How to Make Homemade Alcohol? - We Answer

Do you have any questions about distilling spirits at home and how schnapps is made? This forum is all about distilling spirits by yourself. Please observe our forum rules (see Helpful tips for use).

June 2018:

It has now been an unbelievable 16 years (!) since the last major change to the website and forums. When you think that two to three years are an eternity for the Internet sector, that is really something. In any case, there has been so much going on in terms of technology that it has become urgently necessary to completely redesign not only the forums, but also the entire website, from scratch and bring the programming up to date. Naturally, along with this we also introduced various new features; for example it was high time we allowed pictures to be uploaded with a forum post too or enabled users to subscribe to the forums via RSS feeds. And of course we have subsequently included pictures that are saved on external websites and were then integrated here using an img tag, so that no valuable information is lost. In any case, we hope you continue to have fun swapping experiences and trying things out.

Juni 2002:

At this point, we would first like to extend a big thank-you to all the users of our specialist questions for their lively involvement. Without you, we could never have developed such an informative and high-quality reference guide in such a short time (the first post dates from April 8, 1999). The large number of posts and high numbers of visitors made it necessary for us to develop the specialist questions ourselves using PHP and MySQL (at last no more annoying advertising banners!). During the course of this, we have hopefully introduced several improvements.


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Helpful tips on use:

Below are a few rules so we can maintain the high quality in the future as well.
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  • If you ask a question, then also expect an answer. Think about this as well when you are wording your question. Hardly anyone will answer vague questions such as “How do I distil schnapps?”, “No oil comes out; what am I doing wrong?” or “The vinegar isn’t fermenting, why?”.
  • The three topic areas, i.e. distilling spirits, distilling essential oils/hydrosols and making vinegar, are divided into three different websites. Each website contains the two forums “Recipes” for all the topics concerning fruit and recipes, and “Discussion” for all the other topics related to distilling spirits, essential oils/hydrosols or making vinegar. If we find posts that are unintentionally in the wrong forum, we will move them to the right forum. These posts have not been deleted, just moved.
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So, that’s it. We hope you have a lot of fun swapping experiences, reading, posting and naturally also trying things out afterwards. Dr Malle & Dr Schmickl Dr. Malle & Dr. Schmickl
There are currently 44 entries in the forum.
  • Question 12

    Jos | LA, 28.06.2020 08:32:32

    how can i bring the distil to 96% instead of 92%? because i can not put the 92% right back because of vacuum. 

    Since 96 %vol is the azeotrope of ethanol and water, it’s very difficult, not to say impossible, to reach 96 %vol with the gear of home distillers. If you distill under vacuum conditions, it’s even worse.
  • Question 11

    Charles | Bangkok Thailand, 06.05.2020 12:06:31

    Sorry for my bad english in advance.

    I'm planning to get into home distilling so I think i should start practicing fermentation first so I tried to make pineapple wine. I've fermented 5L pineapple pulp with sugar add at SG=1.100 using Lalvin 71B yeast in air lock bucket and the fermentation is stopped and finished after 3.5 days with Final SG= 0.992 which is about 14% abv. Is this normal? why the fermentation period is so short? now I've filtered out all the pulp and let it sit for the dead yeast to settle and will bottle it. Is this action reasonable?

    Thank you


    Within a normal ambient temperature range (common room temperature or a bit cooler), it's not possible to reach 14 %vol. within 3.5 days. I don't know how long it takes at temperatures above, for example 27 °C, I've never tried. But even then, 3 days seems to be quite short.

    Filter only if you want to keep the wine and want to enjoy it without distillation.

  • Question 10

    Simon | UK, 28.04.2020 18:38:05

    I have used your online alcohol calculator but i need to know the following.

    I want to make a bottle of flavoured gin with the finished ABV of 40% in a 700ml bottle I add 140ml of flavoring. soi need to add 560 ml of alcohol to make up the 700ml here is the question, what ABV % does the spirit need to be to give me a full bottle of flavoured alcohol at 40%?

    The answer is quite simple:
    In total you need 700 ml with 40 % ABV. This means you need 700 / 100 * 40 = 280 ml pure Alcohol (100 %). So you have to add 560 ml with an ABV of 280 / 560 * 100 = 50 % ABV.
  • Question 9

    Peter | USA, 24.02.2020 11:04:50

    Do you believe that 91 C is the start of tails regardless of the type of still used (e.g., pot still, reflux still, etc.)?

    Start of tails at 91 °C is a good approach for almost all fruit mashes, if they are not too pulpy. But if distilling for example beer, the hops taste won’t come out before about 91,5 to 92 °C. Cereal mashes are a different story too. So in fact you’re right, the right moment to start with the tails indeed depends on the kind of material you are distilling. To be save and to prevent wasting too much of the last part of the heart fraction (this mistake is done very often in practice!) you should know the smell / taste of the tails already and perform an olfactory separation (with your nose). To do this, collect the distillate in several small glasses, not a big one, at this stage of distillation.
    Note: often it’s easier to recognize the tails in an empty (!) shot
    glass, a few minutes after you’ve emptied (depending on quality, enjoyed or
    poured away) the content of the glass.
  • Question 8

    Mike | U.K., 19.01.2020 10:35:52

    I have a small still, very like the ones you recommend. This morning I carried out my third distillation. To practice, I am diluting shop-bought vodka down to 20%abv and getting 63% back out, which matches with your chart correctly. But this morning I got 8% which makes me think it must be refluxing slightly?

    However, I have also noticed that the mash retains a 5%abv (is that normal?) and that 1000ml of wash input resulted in only 960ml out - I'm thinking I perhaps have a leak, presumably on the seal? The 1000ml input consisted of 320ml 63%abv (from the previous run), but I returned only 240ml at 68%abv. There is obviously a quantity in the remaining wash volume, but I think there must be a leak too. I'd appreciate your thoughts on this, if you have time.

    Going forward, I will be experimenting with a turbo sugar wash (to stop wasting vodka!) and once I think I have the hang of it I'll introduce botanicals and fruits.

    A leak you would notice immediately, you would see a trail of steam or a puddle below your still. So, the losses can only be explained by the empty space in the still: the bigger the empty space, the more steam will not condensate, the higher your observed losses. Therefore it’s only sensible to calculate such balances if the kettle of the still is almost completely full at the beginning and the empty space of the helmet is quite small in comparison to the size of the kettle.
    Second, diagrams like the T-X-Y are measured under laboratory conditions with special devices to reduce influences like air pressure, losses by empty space, reflux effects etc.
    Thus, you should use the T-X-Y not more than a kind of guideline. Under normal conditions and with a common shaped still it’s not really possible to repeat the indicated values. Not to forget the influence of solid parts in the mash. Such components are shifting the curve significantly.
  • Question 7

    Ben | U.K., 09.12.2019 12:07:51

    I was in Austria recently and visited a schnapps store. They had some schnapps that tasted a little sweet but they assured me no sugar was added. I believe he said they added some fruit to the distillate after distilling and that gave it a

    slight amber color and the the taste that I mistakenly thought was sugar. Does this sound correct?
    Yes, this could be possible, it depends on the kind of schnapps.
    For example fruit brandy, more specifically Bartlett pear brandy (German: Williamsbirne or Williams Christ Birne): The process is called “Fruchtauszug”, literally translated “fruit extraction”. Therefore one big pear is infused in about 1 liter of pear brandy.
    Traditionally empty glass bottles are tied to a pear tree in spring, so that one blossom grows INTO (!) the bottle, thus finally you have a ripe pear IN the bottle. The bottles are taken off during harvest time and filled with Bartlett pear brandy. Since this process is quite time-consuming and lots of pears start to rot in the bottle while they grow, nowadays most manufacturers use bottles with removable bottoms. The bottom is stuck on the bottle after putting the pear in the bottle, commonly the glued surface is not visible for customers.
    Of course you can also use any other fruit / brandy to do this. In fact the sugar of the fruit is dissolved in the brandy, so your first impression was true: the liquid contains sugar.
  • Question 6

    John | Texas, 24.10.2019 10:05:46

    I am looking for a small refrigerator so that I can follow your high grade mash recipe.  Our ambient temperature will not allow me to maintain the correct temperature for fermentation. 


    Take care, the temperature shouldn't be below approx. 16 °C (61 °F). Maybe it's better to use some kind of a small air condition, a maximum of 19 °C (66 °F), would be perfect.

  • Question 5

    Aram | Aremnia, 30.09.2019 13:37:58

    Recently I have been in Hungary and visit some distilleries who make Apricot Palinka by re-flux distillation. And I found that while their Apricot mash has flavor of Apricot but  distillate has Anise flavor. Even already diluted spirits with less alcohol volume were having this Anise flavor without any apricot flavor.
    As a Chemists in this field can you comment this matter? 


    Yes, the reason is quite simple: don’t use a reflux when distilling apricots. Most of the aromatic substances will not reach the condenser. Just read our book "The Artisan’s Guide to Crafting Distilled Spirits", ISBN: 978-1-943015-04-7 to learn how to get a rich flavoured and aromatic fruit brandy, or rather apricot brandy.

  • Question 4

    Zeb | USA, 27.07.2019 23:21:50

    In your book "The Artisans Guide to Crafting Distilled Spirits" copyright 2015 & sold here in the states, you mention the need to place thermometer measurement precisely at point of maximum steam temperature which you say correlates to the highest level reached by the steam. This you say is the "hot side" of the lower edge of the Lyne Arm wherre the steam flows over & into the Lyne Arm. I agree this makes perfect sense to me. However looking at your Classic & Delux Schmickle stills, the placement of the steam thermometer appears to be mounted into the still head at a much lower point than this however the "Vetro". model appears to have the steam thermometer mounted as you describe. I read your statement in the book saying "If the thermometer is attached lower down, you may encounter deviations of twenty degrees Fahrenheit (ten degrees Celsius) or more. Am I incorrect or wouldn't this placement cause issues with incorrect steam temperature readings? I am interested in purchase of your 7.8L deluxe model but this raises concerns with me.


    Yes, you're completely right, but the difference in height is only about 0.2 to 0.4 inch. This little difference is no problem regarding steam temperature. The other case, measuring about 0.2 to 0.4 inch too high would result in much too low temperatures. Since the head of the still is not under pressure, the steam flows to the line arm right after it has passed the lower edge, so just a bit higher than this height it's much colder than the actual steam temperature.

  • Question 3

    Ginny | London, 25.08.2015 20:48:12

    I want to make Gin just in small amounts for myself. How does vapor infusion work?

    thanks for your answer,
    This is quite easy: put the botanicals into a steamer basket and pour tasteless alcohol with approx. 12 % ABV in the kettle below the basket. The photo shows the mixture for 1.5 liters of alcohol. Our book contains a detailed recipe of the ingredients.

There are currently 22 entries in the forum.

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