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Conventional alternative energy systems => energy systems based on alcohol => Topic started by: Farmhand on April 03, 2014, 06:06:46 PM

Title: Home made Ethanol for fuel and other uses eg, medical.
Post by: Farmhand on April 03, 2014, 06:06:46 PM
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 (make sure the dried yeast is not out of date).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.

Title: Re: Home made Ethanol for fuel and other uses eg, medical.
Post by: Pirate88179 on April 04, 2014, 05:07:40 AM

Great info here...thanks.  Sad to say that, here in American (The home of the once free)  we are NOT allowed to distill ANY liquid that contains alcohol.  This includes buying a bottle of vodka (and paying the tax) and distilling that.  It means prison time.

Now beer and wine (of which I have made both with good success) we are "allowed" a certain amount per year for personal use.  But, if I want to make alcohol to run in my vehicle, or to burn in lamps for light....can't do it.  I think this is stupid and goes against what our country was founded upon.

So, I will use the info you posted for "educational purposes only".


Title: Re: Home made Ethanol for fuel and other uses eg, medical.
Post by: Farmhand on April 04, 2014, 01:06:22 PM
I can't be certain but in some states I have heard/read that you can just get a permit to say it is for your own personal use as fuel and the amount is restricted I think. Surely just owning a still is not illegal, otherwise how can you distill your own water and make essential oils ect. Best way to make essential oils is with 100% ethanol for the solvent.   ;). I urge you yo check your laws again if you can, don't go on hearsay, check with one of the home still sellers on line send them an email they should know all state laws and federal ect. excise or whatever. 

Here in Australia our "Laws" are a bit vague, I think it is illegal to use a still over 4 liters / 1 Gallon to produce alcohol but we can have any size still we want for distilling water. Now for alcohol we can make as much as we want as long as we use the 4 liter still, so one is needed to show them and say here is my alcohol still, it's only 4 liters.  ;) It's not legal to take the product off the property and cannot sell it of course. I also have a portable 10 liter still which is water cooled but needs a hotplate/heater element to heat it and this heat source should be stable hence the variac or other means to control the heat and take out the on-off of the thermostat which is no good at all. I also intend to make a 100 liter stainless steel still to use "mountain style" with a mud/rock oven around it so I can use it with wood fire to distill a lot of water. And cook pizza.  ;D

Also another prospect here is to make our own eucalyptus oil and Tea tree oil, no tea trees here though only eucalyptus trees, this requires a large still so a lot of leaves can be put in it I think, would be a dirty still which probably could not be used for anything else.


Of course to be able to put the ethanol in a car it would need to be very close to 100 % pure and distilling likely won't get it to over 95% so it then needs to be "dried out" there are several methods to do that, one method is a "3 angstrom molecular sieve" medium, another is salt, I think I'll try the salt.

Lots of sites online for ways to dry alcohol, and for making the grain mash to wash ect.

About the small amount of grain wash I use, I see it as a way to add some extra nutrients for the yeast, I also add just a bit of epsom salts, I forgot that.. It's good to see the yeast strike up well in a small starter before adding it to the main wash, then I know the wash and the yeast is ok. With two stater batches I can try different strike temps ect.

This time I'll see if there is any difference between the just out of date yeast and the new yeast I bought yesterday. Some say bakers yeast is only good for 5 or 6 % alcohol, others say it can go to 10 or more, the stuff in the store here seems to work up to over 10% no problem and this time i'll shoot for 12% from the wash.

If I'm going to make it it may as well taste good.

This winter if I prune the 5 corner fruit trees right I should get over 100 kilo's of fruit from them next season, they are very sweet fruit and soft flesh almost all juice, good for fermenting, banana's are good too but are gloopy.

I use a resistive heating cord I got cheap from ebay and a timer if the temp gets too cool at night. Right now is good time here temps are from 20 to 30 night to day.


P.S. Request a permit to produce ethanol for rocket engine fuel experiments then you have a reason to have a quantity of 80% ethanol.  ;D


Title: Re: Home made Ethanol for fuel and other uses eg, medical.
Post by: mscoffman on April 04, 2014, 06:19:04 PM
That ethanol alcohol [C2H5OH] would make almost the perfect high density energy storage mechanism.
I'd much rather have a couple of tanks of denatured alcohol in my garage then a couple of tanks of high
pressure [H2].

But I would really like to be able to resynthesize CO^2 directly from an ICE engine + energy
and store the resulting ethanol in the fuel tank. With makeup from atmospheric air.

Title: Re: Home made Ethanol for fuel and other uses eg, medical.
Post by: Pirate88179 on April 05, 2014, 06:13:55 AM

I have checked the laws and I can list them here if needed.  It is the Federal law that says we can't distill ANY amount of alcohol for any reason.  Yes, you can own a still.  As you said, it can be used for other things which are legal.

Of course, distilleries can obtain a federal license to make their product but, that is very expensive and there is a ton of paperwork included also.  The expense totally excludes the home distiller.
I have heard that there are one or two states that have laws that do permit a certain amount for personal use.  But, that is like a state legalizing marijuana but the feds still come in there and bust folks because, it is still against federal law.  Folks are getting busted in CA after buying a $10,000 license to grow pot from the state, but are now in federal prison for many, many years.  This is totally screwed up.  States rights trump the feds according to our constitution but, those in washington do not seem to go by that anymore.

Title: Re: Home made Ethanol for fuel and other uses eg, medical.
Post by: Google on April 05, 2014, 02:59:03 PM
Farmhand, during season, I sometimes make wine from black grapes mixed with sugar. I also use distilled water and add a bit of Viamin B Complex capule in it to make the yeast work better. I dont distill, just filter it after a few days of sedimentation.
Title: Re: Home made Ethanol for fuel and other uses eg, medical.
Post by: Paul-R on April 05, 2014, 04:05:11 PM
I've been producing some ethanol from a combination of sugar and grains/fruit. There are some drawbacks and benefits to using different ingredients

What about grass cuttings?

I believe that in principle it can be done.
Title: Re: Home made Ethanol for fuel and other uses eg, medical.
Post by: Farmhand on April 06, 2014, 04:50:41 AM
Google, you are quite right, one of the additives I forgot to add the wash ingredients list is some Vegemite, Vegemite is a yeast extract we use as a spread on toast it is high in B vitamins. After fermenting is finished the dead yeast left over in the fermenter can be collected and dried to something like solid vegemite, it can be used as a dietary supplement or fed to chickens or other livestock before drying, also the washed and spent grain after mashing can be fed to the animals as well..

I found last night my malted barley I had stored from last time has been invaded by weevils, so I will just malt some wheat and use that, i also bought some cheap enzymes to convert any unconverted grain starches to sugars.

will take some time to malt and dry the wheat then make the grain mash, I'm convinced some grain wash is beneficial to fermentation and to output qualities.

For the sugars for a 60 liters total wash I'll be using 10 kilo's of raw sugar, 1.5 liters of molasses, about 8 to 10 liters of grain wash from two kilo's of wheat. As well I'll be using all the other extra ingredients, a tablespoon of B vitamins (vegemite), a few grams of magnesium sulphate (epsom salts) ect.  and some citric acid to get about 4.2 ph. A lot of nutrients for the yeast will come from the molasses but some more nutrients in fairly small quantities can't hurt.

The sugars available for fermenting from that recipe should produce about 12 or 13 % ABV initial wash, and take about 7 to 10 days to ferment.

When I get some free fruit to ferment, I'll probably try using no extra sugar and attempt to get a costing of the product. The energy used to distill is free. Using all fruit and some B vitamins should work well because the fruit contains many nutrients like potassium ect. and if citrus it is already a bit acidic, yeast likes slightly acid environment.

Title: Re: Home made Ethanol for fuel and other uses eg, medical.
Post by: Farmhand on April 06, 2014, 06:10:15 AM
I've been advised by a helpful you tube comment that It's better to malt/sprout the grains slower at a lower temperature for longer, so I've arranged a solid state cooler box using a big broccoli box and using some thermo electric units in series I can cool the inside of the box to 18 degree's c with an ambient of 30 degrees, I have two sets of two 12 volt 60 watt units in series, so they each only consume less power ( 4 units uses about 40 Watts, 2 units in series and two strings of units ).  I've got a big aluminium plate and fan on the inside and a heat sink and fan on the outside. I just need to rig up a 12 volt digital thermostat now.

These things seem to be able to double the temp when heating but can only halve the temp when cooling if the current is simply reversed.  :-\ big difference seems like at a glance.

Anyway I can keep the malting grains cooler during the day so they don't sprout too fast.


Not sure about the grass clippings if they have some starches in them that can be converted to sugars and it can be fermented to a reasonable alcohol content then I guess it's possible. I think there is research in "digesters" to do such things.