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Learn about vodka together

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Vodka is an alcoholic beverage that is distilled from fermented vegetable or grain mash. The proof is a measurement of alcohol content. Each degree of proof is equal to 0.5% of alcohol. Therefore, 100 parts alcohol is 50%, 90 parts alcohol is 45%, and so on. Because distilled vodka can have up to 145 proofs, all tastes and smells are eliminated, making vodka a neutral spirit. Add water to reduce the proof to a range between 80 and 100.


The practice of fermenting certain grains, fruits and sugars to produce intoxicating beverages has existed since ancient times. Fermentation is a chemical change in animal or plant organisms caused by yeast, bacteria, and molds. In the production of alcoholic beverages, yeast enzymes act on the sugars in the malt (usually glucose and maltose) and convert them into ethanol.

In the 10th century, the first written record of distillation was found in the writings of the Arab alchemist Albukassen. It is said that distillation was also mentioned in the writings of the 13th-century Mallorcan mystic Ramon Llull. Distillation is a heating and condensation process that drives gas or vapor in a liquid or solid to form new substances. Distilled spirits are also called spirits (Latin for burning) spirits.

The Russians and Poles disagree over which country first distilled vodka. Most historical references are attributed to Russia. In any case, since the fourth century AD, there have been records of drinking vodka in Eastern and Northern Europe. In these areas, alcoholic beverages are usually distilled to a very high alcohol content, eliminating any aroma or taste.

For centuries, vodka has been the first choice in Eastern and Northern Europe. It wasn't until the 1930s that it became popular in Western Europe and North America. The British publication Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930 was the first publication to include recipes for vodka drinks. "Blue Monday" combines vodka with Cointreau and blue vegetable juice. "Russian cocktails" require cocoa butter and dry gin to be added to neutral spirits.

As one of the main producers of vodka, the Smirnov family brewery opened in Moscow in 1818. A century later, the brewery produced 1 million bottles a day. However, after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, the family lost control of the business. In 1934, a Russian immigrant named Rudolph Kunitt (Rudolph Kunitt) bought the US copyright to the name Smimoff. Cournet opened a winery in Bethel, Connecticut, and struggled for five years, producing only 20 cases a day. In 1939, he sold his business to the Heublein Company.

Heublein executive John C. Martin found that vodka was particularly popular in the California film industry, and he cultivated these customers. In 1946, he met Cock'n' Bull, the owner of a Los Angeles restaurant, and he was trying to unload the backlog of ginger beer. Since one of the characteristics of vodka is that it can be mixed with almost anything, the two men tried a mixture of vodka and ginger beer. They added a slice of lime, called their invention the "Moscow mule," and it was an immediate success.

By the 1950s, New Yorkers also began to drink vodka. From the 40,000 cases sold in the United States in 1950, vodka sales jumped to just over 1 million cases in 1954. In the following year, 4.5 million boxes were sold. By the mid-1960s, vodka had replaced gin; by 1976, it had surpassed whiskey. By the end of the 20th century, martinis were more likely to be made with vodka than the original ingredient gin. At the end of the 20th century, vodka accounted for 25% of the distilled spirits market.

Until the middle of the 18th century, vodka production was basically a family-style, one-pot operation, called batch. Heat the potatoes or grains until the starch is released and converted into sugar to make mashed potatoes. The resulting liquid substance is fermented and then heated at a high temperature to release the intoxicating vapor of the distilled liquid.

Louis Pasteur is one of the most outstanding scientists in history, leaving a legacy of scientific contributions, including understanding the biochemical process of how microorganisms ferment, the establishment of causal relationships between microorganisms and diseases, and the concept of destroying microorganisms to prevent infection The spread of disease. These achievements made him known as the founder of microbiology.

After his early education, Pasteur went to Paris, studied at the Sorbonne University, and then started teaching chemistry when he was a student. After being appointed as a professor of chemistry at a new university in Lille, France, Pasteur began to study yeast cells and showed how they can produce alcohol and carbon dioxide from sugar during fermentation. Fermentation is a form of cellular respiration performed by yeast cells, a way to obtain energy for cells in the absence of oxygen. He discovered that fermentation only occurs when live yeast cells are present.

As a serious and diligent chemist, Pasteur was asked to solve some of the problems that plagued the French beverage industry at that time. Of particular concern is the deterioration of wine and beer, which caused huge economic losses and tarnished the reputation of high-quality French wines. The wine merchant wants to know why. Pasteur observed the wine under a microscope and noticed that the liquid after proper aging contained almost no spherical yeast cells. But when the wine becomes sour, the bacterial cells that produce lactic acid will multiply. Pasteur recommends that lightly heating the wine at around 120°F will kill the lactic acid-producing bacteria and allow the wine to age properly. Pasteur's book Etdues sur le Vin, published in 1866, proves his two passions-scientific method and his love of wine. It triggered another French revolution-a winemaking revolution, because Pasteur believed that a higher level of cleanliness was needed to eliminate bacteria, which could be done by heating. Some brewers were shocked by this idea, but doing so solved the industry's problems.

The idea of heating to kill microorganisms was applied to other perishable liquids, such as milk, and the idea of pasteurization was born. Decades later in the United States, American bacteriologist Alice Catherine Evans (Alice Catherine Evans) advocated pasteurization of milk. He linked the bacteria in milk to brucellosis. Mycosis is a type of fever found in different variants in many countries.

People quickly discovered that the spirits produced by multiple distillations had higher purity and higher purity. In 1826, Robert Stein invented the continuous distiller, which could circulate steam and alcohol repeatedly until all the spirits were extracted. Aeneas Kofi improved Stein's design.

Modern vodka continuous stills usually consist of three main parts: the distillation head (where the vapor is collected), the fractionation tower (where the ethanol is decomposed), and the condenser (where the vapor is reconverted into liquid).

The pasteurization development of Louis Pasteur began when a French brewer asked him for advice on fermentation. Pasteur's research led him to discover lactic acid and its role in fermentation. Today, lactic acid is used as a bacterial inoculant in vodka production.

At first, charcoal filtration was a general procedure used to purify vodka. Then at the beginning of the twentieth century, the process of rectification developed. In the rectification process, the spirits pass through several purified cylinders designed to eliminate dangerous defects, such as solvents, thorium oil, and methanol.


Raw Materials

Vegetables or grains

Because it is a neutral spirit, devoid of color and odor, vodka can be distilled from virtually any fermentable ingredients. Originally, it was made from potatoes. Although some eastern European vodkas are still made from potatoes and corn, most of the high quality imports and all vodka made in the United States are distilled from cereal grains, such as wheat. Distillers either purchase the grain from suppliers, or grow it in company-owned fields.


Water is added at the end of the distillation process to decrease the alcohol content. This is either purchased from outside suppliers or brought in from company-owned wells.

Malt meal

Because vegetables and grains contain starches rather than sugars, an active ingredient must be added to the mash to facilitate the conversion of starch to sugar. These particular converted sugars, maltose, and dextrin respond most effectively to the enzyme diastase that is found in malt. Therefore, malt grains are soaked in water and allowed to germinate. Then, they are coarsely ground into a meal and added during the mash process.


A microscopic single-celled fungus, yeast contains enzymes that allow food cells to extract oxygen from starches or sugars, producing alcohol. In the manufacturing of alcoholic beverages, the yeast species Sacchasomyces cereviseal is used. It is purchased from outside suppliers.


In the latter part of the twentieth century, flavored vodkas became popular. Thus, herbs, grasses, spices, and fruit essences may be added to the vodka after distillation. These are usually purchased from an outside supplier.


The Manufacturing Process

Mash preparation

The grain or vegetables are loaded into an automatic mash tub. Much like a washing machine, the tub is fitted with agitators that break down the grain as the tub rotates. A ground malt meal is added to promote the conversion of starches to sugar.

Sterilization and inoculation

Preventing the growth of bacteria is very important in the manufacture of distilled spirits. First, the mash is sterilized by heating it to the boiling point. Then, it is injected with lactic-acid bacteria to raise the acidity level needed for fermentation. When the desired acidity level is reached, the mash is inoculated once again.


The mash is poured into large stainless-steel vats. Yeast is added and the vats are closed. Over the next two to four days, enzymes in the yeast convert the sugars in the mash to ethyl alcohol.


Stainless steel fermentation tank

Distillation and rectification

The liquid ethyl alcohol is pumped to stills, stainless steel columns made up of vaporization chambers stacked on top of each other. The alcohol is continuously cycled up and down, and heated with steam, until the vapors are released and condensed. This process also removes impurities. The vapors rise into the upper chambers (still heads) where they are concentrated. The extracted materials flow into the lower chambers and are discarded. Some of the grain residue may be sold as livestock feed.


copper vodka distillation equipment

Water added

The concentrated vapors, or fine spirits, contain 95-100% alcohol. This translates to 190 proof. In order to make it drinkable, water is added to the spirits to decrease the alcohol percentage to 40, and the proof to 80.


Alcoholic beverages are stored in glass bottles because glass is non-reactive. Other receptacles, such as plastic, would cause a chemical change in the beverage. The bottling procedure is highly mechanized as the bottles are cleaned, filled, capped, sealed, labeled, and loaded into cartons. This can be done at rates as high as 400 bottles per minute.

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