Understanding: Drinking Alcohol




In this Instructable I will be teaching you the different processes, and methods that are used to create different types of drinking alcohol (Beers, Hard Liquors, and Wines).

And now of course comes the boring part the...

DISCLAIMER: The information provided in this Instructable is of intellectual value and if you choose to use this information and are some how:
A. Caught on fire.
B. Arrested.
C. Blinded.
D.Eaten by Rabid dogs.


In some other way harmed by the use of the information provided by this Instructable.

I am not responsible.

I am also not responsible for you waking up next to an ugly chick/dude.


Final note: I may make changes to this depending on the comments .etc

*EDIT* Celsius degrees have been added to the following sections: "Beer: The so called Blue Collar Beverage", and "Yeast: Our friend."

Step 1: Yeast: Our Friend.

Before, we get to the different drinks created from yeast, lets get to know it a little bit.

Yeast is a fungus and belongs to the Fungi Family. It is used in a few things some being: baking, and making liquors.

In baking yeast is prized for its ability to eat sugar and create Co2 thus rising the bread and making it lighter and softer. Without yeast most breads would be about the size of a 10 yo's fore-arm and either as hard as a rock or really really tough.

In liquors yeast is prized in both its ability to make alcohol, and in some cases such as beer and wine Co2 as well. Without yeast beers, wines, and harder liquors would be flat, and taste like rotten fruit or malt.

Now that we know somethings that yeast is used for, lets learn some fun facts about it.

Yeast can be quite delicate, too much heat and it dies, too little heat, and it goes dormant. Most yeasts prefer temperatures between 100-120 'F (37-48 'C)

Yeast has different strands that have different effects on the finished product such as, higher alcohol content or, different tastes.

If exposed to its own byproduct, alcohol, in quantities greater than 13%-15% (varies on yeast strand) it dies which is why beers and wines don't get much higher than 30 proof.

Let's move on now to Wine.

Step 2: Wine: the So Called "White Collar" Beverage.

Ahhh wine, practically the only thing that you can spend $300 bucks on and drink it within a week.

Well, wine is the counter part of beer believe it or not, despite its high price it is surprisingly easy to make. Heck, lets just put it this way, its one of the easiest alcoholic beverages to make. There wasn't even any specific science to make it back in the old days, just gather up the town, step on a bunch of ripe fruit, put the juice in a container and let it sit. Ok, maybe there were a few more steps that I left out, but you get the picture.

Wine, is a product created by using yeast to ferment the natural sugars in fruits. The most popular fruit is the grape, but virtually ANY fruit can be used to make wine.

Fun Facts*

There are 2 types of wine Red, and White. While some may argue that White wine is made from White grapes, that isn't necessarily true, while most White wines *are* made from White grapes, white wine can also be made from dark grapes. White wine is actually made from the inside of the grape without the skin, while red wine is made from grapes with the skin.

While, in the old days people didn't get the chance to use special brands of yeast, they still had it. The grapes that they stomped had wild yeast on their skins, so all they had to do was stomp the grapes and set up the grapes to ferment. Now with this bit of information you can really see how easy it is to make a wine. Heck, the wine practically makes itself.

Finished wines are split into 2 categories Dry, and Sweet. Dry wine is a wine in which all the sugar has been metabolized (eaten) by the yeast, and a sweet wine is a wine where some sugars are still left.

White wines benefit from aging for five years, after which they will tend to begin to taste worse. Red wines, however, can keep improving for 30 - 40 years.

Making Wine*

The first thing that happens when making wine the grapes are rinsed with hot water to remove wild yeasts (if this is desired). Then the grapes are first separated from their stem and then crushed in order to release the juice. The combination of the skin, juice and seeds is called the must. Grapes may be crushed in a few ways, from stomping on them with bare feet, to using large electric presses.

After this the seeds, and skins are kept in the must for a red wine, or are taken out for a white wine.

Once the juice is in the fermentation tank, the yeast is added, but isn't needed if the brewer choose not to sterilize the grapes of wild yeast. Sulfur dioxide is normally introduced into the juice at this time to kill bacterial growth that might spoil the taste of the final product, but this step can be skipped. Fermentation is allowed to continue for about eight to ten days, when the skin is removed from the wine if it is still present.

After the initial fermentation, the liquid is allowed to ferment for another 20 days to about a month. During this second fermentation, the dead yeast cells as well as other particulate matter settle to the bottom. When this process is complete, the wine is separated from the sediment and transferred to an aging tank. As the aging process continues, more sedimentation occurs, and the wine is often transferred across a series of tanks during aging. This process is known as racking. If the final tank is a wooden cask, this also adds another uncontrolled quantity into the final product. Because wooden cask cannot be cleaned, they provide a unique character to the wine some of which are said to make the wine "superior." However, when using stainless steel vats this uncertainty is removed.

The aging of wine is different . For white wines, 1 year - 18 months,however red wines can age for as long as 5 years. At different stages during the aging, the wine is sampled and judged by wine a master. What happens to the wine is dependent upon the decision of the wine master. The wine may be bottled after aging is complete or used as a blend to make an inferior wine. The bottled wine, again, based on the decision of the wine master, may be aged longer in the bottles or sold immediately after bottling. Once again, this is another variability of the finished wine product.

Step 3: Beer: the So Called "Blue Collar" Beverage

Beer, is practically the exact opposite of wine, it's cheap, and a little harder to make. Beer does need sugar but it gets it from a different source, that source being grains. Now you maybe thinking how does a grain have sugar. Well the answer is grain has starch which can be turned into sugar via certain enzymes which are released by boiling the grain.

Making Beer*
(This isn't going to be over elaborate just short and sweet. If you want a more in depth description Google beer making.)

<<<Sanitation is always important.>>>

The first step in creating beer is to crush the grain you are going to use. Then you boil this in water between 150-155 'F (65-68'c) this releases certain enzymes that metabolize the starch into sugar. When this is done you have your "wort" or non-fermented beer. From this point you need to cool the wort or you'll end up killing the yeast. Now place your cooled wort into a fermentation container with an air lock (You can drill a hole in the top of the fermentation container and place a piece of tubing into it leading to a cup of water just above the tubing.) and add your yeast. In about 7-10 days you'll have beer. Now if you used the airlock properly your drink should be carbonated if not then you'll have to do something called Priming the beer which you can learn here.

Step 4: Hard Liquors.

Hard Liquors are distilled versions of beers, and wine. This is done to give the final product a higher alcohol content. A distilled wine is called a brandy, and a distilled beer is a whiskey, bourbon, vodka.etc

*Making a Hard Liquor

To make a hard liquor you must first have a still. Which is illegal to own with out a permit (I think, I know it's illegal to distill). A still is the key to making a hard liquor because like previously discussed yeast will die in more than 15% alcohol making it nearly impossible to get a higher alcohol content. Stills function on a simple process of boiling alcohol into vapor and running that vapor through copper tubing which cool the vapor down which in turn condenses the alcohol back into a more pure liquid state. The result is a hard liquor.

Now some of the more key parts. I'm sure you thinking well how does it get the alcohol to boil off with out boiling the water off. Well, alcohol has a lower boiling temperature, which is around 72'C (173'F), enabling the alcohol to be boiled off leaving less pure and less alcoholic water (and what ever was in the water, yeast, fruit/grain .etc). You must be careful though too much heat and the water will boil also which makes it less alcoholic (It's practically impossible to make a pure alcohol with out extra chemicals because of the bond between the alcohol and water).

Lately, brewers have started a new method called freeze distillation which instead of boiling off the alcohol, you freeze the water leaving you with alcohol.

After distillation some hard liquors have sugars and flavoring added to them for taste purposes, others are diluted with water after a very through distillation (2 or more times) to lower the alcohol content, and also take away flavor for mixing drinks creating a neutral liquor such as vodka or gin.



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    20 Discussions


    5 years ago on Step 4

    the whole first paragraph is off, and so is the picture, the picture two of the drinks i can id are liquers which involve getting spirits or hard liquors and mixing them with something else to create a flavour, malibu is white rum and coconut, Frangelico uses a spirit that i am unsure what and hazelnut. tellamore dew is an irish whiskey which is a spirit, it gets its flavour by what it is made from, where and what it is stored in, whiskey has a few forms of what is used to make it, they are malt or grain, mix the two together and you get blended, bourbon is i think usually a grain whisky like jack daniels and malt whiskey is something like glenfiddich or jura, while something like johnnie walker is a blened whiskey that combines the two together, it gets its colour from what is stored in (usually wooden barrels). vodka is made from fermented potatoes simple, it doesn't get aged thats why it is clear. whisky that is straight from the still is a clear colour too. this is why whiskey and vodka generally have a harsher taste than liquers such as malibu or frangelico. none of these are are distilled versions of beer as beer is made from hops, yeast, and i think malt

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Step 4

    also last para graph is incorrect, as i said before vodka is potato based, gin is juniper berrys, it is what they are made from in the beginning, not added at the end


    5 years ago on Introduction

    You could never go blind by fermenting and distilling
    As you say in the disclaimer
    I understand that its a joke but lots of people really believe that one could be blinded by drinking "moonshine"
    The blinding stuff is methanol it is produced in small amounts in the fermenting processIt is also present in every storebought beer and wine in small amounts
    A friend found his mom and dad ice cold and dead in their bed when he was around 10
    They died of methanol "poisoning" they bought foul spirits from someone
    (who should be prosecuted or rather executed)
    I just want to Point out that you could never be blinded by your own homemade stuff
    Sorry for my spelling and lack of punctuations and such im Swedish ;-)


    Great ible, especially love the fact that youv'e included SI ( Standard International ) units ( ie degrees Celsius ). As far as I can remember yours is the first I have come across. It still puzzles me as to why a country which portrays itself as a modern, forward looking progressive culture like the US does, insists on sticking to an outdated measurement system. This is despite the vast majority of the international ( scientific and non scientific ) communties around the world adopting a universal standard.

    Great info though and really ( really, really, really ) loved the fact that I don't have to go through another ible converting every single measurement !!!


    Actually it isn't illegal to distill alcohol in Australia without a licence for non commercial purposes.

    For bio-fuel usage you are virtually unrestrained as long as you do not produce it for commercial purposes. Or create a hazard by producing so much that create a potentially explosive hazard, It is for this reason that large alcohol stills ( ie commercial sized ) must be licensed ( not non commercial products ). Obviously for 2 reasons firstly public safety and second large distilling companies loathe competition from anyone whatsoever.

    The same applies for distilling alcohol for human consumption, only with the emphasis ( politically correct one that is ) being placed on public health and safety. In this case the law stipulates that as long as it is not for commercial use and the still cannot produce commercial quantities no license is required.

    That is why there is a limit on the capacity of the home distilling kits sold here in Australia through home brew shops. There are quite a few of these home brew shops (online and off) here in Australia. Ozbrew.com is the first one that comes to mind.

    PS I live in Darwin Australia home of the worlds largest commercially produced stubbie ( Beer bottle) @ 2.25 litres . Darwin is also known for consuming more alcohol per capita than any other city in the world so they take their drinking seriously here.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    'Nuther little shortcut from my youth. We used to put quart bottles of beer in the freezer, then take it out when ice crystals formed, poured it thru a strainer, taking out a lot of the water, and giving us stronger beer. Today you can buy 10-12% beer so messing with the freezer is unnecessary.


    8 years ago on Step 4

    bobbydog71 is right in saying the ethanol vapors off first then heats up to boiling point of water there is alot stages the heating mash goes through till it gets to 100c vaporizing off different elements of the liquid as it goes i ust to freeze the mash b4 i made a still to get a higher % but so much of the alcohol is left in the liquid the only way to release it is to use a stil anyway.. its becouse the frozen water crystals are so sharp that the alcohol is court on them and its abit of a waste i used 2 lt bottle in a freezer stud up right the up in the freezer then when frozen, down right on top of a demijohn brew bottle its a good fit and not going to fall and squezed the bottle til the alcohol has come through then re froze that liquid again and again to much work any sugar thats no fermented will come through as well and the liquid starts to thicken due to this sugar.... is not worh trying


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks, nice refresher course for my alcohol laden brain. Some thoughts on beer (Mmmm Beer): A) Using an airlock on your wort fermentation vessel is essential to reduce the chance of contaminates, as far as I know, you will never have carbonated beer when using an airlock whatsoever. The air lock is to allow CO2 from fermentation to escape but not allow oxygen (and harmful bacteria) in. To create a carbonated brew, a small amount of priming sugar is added prior to bottling, OR, the un-carbonated beer is moved to another vessel (keg) and carbonated by pressurizing the sealed container with CO2 gas, as is the case with most serious home brewers and breweries. B) Historically, beer was made by allowing the open vat of wort to be inoculated with wild yeast much like wine, though the yeast was killed in the making of the wort, the same yeast, carried by air movement eventually made its way back to the sweet mixture. There are several Monastical breweries that use this 'natural' method to make their products to this day.


    9 years ago on Step 4

    Excellent information Hangman, thanks for putting that together. I'd like to make a small correction to your statement..

    "You must be careful though too much heat and the water will boil also which makes it less alcoholic."

    When ethanol and water are added together they actually form a whole new liquid that has its own set of laws governing it. The boiling point of the combined liquid will be different than either water or ethanol. Somewhere in between 78C(ethanol)  and 100C(water). There is no way to overheat the liquid past its new boiling point, the temp of the vapor will hold at the new boiling point untill all the ethanol has left the wash leaving just water, at that point the vapor temp will hold at 100C untill all the water is gone. Your only limitation to heat input is your ability to condense the vapor back to a liquid at the top and the diameter of the reflux tower which allows the passage of more vapor without choking.

    I have been distilling my own ethanol for burning in my truck. Its a great hobby and is very satisfying, just dont get caught without a permit.  :)  Good luck!



    9 years ago on Step 4

    thank you... that's all I have to say. (tear!) I have been looking for a decent basics guide for a while. good stuff to know! :)

    1 reply

    10 years ago on Introduction

    As you said you would alter your instructable form comments I might as well ask; can you add the celcius scale onto the farenheit temperatures Thanx

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I apologize for not seeing this comment earlier Celsius measurements have been added to the instructable. Thank you for bringing this up.

    HAL 9000

    10 years ago on Introduction

    stills are not illegal to own in the US. stills can be used for making perfume, making distilled water, or even for distilling ethanol to fuel your car, but not for distilling alcohol for drinking. what the difference is between distilling for your car and distilling for pleasure, i know not. probably a license or permit. that being said making whiskey at home is one of the most enjoyable things i have ever done in my apartment. i'll be posting soon an instructable on how to build a cheap and effective still.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome, I usually drink 'round 2 bottles of wine at dinner with friends...But I suppose its kinda disgraceful to the wine connoisseur. I guess I'm like the blue collar wine drinker. hahaha


    10 years ago on Introduction

    wow. this is relay good. very informative. thanks :)