Unwanted alcohols in brewing

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cdew4545

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Ok, so I've done some batches of beer and obviously it is perfectly safe to drink. However, where do bad alcohols like methonal come into place with fermenting anything? I'm not about to try any kind of distilling, but if a spirit wash is made from grains and such just like beer, wouldn't there be methonal in beer, or is that formed in the process of distillation?
 

david_42

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Methanol is present in most fermentations, but around 2-3 ppm. LD50 is around 5 gm/kg for primates, so with beer the ethanol will kill you first.
 

web250

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Methanol is not a huge issue in beer. I'm a chem major, forgive me:
Ethanol gets broken down in the body to acetaldehyde, which your liver breaks down using alcohol dehydrogenase.
Methanol gets broken down to formaldehyde, the nasty carcinogen they use to preserve stuff.

Good thing is the methanol and ethanol fight for dominance in the body, and ethanol always wins. The cure for methanol poisoning is therefore drinking ethanol (regular drinking alcohol)
 

malkore

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I also believe methanol is only of concern when drinking distilled liquor...moonshine. If the distillation process isn't done correctly you get a lot of methanol.

I've heard that bad moonshine does eat away at the optic nerve, slowly making you blind. That is where the whole 'homebrew makes you go blind' myth started.
 

dpt222

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Good thing is the methanol and ethanol fight for dominance in the body, and ethanol always wins. The cure for methanol poisoning is therefore drinking ethanol (regular drinking alcohol)
I concur!!
 

web250

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malkore said:
I also believe methanol is only of concern when drinking distilled liquor...moonshine. If the distillation process isn't done correctly you get a lot of methanol.

I've heard that bad moonshine does eat away at the optic nerve, slowly making you blind. That is where the whole 'homebrew makes you go blind' myth started.
Correct, methanol destroys your optic nerve.
 

RadicalEd

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But let's clear something up; drinking one unit of distilled alcohol is no worse for you than drinking the same quantity of product it was distilled from. Ie drinking a bottle of wine, or the distilled equivalent, should have little difference if distilled poorly. If distilled well, then the product should have significantly fewer lighter and heavier alcohols, and thus actually be significantly better for you when it comes to methanol and fusel alcohols. It is exceedingly difficult to concentrate what small quantities of methanol exist in the standard wash into a dangerous dose. Furthermore, even harder to drink it; it smells and tastes like death incarnate. Your body knows what's up.

The myth of highly methylated moonshine comes from the days of prohibition, wherein some unscrupulous shiners mixed in industrial methylated spirits to their own, as it was significantly cheaper to buy industrial products than produce their own. However, my understanding is that most shiners these days are doing it for their own, personal enjoyment, and so they have something of a vested interest in keeping their spirits as pure as possible :D.
 

Sea

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web250 said:
Good thing is the methanol and ethanol fight for dominance in the body, and ethanol always wins. The cure for methanol poisoning is therefore drinking ethanol (regular drinking alcohol)
Another item to add to the long list of reasons for drinking.
 

beala

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RadicalEd said:
The myth of highly methylated moonshine comes from[...]
^What he said. I don't distill myself, but I did do a lot of reading about it a few months back because I was interested in it. In the end, I decided not to because it wasn't worth the legal risk. My decision had nothing to do with the health risks. From what I've read, the health risks are pretty much non-existent if done properly (which isn't hard). The risks are so small that I eventually came to the conclusion that shining isn't illegal to protect people, it's illegal to protect the government's tax revenue. After all, a $2000 a year distilling license is a pretty sweet deal for the government.

The only reason some people think it's dangerous is because of a few horror stories where shiners made condensers out of carburetors. Why do things like that happen? Because making it illegal also limited the amount of information out there on the process. If it was better known that metal containing lead should never be placed in the vapor trail, then these types of accidents wouldn't happen. Further, the laws make it so people can't buy professionally made stills without fearing the government breathing down their necks. This causes people to have to fabricate their own out of carburetors and the like. Allowing people to easily buy safe professionally built stills would be a better way to protect people against badly made moonshine, rather than simply outlawing it.

Anyway, that's my little libertarian rant on the distilling laws.
 

malkore

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thanks for more on the history of 'bad moonshine'. I find that kind of stuff interesting.
 

MVKTR2

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Adding too what others have said. Traditionally here in MS alot of shiners used "Red Devil" Lye in the mash to get it too finish faster. As I've not experienced this, I don't know what it does to the brewing process, but pops swears alot of folks do/did it. Also quite a few have turned used radiators into cooling coils, another bad idea especially back in the day with the highly poisonous anti-freezes. Important to note is that upwards of 90+ percent of fusel (sp?) alcohols are produced in the first 5% of distilled mash. Anyway the design of the condensing coil (this is a subject open to much debate), using no lead products, introducing no chemicals to the process (lye/methylate as mentioned earlier), and tossing the first bit that comes out will guarantee a "clean" product when distilling. As for homemade wines and beers, if brewed naturally in normal brew equipment the production of bad alcohols should be minimal to the point of non-existent. Yes some may be there I think someone said 3ppm.... I mean you inhale more crap into your body driving behind a city bus/dump truck than you do in drinking a whole batch of homebrew. That's just my untested theory, and it sounds dang good!

Schlante
Phillip
 

Jesse17

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MVKTR2 said:
Important to note is that upwards of 90+ percent of fusel (sp?) alcohols are produced in the first 5% of distilled mash.
This is another source of the moonshine horror stories. If you're distilling enough wort/mash to make 5 gal of spirits, and filling Mason jars as it comes out of the condenser, the first 32 oz. is mostly methonal...ie. the first quart jar.

So in the days of prohibition/crooked bootleggers (today?), you better pray he doesn't sell you that first jar.
 

Kai

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I have a friend who distills. He's got clean, safe equipment, he knows the chemistry of it, his control is good, and he throws away the first cut. In addition, he makes a damn good sour mash whiskey, and this is coming from a guy who normally shies away from hard liquor*. I believe it when I hear responsible distilling is safe. And as additional protection, this guy drinks about a hundred times more of his liquor than I do, so if it's going to hurt someone, I'll know before it's me.

*I do better on natural booze - beer, wine, cider, anything that happens through natural biological processes. When it takes a science experiment to make something? I can appreciate the craftsmanship, but damn my body doesn't like me to pour much of it down my throat.
 

shafferpilot

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I too have seen/tasted some incredible home distilled products. In my experience the home shiner tends to take great care in his process. Kind of like how I sacrifice some of my homebrew during a transfer to make it clearer. He sacrifices some hooch to make sure there's absolutely no bad stuff in there. Do the big guys take that much care??? I think not.
 

tarundas

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I also believe methanol is only of concern when drinking distilled liquor...moonshine. If the distillation process isn't done correctly you get a lot of methanol.

I've heard that bad moonshine does eat away at the optic nerve, slowly making you blind. That is where the whole 'homebrew makes you go blind' myth started.
What about Russians? Lately I was in Russia for a 3 months tour and I lived in a village. Almost every house in the village dstill their own samogon (moonshine). They have been doing it since centuries, traditionally. Non of them are blind yet :mug:
 

boscobeans

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When pectins (large amounts in fruits and berries) ferment they produce small amounts of methanol. Very little pectin is in most grains but a small amount of methanol is produced in normal brewing with typical grain recipes.

Distilling (I know not to be discussed, but maybe pertinent to this thread) will remove almost all the methanol from fruit based wines (producing brandies-cognacs) and moonshiners mash if the beginning product that comes over in the 140-160 degree range is discarded. The rest up to a point should be mostly ethanol.

In home made wine there is more methanol than in home brewed beer, but in most cases not a cause for worry as the amount is very small. Drink the alcohol equivalent of wine versus a well distilled spirit and you are more likely to get a hangover from the wine due in part to the relatively higher methanol content.

OMO

bosco
 
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