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Making Vodka

I am trying to make the best product I can. I have stripped 38 gallons of wash and have 8 gallons of strip sitting at 50 abv.

I have read about people cutting the stripped product back to 30% and adding baking soda to the strip before running it... The theory being the baking soda holds or absorbs some of the off flavors or tails and holds it in the boiler... in the residual water that is left behind... THIS IS FOR THE SPIRIT RUN ONLY...

Have any of you pro distillers read about or tried this with your vodka or neutrals?

Look forward to your thoughts on this...

Happy Stillin,




  • edited March 2015

    I always did it back when i used to play with neutral. I'm trying to remember the name of the salt i used, i think it was Potassium Carbonate and you need only one teaspoon per litre instead of one tablespoon. It acts faster too.

    Edit; It's Calcium Carbonate.

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  • edited February 2015

    Baking soda is sodium hydrogen carbonate (or old school, sodium bicarbonate). I've never added any chemicals to my spirit runs on my VM. I just dilute the boiler charge to 35% or so and run it.

    Others here say you get even cleaner cuts/separation if you dilute to 20% for your spirit run.

    I'm more like I am now than I was before.

  • edited March 2015

    For clean runs I add 3 heaped tablespoons of baking Soda to a 50L charge @ 30% and it makes a difference to how clean it comes out.

  • From memory, calcium carbonate can be added and it works instantly, if you use calcium bicarbonate, it needs to be added a few days before the spirit run to have time to work.

    Adding calcium carbonate will facilitate breaking the ethyl acetate (major component of heads) into ethyl alcohol (hearts) and sodium acetate (a salt that won't pass over into the distillate).

    It's somerhing I've read up on in the past but never tried.

  • I just finished my weetbix vodka and its amazing, I was pretty hard with the cuts. I'm feeling very protective of it and instantly felt like making a big batch of neutral to keep my wife away from it.

  • I've not tried the wetabix but I'm making my first batch with bran flakes after reading a few posts that it gives more of a vodka taste to sugar wash neutral, so far I've fermented two 25lt batches but only stripped one, I'll be using 4 batches in total, 100litres of wash for 10litres of the good stuff :-)

  • Is there any possibility that by adding any of these neutralizer that they may scorch on an internal element?

  • thanks Anavarin, it was Calcium Carbonate that i always used. Been back and edited the post now. Seems to me when i trialled it without that the quantity of heads were larger and skankier.

    StillDragon Australia & New Zealand - Your StillDragon® Distributor for Australia & New Zealand

  • When I make vodka, I use a standard UJSM strip that I send through a VM set up. Make careful cuts of the heads and then send the product through a carbon filter. It stacks up nicely vs any commercial vodka.

  • edited March 2015

    Damn! That sounds like a great idea! :)

    What if you did a second spirit run instead of carbon filtering?

    I'm more like I am now than I was before.

  • Every time I make a new batch of vodka, any leftover good spirit from my last batch goes into a corni keg, when it's full I'm going to run it again as a full spirt run, making new cuts, hopefully there will be a noticeable improvement.

    I use an Essencia Filter, and I can't imagine not using it, even if a made the cleanest neutral ever, I like the subtle flavour and smoothness you get from the carbon.

  • Can anyone tell me where you buy calcium carbonate Ta

  • Just go to the shop and buy some Sodium Bicarbonate (ie bicarb).

    Just go here
    And here



  • ARM & HAMMER™ Super Washing Soda is 100% sodium carbonate

    Here is a link to some reading regarding the use of bicarb/sodium carbonate on the original HD page.

    here is a part of the information you will find there...

    Using Salt in Distillation

    Maurice advises ..

    .. put a teaspoonful of ordinary table salt into the wash ..the spirit comes over much better.. Salts are sometimes used during extractive distillation (eg when trying to distill past the 95.6% azeotrope) so as to depress the volatility of the water (eg effectively increase its boiling point, so you get a greater % of ethanol off compared to normal). Because the salt is non-volitile, it will always remain in the pot, and not turn up in the distillate.

    The "Household Cyclopedia" recommends ...

    Non-iodised Table-salt thrown into the still, in the proportion of 6 oz. (180 g) to 10 galls. (38 L) of any liquid to be distilled, will greatly improve the flavor, taste, and strength of the spirit. The viscid matter will be fixed by the salt, whilst the volatile matter ascends in a state of great purity.

    David cautions though ..

    make sure you use ordinary non-iodised salt not iodised. Virtually all salt sold in NZ in containers for domestic consumption is iodised. Also be aware that salt is sodium chloride and that chlorides attack stainless steel and can bad pit it. It can also and will generally shorten your element life.

    Bokakob advises ..

    The best time to introduce salt in the distillate is when distilling second time. The first distillation, stripping, is used to reduce the amount of liquid and some of impurities. The second run is the place where this salt helps in separating boiling point of water. I always add regular salt for the second distillation in proportion of about two heaping table spoons for about 8-10 liters of 65% abv.

    Ken recommends using Sodium Carbonate to reduce the amount of fusel oils present ..

    .. try sodium carbonate @ 4.5 grams/ litre, add it when the wash temperatire is at 35-40 degrees C, add slowly then continue with your distillation in the normal manner. Sodium Carbonate is used in the production of soap and it combines with the oils to form a compound that does not evaporate at the normal distillation temperatures that we are using. Voila, cleaner spirit, less carbon treatment needed and more happy faces.

    Alex finds ..

    .. that adding baking soda delineates the border between the good and the bad stuff very sharply. In regular distillation tails presence increases gradually and it is very difficult to decide when to start separating it from the good collection. In presence of baking soda this division is much more defined. (I added 3 full heaped table spoon of regular baking soda per liter of pure alcohol.)

    Rob details the bicarb advantage too ..

    Assumptions and facts:

    1. A well run column distillation will separate a mixture into fractions based on the boiling points of the components.
    2. There will be some overlap in most real-life stills.
    3. ethyl acetate can be smelled at very low concentrations
    4. acetic acid cannot (it has a higher flavour threshold)
    5. under neutral or acidic conditions acetic acid will esterify to some extent in the presence of ethanol.
    6. sodium acetate is not volatile
    7. sodium bicarbonate will neutralise acetic acid.
    8. sodium bicarbonate may hydrolyse ethyl acetate to a greater or lesser extent.
    9. Adding sodium bicarbonate at some point between a stripping run and final distillation has the effect of decreasing the volume of fractions collected which smell of ethyl acetate.
    10. Adding sodium bicarbonate at some point between a stripping run and final distillation has the effect of making the main fraction "cleaner smelling"
    11. without bicarb the main fraction can smell of ethyl acetate (ymmv)
    12. Sodium acetate is not esterified by ethanol.


    1. Why is there ethyl acetate in the fractions after the heads? (no NaHCO3)
    2. What does NaHCO3 addition do?
    3. How do we best (read easiest) use it?

    Rob's Answers/Opinions (currently!):

    1. During distillation (after column stabilization) ethyl acetate is being formed in the boiler/column. This is why it continues to be present even after heads removal. (see assumptions 1, 5, 11)
    2. Bicarb addition neuralises acetic acid, preventing ethyl acetate formation, distillation of acetic acid, and hence future esterification. (see assumptions 6, 7, 9, 10, 12)
    3. Bicarb addition can hydrolyse ethyl acetate, thus decreasing it's quantity (see assumptions 8, 9)
    4. There is actually a tiny amount of ethyl acetate about, but it is highly noticable (assumption 3). Using bicarb (as opposed to hydroxides) actually has a rather small effect on the amount of esters in the mix. What it does (primarily) is to prevent further formation, and hence allowing the still to do its job without the moving target of continually increasing ester concentrations in the boiler.
    5. Based on this lot, adding bicarb at the start of the final distillation is sufficient, as neutralisation of acetic acid is instantaneous.

    Mike warns though ..

    It's OK to add baking soda or other alkali to a STRIPPED wash, but NEVER put it in the primary ferment and then distill. If you do, and your still contains ANY copper, you will severely corrode the copper, and get blue, ammonia-smelling distillate. Not fun!

    Why? Yeast and yeast nutrient both contain lots of ammonium salts (like DAP), which are very stable under acidic conditions, but which release lots of ammonia as the approach neutral conditions. Actually, you will start getting ammonia at about pH 5! Ammonia gas is very corrosive to copper, and you will find your condenser coil packed up with blue crystals after such a run (and blue alcohol too !)

    Schweitzer's reagent is cuprammonium hydroxide, and is formed when copper hydroxide dissolves in a dilute ammonia solution). It is a deep blue colour, and is particularly known for its ability to dissolve cotton. The chemist who first discovered this property was Eduard Mathias Schweizer (1818 -1860), so it seems that it should really be called Schweizer's reagent.

    It forms in stills when ammonia released from alkaline washes (nitrogen source may be plant material or yeasts) reacts with copper hydroxide formed by the action of steam on copper oxides coating the inside of copper columns or components. It may be avoided by ensuring that the liquid in the boiler is slightly acid (pH less than 7).

    hope this helps a bit... posts regarding this are still coming in on 3 forums

    I will share it as information comes in



  • edited March 2015

    @Kapea said: Damn! That sounds like a great idea! :)

    What if you did a second spirit run instead of carbon filtering?

    I've done that if I'm not satisfied after the filtering. My filter consists of my old 36" x 2" pipe that I used to use as a packed column. It's now full of carbon with a triple layer of coffee filter at the bottom to hold it all in. I attach a 2x4 reducer and one or more 4" sections at the top to add storage volume.

  • edited March 2015

    @brisvalley a quick google shows it widely available especially in vets & animal feed places eg

    CALCIUM CARBONATE 1KG @ Equine Solutions AU
    Value Plus Calcium Carbonate 2kg @ MyShopping AU

    here's an idea - buy some molasses while you're there!

  • Calcium carbonate is what seashells and egg shells are made out of. It is also known as limestone and chalk.

    I'm more like I am now than I was before.

  • In Aus... both woolies and coles stock Lectric - Washing Soda Powder 1kg ~$4.30 Pure Sodium Carbonate

  • Yup cheers no deal on the molasses

  • I just bought 5 lbs for a little more than $10 here in the states. Shipped right to my door.


  • Hell, down there in Florida you can pick it up off of the beach for free.

    I'm more like I am now than I was before.

  • @FloridaCracker : But for the vodka ... sodium carbonate... arm and hammer soda wash is 100% sodium carbonate do not get the perfumed kind... Walmart keeps the plain stuff on the shelf.

  • OK so now I am confused (not hard to do). So is it calcium carbonate or baking soda that is added to the spirit run?

  • I think it's Sodium Carbonate, I mentioned calcium carbonate earlier in this thread but I'm starting to think I got mixed up, I'm sure someone can clarify

  • I believe I did mention it earlier ;)

    Sodium Bicarbonate.

  • i use calcium carbonate to raise my PH...... its pickling lime...

    have fun...


  • I believe I used potash for manipulating my pH, but like I said it was a few years back now.

  • @TheMechWarrior said: I believe I did mention it earlier ;)

    Sodium Bicarbonate.

    The carbonate is better than the bicarbonate as it works instantly and you need much less.

    StillDragon Australia & New Zealand - Your StillDragon® Distributor for Australia & New Zealand

  • Roger that, I don't think I ever did try the sodium carbonate. But your comment may explain the following.

    I know I used the Potassium Carbonate perhaps I substituted the sodium for the potassium. Foggy memory.

  • Me too don't worry, i still have the jar there but the texta labelling has rubbed out.

    StillDragon Australia & New Zealand - Your StillDragon® Distributor for Australia & New Zealand

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