1. Introduction 6
Beer and wine Distillation — what is it? Simple distillation — pot stills Whisky, brandy, rum, etc. Fractional distillation Gin & vodka Health & Safety Headaches & hangovers
3. The Question Of Legality 17
4. Equipment 21
Fractional distillation apparatus The boiler The column The still-head The flavouring still
5. Fermentation 37
6. Distillation 41
Beer-stripping Fractional distillation Collection rate Yield of pure alcohol
7. Flavouring 53
8. Summary of procedures 57
9. Costs & Economics 60
I. Conversion factors 65
II. Activated charcoal 66
III. Distillation - How it Works 67
Innumerable books are available on the home production of beer and wine but very few on the production of distilled spirits at the small scale required by hobbyists. This book has been written in an attempt to rectify such an anomalous situation. The emphasis is on the production of vodka and gin, and there is a reason for this. It is actually simpler to produce the very pure alcohol required by these two beverages than it is to make a spirit of lesser purity such as whisky. The explanation as to why it is simpler will become apparent in the next chapter. This emphasis on complete purity should not be taken to mean that whisky, rum, brandy, etc. are excluded from the list of alcoholic drinks which could be produced — after all, every bottle in the liquor cabinet contains alcohol, the only differences between them being flavour and alcohol concentration. The emphasis on vodka and gin simply means that the primary consideration in this publication is the production of pure ethyl alcohol — C2H5OH.
The book should appeal to two groups of readers: 1) those who live in countries where it is legal to distil alcohol for one's own use, e.g. New Zealand and Italy, and 2) the rest of the world, including North America and most of Europe, where the irrational and arbitrary law respecting distillation by amateurs needs to be challenged.
The first group will find complete details of the equipment and procedures required to ferment cane sugar to a crude 'beer' and then fractionally distil it to remove all the impurities, thereby producing a pharmaceutically pure alcohol. Instructions follow for flavouring the alcohol with juniper berries and other botanicals to give the well-known bouquet of London Dry Gin.
The second group can use the same detailed information in its campaign to have the law changed. Such a campaign will only succeed if it is based upon a thorough knowledge of the subject matter, because those who embark upon it will soon realize that legislators and officials in government are completely muddled about distillation --- with what it is and what it isn't.
This book, therefore, must not be seen in North America and elsewhere as any sort of incitement to break the law. Not at all. It is an attempt to clarify in the minds of the general public, and in governments, the misconceptions about a simple purification process which have become rooted in society as a result of centuries of mischievous brain-washing. Armed with the facts, the public can then embark upon the formidable task of bringing common sense to bear upon the problem.
A whole chapter will be devoted to this question of legality since it is highly important for everyone to know exactly where they stand and to be comfortable with what they are doing. It is hoped that legislators and law enforcement agencies themselves will read this chapter and possibly one or two others, think about it, and be prepared to be receptive when law reformers come knocking at their doors.
The units of measurement to use present a problem. Most of Europe uses the metric system whereas North America, particularly the U.S., is largely non-metric. In this book, therefore, we have adopted a hybrid system in which most volumes, weights, temperatures and pressures are in metric units while most dimensions, e.g. pipe diameters, are given in inches. For convenience, a table of conversion factors from one system to the other is given in Appendix I.
There is quite a bit of repetition in several of the chapters. Thus, when describing the equipment it has been necessary to describe to some extent just how it is used, even though this is dealt with at length in the chapters which deal with the procedures involved in fermentation and distillation. We make no apologies for such overlap since it helps to make the various chapters self-sufficient.
Repetition of the point that distillation is simply a purification process can be excused on the grounds that repetition is not a bad thing if we wish to clear away the misinformation planted in people's minds over the years by zealots of one sort or another.
In writing this description of small-scale distillation for amateurs it was difficult to decide on an appropriate amount of detail to provide. Distillation, even fractional distillation, is really a very simple process and it might have been sufficient simply to provide a bare outline of how to proceed. It was decided, however, that a knowledge of why something works is as interesting to the enquiring mind as knowing how. Furthermore, it can be very useful to know the underlying principles involved in a process if something doesn't work out exactly as expected the first time you try it. It then becomes possible to solve the problem through knowledge rather than by trial-and-error.
Before getting down to these details of fermentation and distillation a few general observations will be made in the next chapter on the subject of alcoholic beverages per se because they cover a very wide range of products from wines and beers to whiskies, rum, brandy, gin, etc. Comparisons will be drawn between these various products, mentioning in particular that highly purified alcohol in the form of gin and vodka is considerably less harmful to health than beer or wine, notwithstanding widely held beliefs to the contrary.
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