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How to make a very smooth Vodka from Ethanol

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A newbie question form Zimbabwe.

I read in this forum that yuo mainly do your own distilling and then blend down to make 40% ABV vodka.

What I need help with is we don't have a still yet, as its cheaper to use Potable ethanol in bulk and blend it down.

If we do this and blend it with RO soft water, we call it "CANE".

For it to be classified by law we have to filter this then we can add vodka flavor. I have asked a few questions in anther post about carbon filtration.However, as this is specific to Vodka, what would be the best method to make a very smooth vodka, using only 95% ethanol, water and flavor.

Carbon filtration I am sure, but does it need to be presuriesed filter housings? We have 2 SS filter colors with ope tops that hold about 35 kgs of carbon, they are about 90cm high.

How long should the retention time be for a 400litre batch? we were running for 12 hours.

Any helps appreciated

 

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10 minutes ago, Julius said:

What do you mean add vodka flavor?

We use cane based ethanol, if we do the traditional method that I am reading about here, dilute to 40% with ro water, in America they call it vodka, in Zimbabwe we call they cane, we have to filter it, but we can add a plain vodka flavor to make vodka.

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12 hours ago, ZimDist said:

We use cane based ethanol, if we do the traditional method that I am reading about here, dilute to 40% with ro water, in America they call it vodka, in Zimbabwe we call they cane, we have to filter it, but we can add a plain vodka flavor to make vodka.

The same convention is used in South Africa.  There is very little grain-derived potable alcohol available here.  It is all grape or sugar cane based.  What we call cane spirit here is really a neutral rum.  Locally vodka is made from the same cane-based neutral spirit.  Each bottler has their own "magic" that converts cane to vodka, most of it involving treatment with activated carbon.  I don't know how much of it is hype and how much is valid technology.  Some very well-known international vodka brands are made in South Africa from cane spirit.

If you want to make a very smooth vodka, you must start with a very smooth cane spirit.  In my experience it is difficult to remove harshness from a spirit by any method other than distillation.

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I still don’t understand what is “added vodka flavor”

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I still don’t understand what is “added vodka flavor”

That is an interesting question.  I recently had a conversation with someone about this... does vodka have a taste?  Certainly there must be some variation give the number of vodka products on the shelf. 

We know that 80% of what we describe as taste is actually olfactory sensory input.  I can certainly identify my finished lower-proof make of different raw material.  But I can identify our GNS.  I can identify our grain neutral spirits over bourbon and rye make, and rum make.   But if real vodka, I am blending a neutral spirit (95% pure ethanol) with water.   So the question is does a neutral spirit have a discernible flavor (smell).   And I would say it does... I can identify it in a blind test.  

But back to the questions posted above... I cannot really "taste" a material difference between a neutral grain spirit and any neutral spirit made from another substrate like cane products.  The difference is so subtle that the testing is easily corrupted by external influence. 

And then there is the water used to proof down the neutral spirit to become 80 proof vodka.  Yes, water can have a taste.

So, I would say that vodka has a distinct taste and so does a neutral spirit, but there is no material difference in taste between vodka or neutral spirit made from different raw materials.  I know some people will disagree... and I do admit to different mouthfeel, etc for vodka from different substrate.  But vodka flavor differentiation should be almost 100% water and other factors other than any difference in the base neutral spirit used.

My guess is that these other "neutral cane" products are not really neutral but high-proof make that retains character of the base raw cane material.   If you were to add true neutral spirits to something that was distilled at a lower proof, I think it would taste more like vodka.   Maybe the use of "vodka" here is a replacement for a true neutral (95% ethanol) spirit.

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On 4/23/2019 at 9:55 PM, Julius said:

What is plain vodka flavor? 

yes you can get a plain vodka flavoring

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19 hours ago, Patio29Dadio said:

That is an interesting question.  I recently had a conversation with someone about this... does vodka have a taste?  Certainly there must be some variation give the number of vodka products on the shelf. 

We know that 80% of what we describe as taste is actually olfactory sensory input.  I can certainly identify my finished lower-proof make of different raw material.  But I can identify our GNS.  I can identify our grain neutral spirits over bourbon and rye make, and rum make.   But if real vodka, I am blending a neutral spirit (95% pure ethanol) with water.   So the question is does a neutral spirit have a discernible flavor (smell).   And I would say it does... I can identify it in a blind test.  

But back to the questions posted above... I cannot really "taste" a material difference between a neutral grain spirit and any neutral spirit made from another substrate like cane products.  The difference is so subtle that the testing is easily corrupted by external influence. 

And then there is the water used to proof down the neutral spirit to become 80 proof vodka.  Yes, water can have a taste.

So, I would say that vodka has a distinct taste and so does a neutral spirit, but there is no material difference in taste between vodka or neutral spirit made from different raw materials.  I know some people will disagree... and I do admit to different mouthfeel, etc for vodka from different substrate.  But vodka flavor differentiation should be almost 100% water and other factors other than any difference in the base neutral spirit used.

My guess is that these other "neutral cane" products are not really neutral but high-proof make that retains character of the base raw cane material.   If you were to add true neutral spirits to something that was distilled at a lower proof, I think it would taste more like vodka.   Maybe the use of "vodka" here is a replacement for a true neutral (95% ethanol) spirit.

Thank you for your input.

Cane based ethanol has a very distinct and harsh finish when you dilute it straight away. This is what we call cane- Mainstain. So we need douse the same cane base spirit and make it vodka. By law we have to filter this for it to be called vodka. We have Smirnoff bottled under licence here in Zimbabwe using cane based spirit, I am told they filter this in pressurized column to try get it a smooth as possible. We don't have the capital outlay right now to be able to do that, so we are looking at advise to see how we can get get tot he same finished product "vodka"

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On 4/24/2019 at 9:56 AM, meerkat said:

The same convention is used in South Africa.  There is very little grain-derived potable alcohol available here.  It is all grape or sugar cane based.  What we call cane spirit here is really a neutral rum.  Locally vodka is made from the same cane-based neutral spirit.  Each bottler has their own "magic" that converts cane to vodka, most of it involving treatment with activated carbon.  I don't know how much of it is hype and how much is valid technology.  Some very well-known international vodka brands are made in South Africa from cane spirit.

If you want to make a very smooth vodka, you must start with a very smooth cane spirit.  In my experience it is difficult to remove harshness from a spirit by any method other than distillation.

Thank you, I am learning this. Smirnoff in Zimbabwe , uses imported Cane spirit from sa and a little local cane, this is due to your cane being better.

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Question- Would it make financial sense to distill the Ethanol? or just try to find a solution to filter it correctly?

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18 hours ago, ZimDist said:

Question- Would it make financial sense to distill the Ethanol? or just try to find a solution to filter it correctly?

@ZimDist That depends on how clean you want to make it, and how much you can sell it for.  In a liquor store you will probably find a 4 to 1 ratio between the most expensive and the cheapest vodkas.  What is viable at the top end is not viable at the bottom end.  I've read of expensive vodkas being filtered through beds of diamonds.  Maybe that is viable in Zimbabwe?

You certainly could put it in a batch still and take off some more heads at 95+ abv (ideally 96+).  There are threads here that discuss the equipment required to achieve 190+ proof.  It would require a bit of experimentation to get the optimum balance between the cost of losses (as additional heads taken off) and the improvement in quality.  The neutral cane spirit that you can buy ex SA is made in continuous plants where there are multiple columns with multiple side take-offs in addition to the heads.  I cannot see continuous distillation being financially viable at below 10,000 liters per day (probably more like 40 kl/day).

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21 hours ago, ZimDist said:

yes you can get a plain vodka flavoring

What is it? A powder? Do you know of any companies selling it commercially you can point me towards?

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On 4/26/2019 at 2:07 PM, meerkat said:

@ZimDist That depends on how clean you want to make it, and how much you can sell it for.  In a liquor store you will probably find a 4 to 1 ratio between the most expensive and the cheapest vodkas.  What is viable at the top end is not viable at the bottom end.  I've read of expensive vodkas being filtered through beds of diamonds.  Maybe that is viable in Zimbabwe?

You certainly could put it in a batch still and take off some more heads at 95+ abv (ideally 96+).  There are threads here that discuss the equipment required to achieve 190+ proof.  It would require a bit of experimentation to get the optimum balance between the cost of losses (as additional heads taken off) and the improvement in quality.  The neutral cane spirit that you can buy ex SA is made in continuous plants where there are multiple columns with multiple side take-offs in addition to the heads.  I cannot see continuous distillation being financially viable at below 10,000 liters per day (probably more like 40 kl/day).

Thanks. Your Cape spirit in SA is definitely superior to what we get in Zimbabwe. I have engaged with PALL for a carbon solution called SUPRAdisk that looks rather promising. Will keep you updated

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On 4/26/2019 at 4:44 PM, Julius said:

What is it? A powder? Do you know of any companies selling it commercially you can point me towards?

its liquid form, any flavor house will have it. PM me and will point you in the direction

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