The first question which surfaces once we are thinking about distilling alcohol is:
Will my home made Booze be safe or will I go blind???
In many articles in the press and sometimes even on the news, we are informed that distilling alcohol in a non-correct way will case serious health problems like turning blind or even fatal liver damage which might cause your life.....
In general, we are speaking about "alcohol". We need to precise this term as there are several different materials during fermentation. Luckily for us, these different alcohols have a different boiling point, which allows us te seperated the various components into toxic and non-toxic components.
Ethanol vs Methanol - what is what....?
It should be noted that the human body can metabolize and eliminate low concentrations of methanol with no ill effects. (Methanol is present in many cooked vegetables, and the artificial sweetener in diet soft drinks breaks down into methanol during digestion.) Methanol becomes poisonous only when it overwhelms the body's capacity to remove it. Toxic effects do not occur until several hours after exposure. Effective antidotes to methanol poisoning are readily available and can be administered during this interim period.
- Ethanol is the alcohol which we are aiming for. This will not cause any health issues if consumed in a sensible quantity.
- Methanol (methyl alcohol, wood alcohol) is the alcohol which is the one which is toxic and should therefor not be consumed. Methanol is the simplest alcohol, containing one carbon atom. It is a colorless, tasteless liquid with a very faint odor and is commonly known as "wood alcohol."
A few teaspoons of 100% pure methanol can cause blindness and a few tablespoons can be fatal, if the exposure is not treated.
Methanol is formed by.....
- Methanol is formed when fermenting beverages high in pectins.
Pectin (E440) is a structural polysaccharide, found in fruit and vegetables and mainly prepared from citrus peel. In the food industry, Pectins are mainly used as gelling agents, but can also act as thickener, water binder and stabilizer.
PECTIN RICH FRUITS are: apples, plums, grapes, berries etc.
- Methanol is NOT or in extremely low quantities formed during fermentation of GRAIN and/or SUGAR based washes.
Distillation, seperating the methanol from the ethanol
During distillation, we are seperating the various components of our wash, based on different boiling points. The boiling points which can be identified are: