Saturday, September 26, 2009

Making Brandy

Brandy starts with a fermented fruit juice, mostly grape wine, but it is not limited to that any fermented fruit juice works. The difference between brandy and wine is that after the wine is aged properly it is distilled to turn it into brandy.

You can also do this with other fruit juices to create different flavors of brandy. Black Berry brandy is an example of this process. You start by making blackberry wine then pass it through a still to raise its alcoholic content.

Grappa, the Italian drink is made from the grapes after they have been pressed for wine the first time. The second squeezing can be made into wine but it is usually distilled into Grappa after it is fermented as the last step. This is a drink that you have to acquire a taste for as it is quite harsh in flavor, and has a fruity odor that is picked up from the variety of grapes it is made from. The French make a similar drink the same was they call “Marc.”

A different kind of drink is also from Brittany in France called “Calvados” that is made from distilled Hard Cider. In fact some of the Brittany cider makers were imported into Colonial America for the sole purpose of making cider,

Making Applejack and Winter Wine

Both of these drinks are very strong alcoholic beverages requiring a very cold winter. They are both based on a simple principle that is alcohol freezes at a much lower temperature than water. In the case of applejack the starter is hard cider. A barrel is filled with hard cider early in the winter and then allowed to freeze during the coldest part of winter. At the end of this cold period barrel full of hard cider that is spent outdoors all winter is opened and a hole is chiseled into the ice until it reaches a cavity inside that is full of alcohol. This alcohol is concentrated by the action of freezing the hard cider that you put in there at the beginning of winter. It depends on how cold that it actually gets is a function of how strong the alcohol becomes. The strongest alcohol is the result of a long and very cold winter. You can do the same thing by using a freezer the only difference is the freezer concentrates the alcohol instead of cold weather.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Still's Boiler

The boiler for a still is made out of sheet copper that is riveted together to form the body of the boiler. How smooth the boiler is depends on your skill with using sheet copper. The bottom of the still is also made out of sheet copper that is riveted to the body of the still. The joints in your boiler can be soldered using silver solder to seal them so that your boiler doesn't leak.

The size of a boiler depends upon how large your still is going to be. The usual size of the still boiler is one that will accommodate 55 gallons, about four gallons of finished product. This is large enough to yield a fair amount of alcohol when it is being operated. This size still is about the size of a 55 gallon oil drum, in fact you can take the dimensions off of one of these drums and transfer it to the size of your boiler.

Once you have finished the bottom half of your boiler you are now ready to build the top. The simplest way is to make a big cone with a four inch hole in the center. This has to be attached to the bottom of the boiler in such a way that you can remove it from the boiler. This is by having mating lips on both parts so they can be pasted together. There also should be an oval hole in the cover for pouring in fresh distiller's beer. This is covered with a copper cover that is also pasted on in such a way that the cover will blow off if too much pressure builds up in the boiler while you are distilling a batch.

The last part of the boiler that you have too make is the elbow. This fits over the hole in the cover, and in use is pasted onto the cover. It also has a bend that brings the elbow a few degrees from parallel to the boiler pointing downwards. This is mde like a long funnel from sheet copper so that its small end will fit onto the worm where the alcohol condenses. The worm also passes through the waterjacket of the still array.

In practice a 55 gallon slug of distiller's beer should produce about 4 gallons of alcohol. When the first distillate comes out of the worm it is charged with several dangerous organic chemicals that are part of the fermentation process and should be discarded. A normal run of alcohol comes out of the still looking cloudy and slightly tea colored. You test for good alcohol by splashing a few drops onto an open flame. If it burns it is worth saving. When it quits burning the alcoholic content is too low. The remaining gallon of distillate should be saved, and run through the still with the next batch.

You can do this five times, then you have to tear the whole still array down for a thorough cleaning. Remember in the distilling business cleanliness is next to godliness.

Monday, July 6, 2009

How to make Wine

Making Wine
One of the funniest things I ever watched in my life was a drunken Billy Goat who got cocked from eating fermented wind dropped apples. The poor billy goat was staggering around in the apple orchard, and kept falling over, but he kept eating those fermented apples that made him even drunker. What was even funnier was that he was in a bad mood and kept locking horns with the trunks of the apple trees.
Although we get a different drink from apples called cider the principle is about the same as it is for making wine. The juice from certain fruits are collected then fermented. The same thing can be said for some flowers although in this case what is fermented is a sweetened infusion made from the blossoms. However there are various wines made from different fruits most wine is made from varieties of grapes. The taste of these wines depend on the variety of grape they are made from and the way in which they are fermented.
Wine came from the middle east, and this is probably how it was invented . . . Some caveman had a wild grape vine growing outside his cave, and one day he was outside the cave eating the fermented grapes that had fallen off the vine when his wife said, “Henry, why don't you squeeze those grapes into a pot and drink the juice?”
He replied, “Yes Myrtle.” and he proceeded to squeeze the grapes between his thumb and forefinger. As usual his wife was right, the grape juice alone did taste better then rotten grapes. He had more grape juice then he could drink at once so he put the pot into the cave, and his wife had another Honey-Do for him. He forgot the grape juice and several months later he found the pot that contained the grape juice. By this time it had finished fermenting and had aged for several months that greatly improved its taste, so he guzzled down the rest. Afterwards Henry gave some of the juice to some of his neighbors, they brainstormed how to make more of it next fall. These early vintners had the whole process worked out by the following fall. This just goes to show that man's ingenuity knows no bounds when it comes to getting something to drink.
The process of making wine is pretty simple, but it can become extremely complicated when you want different flavors of wine. The simple part of the process is getting the juice out of the grapes. It takes yeast to ferment the juice and fortunately grapes come with a built in supply of yeast. Thats what the bloom is on the grapes themselves a natural yeast. After the juice has been pressed out of the grapes it is filtered and placed into wooden barrels and allowed to ferment. The bung of the barrel is left open during the fermentation phase of wine making. You can tell when the fermentation process is finished because there are no longer a string of bubbles resembling a snake that comes out of the bung hole of the barrel. When this no longer comes forth the fermentation process is complete, and it is time for you to drive the bung home into the bung hole.
To a great extent the flavor and color of the wine is controlled by how you deal with the grape juice when you press the grapes. If you immediately remove the skins from the juice you wind up with a white wine. If you leave the skins in the juice for a short time you wind up with a rose wine, and if you leave the skins in the wine while it is fermenting you wind up with a red wine.
Naturally fermented wine develops an alcoholic content of about 12%, if you want a stronger wine you have to fortify the wine with brandy that is nothing more then distilled wine. Different types of grapes produce different types of wine.
You can study the art of wine making for years, but you will probably get as good results on your first try. The only thing your additional knowledge is apt to produce are better wines.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Man learns to drink beer:

Contrary to popular belief the rise of agriculture was probably due to man's desire for something to drink that would give him a buzz and forget all about his troubles. The desire for alcoholic beverages such as beer probably predates the origin of bread. Mankind has always had a hankering for something that wasn't necessarily good for him. The early beer is a case in point of this principle. In order to change the starch in the grain into sugar so that he could brew beer was very good trick. Even today there is a tribe in Africa that one they want beer start chewing on mouths full of grain so that the enzymes in their saliva will break down the starch molecules into sugar molecules. After doing this they spit the contents of their mouths into a jug full of water that they allow to ferment into beer. This is probably not the most hygienic way of doing the conversion of starch, but at least it works. The fermentation of this primitive beer generates enough alcohol to kill any pathogens that may have gotten into the beer through this highly unhygienic method of making beer. Unlike modern beer this beer is sweet and has no bubbles.

By the time we got to the time of the ancient Egypt Egyptians had gotten beyond spitting in a jug. They had also learned to bake bread. Both tasks they left up to their women for the most part the bread was made of barley. A special bread was baked for making beer that afterwards was crumbled and added to water and allowed to ferment. The beer this produced was very thick and sweet and like the earlier beer had no bubbles. Everyone from the Pharaoh down drank beer even the children. Beer drinking went on at least three times a day and was even given to the builders of the pyramids.

The art of making beer changed through the ages, but the essentials remained the same. The raw material was grain and somehow mankind managed to convert it’s starch to sugar that was capable of fermenting. This turned the liquid into one or another kind of beer.

There is actually an argument as to what came first beer or wine were I a betting man I should guess wine came first because it can be made from fermented fruit, and this occurs naturally unlike beer that has to be made in a process that requires several steps to complete.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009


I've never dropped a drink in my life although I have not picked one up in a longtime. I did have one slide off the table once, but that was an accident because the top of the table was already wet. I more or less come by my interest in alcoholic beverages naturally because my grandfather was a Braumeister in Germany before he came to this country. During Prohibition I had an uncle and cousin that were in the business of making bathtub gin. The first time I ever became involved with moonshine was when I was in the Army. My best buddy’s family had a great walloping still it away in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. The next time I got caught up in the moonshining business was years later when I was prospecting for zinc in eastern Tennessee. I was tracing a high zinc chemical reading in a small mountain stream and instead of finding a zinc deposit I found a washtub right alongside the stream that was full of spent mash from an illegal whiskey operation. Within two minutes of making this find I found myself looking down the muzzles of six Winchester's along with some pretty mad Hill folk. It was a very good thing that I do some names to drop or I probably still be alongside that stream. This would have sort of been a shoot, shovel and shut up situation.

The making of alcoholic beverages by a man can trace its roots back into antiquity. No doubt our ancestors first tied one on by eating fermented fruit. This still goes on today as one of the funniest movies I ever saw involved a bunch of animals in the Kalahari Desert of Africa tying one on at a water hole that was surrounded by fruit trees. The fruit had dropped, and fermented and the animals came from far and wide and got drunker then Lords. There were elephants and lions and hyenas and monkeys and apes at just about every other animal you can think of. For the drunken fest the various animals declared a truce and were falling all over each other. A scene taken the next morning was a chimpanzee trying to stuff his brains back into his head, while on the other side of the water hole was a stork that stayed sober during the drunken fest who was watching the proceedings, and shaking his head back and forth.

As the name implies Making Alcoholic Beverages is all about teaching you how to make your own drinks. Alcoholic beverages have one thing in common they are all made of ethyl alcohol, the only alcohol that is not poisonous to man. In the chapters that will follow in this Blog we will teach you how to make everything from alcohol to being a zymurgist that is one who practices the study of the yeast. That my friends is the A to Z of it.