sugar you put into the water is determined by what kind of yeast your using. The package should tell you the amount of alcohol the yeast is capable of producing. if it is 15%, you want to float your hydrometer until you have about 14% potential alcohol. If your hydrometer does not have the potential alcohol meter with it, the raw SG or specific gravity will have to be converted. Conversion tables are online. One quick note, for the amount of water, you want to make sure that you have in the end less base volume then the container size. The reason for this is that the fermentation can sometime bubble and overflow if it is filled to the brim. So to properly make sure you have the right amount of base, if making a sugar mass, have about 1/4 total volume hot water and then add all the sugar you need, you can use a hydrometer or go online and there is a way to figure out exactly how much you need. After you add the sugar, add cold water to achieve the right temperature and volume. If making a wine, follow the instructions if you bought a kit. If your making it from fresh fruit, look for recipes, there are numerous available.
4. if you have it, stir in the yeast nutrient into the mash. The package should have how much is recommended you put in by volume.
5. Stir the base vigorously, to dissolve oxygen its is important and there is no such thing as too much stirring.
6. Put the yeast solution into the base and stir gently for even distribution.
7. Add the oak cubes, tactin acid and pectine enzyme if you are making wine and the recipe requires them.
8. Put cork in with airlock.
9. Keep the carboy in a warm location, depending on the yeast, but usually 75-85 degrees for quick fermentation, colder temps will slow it down and higher ones can kill the yeast. Also keep the carboy out of direct sunlight.
The fermentation will take a few day if its a sugar mash and if the conditions are ideal. If not, it will take longer.
if successful, you should see little bubbles of CO2 going up.
1. The fermentation is not going.
There can be numerous factors for this.
A. You killed the yeast when hydrating them too hot.
Try adding more yeast
B. There was too much sugar in the mash and the yeast are unable to reproduce.
Try diluting the sugar concentration by adding more water.
C. You didn't sanitize the equipment well enough
You will prob have to start over
2. Slow fermentation
A. Too much sugar.
Try diluting the sugar concentration by adding more water.
B. Not enough Oxygen was dissolved into it.
Stir the solution
Or you can try adding the yeast energizer if you have it.
Step 2: Primary to Secondary
After the fermentation is done, you want to pour the liquid part into another container. Leave the settled stuff behind. This is called Racking.
You can do this 3 different ways.
You can pour it in (not recommended)
Use a manual siphon (not recommended)
Use a Auto siphon (recommended)
After it is in the secondary let it settle. If there is more stuff on the bottom rack it again. Finally, after it looks relatively clear, use the clearing agent to get it really clear.
If you are making wine, that is it. Your done. Just let it age, usually 6 months is the recommended. You could always drink it after it is done, but i hear its not that good.
For E85 and hard stuff, you need to do something called Distillation
Which means, we go to the next step!
Step 3: Distillation
What is Distillation?
Distillation in science describes a process in which the boiling points of substances in a solution are utilized to separate the compounds.
How does this apply to our mash?
Well, to make it a higher percent alcohol, you need to separate it from the water and other by products of fermentation.
How do you do that?
Well, you need a distillation apparatus of course.
How do I make one?
Depends what type do you want to make?
What types are there?
Well, there are three types
With that in mind, you may ask "which is the easiest to make" and the answer would be the pot still. However, the pot still is not very efficient and you would have to distill over and over again to reach a purity of 90%. On the other hand, if you were to use a fractionating still, you would have to only distill 2 or 3 times to reach such a purity. Finally, if you were to use a compound still, you would only have to distill once to obtain the same purity,
I will not really go over how to make any of these stills step by step but by explaining the process, you should be able to make your own.
A pot still is a vessel that holds the mash and once it boils, collects the vapor and re-condenses it to a liquid form.
This still is much like a pot still; however, this still has material on the top that makes the vapor condense and fall back into the pot. Some of it however collects on the condensers and eventually will be able to reach the top of the column and be collected as it hits a condenser.
Much like a fractionating still but runs the vapor in a closed loop. After an equilibrium is achieved, you can slowly extract the alcohol that has reached the top.
if you are making a condenser, use copper it has very little heat resistance.
Also, use copper for apparently it makes it taste better.
For fractionating and compound stills, more surface area the better. Pot scrubbers are commonly used.
Never use an open flame, for alcohol vapors are explosive.
There is alot of math involved in creating the right size etc. with the fractionating and compound still.
To reduce the amount you need to distill as well as to increase the amount of alcohol present, use a pot still to do a strip run. A strip run is when you use a pot still to reduce the amount of water by collecting 100% of the vapors until 100 degrees C.
Patience is the key, and greed will get you an inferior product.
At 1 ATM or 760 mmHg, the max percent obtainable from distillation is 96% without a chemical to break the attraction between water and alcohol. Most chemicals that do that, are poisonous such as benzene .
Step 4: Still Operation
After you have a still, operation depends on what type of still are using.
For all stills, basic operation is to:
1. Heat the substance so that the substance produces vapor.
2. The initial vapor that comes out (Foreshots) at 64.7 °C or around there will be Methanol. Although an alcohol, in large amounts it is poisonous and can cause blindness. You should discard the appropriate amount which can be found on the internet. If you are running a pot still, you will throw out alot more than a fractionating still or compound still.
3. The next vapor that comes out when the temperature is or near 78.4 °C will be the Ethanol. However, the ethanol can be separated into 3 stages.
All contain ethanol but the heads and tails are contaminated with other substances while the heart will be nearly pure ethanol.
You can choose to have the heads and tail in your drink but will taste bad. Save them and distill it again.
If you are making biofuel, just save it all. It can be used.
When the temperature nears 100, you should stop for all you will get at that point is water.
Step 5: Voila! Your Done!
After the final product is extracted, the proof (especially on a compound still) will be atleast 90%. Less on a compound and even less on a pot still with one distillation. Now, if you are using the finished product to drink, you want to dilute it to 40% alcohol. This will give you "vodka". You can then add flavor extracts to turn that vodka into other liquors. Commercial Liquors are difficult to make and require years.
If you want to make e85 however, you need to do a few more things.
1. You need to make sure, that the proof is around 190.
2. You need to dry the alcohol and remove water by running it through Zeolite or a similar product.
3. You mix 15% gas with 85% ethanol. This is E85 and can run in most cars made after 2000?(somewhere near there)
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