November 18th, 2007 2:01 PM
On an autumn afternoon in a place much like Canada (where distilling liquor is legal), three brave sfzeroers gathered with a half case of old homebrew and a whole bunch of equipment, to make themselves some liquor.
The setup consisted of a big flask, surrounded by sand (to diffuse the heat) in a pot; a condenser; a tube that fits into the tops of the flask and condenser, with a hole above the flask for a thermometer; the thermometer; a gasket to seal the tube; a burner for heating the flask; a stand for holding the condenser; water to cool the condenser, as needed; a funnel; and beer.
At some point, for successful distillation to occur, one must take a tea break. The gods of liquor require it. Doubly so if one has not documented one's homebrew-making. Our teatime came after the sand was funnelled in around the flask.
We then began assembling our equipment and pouring the beer, using roughly 3 and a half bottles for this distillation. (As you can see, the beer is still drinkable, just ... not as good as it once was. It was Dale's and Duck's first homebrew, significantly helped along with the expertise of Doodle Maier. Poetic, perhaps, that it should be the first thing we distilled together, as well.) We affixed all the necessary tubes in all the right places, hit "go," and ... went for Pho, because it was going to be almost an hour before anything would happen.
Upon returning, we saw the first few drops of distillate dropping into the jar. Unfortunately, the first of the distillate had to be thrown out; therein lies blindness! (Methanes, ethanols, and other nastiness all have a lower boiling point than alcohol, which has a lower boiling point than water. Thank goodness!) Arguably, we lost a significant portion of our alcohol that way, but it was better than risking it. We shut off the boil when the temperature hit 95 degrees. (We'd started around 20. Man, Canada's cold!) It seems that, toward the end, there was a lot of water sneaking in with our alcohol; it's not super high proof, as shown by the "shake test" video.
We each tried a taste before heading our separate ways; it smelled nasty (something that will dissappear with age) but wasn't precisely unpleasant to drink. Woohoo!
There will be more distilling in the future (since most of that half-case is still around), and we'll probably try re-boiling what we get from the beer distillation down into something more potent, just to see if we can. Pictures will be posted and updates will be made, as the process continues.