Methanol In Applejack

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Willyd57

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I am going to try my hand at making 5gal of applejack moonshine for the first time next week. Being new at this, I watched a youtube video about how to make it. In the video, the guy gave a warning that drinking too much applejack will cause one of those "I wanta kill myself" hangovers because it contains methanol which is basically a poison. But I couldn't help but question why. When you distill liquor, you always toss out the heads which is the first pint or so of distillate because it is mostly methanol which boils off at a lower temperature (roughly 149 F) than the ethanol which has a boiling point of around 173 F.

So, what's stopping me from taking the fermented cider and heating it to say, 165 F for awhile until the methanol boils off and then freeze it to get the water out. Am I missing something?? The other question is, how long would I have to keep the cider at 165ish to ensure all the methanol is gone?

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Abhishek Dewan

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Take a pot with enough water to cover ⅔ of your jar. Heat it to 170 and turn off flame/heat, don’t have naked flame in vicinity. Put in the jar for 15 min without lid. Water will lose some heat to apple jack, so it should get rid of methanol and other volatile things which boil below ethanol. Verify by using thermometer to see if apple jack is between 155 to 160.

I have only done it once, I found it is less hassle to distill it.
 

Ty520

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First, If you're doing heat distillation, you're producing brandy, not applejack - applejack is freeze distilled.

As you stated, heat distillation will allow you to cut the heads which is almost exclusively methanol; in freeze distillation, the methanol remains diluted within the entirety of the beverage.

That being said, from my research, it isn't actually the methanol that leads to the headaches from applejack - it is all the other concentrated particulates still in suspension. The methanol content in a jacked wine - because it is diluted, not concentrated - is about 1/30 the levels deemed toxic
 

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In the video, the guy gave a warning that drinking too much applejack will cause one of those "I wanta kill myself" hangovers because it contains methanol which is basically a poison.
Hangovers are caused by a whole range of things. Some guy on a video saying it's from methanol doesn't mean it's so.

When you distill liquor, you always toss out the heads which is the first pint or so of distillate because it is mostly methanol
As you stated, heat distillation will allow you to cut the heads which is almost exclusively methanol; in freeze distillation, the methanol remains diluted within the entirety of the beverage.
It's actually not mostly methanol, that's a regularly quoted distilling myth. Hard cider contains less than 0.1% methanol, which is less than 20mL in a 5 gallon batch, or about a tablespoon. Most other ferments for distillation contain far less than that (including sugar and grain ferments, which only have trace amounts of methanol). The heads that are tossed out do contain harsh chemicals that give bad hangovers, but it's not mostly methanol.

So, what's stopping me from taking the fermented cider and heating it to say, 165 F for awhile until the methanol boils off and then freeze it to get the water out. Am I missing something?? The other question is, how long would I have to keep the cider at 165ish to ensure all the methanol is gone?
You can do it, and you'll mostly be stripping out the 'heads' (methanol and other nasties), but will also lose ethanol and some flavour compounds. Heating the cider is also likely to change the flavour similarly to pasteurising.

First, If you're doing heat distillation, you're producing brandy, not applejack - applejack is freeze distilled.
Brandy is made when you collect the distillate, not boil off and keep the remainder.

That being said, from my research, it isn't actually the methanol that leads to the headaches from applejack - it is all the other concentrated particulates still in suspension. The methanol content in a jacked wine - because it is diluted, not concentrated - is about 1/30 the levels deemed toxic
^Yep, this.
 
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Willyd57

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Hangovers are caused by a whole range of things. Some guy on a video saying it's from methanol doesn't mean it's so.





It's actually not mostly methanol, that's a regularly quoted distilling myth. Hard cider contains less than 0.1% methanol, which is less than 20mL in a 5 gallon batch, or about a tablespoon. Most other ferments for distillation contain far less than that (including sugar and grain ferments, which only have trace amounts of methanol). The heads that are tossed out do contain harsh chemicals that give bad hangovers, but it's not mostly methanol.



You can do it, and you'll mostly be stripping out the 'heads' (methanol and other nasties), but will also lose ethanol and some flavour compounds. Heating the cider is also likely to change the flavour similarly to pasteurising.



Brandy is made when you collect the distillate, not boil off and keep the remainder.


^Yep, this.
Thanks Ty! I will be freezing, not distilling the fermented apple cider. I was just concerned about the methanol content because of a video I watched on UTube. You have calmed me down quite a bit with your input about the topic. Thanks!
 

Ty520

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Hangovers are caused by a whole range of things. Some guy on a video saying it's from methanol doesn't mean it's so.





It's actually not mostly methanol, that's a regularly quoted distilling myth. Hard cider contains less than 0.1% methanol, which is less than 20mL in a 5 gallon batch, or about a tablespoon. Most other ferments for distillation contain far less than that (including sugar and grain ferments, which only have trace amounts of methanol). The heads that are tossed out do contain harsh chemicals that give bad hangovers, but it's not mostly methanol.



You can do it, and you'll mostly be stripping out the 'heads' (methanol and other nasties), but will also lose ethanol and some flavour compounds. Heating the cider is also likely to change the flavour similarly to pasteurising.



Brandy is made when you collect the distillate, not boil off and keep the remainder.


^Yep, this.
Yes the methanol content as a whole is small, but it (along with other undesirable and toxic elements) evaporates at a lower temp than ethanol, so it is concentrated In the foreshot.

As far as the term applejack, my point was it only applies to cold distillation...it is not "applejack" if heated, in any form
 
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Willyd57

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Yes the methanol content as a whole is small, but it (along with other undesirable and toxic elements) evaporates at a lower temp than ethanol, so it is concentrated In the foreshot.

As far as the term applejack, my point was it only applies to cold distillation...it is not "applejack" if heated, in any form
Well, after all the feedback I have been lucky enough to get, I am no longer worried about Methanol or any of the other components of fermenting my cider. Cheers all! And I will let you know how it goes!! Given I had to special order 5 gal. of good unfiltered cider that has not yet com in, It will probably be a couple of weeks before I have a finished product! But I will post it here when it's ready!!
 

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Methanol content is dependent largely on fermentation temperature. Colder is better.
 

Tancred the Brewer

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As has been said, you don't really need to worry about it. Good process will limit the amount of methanol and what is left isn't a problem. I have done quite a few batches and have never once had anything concerning to me occur, granted I am not a drink to get drunk kind of guy. If you have quite a few pours of applejack, which I admit is easy to do because it is so dang good, you may run into a bit of issue. Start with a slower, cooler fermentation which minimizes the creation of methanol. Also, don't use pectin if you are going to applejack, as pectin does create methanol as well. These two steps and moderate use you should be good to go. Enjoy!
 
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Willyd57

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I planned on using a yeast nutrient. It did not mention pectic enzymes on the label. Is that still a good idea??

Thanks
 

Tancred the Brewer

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I planned on using a yeast nutrient. It did not mention pectic enzymes on the label. Is that still a good idea??

Thanks
I always try to use yeast nutrient when fermenting cider. Methanol production increases when yeast are strained so it will help to limit methanol production.
 
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I planned on using a yeast nutrient. It did not mention pectic enzymes on the label. Is that still a good idea??

Thanks
Pectic Enzyme is not included in yeast nutrients. It's a seperate product.
And by the way, I read an article earlier this Fall that basically said that while yes, pectinase can theoritically increase methanol in a final product, it is an insignificant amount. I did not save the article, and have no idea where I found it as I tend to read widely both on the internet and hardcopy books. Take the statement with a grain of salt since I can't back it up, but for me, I added pectinase and am not worried.
 
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Willyd57

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Thanks for the clarification Jim! Good information! I got the applejack all made up and put into my fermenter yesterday. The final mixture had an OG of 1.090. In some ways that don't matter much because the alcohol content will be what it will be in the end. But I need the practice at calculating the final alcohol content using that method. Never done it before. Anyway, the airlock is already beginning to bubble (slowly) so it looks good so far!

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Willyd57

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OK, my rookie brewing skills may have caused me an issue with my Applejack. I'm talking about temperature and pitching yeast. Yesterday before I poured my apple cider into the fermenter, I added two packets of cider yeast. But! I failed to rehydrate it in warm water first. I just poured the yeast in the pot where I dissolved the sugar once it had cooled down to 78F. In hindsight, that is too cold I think. 24 hours later The mixture is now setting in a carboy at about 68 - 70F. It appears that something is going on because the water in the airlock is being "pushed" up to relieve the pressure from fermentation. Not sure what to do at this point. If the yeast does not activate and begin the fermentation process what do I do to recover?
 

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OK, my rookie brewing skills may have caused me an issue with my Applejack. I'm talking about temperature and pitching yeast. Yesterday before I poured my apple cider into the fermenter, I added two packets of cider yeast. But! I failed to rehydrate it in warm water first. I just poured the yeast in the pot where I dissolved the sugar once it had cooled down to 78F. In hindsight, that is too cold I think. 24 hours later The mixture is now setting in a carboy at about 68 - 70F. It appears that something is going on because the water in the airlock is being "pushed" up to relieve the pressure from fermentation. Not sure what to do at this point. If the yeast does not activate and begin the fermentation process what do I do to recover?
Sounds like it's doing OK
 
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Agreed, you're OK Willyd57. Probably is going to town today.
This may not be an accurate method, but here is how I determine final ABV in my applejack. Of course, take a OG and FG to determine the ABV of the unjacked cider- say it's 10%, and my original volume is 3 gallon. After freezing it and recovering the concentrate, let's say I wind up with 1 G. Then I guess I have a 30% ABV. I know it's not completely accurate because I haven't recovered all the alcohol, but I think it should be in the ballpark. I am certainly welcome to hear of a more accurate method.
 

TkmLinus

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Not sure if you have already planned on how to freeze and concentrate but when I made it I saved a bunch of 22 oz and 2 liter soda bottles. Fill and let freeze over night. After freezing, I took them out of the freezer and set them upside down on top of 1 quart mason jars. Let drain till all color is gone, dump the ice and repeat as many times as needed. It is good stuff. Good luck!
 
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Willyd57

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Well, I have 5 gal to deal with but, I am fortunate enough to live in Iowa and its December. So I hope to take a 5gal bucket and just set it outside overnight. But I do like your method, it's very clever.
 

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Well, I have 5 gal to deal with but, I am fortunate enough to live in Iowa and its December. So I hope to take a 5gal bucket and just set it outside overnight. But I do like your method, it's very clever.
Sounds like things are going as planned. I typically ferment at between 65-70 deg. F. I prefer a longer, slower ferment as that can also reduce methanol production. A good consistent cold weather would save you some time. I too use 1 gallon jugs in the freezer and then set them over a vessel to drain when frozen. Once all the color is out I pop it back into the freezer for another round. You can calculate the ABV loosely as Jim proposes, but another way to have a clearer idea of the abv is based on freezing point. This is easier done in a freezer. So my freezer at its lowest setting gets to between -10 and -15 deg. F. If it doesn't have any frozen crystals in it at that temperature then I can be assured it is above 37% ABV. So by concentrating to a point where you are no longer getting any ice crystals, you can work back to your ABV just by knowing the temperature you are storing it at. Here is a link to a calculator. Alcohol Percentage to Freezing Point Calculator | shotgundentist Hope that helps.
 
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Willyd57

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Sounds like things are going as planned. I typically ferment at between 65-70 deg. F. I prefer a longer, slower ferment as that can also reduce methanol production. A good consistent cold weather would save you some time. I too use 1 gallon jugs in the freezer and then set them over a vessel to drain when frozen. Once all the color is out I pop it back into the freezer for another round. You can calculate the ABV loosely as Jim proposes, but another way to have a clearer idea of the abv is based on freezing point. This is easier done in a freezer. So my freezer at its lowest setting gets to between -10 and -15 deg. F. If it doesn't have any frozen crystals in it at that temperature then I can be assured it is above 37% ABV. So by concentrating to a point where you are no longer getting any ice crystals, you can work back to your ABV just by knowing the temperature you are storing it at. Here is a link to a calculator. Alcohol Percentage to Freezing Point Calculator | shotgundentist Hope that helps.
Thanks for the ifo! It is valuable to me for sure.

But now I have hit another problem! It fermented for about 28 hours or so, then stopped cold. Hmmm. The water in the airlock has not moved at all in the last 24 hours at least. I pitched 10g of Fermentis AS-2 cider yeast in a 5gal batch. The room I have the carboy in is at 68F give or take a couple of degrees. That should be well within the temp range of that yeast. I have brewed beer that finished fermentation in around 3 days but I doubt this is finished yet. I'm thinking about removing a glass full using a sterilized racking cane so I can check the specific gravity again and see where I'm at. If I need to add more yeast, that's a bit of a problem. I live in a small community with no brewing supply store of nearly 80 miles. So I ordered another 10g of the same yeast today, but it won't be here until the 29th or something like that. If there is more I can be doing, please let me know!! I really want this finished for New Years eve. At least that's the plan!
 

Tancred the Brewer

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Thanks for the ifo! It is valuable to me for sure.

But now I have hit another problem! It fermented for about 28 hours or so, then stopped cold. Hmmm. The water in the airlock has not moved at all in the last 24 hours at least. I pitched 10g of Fermentis AS-2 cider yeast in a 5gal batch. The room I have the carboy in is at 68F give or take a couple of degrees. That should be well within the temp range of that yeast. I have brewed beer that finished fermentation in around 3 days but I doubt this is finished yet. I'm thinking about removing a glass full using a sterilized racking cane so I can check the specific gravity again and see where I'm at. If I need to add more yeast, that's a bit of a problem. I live in a small community with no brewing supply store of nearly 80 miles. So I ordered another 10g of the same yeast today, but it won't be here until the 29th or something like that. If there is more I can be doing, please let me know!! I really want this finished for New Years eve. At least that's the plan!
You are fine. Just take a sample gravity reading to see where you are at. It is possible that you are done but hard to say. But testing the gravity will tell you what you need to know. If it is finished you may want to still park it for a week or two to allow the yeast to clean it up a bit. Otherwise you are good to go. If it is still high then put the airlock back on, give the fermenter a good shake to stir up the yeast, and potentially move it to a slightly warmer room to see if you can get it restarted. If you keep it sealed you should be fine to wait to add the second packet when it arrives. You just want to limit air exposure. There most likely is sufficient alcohol to keep the cruddies away.
 
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You are fine. Just take a sample gravity reading to see where you are at. It is possible that you are done but hard to say. But testing the gravity will tell you what you need to know. If it is finished you may want to still park it for a week or two to allow the yeast to clean it up a bit. Otherwise you are good to go. If it is still high then put the airlock back on, give the fermenter a good shake to stir up the yeast, and potentially move it to a slightly warmer room to see if you can get it restarted. If you keep it sealed you should be fine to wait to add the second packet when it arrives. You just want to limit air exposure. There most likely is sufficient alcohol to keep the cruddies away.
Well, the gravity is almost the same as when I put it in the carboy. So, stirred it around a bit and turned the heat up in that room from 68 to about 75. The only thing else I can do is wait for my new yeast to arrive. So it goes sometimes!
 

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Apples contain a lot of pectins, the degradation of which produces methanol, pectinase could slightly decrease or even increase the amount of methanol, depending on the enzyme preparation and the variety of fruit (1) , so why bother using enzymes here... If you use a pot still start very slowly and collect the foreshots that contain methanol ( throw away the first 50 mL at least for a 20 L. batch, 100mL would be better, some even recommend 200mL, it widely depend upon your still). The best way is to have several jars to collect your product in order be able later to identify where to make your cuts. The size of your jars will depend upon your batch size. Commercial fruit spirits will always have a certain % of methanol anyway, which when below a certain limit helps to identify products where sugar has been added illegally.
(1) Pieper, Bruchman, Kolb Technologie der Obstbrennerei p. 245. ISBN 3-8001-5808-6
 
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Willyd57

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Not sure if you have already planned on how to freeze and concentrate but when I made it I saved a bunch of 22 oz and 2 liter soda bottles. Fill and let freeze over night. After freezing, I took them out of the freezer and set them upside down on top of 1 quart mason jars. Let drain till all color is gone, dump the ice and repeat as many times as needed. It is good stuff. Good luck!
OK, My applejack should be done fermenting in a day or two. So I am getting ready to freeze it. Some will go outside in a 5 gal bucket, but I also want to freeze some in 2L bottles in my freezer. I know ethanol dissolves in water, but when it freezes does the ice form at the top of the bottle with the liquor under it? Or does it make a slushy kind of mixture? If the ice forms on top of the liquor, I am wondering if I should put the bottles upside down in the freezer so the liquor would be easier to drain out???
 

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OK, My applejack should be done fermenting in a day or two. So I am getting ready to freeze it. Some will go outside in a 5 gal bucket, but I also want to freeze some in 2L bottles in my freezer. I know ethanol dissolves in water, but when it freezes does the ice form at the top of the bottle with the liquor under it? Or does it make a slushy kind of mixture? If the ice forms on top of the liquor, I am wondering if I should put the bottles upside down in the freezer so the liquor would be easier to drain out???
It will make mostly solid chunks of ice when frozen, especially the first time, gets to be a bit more of a slushy after that. The alcohol will be the first to drain leaving the ice behind. The orientation in which it is frozen won't matter. After freezing, set upside down and it will slowly drain(I did this at room temperature). Check about every 10 minutes or so until it looks like nothing but clear ice in the 2 liter. this should make more sense after the first freeze distillation and you see the ice left behind. Then collect everything that drained out and freeze again. I repeated this process till the liquid did not freeze(3-4 times). Hope that helps!
 

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i think you could compare the refrac BRIX to a hydro sample once you have a final product to determin ABV.....

it would give you ABV, but disregard the est. OG
 
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Willyd57

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So, here is an update on my very first batch of applejack. As some of you already know, the first time I pitched my yeast nothing happened. The was most likely do to me not hydrating the yeast before pitching it. Well, I put 10 more grams of yeast in the mix being careful to do it correctly.

Now it has been fermenting at a slow steady rate for the last 21 days! That seems like a long time, but I'm quite happy about it.

Thanks to everyone here who helped me out!

Cheers
Bill
 
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