1. Potatoes; 2. ??? 3. Profit!--I mean vodka!

How is vodka made from potatoes?

Most things that are fermented (whether for distilation or not) are naturally high in sugar (grapes, honey, apples, maize, mare’s milk, etc.) In the case of most grain, which is starchy, it typically includes at least some portion of malt, especially malted barley, which containls an enzyme that converts starch into sugar. Rice used to produce sake isn’t malted, but it is treated with a fungus that converts starch into sugar.

Potatoes don’t have a very high sugar content; something has to be done to them to convert the starches into sugar for the yeast to metabolize, or you won’t get alcohol. I know one option is to add barley malt to the mash, just like with grains, but some vodkas claim to be made with potatoes only, no grain. Do they just add enzymes to the mash artifically? How was it done traditionally?

(I know most vodka has always been made from grain, not potatoes, but some of it is made from potatoes, and has been for a fairly long time.)

I had a Polish neighbor who made his own vodka from potatos. (This is illegal in the U.S. and Canada. Don’t do it.)

There’s an amylase in the sprouts, so he’d let him get all funky before he put them into the mash. (Heh. Potato mash.) No sprouts, no hooch.

Vodka is treated differently from beer or wine? Because those are both legal to make in most places, as long as it’s in “personal use” amounts.

Vodka requires distilling, and that requires a license. Ask any moonshiner. :smiley:

This Site gives some good details.

Are you sure that you need a license to distill for your own personal use? Do you have a cite?

Well, the County censors prevent me from citing the precise sites I know, but here and here and here.

I always thought it was just common knowledge. However, according to this site, it is only legal to distill for personal use in NZ, Italy, & Australia (though I’m sure there are others).


Whoops. May that Austria, not Australia.

I found myself a cite:

from Section 5178(a)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code

I don’t understand how a clause like that can make it into federal law though, I am sitting at home, making moonshine in a still, then drinking it myself, what enumerated power gives Congress the right to butt in here? Am I interfering with interstate commerce by not buying bourbon from Kentucky?

I don’t understand how a clause like that can make it into federal law though, I am sitting at home, making moonshine in a still, then drinking it myself, what enumerated power gives Congress the right to butt in here? Am I interfering with interstate commerce by not buying bourbon from Kentucky?[/QUOTE]

Well, not to get into the politcs of it too much (most of which probably are seated in commerce laws,) distilling spirits is inherently more dangerous than making beer or wine. For one, distileld spirits can contain methanol if not distilled properly. Two, distilleries by their nature are slightly more prone to explosion than a beer or wine fermentator. :stuck_out_tongue:

So the government can pass it off as a personal safety law, lik speed limits, seat bvelt laws, etc…

Yikes! Don’t the sprouts also contain poison? According to the Master they do. Does distillation remove the glycoalcaloids? If it concentrates them, I’m thinking homemade potatoeshine is maybe best avoided not just for its illegality!

Then again, according to the same column, storing potatoes for “too long” at low temps can cause an excess of sugar in the potatoes. Excess for chip-making, that is. Just right for vodka? How would cold storage cause the starch to convert, anyway?

If cold won’t do it, maybe heat will. That site seems to say that the mash is just heated to convert the starches into sugars. Is that really all it takes? Why doesn’t my potato soup taste sweet, then?

I’m more confused than ever. Maybe I need a drink. But I’m scared of the glycoalkaloids now

But if you look through the federal laws you will see that any personal safety law that is on a federal level has a “but” or an “if” on it firmly planting into one of the enumerated powers. For example, (i’m just making these up, but the real ones are similar) You have to wear a seat belt if you’re a federal employee who is employed for the primary reason of driving. Or you can’t go faster than 70 miles across state borders.

The distillation prohibition seems to just sit out there. It’d be fine in a state or city law, where most of the actual personal safety laws reside, but in federal tax statute?

Ethanol is very volatile, while the nasties aren’t. You use enough heat to encourage the ethanol to evaporate without boiling off the water or anything else. The ethanol vapour goes into a cooled condensing tube, and gravity takes it into a collection vessel.

Sometimes the distillation is repeated to get purer alcohol. (ie; with less water.)

Even if stuff is there in solution with the water and alcohol in the mash, it stays in the pot-- unless it’s more volatile than what you’re trying to distill off.

I’m not arguing, Larry; I’m just not clear. Do you know that the poisons are less volatile than ethanol, or are you just assuming this? Does a distiller have to be careful to avoid glycoalkeloid-containing aftershots, just as methanol-containing foreshots are avoided?

[Disclaimer for Mods: I’m not asking how to avoid glycoalkaloids in potato-distilate, which might suggest illegal home distilling, only whether it is a concern for distillers. Believe me, I had no desire to make home-distilled potato vodka before I knew it was made from poisonous rotten potatoes, much less now!]

This Site says the same thing:

I am just assuming, based only on knowing one old guy who had done it for years without any ill effect. Really, though – alcohol is so volatile, in most cases little else in solution will evaporate with it, unless the still is running too hot – in which case what came out of it would be too nasty to drink, anyway.

By way of comparison, I cast my mind back to the (statute of limitations expired) days when I was operating a still on a regular basis. In my case though, ethanol wasn’t the desired product, just the solvent used to extract oil from a popular herb. When it was all in solution, the ethanol would be so green it was black. Anything it touched would stain forever. Certainly it was full of toxins. (Or intoxicant, at least.) Run it through the still, though, and eventually you’ve got a pot full of pitchy essential oil and a bottle of pure ethanol. No colour, no taste, no alkaloids. Mixed well with orange juice.

While I wouldn’t recommend anyone make their own potato vodka (because it’s illegal,) I’m quite confident that, so long as it’s properly distilled, nobody’s going to get solanine poisoning from it.

As for heating the mash, you’ve got to do that anyway to kill anything that might be living in it. I’m told that the sprouts help with the yield, so there must still be starch in there for the enzymes to work on.

Article I, section 8:

So the Congress has the right to lay excise taxes on the manufacture of distilled spirits, and it has done so. If you moonshine, you’re not paying the tax, and are acting illegally.

“Dang-blamed reven’ooers, get off mah land!

Just remember kids, distilling alcohol, even for home use, is illegal in the US, but it’s also pretty dangerous. See, to evaporate the alcohol you need heat. And when you condense the alcohol, you’ve got a highly volatile fuel. Heat plus fuel plus oxygen makes fire, m’kay? So you’re pretty much playing with fire and the equivalent of gasoline if you set up a still in your kitchen.

That’s why old-timey moonshiners always keep their still in a shack in the woods rather than in their house. Sure, you’ve got to keep it secret from the revenooers, but you’ve also got to expect your shack to go up in flames occasionally.