Moonshiners. That's the word poping into the public's mind these days if you mention "Making Ethanol." Ironically mention absolute vodka, everclear, or wine and you are met with glazed teary eyes - "Can I have some of that?" In the scientific world, getting lab grade EtOH reagent is expenisve and too much of a paper hastle. Doing a quick search shows $50-100 a liter. However most researchers now a days use store-bought everclear and use straight, or filter it through a dehydrating membrane to get annhydrous EtOH at a fraction of the cost.
What I'm going to show you here is Ethanol, and a distillary which you may make. I must warn you however, I promote safe lab practices. And drinking the lab product is against the law and unsafe. For that matter, I am showing a run down version of how to produce raw ethanol (EtOH), without showing how to seperate the nerve destroying methanol (which as futher disturrent from drinking- you only need 10ml to cause nerve and brain damage). Like I was saying earilier, combined with basic safety practices, making EtOH for future experiments can be a rewarding and fun experience.
PS: This is a slow process, if the only reason you're veiwing this page is to get some free moonshine to drink, then note that it's much faster just to buy store bought liqior. Not to mention safer since I'm not showing how one might make it safe to drink (though there is a way).
These molecules look like the picture above. They appear to be a simple ethane chain with a hydroxyl group attached.
In theory yeast eat sugar molecules and react it in water with a bunch of engymes through anarobtic mechanisms. In other words in enviroments devoid of oxygen. After the Ethanol is produced by turning the yeast organism into our slaves, we will proceed to harvest their hard work. Note as yeast are living organisms they will being to suffocate in their own ethanol when the solution reaches about 12% EtOH. Ethanol has a boiling point of approximately 68C where as the boiling point of water is 100C. This difference in boiling points will be the driving means to seperating the EtOH from the solution.
Materials needed for fermentation (scale where needed): + Yeast
+ 1 gallon water (distilled)
+ Stirring Rod
+ A Pinch of Urea
+ 1/10 lb white cornmeal + 1 Teaspoon Peanut Butter Oil Extract (Drain the oil from store bought peanut butter, vitiman source)
+ 2 lb Sugar
+ A large air-tight container
+ Glass rod and blowtorch (for CO2 trap)
Materials required for still construction:
+ Various Copper Piping
+ A low temperature boiler such as a crookpot
+ Acidic resitant aquarious sealents
+ Small bucket
Materials needed during distillation:
+ Clean Pillow Case/ filter
+ Ice / DryIce
+ Collection vessel
+ Activated Carbon
+ A glass still (optional, but for pure 96% EtOH/Methanol mixture is a must)
Procedure: Construction of a Still:
1) Using Copper pipes contruct an air condenser attached to the boiling vessel as seen in the image. Besure to seal the connections.
2) With additional pipes produce a helix shaped coil and insert into a small bucket. This will be what is often referred to as a cooling tower in industry. But here as researchers, we will refer to this as the liquid water condenser.
3) Basically thats all there is to a still. A heating/boiling champer, a speration column (in this case the column doubles as a single air condenser), and finally a cooling apparatus. As a further note I wasn't thinking when typing this up, you should do the Next fermentation first, allowing you time to build a Still while the yeast ferments.
4) In a bucket mix in the Water, cornmeal ,sugar and yeast. After all those are dissolved, continue to add in the urea and peanut oil. The reason for urea is the nitrogen acts as a cataylst, while the oil provides vitamins to the yeast. This fact is unsupported (Untested as of yet, however under the Bio page I plan on doing some experiments on yeast).
5) Note that fermentation of EtOH is an anarobtic reaction, as such we must not allow for oxygen to creep in, yet allow for the the excess CO2 created to escape. This is done with the use of an air trap. You can make one easily by getting some glass tubes and U-bending them by use of a blowtorch. (I will try to put up a page on glass blowing and such, but this is pretty self explainatory)
6) After waiting a 2-3 weeks for the yeast to ferment and die, you should be ready to distill the EtOH. Quicky filter the ferment through a clean pillow case or other filter to get rid of any large solids. Fill up the boiling vessel with this filtrate and turn it on. Depending on how efficent your still construction is, this may take anywhere from a couple hours to a couple weeks. Make sure the teperature reaching the tip top of your still is around 70-80C range so that other organics don't make it to the final. Filling the liguid condeser with ice or dryice occationally - you should have EtOH comming out the other end.
7) After the first distillation you should end up with 40-50% EtOH with a bunch of other chemicals in the mix, this is what is referred to as "Moonshine." The reason will be explainned later in the conclusion and analysis part below. We will continue to distill it again through the same method 2 more times, for a total of x3. Each time the temp ragne will be more a more narrow towards 68C. What you get now is roughly 95% EtOH. There is still relatively 1% other aromic organics in this solution, filter it through activated carbon multiple times to remove these. ~96% EtOH Technical grade.
8) Optional: Depending on lab applications, this step may or may or may not be needed. Distill the solution in a glass distill to get rid of any copper ions which may have come from the copper pipes of the larger distill. Also you may filter through deydration membranes to remove the excess water for annyhydrous EtOH, in which case store in air tight container.
One reason it was required to distill the solution multiple times was due to boiling point depretion (type up if additional time is avalible). When first distilled a lot of aqurious componds not just EtOH was in solution. These compounds including the water the EtOH was dissolved in raised the boiling point. With each successive distillation the number of rouge compounds decreased, and the final boiling point was closer to the boiling point of EtOH.
As for the glass still required, Ethanol reacts slowly with copper metal. Though slow the reaction does happen resulting in aqrious copper ions in the final solution. This may have adverse effects on future experiments using Ethanol as a reagent, thus we distill it last through a glass still to seperate out the copper ions.
Another additional outcome of this Lab is that we've optained a very versitile disstilling apparatus capable of distilling most organic compounds.