Home Distillation of Alcohol (Homemade Alcohol to Drink)


Also see Molasses

A couple of very good threads on the forums, in the Tried and True Section, are rum recipes. See these:
Harrys GGGP Rum
Pugi's Rum or Pugirum
Hook Rum
Make sure you read the section on distilling rum with a reflux column also.

Wal summarises the various recipes ...
    The French have two categories of rum - one from the molasses by- product of milling and refining sugar (rhum industriel) and one directly from sugarcane juice (rhum agricole). The 'Household Cyclopedia' of 1881 has a method for making rum which scaled down is about 800 g of molasses/5 litres of water or about 1 l.5 lbs/1 US gal of water. This would give a wash of about 5%abv. To make the equivalent of sugarcane juice, we need 1 cup of white granular sugar, 1/3 cup molasses and 7 cups of water. This would give a sugar content of about 15% which is equivalent to sugarcane juice.

    1)Traditional ('Industrial') Rum (20 l or 5 US gals)
    (molasses used in proportion of 1 kg molasses/5 l water) 4 kg (9 lbs) molasses for 20 l (5 US gals) of water
    This is equivalent to 100 g sugar/ litre

    2) Traditional ('Industrial') Rum for the Homedistiller (high alcohol)
    4 kg molasses and 4 kg white sugar for 20 l water
    This is equivalent to 300 g sugar/litre

    3)'Agricultural' Rum (French rhum agricole, Brazilian cachaca)
    3 kg white sugar and 1 kg molasses for 20 l of water (17% sugar)
    This is equivalent to 175 g sugar/litre

    4)'Agricultural' Rum for the Homedistiller (high alcohol)
    5.5 kg white sugar and 1.5 kg molasses for 20 l water
    This is equivalent to 310 g sugar/litre

    Rum gets additional flavor from ex Bourbon barrels and caramelised (burnt) sugar. A suggested proportion would be 5-10 tsp/litre of rum which would give a sweetness of 2.5-5% which is in line with what is added to other liquors.

Jack writes ...
    I've made good rum by using half sugar and half molasses. IF the molasses is bitter tasting (most feed store molasses is), then it's strong enough to make a solid flavored rum, even when it only makes up half of the fermentables. Hell, a 4 gallon bucket of molasses, 25 pounds of sugar, and 20 gallons of water made a good (and cheap) rum for me more than once.

    In my experience (molasses from Hawaii, piped into a bucket from a tanker), molasses needs to be diluted down to about 10 to 15% potential alcohol- it will ferment out only halfway (15% potential alcohol will only drop down till you end up with 7.5% alcohol by volume- molasses is only 50% fermentable). It doesn't need yeast nutrient, but a quarter ounce of acid blend per each 5 gallons of mash has shown to give a better flavor.

    I use two of those little 5 gram packets for each five gallons of mash. I don't stir at all- there is no grain/fruit to mash down, anyway. It typically takes about a week to ferment out and to begin clarifying on it's own.
PK writes ...
    I use a 7L pot still with thumper so I have to make 3 runs per batch (you just can't argue with free). It comes off at 75-80%. My wash is made from about 8kg cheap brown sugar and 50g yeast nutrient in 23L bucket, it finishes at about 15% alc using champagne yeast. I found that aging in toasted oak for at least a week, undiluted, made a product that would fool my friends. Noticed an even grater improvement when I got lazy and didn't discard my oak chips and just added more. Great taste when diluted to about 45%.

    The foreshots are easy. Even with a 7-8L batch I discard the first 50-60mL. I stop collecting when the temp. off the thumper reaches about 185 F (85C). I notice that at this point % alc. begins to fall as well and the smell changes.I still keep going till the temp off the still reaches about 195 F (90.5C)

    I have found a quick way to make charred oak chips. I wrap a tinfoil packet of oak chips about 3 layers and put them on my stove element at less than medium... Here's what keeps the fire out, a big old iron frying pan placed on top. In about 1/2 hr. good Smokey oak. I also sometimes add some caramelized brown sugar if the batch seems a bit harsh.
In a later update, PK writes ...
    ..I would like to suggest that first run distillers stick with brown sugar for the first couple of washes, at least to get comfortable with your pot stills temperatures.

    My recipe (I wouldn't let my old buddy "Captain Morgan" place my bags in my berth!):
    • In a food grade bucket, big enough to hold 23L, dump 5Kg of molasses plus 4Kg brown sugar into it. ( Just a guideline. I generally add brown sugar to 16-17% potential on hydrometer)
    • Rinse the molasses container a couple of times to get it all out using hot water.
    • Dump 50g of yeast nutrient into wash and add water while stirring to you have as specific gravity that aims for about 16%(17% is ok, but I just don't like to push the yeast too far... myself).
    • Add lavalin EC-1118 yeast at temperature around 70-75F. stir in!
    • After a good violent fermentation the wash will be ready in 7 days keeping the ambient temperature 70-75F.
    • Let it settle... or don't. I've found no difference. Dump into still and let 'er rip.

    My still:

    I'm using, out of convience ( If it ain't for free, it ain't for me), 2 8L syrup containers from a commercial milkshake machine. Stainless steel.

    First I dump the tails from the last lot ( first time... ohh well, next will be better!) along with a healthy portion of previous thumper juice( the stuff that accumulates in the thumper). I heat this on my stove because it has more power. When boiling I transfer to my hot plate (1200w) and wrap pot in insulation blanket.

    Connecting pot to thumper and thumper to condenser, I operate the hot plate on max as well as a plate warmer under the thumper (125w).

    More about the thumper. After experimentation I find that just enough liquid to cover the inlet is sufficient... any more reduces yield. ( Note: first timers should use a little wash for liquid, after that thumper juice. My thumper is the same size as my primary and I suspect that this allows for a lot of reflux allowing me to attain 80% purity from a 15% wash.

    Get the meth out:

    As Tony says discard the first 50mL. I've seen it, smelled it, and measured it. After 50mL of my wash is collected it will, seen, stop spitting... smell, a lot better... measured, the temperature stabilizes, mine is about 169-170F.

    Collection continues between 169 and 173F ( measuring temp. of thumper head). As smell changes (173F), I mount my thermocouple to my primary still and continue until its head temperature reaches 194-195F. I do not collect above the 173F(non smelly) point of the thumper. Well I do but its recycle. I should mention that as the first drops appear at the still I back off my hot plate temp a little bit, somewhere around ¾.


    In a bottle add toasted oak chips to distillate. If second time, add distillate to used oak and add a little more. 2-3 tbsp per 1L distillate. Yes distillate... Don't dilute!

    So far I haven't seen such thing as too long a time sitting on oak. However after a week or 2 I find it quite acceptable. Filter and dilute to drinking strength.

    On parting:

    Know your still. I'm sure every pot still with thumper has is unique operating characteristics. PLAY!

    I only hope this helps you demote the 'Captain Morgan' to Stewart 2nd class as it did me.
The "Household Cyclopedia" advises ...
    Mix 2 or 3 galls. of water with 1 gall. of molasses, and to every 200 galls. of this mixture add a gallon of yeast. Once or twice a day the head as it rises is stirred in, and in 3 or 4 days 2 galls. more of water is added to each gallon of molasses originally used, and the same quantity of yeast as at first. Four, 5 or 6 days after this, a portion of yeast is added as before, and about 1 oz. of jalaproot powdered (or in winter 1 1/2 oz.), on which the fermentation proceeds with great violence, and in 3 or 4 days the wash is fit for the still; 100 galls of this wash is computed to yield 22 galls. of spirit from 1 to 10 overproof. If the molasses spirit, brought to the common proof strength, is found not to have sufficient vinosity, it will be proper to add some sweet spirits of nitre (ethyl nitrate); and if the spirit has been properly distilled by a gentle heat, it may, by this addition only, be made to pass with ordinary judges as French brandy. Great quantities of this spirit are used in adulterating foreign brandy, rum, and arrack. Much of it is also used alone in making cherry brandy and other cordials by infusion; in all which many prefer it to foreign brandies. Molasses, like all other spirits, is entirely colorless when first extracted; but distillers give it, as nearly as possible, the color of foreign spirits.
Andrews tale ...
    I just tried out the first product from my new still on the general public (ok, it was family and friends at a tailgate) and it was a hit! Everyone agreed that it not only smelled and tasted "just like real rum" but that it was yummy. I am very excited.

    I made an all molasses mash, pitched champagne yeast, and ran once through my reflux still. My condensor is attached to my column so I don't really have a good way to de-reflux my still. I took off distallate at an average of about 150 proof, and then kept the tails seperate when they droped to about 125-130 proof and the temp at the top of my column was about 90C.

    I made about a 22L mash. I used a lot of molasses, around 7L, I'm not really sure of the amount because I went by my hydrometer. I added enough to get my potential alcohol up to around 16%. Nothing magical about that number, something I pulled out of a hat considering I was going to pitch champagne yeast, and noting that the molasses itself has a lot of dissolved solids in it that aren't sugar and will raise the reading.

    I charred toasted oak chips by baking in my oven wrapped tightly in foil at 500deg F. I cut the alcohol to about 90 proof and soaked on the charred oak as well as uncharred oak. It had been soaking about 3 weeks before I dressed it up for the big night out. After filtering out the wood with a coffee filter, I carmelize sugar and add about a teaspoon to 500mL.

    Two ways that I know of to carmalize sugar. The way cooks do when they make carmel and need to melt alot of sugar: dissolve the sugar in water first, boil until all the water goes away, and continue until the desired color is reached. It's quite a frothy mess and takes awhile. Since I don't need much what I do is just put a small coating of sugar in a dry saucepan, just enough to cover the bottom. heat on med to med-high and toss the sugar around in the pan alot. It will melt and then slowly change color. You have to do a lot of swirling of the pan so that you don't burn the sugar locally while some of the other sugar is still crystallized. It requires constant attention, but you're done in about 5min. Watch yourself on that liquid sugar, it is HOT and sticky. I.E. if you get a dab on your finger, it will burn and you can't get it off quickly.

    Mostly made mixed drinks since it's still young (I can taste a little something back there but it's faint), but with further ageing and mellowing I'm sure it will be even better.

    A couple people were interested in how I was able to get flavour through my reflux still. I have some ideas, but thought I'd also put this out for discussion. My reflux column has good surface area and insulation, but no cooling water in the column itself. I control the temperature of the top of the column by the heat input to the boil. My guess is that at the temperatures I run at, although I do a good job of knocking down the water vapors, there is still plenty of flavor coming over to my condensor. The oak chips also definately impart flavor to the liquer. Seeing as scotches, bourbons, ryes, tequilas, all age on oak as well, this can't be the flavor that makes it taste like rum, but is more of a backbone and mellower, I am guessing.
Jeanette writes ...
    In my limited experience, ( 4 batches of rum, only 2 worked ok ) I reckon that you have to have some molasses in your brew. The brown and dark brown sugar has enough in it to give some flavour, but if you want to make a good strong rumbo, go with the molasses. At the start of the run, you may have to throw out more than the usual amount of meths. You've gotta do it or you may ruin the entire batch. So collect in 20 - 50ml lots at the start so it is easier to segragate the off stuff. Keep a close check on the smell and taste of the rum when you get close to the end of the run.
Mike writes ...
    The recipe according to me for CAPTAIN MORGAN SPICED RUM is (starting batch)......
    • 6 kg brown sugar ,
    • 100 gm (extremely good) yeast nutrient
    • 2 packages (5gm per each) Lalvin-EC-1118 yeast. Make sure you bring the yeast up to a good foam (1/2 hr @ 80 F (26C) in 150 ml of the wash).
    • Add yeast to wert and add heat band to keep fermentation to 74 degrees F (23C) untill it reaches 0.998 specific gravity.
    • After that...you must filter the must through a wine filter(# 3 VINAMAT ) filter pad to get rid of as much yeast as possible before distilling.
    • Distill as per Tony's rules and collect in a big enough container to allow the cut down with distilled water (as per Tony's calculators on his website). Make sure the alcohol is 53%.
    • Add 1 Tbsp toasted (white American Oak chips) take that any way you like....HA HA HA....,
    • 1 tsp ground cinnamon,
    • 1 tsp ground ginger,
    • 2-dried cloves.
    • You may add as much caramelized white sugar as you would like to deepen the colour of the spiced rum
    • Let this soak for 1-2 weeks (or per taste or smell)
    • you mus t put the spiced rum through a coffee filter before you drink it unless you like alot of stuff going down your throat that does not belong there.
    • The way I distill is I use 60 oz. bottles for the distillate. After the first one is full I take a hydrometer reading. Same with the second and the third and so on. I finish when the coloumn temp reaches 90 degrees C temp. Then I take 2 minutes of tails for flavour and then I shut it down. Too much more will give you brackish yuck flavour!! After the run is finished I combine all the 60 oz. bottles and take a final gravity reading.Usually around 85-92%. This is then split in half with distilled water (unless making spiced rum which has to stay at 53% to get the vanillins out of the oak chips). The spiced rum can be dilluted down to 40% but it is quite good at 53%. By the way...I use brass scrubbers in the still because the don't impart flavour like stainless ones do.
    and then have a PARTY!!!!!!!

    Update ! - Mike has a new improved recipe ..
    Mike's Canadian Spiced Rum
    • 800 mL 80% rum (fermented from 6kg brown sugar, 25gm citric acid [to invert the sugar] , 25gm Supervit (Italian) yeast nutrient. 10gm Ec-1118 yeast from Lalvin (ferments HIGH ALCOHOL!!!) Run this stuff through a good reflux coloumn.
    • 1/4-tsp ground cloves
    • 1/4-tsp (generous) powdered cinnamon
    • 1/4-tsp (generous) powdered ginger
    • 1-tsp-Crosby's Cooking Molasses (Blackstrap will do !)
    • 1-Tbsp-Toasted White Oak Chips (Check your local wine shop as this is a popular addition to Red Wine !)
    • Now....after all this CRAP....let this stuff macerate in a 60 oz (1.7L) bottle (plastic or glass...your choice) for at least 7 (SEVEN) DAY'S (PLEASE!!!). SHAKE-THE-CRAP-OUTTA-THIS-BOTTLE-EVERY-DAY for the whole week (make's the flavours blend incredibly well). If you want an even fuller flavour...leave the bottle (or bottles ) to macerate (soak) for another week... (let's the spices and stuff impart an even stronger flavour). Play with it....see what you like!!
    • After this...you must run your (YUMMY-STUFF) through a coffee filter 2 (TWO) times at least (more filtering...clearer product!!!).
    • After this...you must top off the bottle (SORRY) to the top!!! This will give you about 38% alc/vol...which is perfect for this type of rum. I know that the Captain Morgan Rum is 3% less in alcohol...and it is much sweeter... I find this version BETTER! (only my opinion!). Oh...and yes...when I say TOP OFF THE BOTTLE...I mean,top it off with filtered or distilled WATER!!!
Mike elaborates on his recipe ...
    I thought that I would tell you how I keep my primary fermentor at about 78 degrees F. I use 10 feet of Pipe heating cable (this stuff is self regulating in watts,therefore controls the temp to keep it at an ambient temp of 75-78 degrees F) like your typical room temperature. I put an old plug (off an old clothes iron) on the end,wrap this around a SMOOTH WALL glass carboy and then wrap packing tape (you know...the clear pain in the butt stuff) around it about 5 to 6 times to seal it good and tight. If you dont know what I mean by pipe heating cable...check out the cable that you put on your roof to prevent ice dams in the winter. Fill up your carboy (check the temp before adding yeast).Plug this BAD BOY in to the outlet. If temp is Too high...put the airlock in and wait about 8-10 hours...then add hydrated yeast. This is guarranteed to ferment a 6kg brown sugar plus 50g Supervit yeast nutrient plus 10g Lalvin EC-1118 yeast ,wash (with a starting gravity of 1.100) down to 1.002 in just 7 (yes that is seven) days (just did it...I am not kidding!!!). And yes...I use brown sugar because what is it really...it is cheap($3.89 per 2kg Canadian) and it is white sugar laced with pure molasses. It ferments out completely and in a reflux still...comes out at 85% pure,lots of flavour,and tastes great if left full strength on toasted oak chips for about 8-10 days,then cut to 40%.You end up with a beautifull Golden Rum.
Wal writes ...
    Making rum from molasses is well known. But why not make a cousin liquor from palm sugar ? Sweet sap from various palms is fermented to make 'toddy' (India), and then distilled to make 'arak' which is similar to white rum. Palm sugar from palm sap is available in Asian groceries. More than one kind of palm yields sugar, among them the toddy or kitul palm (Caryota urens), palmyra palm (Borassus flabellifer), coconut palm (Cocos nucifera), sugar palm of India (Phoenix sylvestris), sugar palm of Java and Malaya (Arenga saccharifera). Those most prized are the palmyra and kitul sugars. The sugar ranges from pale honey-gold to deep dark brown in color with variable consistency. In India it is known as 'gur', while in Indonesia it is known as 'gula jawa'(coconut palm) and 'gula aren' (sugar palm). It is used on a daily basis in these countries as a sweetener. Read the label carefully to make sure you are getting pure cane sugar as unrefined cane sugar is also sold in these shapes.
John offers his recipe ..
    • 6kg blackstrap molasses
    • 1 pkt yeast nutrient
    • 1 pkt lalvin EC1118
    • 3kg white sugar

    In a 25litre fermenter with air lock, disolve the molasses and nutrient in warm water to around 22 litres at 25degC, pitch the yeast and keep the temp around 25degC until all bubbling stops. Add the 3kgs of sugar giving a quick stir and let it go at 25degC and leave for a couple of days after bubbling finishes. Decant, leaving the sediment behind (save the sediment in a sterile jar for the next batch).

    When you distill, drop something in the boiler to aid bubbling when it boils (I use a couple of copper pipe offcuts (about 1"x1") to stop surging and give it just enough heat to do the job.

    Throw out the first 50mls and collect the rest to about 88 to 90degC. I pull it off at about 80%.

    Toast some american white oak in alfoil until smokin, let cool, then mix with the rum with about 2 tablespoons of golden syrup (cocky's joy, treacle) and 1 tablespoon of foodgrade molasses for every 2ltrs of rum for about 4 to 5 days. Filter through a coffee filter and water down to 40% (80 proof) and enjoy.

    Dont forget to shake the bottle every day while on oak.
Hector writes ..
    Molasses (as strange as it may sound for you guys who pay such exorbitant prices for it) is a waste by-product of sugar refining. It comes from concentrating the water in which they wash the semi refined sugar that later in the process becomes brown sugar (a necessary step towards obtaining white as they tell me). Molasses is rich in yeast nutrients and doesn't have that many fermentable sugars in it but being so dirty cheap, at least hereabouts (32,4 NZ$ for a 300 kilo drum is the last price I paid 2 weeks ago) you can stretch the osmotic effectiveness of your yeast to 20-22 degrees Brix in your mash and ferment away in large, though inefficient batches.

    Anyway, what I wanted to tell you (and this fact I both read about and observed empirically) is that the only mayor difference between rum and whiskey is the main ingredients fermented in the wash. I think it was our never sufficiently praised Wal who once pointed to a link to Islay island distilleries and there I was amazed to find that they use exactly the same source of oak kegs (2nd run ex-bourbon) as does a close-by rum distillery .

    However, you can't obtain the same organoleptic profile for rum from sugar washes (brown or white) but you can get a better, more subtly flavored product by fermenting "panela" or "papelon" as we and Colombians call it. I have been able to buy some in the past while living in South Florida, USA, in small Latin food grocery stores. Panela is solid unrefined evaporated cane juice molded into box or conical shapes and it's 98-96% fructose (100% fermentable by any brewing yeast), and has lots of nutrients for yeast. It gives all of the flavors of molasses with a better alcoholic yield but at a higher cost (0,35 NZ$ a kilo in my town's supermarket).

    A tip: same as black pepper in the whisky profile, cinnamon plays a small but key part in replicating rum's authentic accents. Vanilla pods too and in still more subtle tones cloves and nutmeg. I don't know why but we people of the Caribbean tend to spice everything up with the same things.

    it is essential to reproducing the rum taste profile to use molasses as your main wash ingredient. I've come to the notion that not all sugar refineries are the same, technologically speaking. Here in Venezuela I've found that old and small sugar factories (usually technologically backward) produce better molasses for distilling purposes simply because there's more sugar in them. Perhaps there's an artisan sugar factory near your home, or you can get sugar cane molasses from one such industry. It's worth to find out. I haven't tried this myself because we have a cheaper alternative hereabouts that's called 'papelon' or 'panela' that's simply boiled sugar cane juice to the point of crystallization that's then emptied and cooled into conical or box like molds (Venezuelan moonshiners use it almost exclusively as their wash sugar material), but you can try and make an all brown sugar wash. Try to make it from the darkest sugar available to you and if you can find it in naturist stores (and it's cost-effective for you) add some sugar cane molasses also to this wash.

    Yeast love molasses. They find every nutrient they need there, so when using molasses don't add any yeast energizers or such. Brown sugar is mostly fructose (Typically more than 60-70%) and sugar cane impurities, so it will be more easily fermented by yeast than white sugar (mostly sucrose, a more complex molecule, not directly fermentable by yeasts). Industrially, rum is distilled as vodka, to it's azeotropic max (96%), but when diluted to 40% you can taste the difference from a corn or malt alcohol, for instance. Then it is aged in ex-bourbon oak (sometimes ex-brandy) barrels for no less than 2 years and in each barrel they put secret quantities of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg and they add a very small quantity of a 'mother rum' that's typically aged as long as the first batch made at that distillery (local Santa Teresa's is more than 200 years old). I've tried this stuff and it's heavily scented (specially with vanilla tones) and very smooth. I've found that using vanillin (I buy mine in the drug store), which is a powdered substance that artificially evokes vanilla's smell and taste, and some natural vanilla extract helps reproduce the subtle tones any rum must have. For oaking try to find some ex-bourbon (American white oak) barrel pieces or sawdust and make an extract from the alcohol you'll make diluted to 60-70% in water. Also try adding a tiny bit of raisin extract (soak some raisins in 90% alcohol) because this tastes like brandy and higher end rums have some brandy tones owing to the French oak barrels. Hope this helps.
Flaming Pinto writes ...
    I have a light rum/neutral spirit recipe that is working very well for me. I thought I would pass it on.

    15 lbs (6.8 kg) white sugar
    24 oz molasses
    5 tbsp yeast nutrient
    2 tsp yeast energizer
    yeast starter (see below)

    To make yeast starter: Dissolve 4 tbsp Red Star brand Distiller's Yeast in 3 cups water at 93-97 degrees F (34-36C). Add 1 tbsp molasses, and 2 tbsp white sugar. Stir or shake until disolved and cover. Let sit, shaking occasionally for 1/2 hour to 1 hour.

    Heat 1 gal (4L) water to almost boiling, pour into fermentor. Disolve 10 lbs sugar, molasses, yeast nutrient, and yeast energizer into hot water. Top up to 6 Gallons (23L) with cold water keeping temperature at 85- 89 degrees F (29-32C). Stir until well mixed. Pour yeast starter into fermentor and stir briskly. Put lid and air lock on fermentor.

    After a few minutes, the ailock should start bubbling briskly. Keep wort at 85 degrees F (29C) for the duration of fermentation.

    After 3 days, stir in remaining sugar.

    Airlock should bubble vigorously throughout fermentation.
    I have been using the recipe for a few months now and it never fails to produce 15-18 percent batches in 6 to 8 days. I use a pot still and run it through twice to achieve 85% purity with an output of around 1 gallon (3.8L). Flavor and aroma of final spirit is that of a very light rum.

    Cost in sugars and nutrients is around 12$-14$

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