Take your extractions to a different level by creating your own flavors through infusing alcohol. Teaching you how to do that, Tony Frischknecht kicks off the series on alcohol distillation with Nick Gay, a leader in the CBD and herb industry. Together, they discuss some distillation processes plus some basics you need to know before getting down to it. Nick also shows us how to create what they call the “bathtub gin,” the different types of methods of alcohol infusion, and more. Follow along to this episode, and don’t miss out!
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Alcohol Distillation Part 1: The Basics Of Creating Your Own Flavors With Nick Gay
I have something exciting. I’ve got Nick Gay here with me. We’re going to be discussing some distillation processes and some basics. I can’t wait until the second part of our show here. Nick is going to take us through and show us how to create what they call bathtub gin. For those of you out there, we’re not making alcohol but we are going to show you how to infuse alcohol so you can create your own flavors. Isn’t that right, Nick?
Totally. Thank you very much, Tony.
Let’s get to it. In the distillation process, where do we start?
The alcohol distillation process is a fairly simple, straightforward process. It’s been around for a long time. I don’t know exactly how long but people have been drinking for ages. It starts with various grains, starches, fruits, anything that has sugar content in it. Those starches and sugars are then turned into a mash where the starches are converted to sugar or those sugars that are boiled out of the fruit. After that mash process, there’s the fermentation process where yeast is added to the sugars where alcohol is formed. That fermented mash is a low alcohol percentage similar to most beers or something like that. After that, they do the distillation process where the fermented mash is boiled, causing the alcohol vapors to rise. Those alcohol vapors then travel to a condensing coil where it’s turned into a liquid and then collected. They will then redistill it multiple times in order to get a higher proof and better purity product.
What’s the purpose of redistilling?
Let’s say you start with something that’s 6% alcohol. You’ll distill it. It will then be 40% alcohol. You distill it again. It may be 60% alcohol. You’re also leaving behind all these impurities. Every time you boil something off and you’re boiling off the alcohol, you’re leaving behind all these different sediments, minerals, and little things like that can add into the flavor of your end spirit.
These impurities, what do they do to the body if you ingest these? Let’s say you’ve only distilled it once. What happens if you drink the alcohol if it’s only one time as opposed to 6 or 7 times?
It’s not necessarily a health hazard for the most part because most beers are not distilled. It’s just fermented mash. If you’re trying to make a liquor and you want something to be stronger, they’ll typically make it out of different things. Instead of using starches, they’ll use things like fruits or potatoes. You don’t want that raw potato flavor. Once you distill it a couple different times, then both will hit the purity that you’re trying to get to, and also your flavor is clean. If you have something that’s only once or twice distilled, it could give you a bad hangover for whatever reason.
For you guys out there that like to drink the cheap stuff, pay a little more, less of a hangover.
Sometimes they distilled the cheap stuff even more. If it says nine times distilled, that’s not a good thing. That means they made it out of something so cheap that they had to distill it an extra four times. If they said 5 times or 7 times distilled, it’s not necessarily a testament to the quality, but the potency will be super high. I have to be clear, it doesn’t taste good.
I learned something right there. I hope somebody else did too. We’re going to be creating some bathtub gin. That’s what they called it back in the day. What do you know about gin?
I’m a beer drinker. I had to do some research myself before I did this whole process. The term bathtub gin was coined back during prohibition times when bootleggers would soak botanicals in illegally made moonshine in order to make that moonshine palatable to the widespread public. That term has then changed. Now it means that you’re making your own infused alcohol at home. It’s been a novel term. The only stipulation for an alcohol to be called a gin is that it is juniper berry forward. Meaning that the main botanical used is juniper berry, and that it’s 37.5% alcohol and above. There are a couple of different types of gin. There’s some back and forth about it between the Europeans and us. Here in America, we recognize three different types of gin, one is jenever, the other is gin, and then the other is London dry gin. There are four types of gin that are recognized within Europe, one is juniper-flavored spirit drinks, gin, distilled gin, and London gin. I don’t know the differences of all these. If you want to go into that further, we could talk you through that in a later show.Lowering the temperature when distilling alcohol captures and retains more of the flavors and compounds. Click To Tweet
All I know from the flavor side is you get multi-flavors of gin where that juniper berry is strong a lot of the time. There are ways to tame that out depending on how you mix your drinks. If you are making your own, you can add as little or as much as you want to create that perfect flavor for yourself. Bathtub gin, that’s what you’re going to be showing us how you created some. What type of methods of alcohol infusions are out there?
There are a couple of different ways. Quite possibly the oldest way is called maceration, which is soaking whatever your herbs or botanicals within the alcohol and then straining them out after a certain amount of time. The second way, which is used most commonly, is they do that first maceration process and then redistill that product, which then leaves behind some of those impurities that are extracted out through that process. Another process is vapor infusion where in the alcohol distillation process, when they’re redistilling the alcohol, they put a basket of botanicals right up here that the alcohol vapors then flow through and then collect those aromatics through the distillation process.
That sets up and boils on top of it.
It’s like steaming broccoli or something like that.
It’s like a container where you’ve got your pot on the stove, and you got your screen up top. You get a boiling and you drop your broccoli in there, steam it out and then ready to go.
The only difference is that steam is then converted back into vapor because it’s all a closed system, and then the liquids, that’s your alcohol. There are two more modern fashions of extraction or infusion with alcohol. One is vacuum distillation, where they’ll do that same alcohol distillation process but they’ll do it under a vacuum. What that will do is lowers the boiling point of everything. You can carry out the entire process at a much lower temperature. For example, under full vacuum, water boils at 100 degrees Fahrenheit as opposed to 212.
What are the positives to distilling at a lower temperature like that?
A lot of different aromatics, flavors, and things like that are killed by the heat process. If you can lower that temperature, you’re then able to capture and retain more of those flavors and compounds. The last one, which I did a lot of research and I couldn’t find anything about it, is CO2 extraction. That’s one thing that we’re going to be covering in our show. We’re going to be doing a maceration, and then a CO2 extracted extract of the same exact aromatics, and then comparing them side-by-side.
I’m looking forward to that, especially if you haven’t heard anyone. This will probably be the first time for not only me, but everybody else to see how it works. The alcohol vapor infusion process, fermented mash is boiled to produce alcohol vapors. Second, alcohol vapor passes through botanicals. Third, vapor is cooled and condensed into a liquid. The fourth process is repeated as desired. That’s to take out all the impurities or get it to the strength that you wanted to. Can you share your recipe with us, so we know what we’re making?
We’re going to be using a recipe I found online, a little bit modified. It’s 750 milliliters of vodka, two tablespoons of juniper berries, one tablespoon of coriander seeds, two cardamom pods, a half stick of cinnamon, a small piece of dried orange peel, a small piece of dried lemon peel. On both of those, you’ll remove the pith, which is the white part. The reason why you do that is because when you extracted, that part becomes bitter in your mixture. The only addition that I made to this, just because I had it on hand, my girlfriend has a lime tree. I took two lime flower blossoms and threw that in there. That’s a little fun thing.
It sounds like you’re baking an awesome pie of some sort to me when I look at this.
As far as sourcing any of these things, I know juniper berries. It’s like, “Where do I get that?” Amazon or there’s a website called Bulk Apothecary that has a lot of these hard to find herbs and things like that.
I know everybody is excited to see the video out there. We’re going to be tuning into your lab where you’ve created this. We’re going to take that and we’re going to go through it. Nick’s going to walk us through the process of this. I know you guys are like, “You can’t be cutting me off.” This is how we have to do this process. Please hang in there. Join us next time as Nick and I do the first CO2 distillation process that I’ve never seen. Nick is going to do it. He and David are going to be a part of it. I will have them on for you. Nick, we will see you in that next show. I’m looking forward to it. Thank you so much for joining us.
Thank you so much, Tony.
About Nick Gay
A leader in the CBD and herb industry with 8 years experience in new facility set-up, employee training, SOP creation and integration, product production, extraction and distillation.
A collaborative team-player who strives for operational excellence and works across all departments to scale production and create safe work environments.