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  #1  
Old 07-13-2001, 12:08 AM
pkbites pkbites is offline
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I always feel a little stupid asking a legal question because I was a cop for a few years ( and a good one Goddamnit! That village of 460 would have been riddled with crime without me! )

Anyway, why can I legally home brew beer and wine(and I do ) but not grain spirits? Is it for health & safety reasons or what? As far as I know, I can brew my home brew as strong as I want. So why does the law prevent me from making whiskey with the air conditioner still my brother in law wants to make? What's the reasoning behind that law? We don't intend to sell it.
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  #2  
Old 07-13-2001, 12:59 AM
bibliophage bibliophage is offline
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It is legal in some jurisdictions, including New Zealand. I haven't heard of any horror stories from home distilling in New Zealand, but I haven't looked very hard for any either.

The usual argument against it is that it's dangerous: methyl (wood) alcohol and other compounds (like propyl, butyl, and amyl alcohols, and aldehydes like acetaldehyde and esters like ethyl acetate) are produced alongside ethyl (grain) alcohol in fermentation. A botched job of distilling the ferment will concentrate the poisons. That isn't the whole story, though.

I don't believe it's all that dangerous, as long as you follow a decent recipe, use modern equipment, and distill the product two or three times. Jethro and Billy-Bob out in the back 40 with a rusty bucket might make some dangerous stuff. But Nigel in his Auckland duplex with modern equipment probably won't.

I suspect the real reason behind the ban against distilling your own is that the feds would lose tax revenues. Hard liquor is taxed by the federal government at $13.50 per gallon, wine at $1.07 and beer at only 58 cents (state taxes are extra). Correcting for the difference in alcohol content, the alcohol in liquor is taxed at a rate about 2 to 5 times higher than beer and wine.
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Old 07-13-2001, 01:22 AM
bibliophage bibliophage is offline
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In fairness, I should say that revenue is only one reason that governments tax alcohol. Alcohol in general and hard liquor in particular have long been viewed as evils whose use should be reduced or eliminated. Studies have shown that higher taxes discourage drinking.

Now that moderate drinking has been shown to have some health benefits, these views may be evolving. But there's no reason to think that hard liquor is healthier than beer and wine, and so I expect no push to reduce taxes on hard liquor, or to legalize home distilling.

I should also note that in all 50 states, home brewing of wine and beer is not a right, but a privilege. Home distilling is neither.
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Old 07-13-2001, 07:51 AM
Spritle Spritle is offline
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It depends on where you live. Many states allow you to make alcohol "for personal consumption". This means beer, wine and "spirits". The problem is when you make too much. <cue "Foggy Mountain Breakdown"> Then the 'revenoo-ers' start chasing you, and the G-men march up the hill with the dogs and smash yer still.

In Maryland, the law used to read 50 gallons annually. It may have changed since the mid 70's. More than what I used to make in wine and mom used to make in Kalhua (or however the heck it's spelled) to give out at Christmas.
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  #5  
Old 07-13-2001, 08:01 AM
Sigene Sigene is offline
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Is it REALLY against the law to distill a ferment for the alcohol? I know this is "common knowledge"...but, has anyone checked to make sure. I can see where it will be illegal to SELL it, but I'd like to see the specific law that states one cannot MAKE it. I remember doing this in college classes, first semester organic chemistry. Was the entire class of 400 breaking the law in a state run educational institution? (Of course it was Missouri, where we take pride in our distillation techniques!)

Anyway, I'll have to do say "Show Me," the law that says its illegal
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Old 07-13-2001, 09:06 AM
Turbo Dog Turbo Dog is offline
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It is legal in most states to make beer and wine for personal consumption. It is illegal throughout the country by federal law though to distill alcohol without a permit from the BATF. This includes "fuel alcohol". Even those cool "mini-stills" you can buy for the coffee table that allow you to distill a shot of brandy from a glass of wine come with the disclaimer that it is a novelty piece and that it is illegal to actually use it to distill wine. The only consistent answer I ever get on the question of why though, is tax purposes but I'm sure there are more reasons. Incidently, my old neighbor has the large copper pot from his grandfather's still that he uses as a hanging planter. Word spread about it (it is really a beautiful pot) and the local DA heard about it and paid him a visit to make sure he knew the laws concerning it, one of them being that he needed a permit from the BATF to simply possess it. He got the permit after a quick inspection of it by the Feds.
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Old 07-13-2001, 09:21 AM
Turbo Dog Turbo Dog is offline
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For the written word,

http://www.atf.treas.gov/alcohol/inf...alcohol.htm#g1
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Old 07-13-2001, 09:38 AM
Earthworm Jim Earthworm Jim is offline
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TD, are you saying that he needed a BATF permit to own a large copper pot? I mean, was there something significant about the pot that makes it distinctly "distilling equipment" which must be licensed? Or is it just "a large copper pot"? Forgive me, but my knowledge of still equipment is limited, and I'm left wondering if you really do need a license to own a planter. Thanks
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Old 07-13-2001, 12:07 PM
Turbo Dog Turbo Dog is offline
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Had he called it a planter, or grain storage unit or something like that, he probably would have been okay, but since he was on record as having a still, that is what caught the interest of the DA. Having a still is legal, depending on the size of it, as long as you don't use it to make booze. With his though, the BATF considered it to be a large still, which is not legal. (I'm not sure what they use to define large and small, but knowing the government, I'm sure it is deliberately vague). Remembering the size of it, I would guess that it could hold somewhere around 70 gallons. Plus he had all of the accessories on the wall behind it (lid, piping, containers, condensors, etc). Because of the size of it, and because he made no bones about what it was, they "suggested" that he get a permit because technically it was considered illegal and could be confiscated if the wrong person were to file a complaint and press the issue, which in that area was a very real possibility.
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  #10  
Old 07-13-2001, 05:40 PM
red_dragon60 red_dragon60 is offline
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I think one of the other concerns is that when dealing with vapourous alcohol, it is very volitile. I burned the hair off my leg in an alcohol explosion a little while ago, thanks to my brother.

On the topic of owning distilling equipment, I am in posession of a 'worm' or distilling jacket that my chemsitry teacher gave me. These can be used for distilling acids and such also.
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  #11  
Old 07-13-2001, 09:35 PM
Speleophile Speleophile is offline
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Back around 1979, it was legal to distill up to 15 gallons of ethyl alcohol per year for personal use as a motor fuel additive. I once had a copy of a government phamplet on exactly how to go about it! I wish I still had that in my possession.

The best part was the bit about personal consumption. They cautioned that you weren't allowed to distill spirits for imbibing, but in the interest saving lives because they KNEW some people would do otherwise, there was even instructions on how to produce alcohol that was reasonalby safe to drink. The two key pieces of advice were to discard the initial and final effulent from the condenser, since it contained methyl alcohol and other nasties, and to NEVER use a car radiator as a condenser for anything you would drink, but to use only copper or stainless steel components throughout.

I don't think this program is still in effect, but the hurdles for getting a permit to produce fuel additve alcohol are a good bit less onerous than to get one for making home-brew, which are definitely beyond most peoples means and determination.
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  #12  
Old 09-07-2012, 03:51 AM
danhandled1 danhandled1 is offline
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you can manufacture your own beer wine or spirits in missouri

Missourians over the age of 21 may manufacture up to 100 gallons per person each year of any alcoholic beverage for personal use, without further limitation, without taxation, and without any license.[21
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  #13  
Old 09-07-2012, 05:34 AM
naita naita is online now
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When copy-pasting material from some source, in this instance wikipedia, you should show it as a quote with proper attribution. And before any Missourans are mislead into starting a distilling-operation to prepare for the zombie-apocalypse, they should read the sentence immediately following yours in the wikipedia-article:

Quote:
It should be noted, though, that for production of distilled alcohol (i.e. not beer or wine) for personal use, it probably still is necessary for the private citizen to obtain a permit from the Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau and meet other requirements under federal law.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missour...#Manufacturing
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  #14  
Old 09-07-2012, 06:10 AM
kayaker kayaker is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spritle View Post
In Maryland, the law used to read 50 gallons annually.
Federal law permits 100 gallons if one adult is in the household, or 200 gallons if there is more than one adult in the household. State law can be more restrictive.

I checked into this a few years back. We have five six gallon carboys, so we bottle thirty gallons at a time. I was somewhere just shy of 200 gallons. I was cautious; to the point of going to several different wine supply shops and making cash purchases. Good times!
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  #15  
Old 09-07-2012, 07:39 AM
August West August West is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kayaker View Post
Federal law permits 100 gallons if one adult is in the household, or 200 gallons if there is more than one adult in the household. State law can be more restrictive.

I checked into this a few years back. We have five six gallon carboys, so we bottle thirty gallons at a time. I was somewhere just shy of 200 gallons. I was cautious; to the point of going to several different wine supply shops and making cash purchases. Good times!
Wine is not distilled spirits.
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  #16  
Old 09-07-2012, 08:15 AM
kayaker kayaker is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by August West View Post
Wine is not distilled spirits.
No shite Sherlock, I was responding to A side conversation on the limits on wine production by Spritle et al.
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  #17  
Old 09-07-2012, 09:32 AM
August West August West is offline
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Originally Posted by kayaker View Post
No shite Sherlock, I was responding to A side conversation on the limits on wine production by Spritle et al.
A side conversation from 2001, Sherlock Jr.
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  #18  
Old 09-07-2012, 09:48 AM
kayaker kayaker is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by August West View Post
A side conversation from 2001, Sherlock Jr.
Well, then. I'll request a bib and eat that shite.
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  #19  
Old 09-07-2012, 09:57 AM
DrCube DrCube is online now
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It's perfectly legal if you pay $5000 yearly for a license and open up your operations to government inspectors whenever they feel like inspecting. (I looked all this up a few years ago. So, no cites on hand and things might have changed.)

The stated reason is that improperly distilled liquor can produce methanol, which is dangerous and will make you go blind if you drink it. But my understanding is that it is easy to avoid methanol, and making "healthy" liquor isn't that difficult. I can't help but think the real reason is to prevent competition with the big distilleries.
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  #20  
Old 09-07-2012, 09:59 AM
BlinkingDuck BlinkingDuck is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bibliophage View Post
In fairness, I should say that revenue is only one reason that governments tax alcohol. Alcohol in general and hard liquor in particular have long been viewed as evils whose use should be reduced or eliminated. Studies have shown that higher taxes discourage drinking.

Now that moderate drinking has been shown to have some health benefits, these views may be evolving. But there's no reason to think that hard liquor is healthier than beer and wine, and so I expect no push to reduce taxes on hard liquor, or to legalize home distilling.

I should also note that in all 50 states, home brewing of wine and beer is not a right, but a privilege. Home distilling is neither.
While I'm sure they have other reasons (heath etc) my cynicism says that the main reason is that they can't easily tax you.
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Old 09-07-2012, 11:57 AM
August West August West is offline
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Originally Posted by kayaker View Post
Well, then. I'll request a bib and eat that shite.
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  #22  
Old 09-07-2012, 02:43 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrCube View Post
The stated reason is that improperly distilled liquor can produce methanol, which is dangerous and will make you go blind if you drink it. But my understanding is that it is easy to avoid methanol, and making "healthy" liquor isn't that difficult. I can't help but think the real reason is to prevent competition with the big distilleries.
That's the same as my understanding. I seem to recall that even if you don't bother properly disposing the "heads" and "tails" of your distillate, that the amount of methanol present will only give you a bad hangover, but not even come close to causing blindness. That said, I don't have the chemistry or medical background to confirm this. If anyone knows for sure, I'd be curious. The only blindness cases I've heard from hooch was when the moonshine was deliberately cut with methanol.
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Old 09-07-2012, 02:57 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is offline
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You don't get methanol from distilling fermented beverages, you get something I think is called fusil alcohol, which tastes nasty and is bad for you. You can also get a permit to distill a limited amount of ethanol for use as fuel very easily. Re: Repurposing a still, it's still a still and the feds can take it if they want. If it's just a copper pot I doubt they could get a conviction based on owning a still, but you may never see it again.
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Old 09-07-2012, 03:01 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
You don't get methanol from distilling fermented beverages.
Yes you do, especially if you start with a fruit base high in pectin. Fusel alcohols are another thing altogether. Even commercial spirits have some methanol in them.

Last edited by pulykamell; 09-07-2012 at 03:01 PM..
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Old 09-07-2012, 03:02 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is offline
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
Yes you do. Fusel alcohols are another thing altogether. Even commercial spirits have some methanol in them.
Sorry, should have said the methanol isn't the big problem.
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  #26  
Old 09-07-2012, 03:03 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
Sorry, should have said the methanol isn't the big problem.
That is my understanding, yes, that the whole "you'll go blind!!!!" if you improperly distill alcohol is a bunch of nonsense.
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  #27  
Old 09-07-2012, 03:26 PM
randomface randomface is offline
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The only way you can really get poisoned by distilled beverages is if it has been cut or if it was made in a lead soldered still.

The sources I have found give a methanol concentration of roughly 3 parts per million for a fermented sugar wash. A dose of methanol as low as 10 mL can damage your optic nerves, although drinking ethanol with it will vastly decrease the danger. To get 10 mL of methanol you would have to concentrate pure methanol from a 3000 liter batch of wash.

That would be quite difficult even if you were trying to accomplish this.

A more likely scenario is that poorly distilled alcohol will give you a massive hangover.

If you are going for a fancier batch than from a sugar wash, say, making it from apple cider, you might get up to 400 ppm (if you used pectic enzyme and fermented at a high temperature with additional sugars to get to at least 12% alcohol).

To get the dose of 10 mL, you would have to perfectly concentrate a much smaller batch of only 25 liters.
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Old 09-07-2012, 09:59 PM
pkbites pkbites is offline
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Um....!

Ego insists I clarify that while this thread was opened on my account, I was not the author of the OP. I'm assuming it was someone who authored the OP that at that time was staying with us for a while during a rough spot in his life. I was then a still a cop (for a very large metropolitan department, just a "tad" bigger than 460 people) and remained with that department until 2007 when I retired after 25 years and then continued part-time with another agency to "stay in the game", so to speak.

This is not the first time I've seen zombie threads that were opened on my account but not authored by me. My kids, my brother, my brother in-law, they've all posted under my account unbeknownst to me. But it was my fault for not signing out when I left my computer. 20 lashes with the wet noodle for me!!!!

-Peter King Beitz

Last edited by pkbites; 09-07-2012 at 10:00 PM..
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  #29  
Old 09-07-2012, 10:29 PM
Rysdad Rysdad is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by randomface View Post
The sources I have found give a methanol concentration of roughly 3 parts per million for a fermented sugar wash. A dose of methanol as low as 10 mL can damage your optic nerves, although drinking ethanol with it will vastly decrease the danger. To get 10 mL of methanol you would have to concentrate pure methanol from a 3000 liter batch of wash.
In this video here, the guy is using nothing but yeast and sugar for a wash, and then distills it four times. What does the subsequent distillations do to the overall methanol content, anything?

Quote:
If you are going for a fancier batch than from a sugar wash, say, making it from apple cider, you might get up to 400 ppm (if you used pectic enzyme and fermented at a high temperature with additional sugars to get to at least 12% alcohol).
So if I, say, decided to try and distill some homemade wine...from about 5 liters of wine "wash", do I run the risk of making too much "wood" alcohol vs "grain" alcohol? (Just in case I droppped the bottle and some of it accidentally splashed into my mouth.)
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  #30  
Old 09-08-2012, 12:19 PM
md2000 md2000 is offline
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A common cause of blindness (and death) IIRC was lead poisoning. Not just from the revenoors - one old hillbilly recipe used handy premade condensers in the form of used automobile radiators; the distillate would dissolve the lead solder and contaminate the final product.

So the obvious answer is, it's very different than making wine or beer - you are playing with fire, with interesting chemistry, with explosive vapours and highly flammable substances, and - they don't get tax revenue.
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  #31  
Old 09-08-2012, 06:31 PM
randomface randomface is offline
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If you distill anything that was drinkable before distillation, you won't get a more dangerous product as long as you either follow proper distillation technique and discard the heads and tails or if you collect all the distillate in one container. The only way you could selectively concentrate methanol is if you took the heads (first part that evaporates) from multiple batches and continued concentrating it.
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