Malternatives And Faux Spirits

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redcane

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I've gotten into homebrewing quite a bit over the past year, and I've been nearly exclusively drinking that which I brew. I've done beers and ciders, but variety is the spice of life and I've been looking into other alcoholic beverages.

Now hobby distilling is illegal, but a bit of thinking told me I should be able to produce a "pre-mixed" style drink (although perhaps not a good one). After I had a rough idea of fermenting something as flavourless as possible for the alcohol component and then flavouring it I came across the website of one of the spirit essence companies suggesting this option: http://stillspirits.com/nz/makebetter-fermenting-spirits. To me it makes sense to ferment something to between 7.5 and 15% then dilute it to a drinking strength of 5-10 with flavouring than to try to get a spirit of 40% and dilute it to a mixed drink of about that strength.

I read Tanga's thread on alcowater (http://www.aussiehomebrewer.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=51034) as I was researching the idea of undistilled faux spirit drinks, and my curiosity has definitely taken hold.

Laugh if you will, but I've put a bunch of sugar, some nutrients and a white wine yeast I had to hand into a fermenter that was otherwise idle (my kegs are full). Later research has told me that I've probably aimed for too much alcohol and I'm likely to get extra flavours from stressed yeast (the recipe I used was designed to produce wash for distilling). However this does mean the alcowater will be more dilute in the final product, so any unwanted flavours might be more masked. At the moment it tastes super sweet but it's getting a fruity taste which I think is the alcohol starting to come through.

The plan is to mix it up with rum essence, and sodastream cola syrup at the right concentrations to make a full keg up then force carbonate. In order to prevent fermentation of the cola sugar I might try to kill off the yeast somehow. Depending on the FG I might have to dilute it to get a strength of 5-10% in a keg, but I know I can't bottle it with active yeast due to the bottle bomb problem. I guess if I can get a drinkable result I'll be happy, and might try to improve the recipe. If not I might try winemaking, mead or something!

I'm also curious as to how good the spirit essences actually are - I'm wondering if you could make a decent tasting non-alcoholic rum+coke for those who aren't able to drink. I plan to report back on the experiments progress!
 

Maheel

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it's going all depend on what you call "drinkable"

from my experience it will taste like crap and i would not drink it apart from to test the wash progression

if you want to drink spirits just do it the right way....

Now hobby distilling is illegal,
so is texting while driving... but how many people are doing that and which is more hazardous ?
 

Nick JD

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I've had success making girly lolliewater - but making any of the aged sprits UDL in a keg will never taste anything like the real thing.

I made 20L of 1.060 (various sugaz and some boiled dead bread yeast) and dumped it on a Wyeast 1214 cake. When it was finished I added gelatine as a fining agent.

Transfered it to a keg and added Midori flavour and sugar syrup until it was about right - then force carbed it. Also made a batch using plain pack raspberry cordial from the supermarket.

Difficult to do with bottles, but piss easy with kegs.
 

redcane

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it's going all depend on what you call "drinkable"

from my experience it will taste like crap and i would not drink it apart from to test the wash progression

if you want to drink spirits just do it the right way....
So from your experience it wasn't worthwhile, but was it at the point where it was a lost cause or is it possible to improve the recipe/process to get something worthwhile?

Yes I'd like to drink spirits (and I've still got some that I actually went to a bottle-o for!), but I'm also interested in experimenting pushing the boundaries of what is possible/achievable to the hobbyist homebrewer. Some artists thrive by pushing against limitations - photography is limited by the equipment, oil paintings require certain techniques. In a sense I'm curious as to what kind of results you can achieve whilst remaining within the law. It's probably more for curiosities sake than it is to just drink 'spirits' - in the same way people will spend more money producing homebrew than buying beer and I'm perhaps more interested in the process than the results. I was really hoping to generate a discussion on the way to get the best results, rather than why I'd try it (or why it is illegal!). I think those discussions have been had before.

When you say "do it the right way" I know you could mean a couple of things. You might mean go out and buy commercial spirit to flavour, or use methods that are not to be discussed on this board (I'm still in the planning to build phase on that front)? As I said I guess I'm just curious, and if I had to define what my "goal" was it'd probably to get the most flavourless wash recipe possible, and I got on to this line of thinking when reading about the wash recipes people are using to try to keep the off-flavours minimal (with a lot of doubt being cast on the turbo yeasts).

Nick - Can I ask for a bit more detail on what 'recipes' you've tried and how it turned out? Do you think 1.060 OG is the way to go? The boiled bread yeast is basically a yeast nutrient right? (Maybe I need to start culturing my own yeast!)
 

bum

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Not an answer but the lemon Ruski type drinks in the States are labelled as lemon flavoured beer - so it must be possible to make such beverages with legal techniques. I'm sure google will give up the goods if that's what piques your interest.
 

Maheel

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years ago they marketed products for doing just this idea you have

but they were pushing product to make +15% wash using sugar and yeast / nutrients
to me it made a "milky" looking watery wine tasting product that you then flavoured with "essence" and then also added coke or other soft drink to consume.


the LHBS sold a whole range of products to "improve the taste" like carbon and filters to strip out the "wine" smell

a few mates and i tried it and every one i drank i thought after the effort you may as well buy jim beam etc and enjoy the real thing
nothing we / they made tasted anything like a nice scotch and dry or rum and coke etc... it got you pissed and also seemed to give me hangovers.

give it a go, it's only a few bucks to mix it uo (under $10) but i reckon your going to spend a lot of time trying to "clean it up" to be able to enjoy it.

IMO either make a nice beer and enjoy or head down the "dark path"

but if you do go down the "dark path" i dont recommend using any LHBS products to make it with either,
IMO many of there products are designed to improve their bottom line not the quality of the product you make
just google distilling forums and that will point you in the right direction, there is nothing hard about it
 

Aces High

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If you're gonna do it, make a low ABV very neutral wash using white sugar & champagne yeast. Dont go much over 8% as you will stress the yeast and create off flavors.

You can then freeze the wash and as it thaws out the alcohol will thaw before water. You collect this and you have a maybe 20% wash which should be pretty neutral.


Add whatever flavour takes your fancy from there
 

redcane

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Thanks for the insight Maheel. I seem to have missed the era where products of this nature were available, but I've still got hope better results are possible. Although at this stage I'm expecting my current batch to taste pretty awful from peoples reports.

I did figure it wasn't going to cost me more than it was worth to satisfy my curiousity if not my taste buds - but I also think you should drink your mistakes. Tanga's last post in that thread said that with activated carbon it's almost flavourless, which sounds promising if it works out, but it could also be that there is no worthwhile recipe out there.

Aces High - My research matches your advice, unfortunately I'd already set a batch in motion before I figured out I should go for lower OG (I might have another stab at it). At least I did go for a champagne yeast (recommendations appear to be Red Star Premier Cuvee and Lavlin EC-1118). I was considering freezing it but I understand that concentrates the tails (that you'd throw off on the 'dark path') so I'm not as sure I want to go there.
 

MHB

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If you use sugar, water a bit of nutrient and champagne yeast (EC1118) there is really no problem reaching 15-17% ABV (it isnt a bad idea to start with 2/3 of the sugar and add the remainder (dissolved) a couple of days into the brew), fine the bejesus out of it and follow up with activated carbon and your Wash should be very neutral.
A lot of the commercial examples are run through a reverse osmosis system that really just lets the Alcohol and Water out and jumps the alcohol content up by 50-100%
Always thought it would be an interesting approach, take a domestic RoMo unit set up a recirculating system and just keep the pump running till half the wash has been pushed out the side of the RoMo filter. Tho I think that might fall under the same classification as distilling.
Mark
 

redcane

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Interesting! I guess the reverse osmosis path would be even more interesting if it were clearly legal. I would have thought that on an industrial scale distilling would be less expensive.
 

Luek

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Not too long ago I tried this with considerable input (and material!) From mhb. I used dextrose with champagne yeast with nutrient and racked after a few weeks onto carbon and swirled the fermenter every day (being careful not to shake.) For another week.
I bottled a carton's worth as is with a bit more yeast, bulk priming. The excess I used "no added sugar" cordials in the bottle so no mixing would be necessary before consumption...
I haven't tried the "plain" ones yet but the only flavour issues I had were due to the sugar free taste given by the cordial I used.

Considering using some sn 9 and table sugar without carbon just to see the difference.
 

redcane

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Cool Luek - thanks for the info.

My test batch seems to have suffered a stuck ferment, and I wanted the fermenter for more beer so I sampled a bit before I turfed it. It tastes mostly of sugar, but slightly fruity, reminiscent of wine. Sort of like a Stoli Lemon Ruski tastes of wine not vodka (from memory of around 10 years ago).

When my kegs are full again I plan to have another go at an undistilled, but just targeting 15L of wash with enough sugar to generate alcohol to fill a keg at 5% so the yeast is less stressed. Then I can dilute with my flavourings and cross fingers that it comes out any good. Will have to figure out if I should attempt to filter/kill the yeast or add malto-dextrin as an unfermentable sugar.
 

tiprya

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Did you add yeast nutrient? I don't think yeast are able to fully attenuate straight sugar.
 

redcane

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Did you add yeast nutrient? I don't think yeast are able to fully attenuate straight sugar.
Yes I added nutrient. I originally went to the LHBS to look at nutrient. (They had some 'Tronozyml', but they suggested I wouldn't need to buy yeast because the packaging said "Just add to brew". I didn't trust that was true, so I said "I'll just buy the other nutrient and some yeast"). When I got home the quantity of nutrient I ended up with was too low (should have taken my notes to the shop), so I added lemon juice, and flour (because I had it to hand, and some basic research suggested it).

I think I just had too much sugar - the advice I've since read is that at high sugar levels it's best to only add part of the sugar initially, and add more later. The sugar wash was based on a recipe used by distillers. However I've realised I don't need to shoot as high on alcohol level, only enough to allow watering down with flavourings. Lower sugar levels should also reduce yeast stress and give a cleaner flavour. You live and learn :)
 

seravitae

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If you use sugar, water a bit of nutrient and champagne yeast (EC1118) there is really no problem reaching 15-17% ABV (it isn't a bad idea to start with 2/3 of the sugar and add the remainder (dissolved) a couple of days into the brew), fine the bejesus out of it and follow up with activated carbon and your "Wash" should be very neutral.
A lot of the commercial examples are run through a reverse osmosis system that really just lets the Alcohol and Water out and jumps the alcohol content up by 50-100%
Always thought it would be an interesting approach, take a domestic RoMo unit set up a recirculating system and just keep the pump running till half the wash has been pushed out the side of the RoMo filter. Tho I think that might fall under the same classification as distilling.
Mark
Mark i'm interested in this, do you have a reference for it? I can't see ethanol/water mixes having a strong osmotic relationships, as opposed to ions. I would have thought that in commercial/industrial setups membranes are used in a 'pervaporation' style, ie, using highly structured membranes with specific pore size/shape properties, akin to "filtering an ethanol/water solution a sheet of molecular sieves".





And yes, AFAIk last time i read the legislation it states concentration of ethanol, not distillation per se, so even freeze-thaw or other tactics like pervaporation, centrifugation (yes, its possible, but hard), etc, would be illegal without license.
 

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