Vodka filtering at home?

There’s a link going around the Internet (I won’t provide it here) that explains and demonstrates how to use a Brita activated charcoal water filter to remove the impurities from cheap vodka so it’s closer to premium vodka.

So, my questions for the food scientists and filtration experts are:

  1. Could you actually do this?

  2. Is there a chance that such a procedure would render the vodka dangerous for consumption?

  3. Would the filter remove the alcohol along with any impurities or particulate matter in the vodka?

(Note: I’m not asking this because I intend to attempt it, as I am below the age for legal alcohol consumption. I ask because the concept is an interesting and intriguing one.)

Oooh, I’m not underage but I’d love to know as well. Stoli gets pretty damn expensive on a bender. :wink:

FWIW, I can’t see how a Brita pitcher would make it any more unsafe than it makes water unsafe. The biggest question I have is the alcohol content, as well.

Huh. Hit reply too soon. What removes the impurities is distillation, not filtration. At least at the distillation plant. Now it seems unlikely, but who knows? Maybe there’s something to it.

Well, Brita/Pur filters improve the taste of water by removing certain chemicals and other things found in water, so at the very least you’d be doing the same thing to the water used to produce the vodka.

Alcohol wouldn’t be removed - the filter removes substances via activated charcoal and small particulate filtering, neither of which (to the best of my knowledge) should affect ethanol. What annoys me is that I have a hydrometer to measure the density of a fluid, so I could try this at home - but I opted for the faucet filter rather than the pitcher. D’oh!

What the link in question fails to mention (at least, in my quick reading of it) is that a Brita pitcher filter replacement costs about $8, and they were questioning whether they’d destroyed its filtering capacity in the process. Suddenly this might become much less cost-effective.

Many commercial vodkas are charcoal filtered one or more times for this very reason. If your “cheap” vodka has not already been charcoal filtered, it should improve somewhat upon filtering.

Activated charcoal works by adsorbing high-molecular-weight (HMW) impurities into the pores on its surface. It’s not the same as filtration; it can remove HMW impurities that are dissolved in a solution, unlike a filter, which can only remove suspended particles. Solutes of low molecular weight, and solutes with certain properties, are not adsorbed by activated charcoal.

You certainly could treat vodka with activated charcoal. I would suggest using fresh charcoal, because it’s vaguely possible that toxic chemicals already adsorbed to used charcoal might be released if they were exposed to ethanol. Provided that no charcoal ends up in the vodka, I can’t see how it would be harmful. (Of course, I can’t definitely recommend this without seeing HPLC or GC/MS test results that show the process doesn’t make the vodka dangerous.)

Whether this would be desirable is a different matter. If the vodka has already been treated with activated charcoal, further treatment may have little effect. Any flavor-bearing molecules – either proteins or smaller organic molecules – in the vodka might very well be removed by activated charcoal. You’d end up with something closer to pure ethanol and water, which may or may not be what you want.

Ethanol should be too small to be adsorbed by activated charcoal. eMedicine confirms this. (Activated charcoal is often used in poisoning to adsorb toxins in the stomach; it wouldn’t appear to be useful in alcohol poisoning.) Testing the treated vodka with a hydrometer would confirm this.

BTW, activated charcoal can be bought cheaply (far more cheaply than Brita filters), probably at a health food store or scientific supply store. Provided you remove the activated charcoal after treatment (by filtration), it would be cheaper to do this than to use a Brita filter.

I can happily say that I tried this experiement last weekend on my 22 birthday. My friends and I had a brita with a slightly used filter. We bought the cheapo vodka ($12 for a 1.75 L) and sent it through the filter four times, in two batches.

Does it taste like good vodka? Can’t say. We didn’t have any good vodka to compare too. Did it taste better than before filtering? GOD YES. There was a clear enhancement in the flavor, and a decrease in the “burn,” as it were. I suspect that Roches is right, in that a mixture close to pure ethanol and water is what is achievedm however, isn’t this what some expensive vodka’s are? Some rely on the special impurities found only in their grain/water/etc… while others use their claim of “distilled and filtered elevtey-billion times” to promote themselves. So if that is the case, then yes, a cheap vodka can be made to taste like a good vodka. We even had a vodka expert (well…as good an expert we know) taste it and he said id did taste like good vodka. And as to the price, well, let’s compare.

Cheap vodka: $12
Brita filter (assuming a filter is ruined in the process and a new one must be used every time): $8

Total: $20 for a 1.75 L of vodka.

Good vodka is easily more expensive than that. Most are ~$20 for a liter, so yes, money is saved.

Personally, I still don’t think it makes the vodka good enough to drink on it’s own, either straight up or in something that relies on the flavor of the vodka (like a vodka martini) but it is PERFECT for mixed drinks, that is, perfect if you don’t want to taste the alcohol as much. I could easily put double the amount of vodka into a screwdriver and have it still taste less alcoholy than a normal one with cheap vodka. That’s not to say I didn’t taste any vodka, I did, but it was less pronounced and what I did taste wasn’t as bad as unfiltered.

The obvious solution to this problem is to call your utilities company and tell them to switch your tap to vodka.

I’m not a mod, but I cannot see why the link can’t be posted. There’s no law against this, is there? Nobody’s making the stuff from scratch, just altering it. I’d think filtering the stuff would be about as legal as mixing it with orange juice.

I wasn’t sure how exactly the mods would look at it, and I decided that discretion was the better part of valor. If I get a thumbs-up, I’ll post it.

Google “filter vodka brita” and you’ll have it, or at least one like it.


Anyone think the rate of alcohol evaporation is significant?

and… thats freaking brilliant

Is this basically finally an admission that high priced vodka is nothing but an ultra-pure ethanol solution?

Tincture of dihydrogen oxide, 800mL. :wally

Well, that ain’t right. I meant this icon, of course: :wink:

And this is why posts should be previewed…

It would certainly work better than the James Bond method of sprinkling black pepper onto the top and waiting for it to settle (supposedly with the impurities) to the bottom. :dubious:

Does anyone know whether a filter would be ruined after this process, or whether one would be able to use it multiple times?

You might want to try using a replacement cartridge for a fish tank filter. They contain activated charcoal and can be found wherever pet supplies are sold. They’re probably a lot cheaper than a Brita filter.

On the plus side, your Goldfish could get a wicked buzz off of this experiment!
[Just kidding. Please don’t poision your Goldfish.]

I can’t provide any scientific backing, but I can’t fathom any reason why it would be. The only way you’d ruin it is if the vodka contained so much contaminant that it rendered the filter saturated. I’m sure the vodka is probably almost as clean as typical well water, probably cleaner.

There’s nothing inherent about vodka (alcohol) which would overly affect the charcoal filter.