making activated carbon

Treatment and handling after you are done distilling.

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making activated carbon

Postby stoker » Sat Dec 31, 2005 9:10 am

can one make a non-poisonous carbon structure by leading steam through common charcoal (for BBQ,...)????

or, if this isn't possible, is there another way, maybe making it out of wood
-I have too much blood in my alcohol system-
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Postby Watershed » Sun Jan 01, 2006 5:45 am

It's done at insanely high pressures as far as I know. The old way for making it ( just something I saw on TV ) was to heat the stuff to near red heat in a can, open a hole in the top just long enough to let it start burning, then seal it again. The idea being you let in just enough air for combustion to widen the pores then stop it by closing off the air supply.

It worked for getting the colour out of river water on TV but that's not the same as real life....
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Postby The Chemist » Sun Jan 01, 2006 2:57 pm

I think to make a "commercial grade activated carbon" would just be too much hassle. But you can make charcoal the same way Jack Daniels does. Watershed is right about the procedure--you want to "burn" the wood without air. I have a good reference at work, but won't be back there until Tuesday (Happy New Year!!!), but I'll look in it then, and try to send some pointers.
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Postby Rocky_Creek » Mon Jan 02, 2006 9:50 am

If by common charcoal ypu mean anything intended for barbeque, stay away from it. The bricketes will brobably kill you quick. The natural wood is made in closed contitions and may contain harmful chemicals. For whiskey pourposes charcoal should be made in a controled open burn, contrary to what a lot of posters are doing.
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Postby Rocky_Creek » Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:59 am

Well I'm going to have to agree with theholymackerel, charcoal or chared wood is needed only for flavoring whiskey, not for cleaning it up. Slowly distilled alcohol should mix with about anything without the crutch.
You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, and them's pretty good odds.
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Postby Harry » Mon Jan 02, 2006 4:53 pm

The 2 most commonly asked questions on any distilling forum...
"How do I get rid of the Methanol?" and
"How do I use charcoal/carbon?"

Just goes to show the level of paranoia out there. The 'thought police' (aka Govt henchmen) have done their job well.
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Postby possum » Mon Jan 02, 2006 5:05 pm

Doubble plus good ,doubble think,
Harry :twisted: ....Orwell rocks(1984 for those who have not read it)

I have used the carbon myself to clean up neutral spirit from my pot still.
I use it on low wines, filter and then redistill. I always made my own by burning sugarmaple, and then before burn is compleate extinguished with water. Then crumple it up and remove unburned wood.
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Postby Harry » Mon Jan 02, 2006 6:00 pm

As for charcoal in a barrel, the only reason it's there at all is because there's no other way of producing the 'Red Layer' (caramelized oak) which gives spirits their characteristic colour (and a little sweetness). Sure, you can toast wood in an oven, but that does not produce a red layer. So you have to flame it, which produces charcoal as a byproduct.

And what the hell would distilleries or coopers do with mountains of charcoal if they did remove it? It's not strictly needed, just the red layer as I said before.

It was worked out centuries ago that the charcoal had no bad effects on newmake spirit, rather the contrary. It actually gave spirits a 'smoky' aftertaste, and more modern technology has proved it to be a reasonable filter of some of the harsher tails, though not near as good as dedicated manufactured filter carbons. So we have charcoal in our barrels, and everybody points to that and says "There's the proof that charcoal/carbon is necessary". Hogwash!

When barrels are refurbished, the first thing they do is scrape all the remaining charcoal out, to expose new wood. Then they refire them to produce another red layer. It should be obvious from this that there's only a limited number of times a barrel can be renewed, before there's not enough wood left to make a red layer, and still remain strong enough to withstand the strain of the contents weight. And the byproduct charcoal? It goes on providing its minimal filtering and smoky overtones.

To show how effective (or not) barrel charcoal is as a filter, try this...
Get 2 jars, half-fill each with storebought bourbon. Put a handful of fresh charcoal in one, and a handful of filter grade carbon in the other. Leave them sit for several days/weeks, then check the colour. I'll guarantee you the carbon jar has lost considerably more colour than the charcoal jar. But I'll also guarantee the charcoal jar is now a smoother, smokier bourbon than the carbon jar.

Hopefully this will put an end to the urban myth that charcoal/carbon MUST be used in spirits production. Clearly it is not. As THM said, make good likker to start with.

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