Typically made with grain, potatoes have been popular as a substitute mash for vodka, giving the vodka an earthy tone.
It’s important to note that the information here is purely for reference purposes. Brewing and distilling liquor like vodka and moonshine is illegal without a permit in most states.
If you’re still curious about how potato vodka is made, from the mash production to the final distillation, we’ve laid out the steps and equipment you would need here.
What You Need to Start Making Potato Vodka
You will need a complete run-down of materials, ingredients, and equipment to properly make vodka clear and crisp.
Some of these can be easily found in most homes, while some may only be familiar to those who know about alcohol brewing and distilling.
Below you’ll find the equipment you’ll need to cover the three main steps of the potato vodka recipe: the making of the mash, fermentation, and distillation.
Before you make vodka, you need a quality mash.
While vodka comes from a variety of sources such as rye, wheat, corn, and beet, we’ll focus on the use of potatoes as our main ingredient for this guide.
Tools and ingredients needed:
- 14 gallons of water
- 25 pounds of potatoes
- 5 pounds of crushed malted barley
- Mash pot
- Long mixing spoon
- Appropriate heat source
This process takes a while as you’ll need to let the mixture sit and develop the yeast-carbohydrate combination.
For this step, you’ll need the following:
- Fermentation Bucket/Container/Commercial Fermenter
- Cheese Cloth
- Iodine (Optional)
- Hydrometer (Optional)
Iodine is optional as you can use this to test the fermentation stage of your solution.
The hydrometer is the same as it can measure the Alcohol-By-Volume or ABV, but requires a bit more know-how on how to use it.
Distilling the Ferment
Lastly, you’ll have a fermented and practically produced vodka. The problem is that this vodka is mixed in with yeast, barley malt, and other fermenting byproducts.
To distill, you’ll need the following (arguably specialized) tools:
- Still – Here are the best still kits for homebrewing
- Fermented and strained vodka water
- Cleaning products
- Column Packing
The Still and the Column packing are probably the more unfamiliar items on this list.
A still is basically a concentrated distiller that specializes in purifying liquids.
They can come with additional attachments like more condensers or a thumper, both of which affect distillation in different ways.
Column packing is a way to get a cleaner distillation due to an increased surface area within the column.
Normally you’d use a copper mesh for this, but ceramic rings are available if you want to avoid having to worry about packing your column mesh too tight.
Step-by-Step Guide: The Potato Vodka Recipe
Each tool and ingredient is necessary to properly make vodka good and safe. Please make sure you have the necessary permits and expertise before attempting this recipe.
If you’re still a beginner, you can use this potato vodka recipe for reference to see how artisans and skilled brewers manufacture and distill some of your favorite spirits.
Naturally, this recipe is one of many recipes on vodka brewing, but it just happens to be one of the more simple and direct ways to see the ins-and-outs of each stage of production.
Mash the Potatoes
Different processes are used for different ingredients, so we will focus on how preparation occurs with potatoes in this article.
- Prepare the potatoes by cleaning any residual dirt with a scrub brush or even the rough part of a clean, unused sponge. Any remaining dirt can affect the purity and clarity of your resulting vodka.
- The potatoes don’t necessarily need to be peeled, but rather cut up into small chunks to increase the surface area when boiling starts them. 25 pounds of vodka is ideal for a reliable batch of vodka.
- The cleaned and prepped potatoes are boiled for 15 minutes (20 minutes for large chunks) in 7 gallons of water. Alcohol-making is part art and part science, so the measurements need to be kept accurate to avoid any discrepancies with the formula.
- After the potatoes have been cleaned and boiled, they need to be mashed. The potatoes are strained and mashed either manually with a potato masher or automatically with an immersion blender. A food processor is normally not used as it may slightly cook the potatoes while blending.
- The mash is then transferred to another pot and filled with 7 more gallons of clean water, and then raised to a temperature of 140 degrees F, or 60 degrees C. It’s at this step you would add 5 pounds of the malted barley and stir it into the mash as the temperature rises. This will have enzymes to help break down the carbohydrates in the potatoes.
- This is run at a constant temperature of 140 degrees F for around 20 minutes, stirred for 30 seconds every 4 minutes to keep it from settling.
- After 20 minutes has passed, the temperature is increased to 152 degrees F, or around 67 degrees C, and run for around 1 hour. Stirring is kept to 30 seconds every 10 minutes this round.
- (Optional) For better accuracy, a hydrometer is used to get a gravity reading of the mixture. If the mixture reads below 1.065, add sugar until the readings match the desired level.
- The mash is then cooled, either to 75 degrees or around 23 degrees C or let it sit overnight to give the barley enzymes more time to break down the starch in the potato.
Fermenting the Mashed Potatoes
Only the mash water is used in this step, so a lot of the solids included in the pre-fermented solution can be discarded.
A good high-quality fermenter is key here, as any leaks in the airlock or breaches in the seal can affect how the solution ferments.
A yeast starter will be used to ferment the main vodka compound, so a good amount of time is spent creating a reliable and high-quality starter.
- A standard mason jar is sanitized and filled with 4 ounces, or roughly 30 ml, of 110 degrees F water, or 43 degrees C.
- 2 packets of sugar, or around 2 tablespoons, is added to the water and stirred until uniform.
- This is where the yeast comes in. You can use standard bread yeast, but the type of yeast used will affect how the yeast can ferment.
- This compound is mixed thoroughly and let sit for around 20 minutes. If the yeast hasn’t doubled in size, a brewer would add sugar and sit for another few minutes to expand the yeast.
Once a decent starter is made, the brewer would mix the mash solution and the yeast starter in a fermenter. Since only the water is used, you could opt for a smaller 5-gallon fermenter.
- Mash water is strained out to remove any large part. Only this will be needed moving forward. Some brewers pour this into the fermentation bucket from a height to add aeration to the solution.
- A yeast starter is then added to the fermenter bucket and subsequently airlocked for at least 2 weeks at room temperature to convert starch into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
- Check on the solution every 12 hours to re-mix any solids that start floating on the surface.
- After 2 weeks, the solution will need to be strained to remove any impurities in the fermenter. Leaving this in can cause headaches when drunk, so a cheesecloth is commonly used to aid in filtration.
Taste-wise, it shouldn’t be so sweet anymore as the yeast had converted most of the sugars into alcohol.
Use iodine or a hydrometer as a way to measure whether the solution has completed its fermentation process as both can measure compounds that indicate whether the solution has produced the alcohol required.
If you’re using iodine, you can place a bit of the fermented solution on a white plate and add a drop of iodine.
If the sample turns blue, that means there are remaining starches in the solution, and you’ll need to give it more time to ferment.
If a hydrometer is used, you can determine the ABV of the product directly through the measuring device.
Bring down the liquid sample to the hydrometer’s appropriate calibration so you can properly determine the ABV content.
The solution in this brewing stage is basically a produced vodka but is contaminated with lots of by-products from the fermenting stage.
In this stage, vodka gets its signature clarity, which will require most brewers to be familiar with distillers and their proper operation.
Preparing the Distiller
- Make sure your distiller is clean. This is an important factor of distillation as leftover residue from any past brews can affect the clarity of your distillation product.
- Pack clean copper packing material on to the distiller column. This helps the distiller produce a high-proof spirit by having a high reflux. A condenser also helps return the hot alcohol vapor into liquid form by funneling in cold water around the vapor.
- Attach an auto-siphon from the fermentation mash bag to the pot still to avoid any issues with sediments in your distiller.
Run the Distiller
Ensure the condenser, column still, copper packing material, and other attachments are properly secured to avoid any issues.
- The heat of the still begins to rise in temperature to start boiling the solution to bring the alcohol and water to their respective boiling points.
- For those with copper stills, flour paste (a compound of flour and water) is used between the vapor cone and column once the temperature of the still run reaches 110 degrees F, or 43 degrees C. This helps seal the column to avoid any leaks and keep a tight airlock.
- If a condenser is attached to the still, water will run at 130 degrees F, or 54 degrees C, to start cooling the water-alcohol vapor back into liquid form.
- Keep the heat constant to achieve a final heat of 170 degrees F, or 77 degrees C. At this temperature, it should start producing the vodka in slow 1-3 drip intervals.
Collecting the Vodka Distillate
This is when “making vodka” finally turns into a real produced vodka. But brewers don’t just start bottling the distilled product and call it a day.
Certain parts of the distillate have increased levels of methanol and alcohol content that can likely injure those who drink it.
These separate distillate parts are known as the Foreshots, Heads, Hearts, and Tails.
Depending on the volume of your distillate, each part will be separated by its approximate volume.
The foreshots are the highly toxic parts of your distilled alcohol. These have high levels of methanol and will cause serious injury if imbibed. These constitute the first 5% of the alcohol you distill.
The following 30% of your alcohol is known as the heads. These have volatile alcohol levels and contain chemical compounds such as acetone.
You can identify this through a distinct smell, almost like a solvent, especially if you’re familiar with alcohol smells.
These aren’t as dangerous as the foreshots but will definitely give you a pretty bad experience when drunk.
Best not to drink these. Isolate the heads and foreshots to throw out.
This is the vodka you want.
Strong, smooth, and clear – the hearts represent the alcohol you’re looking for. The solvent acetone smell has pretty much run-off to be replaced by a better-smelling ethanol. This will be around the next 30% of your distilled batch.
Experience can tell you when the heads end and the hearts begin, so take care when smelling and identifying parts of your distilled vodka.
The last portion, around 35%, of your vodka, will be known as tails.
These contain protein and carbohydrates from the distill that you don’t want to drink. You can identify these from an oily film that occurs on top of the product.
One of the best ways to split these up properly is to use several 100ml mason jars to separate each level properly.
We hope you enjoyed our little guide on how brewers make their batches of potato vodka.
Remember that while this recipe and other recipes are readily available online, it still remains illegal to brew and distill your own hard liquor.
There are many dangers to improperly brewing alcohol, so leave it to the experts to brew our favorite clear drink.
Continued Learning: How To Make Vodka at Home: 5 Simple Steps
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