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Old 09-12-2011, 12:28 PM   #1
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Default Freeze distilling? Legal?

I searched and couldn't find anything specific, so sorry if this is already posted here.

Basically just got started with wine. My first batch was just a cheap little experiment with some store bought grape juice and bakers yeast. Obviously the wine was terrible. (I have a REAL batch of red wine fermenting now). But now I have several gallons of basically undrinkable (unless mixed with equal part sprite) wine.

I don't really want to throw it away, just how I am. I paid money for it and dumping it would seem wrong somehow.

So I was wondering if anyone knows if freeze distilling it would be illegal or dangerous? If it is either, I simply WILL NOT do it.

I'm really just curious as to how the distilled off alcohol itself would taste. Just seemed like a fun little experiment with wine I would other wise either pour down the drain or give to my 23 year old little brother, who still loves natural light.

I understand you guys can't give legal advice, but I figured someone might know something.

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Old 09-12-2011, 12:37 PM   #2
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According to an episode of Basic Brewing Radio, the feds consider freeze concentration legal, whereas distilling is illegal. Local and state laws may differ.

Of course, freeze concentration is something completely different from distillation. It's not going to make a bad product taste better; if anything, it'll make it taste worse. I would suggest using the bad wine for cooking or maybe making vinegar.

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Old 09-12-2011, 05:45 PM   #3
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I've done it before. It's theoretically dangerous. As you concentrate the liquid you will concentrate the level of methanol, which can cause nasty side effects. (That said, I don't know if methanol is even produced during the fermentation of grapes.) The reason I say it's theoretically dangerous is that it's incredibly unlikely that you are going to concentrate it so much that the amount of methanol would become dangerous. You'll reach a point where you are concentrating but not increasing the alcohol content (then eventually you will start lowering it). Doing one or two passes in the freezer should not be dangerous. I've gone four passes, turning a gallon into two pints, and I don't get even so much as a headache.

But if it tastes like crap, it's going to taste like crap at any concentration.
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Old 09-12-2011, 06:30 PM   #4
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I can't imagine a freeze concentrated wine tasting good, especially if it's not good to start with.

Distilling collects alcohol away from the other stuff, but concentrating only removes water, making everything else taste stronger. Doesn't sound good to me.

However, there is such a thing as an Ice Wine. Might want to look that up and see what you think. Slightly different method.
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Old 09-14-2011, 08:34 PM   #5
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Distilling in any form is not legal. If you got called on it, is it really worth having to make the legal arguement? Freeze-concentration can vary by state, but if you like being on the good side of the legal line at all times, don't do it. A little late now that you've posted so publicly, but there's always the "don't ask, don't tell, keep it at home" approach...

Concerns about concentrating nasties like methanol can be countered the way distillers do it - by filtering through activated charcoal - it might remove some of the flavor too. (Maybe run it through a Brita/PUR filter instead of freezing?

That said, I remember freezing bottles of Mad Dog 20/20 in college because we couldn't stomach drinking the crap fast enough to get any "benefit" from the alcohol. The bit that would pour out of the frozen bottle was what you would expect - the alcohol was certainly concentrated/separated from the rest of the liquid, but the flavor was concentrated too. The only way to drink it was to slam shots with a fast chaser (even then, the lingering aftertaste was naaaaasty) - dumb things college kids do. Personally, I would probably dump it.
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Old 09-15-2011, 12:02 AM   #6
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Distilling is not always illegal. You can get licensed etc.
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Old 09-15-2011, 12:03 AM   #7
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It's legal as long as you don't get caught.
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Old 09-15-2011, 12:08 AM   #8
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Uh oh... all of you eisbock makers are going to jail!!!
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Old 09-17-2011, 11:41 PM   #9
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You're not actually distilling this product at all, you're concentrating it. Not illegal at all. The only possible downside which I've yet to encounter is your possible fusil oil poisoning. I made a charcoal filtering vat ( to combat this) that is an upside down plastic Culligan water jug with the bottom cut out. I placed a pillow case in it filled with washed maple charcoal. I pour the concentrated liquid through it and catch it at the neck end of the upside down bottle. I make a black raspberry brandy this way. I add black raspberry juice and sugar(boiled) to this. Not encouraging you to do this either, just saying.
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Old 09-17-2011, 11:58 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by eloro
I'm really just curious as to how the distilled off alcohol itself would taste.
I think you have the wrong idea here. You're not going to get the "distilled off alcohol itself" that you seem to think.

What actually happens with freeze-distillation is that you end up removing pretty much JUST water. When you freeze it, it's mostly just the water that turns to ice, which then gets removed.

So once you get rid of the ice (unless you just want water, for some reason), not only are you concentrating the alcohol content, but you're also concentrating the flavour compounds. Obviously, this is going to make the taste MUCH more intense. Any flaws will become that much more apparent.

Knowing all that, it should be obvious that freeze-distilling something that tastes awful is going to make it taste that much worse. It's really not worth the time and effort just to end up with something you're only going to hate even more.

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