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Base alcohol differences?

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The short answer is that you can distill any mixture of two substances with different boiling points. Gasoline, for example, and many other petroleum products are distilled out of crude oil. You could distill water out of fruit juice if you were so inclined. Or water out of balsamic vinegar, and then save the leftovers in the pot and have a nice balsamic reduction sauce. Good on salmon, I'm led to understand.

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The big difference between the various neutral alcohol bases (marc/grappa, grain, wine, fruit, etc) is the various "contaminants" in the finished products: methyl alcohol, fusel alcohols, and other substances, which are collectively known as congeners.  While the majority of these are removed during distillation, there are a few that have a vapour point so close to ethanol that they cannot be fully removed by distillation alone; and even minor fluctuations in distillation temperature or procedure can result in larger amounts of these secondary distillation products in the final product.

 

Fruits (including grapes) contain pectins, mostly in the skins, which when fermented can result in higher levels of methanol and fusels, as well as other congeners, prior to distillation.  Grains create considerably less, but still some.  Some can be removed by charcoal filtration, others cannot.

 

Brandy typically contains the highest level of congeners in the finished product, vodka the least.  Part of the characteristic flavour and effect of various acoholic beverages, including supposedly "flavourless" beverages such as vodka, is the result of these congeners.

Anyone who throws out their absinthe "heads" is a moron... and you can correct for the minute appearance of methanol VERY easily.

 

there are a few that have a vapour point so close to ethanol that they cannot be fully removed by distillation alone

There's a few tricks for those as well.

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I've never really thought of corn as being fit for distillation??? Also, on the vodka note...it's made with potatos, which I didn't think contained that much sugar anyway?

Well, corn and potatoes both have a high carbohydrate content, in the form of starch. The starch must first be converted to sugar by means of enzymatic action before it is possible to ferment it.

(By the way, only a few commercial vodkas are made from potatoes - the most common vodkas are made from grain.)

 

So, what exactly CAN you distill something from?

Almost anything that contains starches or sugars can be fermented.

 

If it doesn’t move – ferment it!

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Anyone who throws out their absinthe "heads" is a moron...

Even those throwing out the tails are morons. But beta-pork-ribs does also come over earlier in the distillation process, so there are reasons for separating the heads (and reusing them as you do the tails). Just no good ones as far as the taste is concerned.

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take something so obviously different as grapes and corn....both can make base alcohols, but I've never really thought of corn as being fit for distillation???

Bourbon is made from corn. And when I say corn, I mean maize.

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Following Wild Bill's lead, I had a glass of arak last night. Paying close attention, I believe I was aware of the grape base similar to that in the Jade. Perhaps it was my imagination but there are so few components in the arak (as Wild Bill noted), it's not difficult to pin them down.

 

Does anyone know the alcohol base for Kübler or CLB?

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Yeah, I'm very curious now as well.

 

Maybe we could get a small database of base alcohol to absinthe information? That way we could know better what we're drinking and better understand what, if any, difference base alcohol makes to us...?

 

Is there any way to accurately do that? Email distillers or something maybe?

 

Aaron

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The absinthes that I know of that use grape based alcohol are Jade, absinthes from the Devoille distillery (VDF, BDF) and Segarra. If the Ike uses grape spirit, it's VERY neutral, but I doubt they use grape spirit.

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What makes a substance "fit" for fermentation/distillation? Is it the amount of sugars within it? I mean, take something so obviously different as grapes and corn....both can make base alcohols, but I've never really thought of corn as being fit for distillation??? Also, on the vodka note...it's made with potatos, which I didn't think contained that much sugar anyway?

Any substance with simple (sugars) or complex carbohydrates can, be fermented ; and, ultimately, be. Some vegetation contains high levels of sugars, and are fermentable as is. Good examples are sugar cane, sweet corn, and most non-citrus fruits. Others contain few sugars, but are rich in complex carbohydrates. These require an additional enzyme, amylase, in order to break down the carbohydrates into simple sugars for fermenting. This is the reason for the "malting" process with barley -- the partial germination triggers the release of large amounts of the amylase enzyme. Barley, however, is unique in it's amylase content, and most grains do not have nearly enough for adequate fermentation.

 

For complex carbohydrates that do not have a sufficient amount of amylase, a secondary source of the enzyme is generally required; usually fruits. Primitive beer making in places such as Africa or parts of the Indo-Pacific generally involved chewing the grains (millet, sorghum, or various wheat-like grains), in order to utilize the amylase in human saliva. Asian rice-based beverages, such as Japan's Sake, use a mould -- Aspergillus oryzae -- to produce the amylase enzyme. There are a few other sources for the enzyme, including ginger rhizome.

 

The key issue, in any distillation, however, is the type of alcohol produced, and presence of congeners. Some types of wood can be broken down into alcohol; but almost exclusively toxic methyl alcohol (methanol). So only substances that produce high-purity ethyl alcohol (ethanol) without significant levels of methanol or other congeners that cannot be removed by distillation are considered suitable for distilling potables.

 

Vodka is historically made from a number of different sources, including wheat, rye, potatoes, pomace, beets, etc.; depending on region and availability. Tradition has limited that, and today only vodka made from wheat, rye, or potatoes is generally accepted as "real" vodka. Russian vodka is traditionally rye or wheat based, with rye considered the superior grain. Polish vodka is traditionally made from potatoes (there is some evidence that vodka originated in Poland). All the rest are what would now be considered "moonshine"; although I believe that there is one commercial brand made from pomace.

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Almost anything that contains starches or sugars can be fermented.

Although all starches can be broken down into sugars, there are a few sugars that cannot be fermented. Lactose (milk) sugar is one well-known unfermental sugar; and is commonly used in beermaking, particularly for certain types of sweet stouts.

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Brandy (Cognac and Armanac) is traditionally distilled from white grape wine. Folle Blanche and Uni Blanche are the "best". Red wine has a rougher taste.

 

Put on your B.S. filter here. Kübler tasted like a red wine spirit to me. This is OPINION not fact. Your mileage may vary.

 

Grappa and Marc are traditionally distilled from the pomace, grape pulp, left after wine fermentation, Red or White wine. The taste of Grappa varies quite a bit if it comes from Red or White wines.

 

Just a few opinions

 

cheers--Ken

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The key issue, in any distillation, however, is the type of alcohol produced, and presence of congeners. Some types of wood can be broken down into alcohol; but almost exclusively toxic methyl alcohol (methanol). So only substances that produce high-purity ethyl alcohol (ethanol) without significant levels of methanol or other congeners that cannot be removed by distillation are considered suitable for distilling potables.

Hmmm... um... partial or fully methylated pectins could be made to produce significantly less methanol (via de-esterification) through the inactivation of the enzyme, pectin methylesterase.

 

Low methanol pomace distillations are not easily realized through simple distillation; although methanol has a lower boiling point than ethanol, it occurs in the later fractions. But bringing the spirit closer to neutrality with a fractional, multi-trayed distillation could alleviate that issue (and most of the aroma).

 

Point being, I don't thing it's merely an issue of what substances are used in producing ethanol... there are other factors to consider.

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If it doesn’t move – ferment it!

And if it does - well, you may still give it a try.

 

Isn't that how you guys over there invented surströmming?

He he... Well, regarding its origins it is said that this method of preservation had an upswing in the beginning of the 16th century, when the salt supply (used for brining food) was scarce. One used just enough salt to keep the fish from rotting. Actually, it's more of a Norrlandish thing here so I'm sorry to say that I've never tried this "delicacy"... Or, um, perhaps not soo sorry after all! Have you had it? It certainly separates the men from the boys.

 

What makes lactose unfermentable?

Well, it's not correct to say that it is unfermentable - it does not, however, break down into ethanol and carbon dioxide, but into lactic acid.

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Quite right. A friend of mine went to Mongolia last summer where he tried kumis, or airag as they called it there, and he reported it tasted like carbonated sour milk. Their airag was made from mare's milk as well as milk from camels.

Apparently it is an acquired taste, a little odd but quite good. Airag made by different families taste different, he said, and the bottled one that can be bought in stores was too sour to be good. (Again, HG seems to win over CO!) They do not pasteurize the milk, but ferment it in big barrels into which new milk is being continuously poured and the whole thing is stirred tremendously. In winter, they store some airag outdoors (so that it freezes) so it will survive till spring when the livestock produce new milk.

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People can be fermented.

 

I have been pickled and I know a few others that have been stewed. :drunk:

 

Having seen what happens to milk once it hits a belly full of tequila, I think I'll pass on the kumis.

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Mmmm... People flavoured liquors. 'We put the Abs back into Absinthe!"

 

Yes, but if you used the whole person, maybe it would be "We put the ASS back into Assbinthe"! :huh: :laf:

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