Vodka is known as a neutral spirit which can be produced from fermented fruits, sugars, grains, and potatoes. It is often not aged and has no distinct or discernible smells or flavour. These features make it one of the most common options for mixed drinks and cocktails. If you are a wine enthusiast, making your own alcohol at home seems to be a brilliant idea to create your favourite flavours and tastes. In this guide, we’ll show you how to make vodka from potatoes and some useful tips for the best results.
The first step is to choose high-quality potatoes to ferment into vodka, which requires starches and sugars. Basically, you need to select those that are healthy without any signs of diseases. Depending on your tastes, yeast, molasses and sugar can also be added into the ingredient list.
When producing vodka from potatoes, you need to make a mash which contains active enzymes. These components will help to break down and convert starches into fermentable sugars. You can buy these products easily from any homebrew shops.
Make different mashes
Clean 9 kilograms of potatoes and boil them in a kettle without peeling. Wait around 1 hour until they gelatinise. Dispose of the heated water and mashes these potatoes thoroughly with a processor or by hand.
Put the mashed potatoes back to the kettle, then add 18 to 20 litres of tap water. Thoroughly blend the mixture and adjust the heat to around 65 degrees.
Add 1 kilogram of malted, crushed wheat or barley and stir the mixture well. Cover the kettle and periodically stir in 2 hours. Let the mixture cool overnight to around 26 degrees. This period will give the enzymes enough time to break down and convert potato starches.
Ferment the alcohol
Before fermenting, it is necessary to prepare the working area and clean, sanitise all of the utensils thoroughly. This will prevent common issues such as cross-contamination, high levels of unwanted flavours or aromas.
Next, you need to select and set up the airlock, a system that releases CO2 without letting O2 get in. Ideally, 19-liter batches of mash could be fermented in a 23-litre carboy or a 28-litre food-grade bucket. Make sure to put lids or rubber stoppers to prevent bugs or undesirable things.
Strain the potato mash into the sanitised fermentation vessel or airlock, then add the appropriate amount of yeast. Use a sanitised, clean spoon to stir the yeast evenly. Keep the mixture at around 27 degrees to allow for efficient fermentation.
If you do this in winter, consider purchasing a heating belt or conservatory heater. After 5 to 7 days, yeast will cleanly ferment and produce alcohol. Remove the fermented liquid into a clean vessel.
Choose a still
There are three still options: column, pot and reflux. While pot and column stills are quite similar in the operation, the latter is more complex than the former. If possible, it is advisable to purchase a column still because it is often designed for use with readily available materials.
If you can’t find a column unit, go for a spot still instead. This type could be built very cheaply and easily. Unlike column stills, they might use coiled or bent piping or tubing. Reflux stills might be another option which could perform multiple distillations at the same time. This helps clean the rising vapour and improve the purity of your vodka.
Watch this clip to understand the differences between pot stills and column stills:
Distil the alcohol
The next step is to distil the relatively-low, fermented alcoholic wash to the right temperature. By doing this, the alcohol will vaporise and travel up to the pipe of the chosen still. This collected alcoholic liquid is vodka.
First, you need to heat the wash with wood fires or gas burners, depending on your kind of still. Ideally, the temperature should be around 78 degrees. During this process, alcohol will start vaporising and condensing in the water-cooled part of the still.
The first distilled alcohol, also known as the heads, would be full of toxic chemicals and methanol. Thus, you should get rid of the first 60 millilitres for 19 litres of wash. The remaining part is the desired alcohol, along with other components.
At the end when the temperature rises above 100 degrees, it will produce harmful chemicals, also known as the tails. They contain butanol and propanol, which can be fatal. Thus, it is essential to discard this part to avoid health risks.
Once the wash has completely vaporised, cool a small sample to around 20 degrees and measure the alcohol percentage/purity with an alcometer. The liquid might be too concentrated or diluted to be served as acceptable vodka. The ideal alcohol content should range from 40% to 50%.
Add the finishing touches
Pass the distilled vodka through a carbon filter, which can be purchased at any brewing shops, to get rid of unwanted volatile aromas and flavours. Next, dilute the alcohol by adding purified water. You should measure the percentage of alcohol with an alcometer during this process until you get the desired strength. Once everything has done, bottle and cap your vodka with a gravity filler. If necessary, label the bottle with a custom label.