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Beverage alcohol from lactose?

Mike Dewes

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Is lactose a suitable sugar for beverage alcohol production? I've had trouble finding examples of it's use for this purpose. Any knowledge anyone could provide would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Lactose is not directly usable by the usual yeasts. That's why it's used to sweeten milk stouts, for instance. With enzymes such as lactase it can be converted into fermentable sugars. There are microorganisms which can use the sugars in milk. I'm not sure if it's ever been done on a large commercial scale. Malted grains, cane syrup and grapes are much more straightforward and cheaper. The Alaska Bootlegger's Bible mentions a priest who made fermented milk beverages. Kefir is very slightly alcoholic. Koumis is somewhat more so. I do not think either has ever been distilled, nor would I want to taste the results.

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Lactose Distillation has been done for many years in New Zealand - over 20,000,000 litres a year.

"The technology to process deproteinated whey into ethyl alcohol was developed in Europe

about 20 years ago and was purchased from Ireland by the Anchor Ethanol Company in the

late 1970s. Since that time two plants have been established, at Tirau (using a continuous

fermentation process) and Reporoa (using a batch fermentation process). The combined

annual production of these two plants is 11 000 000 litres of ethanol. Two further

independent distilleries based on whey have subsequently been built in New Zealand,

producing an additional 6 000 000 litres. "


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