Sunday, 4 August 2013

Need a guinea pig to test the spirit first

Had a bit of unflavoured spirit left, so put it in a small bottle to give to my dad. He nearly choked on it. He grasped his throat and started gagging saying it was good stuff. I game him some of the Brandy flavoured spirit, he loved it. So, it is amazing the difference the flavour brings to the spirit. No wonder you need a vodka flavouring for vodka, not just use the spirit on its own, too harsh. I could add a bit of glycerine though, theres an idea.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

All distilled - the results

Well, the whole of the wash is now distilled. In the end, i emptied the spirit into a container,waited half hour for the still to cool slightly then lift off the lid. Wow, it was hot steam and liquid inside. Doh! Must use a cloth or over gloves next time. I them emptied the spent wash down the drain, being careful not to discard the ceramic boil enhancers. I gave it a quick swill out, and started again. I repeated the whole thing over 2 days and finally got the complete wash distilled. A test with the spirit hydrometer reads 49% total, so a little under. Next time I will use a slower yeast and leave it to ferment out completely to see what that produces.

I used some calculations online to see what amount of water to add to what amount of spirit to produce 1.2 litres of 40% alcohol. I then put the diluted alcohol through the carbon cartridge. This is best to do it over the night, or start in a morning and finish it at night. Although it states the cartridge does 1.2 litres, being the economist, I am using 1 cartridge for the whole lot - I may be wrong doing this but will see from the end results. I reckon I can do 2 lots a day, so it will take 3 days or so to filter completely, but after that, will be ready for flavouring.

Thinking of flavouring, looking at French Brandy, Caramel Vodka, Gin, Kentucky Bourbon, Whisky, Coconut Rum and Cherry Brandy. As the spirit flavours do 2.25 litres each and each bottle hold 50ml of flavour, thinking to put the spirit in a 75cl bottle and add a third of the flavour. That way will have plenty of different spirits done, rather than just a couple. Don't know if you can do that or if it will keep once opened, but will give it a go. Just need to get a measuring device for about 16ml or so.

This is fun. Whilst this is doing, may start another wash with a purer yeast and then flavour those with the same flavours to compare one against the other.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Starting the still

Well, it has nearly cleared and it is still slightly fizzy. I could be more patient and leave it to settle fully or even finish the ferment, but what the hell, lets go for it.

The first thing is to siphon off the sediment into a clean container, as the carbon sediment will give a taste to the end spirit - so I have read. The last bit I picked up some sediment, it was fine, lets hope it will be OK.

I used a jug to pour into the still. The volume needs to go up to the Full mark on the inside of the still. This takes about 3 jugs. I then added whats called ceramic boil enhancers. These look like little pellets and are supposed to stop the bubbles forming on the bottom. I also have to add 1 cap full of distilling conditioner. This is an anti foam agent and will stop a head on the top and forcing the lid on. Put the lid on and plug it in the still, and the power lead goes into the still. Switch on the power and place a collector under the attached nozzle. The lead only just reaches from the top to the bottom, so can only be fitted in one place, would have liked a little longer lead. The fan is quite noisy, but it is supposed to cool the vapours to condense the alcohol, so can forgive it.

It takes about 1 hour to reach temperature before the spirit starts to drip from the nozzle into the collector. When i say drip, I mean drip slowly. It will take more than an hour as stated to collect the 800ml. In fact it took 1 hour 36 minutes to collect 800ml of spirit, which is the most you are supposed to collect as anything after is junk. I switch the machine off and take note proudly of the 800ml of spirit. Time to try it with the spirit hydrometer. I get a reading of 47% alcohol by volume. A little disappointed, the literature says 60% abv. I think I distilled too early as the wash was not fully fermented out. As I am getting spirit, the still is doing its job. Perhaps next time I will have more patience and leave it to ferment longer, or use a different yeast and more sugar, or just collect less?

Anyway, I have spirit at 47%, WOW! I added filtered tap water to reduce it to 40% abv by one of the many calculators online. The one I used was at I added 140 ml of water to get 940ml of 40% alcohol. I must now pass it through the carbon cartridge to remove impurities. The cartridge sits under the special bowl and is soaked in hot water for 1 hour before use, then the spirit is poured in (luckily it hold 1.2 litres) and it fits neatly into the collector and a lid on top. It then filters SLOWLY into the base and your final spirit is done awaiting the addition of flavourings.

Slowly is the right work, it has taken a few hours just to get a few hundred ml through, looks like I will have to leave it all night. It is taking up the collector so cannot do anymore distilling. When its gone through, I think I will distill all the remaining wash and store it in a container ready for bulk diluting the filtering. Thats for tomorrow, but its looking good.

I did sample the neat spirit, and after choking and getting a burning in my throat for 25 minutes, concluded that you need to dilute to 40% and flavour it.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Adding the finings to the wash

Have checked with the hydrometer (measures the specific gravity - sweetness of the liquid), and apparently the sugar has fermented out. There is black scum all around the bucket and on the lid and have doubts that the finings will clear it in 24 hours. There was a choice of 2, Still Spirits Turbo Clear or Alcotec Turbo Klar. There was not much difference in price, but the Still Spirits one looked larger so went for that one.

I added finings A of the sachet, it seems only a small amount, and stirred thoroughly to mix it in and to degauss. This means stirring hard until all the trapped gas is released, as apparently the finings will have trouble clearing a liquid with trapped gas in.  You then need to wait for an hour at least before adding the next part. I waited for 3 hours. Then I added part B. This is a larger packet of finings and you pour it in slowly at the same time as stirring slowly to mix. When all the finings have gone in, you stop stirring, cover and leave for 24 hours to clear.

If this clears a jet black carbon infested liquid in 24 hours, I will be amazed.

Nearly time to use the still and check the end results. Can't wait now.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Time to start the wash fermentation

I have got my new 33 litre bucket so time to start. I used water from the hot tap and cold to obtain a temperature of 40C (or thereabouts). It took a while with my small 2 litre jug to fill it to the 25 litre mark, but in no rush. I then added 6 x 1Kg bags of Brewing Sugar (Glucose) and gave it a thorough stir with each addition. It all dissolved (I think) and obviously it lowered the temperature a bit.

I added the Alotec 24 Turbo yeast and a sachet of Still Spirits Carbon. The carbon should absorb all unwanted off tastes and smells to make the "wash" pure. It went black. It looked like soot had been added to the liquid and I thought it was completely ruined.

After a few hours, I checked and it was fermenting rapidly. There was now a black
expanding foam on the top and pushing against the lid. In fact, the froth was starting to ooze out the grommet for the airlock (it advised against using an airlock with this yeast - I can see why). I took the lid off and gave the froth a stir and the lid a scrape. You can hear it fizzing away happily. At this rate it will ferment the full 6Kg sugar in the 24 hours as stated.

Getting excited about the still now. I hope the black carbon will clear. Will see tomorrow when the finings are added to clear it.


Monday, 29 July 2013

Bucket too small - Darn!

Before I start to distill, I need to make a "wash". This is what they call the alcohol that is to be distilled. It is basically sugar and water that is fermented and cleared, so it should not really taste of anything at the end. There are many yeasts that can be used for this purpose, and being impatient, I have decided to go for an express ferment to get it started quickly. I need a 25 Litre bucket with grommet and airlock, together with 6 x 1Kg Brewing Sugar (Glucose) and yeast. I decided to go for an express yeast so opted for the Alotec 24 which states it will ferment 6Kg sugar in 24 hours. Thats impressive it it does do it. I have also got a pack of liquid carbon to "absorb" unwanted tastes during the ferment. I added 25 litres of water at 40C to the bucket as per the yeast instructions. Problem 1, the bucket is almost full, no room for fermentation froth, so will have to get a bigger bucket. Darn! Will have to wait until tomorrow now to get a 30/33 litre bucket.

Getting my Still

To "legally" distill alcohol in the UK, you need a licence. You will not get one for home use, so there is no way you can legally distill alcohol at home. However, I believe that the friendly tax men look the other way for limited home use, as long as you do not go mad and also start to sell it., so will undertake the art of distilling alcohol, err I mean water (just in case).

Rather than use a plumbed in still, I have opted for the Air Still. This is a small machine that sits on the table top. Fair enough, it only holds 5 litres at a time and will take several uses to get all the liquid distilled, but its easy to hide, I mean store.

This is the Air Still. They are between £155 - £199, so it is an expensive investment, one that hopefully will pay for itself over time.  However, I see this as an experiment, and if I can save money at the same time, then all the better.

Of course you need other equipment to produce distilled alcohol, which I will go into detail later.