Spirits Learning Centre

Making your own liqueurs and spirits is a fun extension to your fermenting hobby. Make your own alcohol base or use vodka then flavour it to make your own unique beverage. You can even distill your own alcohol if you live in a country that allows it.

Making Alcohol Without Distilling

In countries where it is illegal to distil alcohol for consumption there is another option. You can ferment up to 20° ABV which is fine for many cocktails.Fermenting alcohol without distilling will leave behind some of the fermentation flavours which means you will produce a different flavour. Another option is to purchase vodka or grain spirit and use this alcohol with flavourings.

MAKE A BASE TO FERMENT

You will need:

  • 30 Litre (8 US gal) fermenting pail with airlock, bung and tap or siphon.
  • Sterilising sachets or similar. We recommend Still Spirits No Rinse Steriliser
  • Mixing spoon or paddle
  • Still Spirits Power Turbo Yeast and Nutrients
  • Turbo Carbon
  • Turbo Clear
  • 10.5 kg (23lb 5oz) of Dextrose

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Add 20 litres (21 Quart) water at 30°C (86°F) to the fermenting pail, slowly pour in the dextrose while stirring. Stir well to make sure all the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Add the Turbo Carbon by carefully cutting off the top of the sachet near the seal and squeeze contents into the mix. Use a little water to rinse out the rest of the sachet. This carbon will be absorbing fermentation flavours during fermentation to make your fermented alcohol as clean as possible.
  3. Sprinkle Power Turbo on top of the mix. Fit airlock and leave to ferment. This will take 7 to 10 days depending on the room temperature. The ideal room temperature is 18 – 24°C.Once the mix has finished fermenting. Indications that it has finished fermenting are the airlock has stopped bubbling, no small bubbles are rising through the brew and the mix will look less murky from the top working it's was down the pail as the yeast and carbon start to settle out.
  4. Once all fermentation has ceased we take the unusual step of stirring the whole mix up to remove all the gas from the mix. This mixing should start slowly at first so the mix doesn't froth over, but build to be very vigorous after 5 to 10 minutes to make sure we get all the gas out. If you don't de-gas the mix you are likely to have problems getting the mix crystal clear during the next process.
  5. After all the gas has been removed, add Part A of the Turbo Clear pack and stir well. This needs to be mixed throughout the mix. One hour after adding Part A of the Turbo Clear we need to add Part B. Unlike Part A we want to try to add this to the top layer of the mix with as little disturbance as possible. Sprinkle it over the surface and try to gently stir it in to the first 25mm (1 inch) of the mix.
  6. After 24 hours the wash should be brilliantly clear. If it isn't leave it for a little longer. Once it is clear then siphon or carefully pour the clear mix off the sediment in the bottom.The mix is now ready to be used to make liqueurs. Remember that liqueur recipes are all designed for use with 40 or 50% alcohol, reduce any water from recipes, add the flavour and any base pack required and top up to 1.125L with fermented mix.

How to Make Better Spirits

Follow these instructions to make a top-quality alcohol base for distilling or flavouring.

STERILIZATION: Every single thing used in the fermentation process must be cleaned and sterilised before and after every use. We cannot stress enough how important sterilisation is. After sterilising, the fermenter and equipment should be rinsed several times with regular cold water, taking care to run some water through the tap of your fermenting set-up, to ensure no trace of the sterilising solution remains. After rinsing, seal the fermenter to prevent any contamination. Please note: if your steriliser contains Sodium Metabisulphite, do not use this on your still. Clean your still with warm water immediately after use.

YEAST SELECTION: Lookup the Still Spirits Yeast Chart for details of the volume of water you will start with and the correct temperature of that water. For instance when using Classic Turbo Yeast and 6kg of Turbo Sugar you need 21 litres of water and the temperature should be 40 degrees Celsius. You will need a clear mark on the side of your fermenter to show the 21 litre level.

TEMPERATURE: Wash temperature is very important. If the Wash is too hot, the yeast may be killed off or weakened, and therefore may not be able to ferment out all of the sugar. Don't forget that in warmer times of the year, use a temperature-tolerant yeast such as Still Spirits Heat Wave. If the wash is too hot, then cool it as quickly as possible and add the yeast, as any delays can lead to contamination resulting in poor quality results. Using Classic Turbo as the yeast in the Wash means that you should ferment in an area where the room temperature is between 20° and 25°C. If you are distilling in hot climates, you should use Heat Wave Turbo, a heat-tolerant yeast.

At lower temperatures, the Wash will take longer to ferment, or in extreme cases, it may stop working altogether.

If you are fermenting in a hot climate, an air-conditioned environment is obviously ideal. However, if air-conditioning is not an option, then try filling some PET soft drink bottles with ice and freeze them. These can be added throughout fermentation to control the temperature.

Another method to try and control hot room temperature is to use the evaporation technique. Sit the fermenter in a tray with about 25mm of water. Drape some fabric over the fermenter so it dangles in the water (towelling or an old t-shirt is ideal). If it is still too hot, turn a fan on to the fermenter

Instructions for fermenting the wash

Instructions vary with yeast selection - these instructions are for using a Classic Turbo Yeast with 6kg of Turbo Sugar.

Fill your fermenter to about 19 litres with cold water and then add about 3 litres of very hot water. Check the temperature with a good quality thermometer and use hot or cold water to adjust the temperature to the required 40°C. Remove a small amount of water to adjust the volume back to 21 litres.

Then add 7 kg of Dextrose to the warm water in the fermenter and stir well to dissolve. When it is dissolved, the temperature should be just right to add your yeast but you should ensure the wash temperature is in the correct range between 20° to 30°Celsius. Check again with your thermometer and add one sachet of Still Spirits Turbo Yeast to produce an alcoholic Wash.

Partly fill the Airlock with water and fit it to the fermenter to prevent any oxygen, bacteria or insects getting in during fermentation. Within 24 hours, carbon dioxide should start bubbling through the airlock, as long as everything is working correctly and if the fermenter is sealed properly.

Fermentation can take as little as 3 days if you are using a fast-acting yeast and the temperature is ideal. In cooler weather it can take up to 7 days.

For the first 24 - 48 hours, heat is generated by the fermentation process. After this period a Heating belt or pad can be used in cooler weather to maintain the temperature. Do not use a Heating device in the first 24 - 48 hours.

After the fermentation ends

Fermentation is complete when the yeast has used up all of the dextrose/sugar. All signs of fermentation should be finished and the hydrometer reading will have remained static for two days. If in doubt, leave the wash for an extra day or two.

Wash and sterilise the wash and spirit hydrometer in cold water. Float the hydrometer into the Wash, and take the reading where the line of the liquid cuts across the scale on the hydrometer. The reading should be about 990. Ensure that you take great care when handling hydrometers as they are very delicate.

If you want to further improve the quality of your spirit, you should allow the fermented wash to clear completely, before distillation. Still Spirits Turbo Clear is ideal for speeding up this process.

Things you should watch out for

If the gas does not start to bubble through the airlock, then loosen the top and have a look inside. The wash should be bubbling and will probably have a foam or froth on top. If the wash is not bubbling and there is no froth around the top of the wash then check that the temperature is within the recommended range.

A vigorous stir at this stage with a sterilised paddle (not wooden) will speed up the fermentation process. Stir gently to start with, to avoid a froth build-up.