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Does anybody know about distilling spirits?

PostPosted: Friday Dec 10, 2004 7:02 pm
by guest
May be out of topic in this forum.. but i believe distilling spirits is the same as home brewing? can somebody tell me how much it roughly costs to brew a batch of spirits?


PostPosted: Friday Dec 10, 2004 10:38 pm
by Dogger Dan
It is illegal to do this in Canada,

Just remember to throw out the top and bottom third of the distillation or you will go blind.


PostPosted: Friday Dec 10, 2004 11:28 pm
by Evo
...and it's only borderline legal in Australia. I think you can brew up the dextrose and water mix to a strength of about 20%, but it's illegal to actually distill (which is what you've gotta do to get a 40% alcohol base). The loophole is that you can own a still to distill water

As far as it being the same as homebrewing, well no, not really. You do brew up a mix of dextrose, water and yeast. That is similar to homebrewing, but the distillation is another game entirely.

Cost wise, yeah, it is as cheap as chips. From seven kgs (about $25) of dextrose you can expect about 3.5 litres of 80 proof (40%) alcohol. To this you add your flavours. You can work out the costs from there.

All this said, and I've never made any spirits and have only tasted small amounts of homemade stuff, but a mate of mine says he has got onto a friends stuff and woke the next day with the hangover from hell. He'll never go near it again and I've never seen him knock back alcohol before.

PostPosted: Saturday Dec 11, 2004 6:46 am
by gregb
Try the Country brewer.

And I've cut and pasted thier disclaimer below:

"Please note that is illegal to use a still in Australia to produce alcohol. It is however legal to own a still of not more than 5 litre capacity for the purpose of Water Purification and Essential Oil Extraction."

Never entertained the thought myself because I don't drink enough spirits to make it worth either the effort or money. It has crossed my mind for the purposes of making an environmentally friendly fuel, but again with making fuel you are making an excisable product and the ATO etc get upset with you. I believe there are other mods that have to be made to your engine / fuel system etc.

Oh, and whilst one is always innocent until proven guilty, I note with some interest that the person raising this topic has not given any name or details etc.



PostPosted: Monday Dec 13, 2004 9:24 am
by thehipone
It seems like the capital costs are very high. Unless you drink tons of spirits, it hardly seems worth the $300 investment.

That said, it seems pretty easy to do, and I think the whole "going blind" thing is exaggerated. Methanol boils at a pretty low temperature, I think the only way you could go blind is if you tried to drink the first distillate (top) product.

And it seems like one of those things that are "illegal" wink, wink, nod, nod. I can't imagine that you would get in trouble unless you were either making TONS of this stuff or else selling it.

PostPosted: Sunday Dec 26, 2004 11:26 am
by Robinelle

I did it for a while, but ended up with brewing beer. Beer is easier and more satisfying.


Yep about $300 to set up if you buy off the shelf. Ingenious people could set up for nothing or max $50.

If you are happy with just straight spirit (read Vodka) here is the cost:
Turbo Yeast $12 last time I bought it, churns out about 20% in straght sugar in about 48 hours.
6 or 8? kilos of home brand sugar $6 (can't remember but know it was $6)
8 hours of gas on the stove $1?
14 bottles of 40% spirit at say retail value of $20 is total value of about $280, for $18 outlay plus cost of still. So somewhere between $1.50 and $2 a bottle full retail on all ingredients? Imagine how much a sugar refinery can make it for?

If you want fancy spirits (brandy, whisky, tia maria or thousands of others) your local beer shop has flavours to mix with vodka. These range from $6 to $12 and usually mix up 2 to 4 700ml bottles. So adds another $2 to the cost of each bottle, a real tragedy.

My favourite was soaking shredded Jim Beam Oak cask chip in the spirit for about 8 weeks, lovely. Didn't taste like JB, but a real nice Whiskey.

I believe it is legal to own a 5Ltr still for distilling water and or essential oils and I don't suggest you break the law.

PostPosted: Saturday Jan 01, 2005 10:57 am
by Isaac
Chemical supply shops sell 95% ethanol (the other 5% is water, it's impossible to distill this away as it forms an azeotrope with the ethanol) for about $200 for 20 litres (less for smaller amounts). Dilute this with water to give 40 proof spirits and you get about 50 litres, add the flavourings from your local home brew shop and you've got yourself some exise free grog.

Very dodgy way of doing it, and I don't know if there's any additives put in to make it undrinkable - but it's very cheap. Never done it myself, anyone got any ideas on why this may not work?

Edit: A quick google provides answers: "Most industrial ethanol is denatured to prevent its use as a beverage. Denatured ethanol contains small amounts, 1 or 2 percent each, of several different unpleasant or poisonous substances. The removal of all these substances would involve a series of treatments more expensive than the federal excise tax on alcoholic beverages (currently about $20 per gallon). These denaturants render ethanol unfit for some industrial uses. In such industries undenatured ethanol is used under close federal supervision."

So, no go.

PostPosted: Saturday Jan 01, 2005 1:50 pm
by Dogger Dan

Glad this raised its head again. I was just reading this week where 54 were killed in India at an illegal still. There were meths in the product.

Suffice it to say it doesn't take a lot to do you in. I wont say don't, I come back to throw out the top and bottom third


PostPosted: Saturday Jan 01, 2005 10:12 pm
by Robinelle
A bit like brewing beer.... follow the instructions and you get a great product.

The first third last third principle does work, however with a well regulated still you can basically do the following:

Boil off the methanol first, the still can actually stop when there is "none" left. then boil off the ethanol, then stop so you don't get any fusels.

If using sugar and Turbo Yeast the ammount of Methanol in the mash is bugger all anyway.

You also have the option of double distilling or even tripple if your patient enough.

Here's a great site to ahve a look at if your learning.

PostPosted: Sunday Jan 02, 2005 2:29 am
by Dogger Dan

I bow to your greater knowledge on streamlining these things. Mine comes from the moon shine days of others (I never was very interested in it) and believe me there was very little science involved (actually there was, just no one knew about it)

Hangin around and trying to tell these guys what to do would in all likelyhood get you shot. I think there may be a couple of units around the area now, I just haven't gone looking, no desire to explain the finer points of stilling.

Friendly folk eh?


PostPosted: Sunday Jan 02, 2005 5:44 pm
by Robinelle


I reckon in the end it was too much trouble just for one family and you could very very easily start to drink too much.

I just love doing the beer now and find it quicker easier and a great drop. There is more scope to experiement as well.

Anyway hope these guys do their homework.

Distilling without mucho dinero

PostPosted: Wednesday Jan 05, 2005 7:21 pm
by beercanuck
Guest & others,

You could also check out - It's a swedish invention (Aren't all great inventions?) that lets you mcgyver your own still together from scratch, with out the $300 price tag.



PostPosted: Wednesday Jan 05, 2005 7:53 pm
by Evo
Gold ! "McGyver" as a verb.

I'm locking that in. :lol:

PostPosted: Wednesday Jan 05, 2005 10:03 pm
by Oliver
Yes. I like. Whatever happened to MacGuyver anyway. It was a bit like The Curiosity Show for adults. (Sorry to those who aren't familiar with Rob and Dean). Also a bit like a TV version of the How and Why Wonder Books.

Just Google (like that Evo?) the word MacGuyver and the world's your oyster.



PostPosted: Wednesday Jan 05, 2005 10:24 pm
by Dogger Dan
He got tied up in duct tape and lost the Swiss Army Knife.

Now he is saving the world through the Star Gate. Its very sad and gives me a perfectly good excuse to do beer while the Missus is busy Mcgyvering or what ever it is she does while he is saving the world


PostPosted: Thursday Oct 26, 2006 10:10 pm
by pacman
Not a spirits fan myself, even though I expressed interest in the subject when it was raised. My wife likes the odd spirit drink or three, hence my interest.

Not a lawyer, but from time to time have been involved in quasi legal situations.

From what I understand, it is legal to engage in home distilling in NZ, but not in Australia.

I'm thinking that Australian Excise & Customs, or whatever fancy name they have adopted, will not be fussed with the home distiller who distills purely (important) for personal consumption. But those who distill in abnormal quantities, and gift their product to all and sundry, run the risk of attracting unwelcome attention from the authorities.

We should all bear in mind that whilst presumed innocent until proven guilty, ignorance is not an acceptable plea should one be charged.

As in most things in life, moderation at all times. Well, in most times at any rate.

PostPosted: Friday Oct 27, 2006 12:35 pm
by Tipsy
pacman wrote:We should all bear in mind that whilst presumed innocent until proven guilty, ignorance is not an acceptable plea should one be charged.

Oh, I thought laws were to "protect the ignorant" :D

PostPosted: Friday Oct 27, 2006 9:06 pm
by pacman
In an ideal world Tipsy, perhaps. Just perhaps.

In the real world, however, this is why we ignorant ones are urged to consult a legal advisor before signing a legal document. Said advisor will advise you, but will give you no guarantee that the advice is correct.

This is why the ignorant are often taken to the cleaners in legal disputes, and the smart money rules.

As for being charged with an indictable offence - ignorance is no plea.

PostPosted: Friday Oct 27, 2006 11:20 pm
by OldEvan
I'm not a lawyer, but I was told when buying my still if I keep the condenser seperate to the "body" it technically isn't a still and therefore isn't illegal. If you have a 5L still it is legal to leave it set up as long as you are not actively distilling spirits. If you have a still full of wash, sitting next to bottles of finished spirit it is not illegal until the still is turned on and you are actively making spirits.

Once again, I'm not a lawyer so don't try and use this argument in court :P

PostPosted: Tuesday Oct 31, 2006 5:52 pm
by HB
Here in nz we can distill as much as you want when you want.I get 3 litres of 80% (6L @ 40%) from 6kg of sugar made up to 23L.Last one i made over winter took a month fermenting before it was ready to distill.