I've been producing some ethanol from a combination of sugar and grains/fruit. There are some drawbacks and benefits to using different ingredients.
Ethanol is useful both as fuel for many vehicles/generators if refined to a pure distillate, but also has medicinal qualities still used in hospitals today. Disinfection !
In some places sugar is quite cheap and if we ferment it well it can produce quite a bit of ethanol, however sugar, water and bakers yeast (from the store) does not ferment well for multi use, including "Medicinal drinking". (make sure the dried yeast is not out of date).
I use filtered and boiled rain water to ferment with, I would not recommend using town water from the mains tap, unless first distilled. I think the quality of hte water is very important.
I've discovered that adding a small amount of wash produced from grain and a bit of molasses to the sugar wash then using some citric acid (from the store) to correct the ph before taking a liter or so of the wash to strike the yeast in, which I separate into two strike batches (just in case) works best for a nice rum wash.
Part of the trick is the distilling which is where our electronic handiness comes in.
We can use the new air cooled stills, and with the cooling fan at full power (from the grid) and by adjusting the heating element of the still with a variac we can get the still to produce the spirit slowly, this improves the quality of the output as far as taste and alcohol content goes "in my opinion". This is a no cooling water method, and it works just fine.
What I do is let the still heat at full heating power till it starts to output, then I connect the heater element only through the variac and reduce the input from about 740 watts (full power ) to about 400 watts (depends on the alcohol content of the wash) the objective is to get a small stream of output ( I use a bit of bare copper wire as a stream guide). Remember the fan in the still is at full grid power with it own second power cord. (the power cords are the basic computer modular power cords) easy to get one.
also I use copper tube pieces in the still as "boiler chips" as well as a copper tube at the output, the rest of the still is stainless steel, the copper reacts with some parts of the output to improve the output quality.
My distilling process involves taking off a small amount of the initial output as strictly for fuel (possible methanol). Then the next part of the output is the good stuff, then after a while the output will begin to have less alcohol and lose the nice aroma (nostril sting
). At that point I separate the rest of the output to be used for further distillation "tails".
For further distillations I use the same method but no need to worry about methanol, and once the output is less alcohol by volume than desired the remaining wash is clear and still has alcohol in it and can be reused to make fuel by further distillation in greater volume by adding successive remains "Tails".
So far I've only done a couple of ferments but I have several liters of 85% ethanol (rocket fuel) (can be disinfectant too for wounds), as well as several liters of 60 % rum that has been wood "exposed" and smoothed for medicinal purposes.
30 ml of the 60 % stuff will warm anyone up in no time and it is smooth too. Due to low temp careful distilling it only needed about 3 months to get real nice.
Of course for some wound disinfectant we can distill further to get higher alcohol content but storing high alcohol content product requires a proper vessel, high alcohol content like over 50 % alcohol is a strong solvent and so it cannot be stored in some plastics as it will react with the plastic and possibly become poisonous, it should be stored in glass with wood stopper or cork or earthen ware is ok. Some plastics are made to use with alcohol but I just don't trust plastic unless the alcohol is used for fuel.
The small alcohol burners will burn 80 % alcohol no problem with no water left, they burn dry, and heat food very well, boils water like crazy with a small amount of alcohol. Very cool.
I use mine inside a can (lid removed) with directional air inlets cut to make the air input spiral around the flame.
I use 65 liter fermenting drums.
I'm soon to put down another ferment or two to get winter supplies. hehehe.
I'm thinking of an alcohol oxygen model rocket for fun. Storing up the fuel at 80 to 85% or 160 to 170 proof.
P.S. I can answer some questions for general tips or whatever.
ie, I use alcohol to disinfect the fermenting barrel after scrubbing it, I don't use any commercial barrel washing chemicals. none are needed.