Vodka, distilled beverage, manufactured from the fermented mash of cereal grains, especially wheat and barley, but sometimes is made up of rye and other cereals such as maize, buckwheat, or millet. This distilled liquor also has forms which are of non-cereal origin such as molasses, or hydrolyzed potato starch. High rectification or purification is accomplished via continuous column stills, or multiple distillations in pot stills along with a series of filtrations through charcoal beds to ensure that total extractives (components other than water and ethanol) are below 3g/l.This article would be specifically focusing on How Is Vodka Made.
Origin of vodka | How Is Vodka Made
Vodka is a drink which originated in Northern Europe (especially Scandinavia and Baltic countries) and Russia, the name being derived from the Russian word ‘voda’ meaning water. The production of vodka was first documented in Russia in the 9th century. Poland purports to have distilled vodka even before Russia in the 8th century, but as this was wine distillation it might be more apt to call it a crude brandy. Vodka is the most widely consumed distilled spirit worldwide. In the USA, its share of total distilled spirits consumption is more than 25% and in the UK, white spirits account for approx 40% of spirits consumption the major share being taken by vodka.
What vodka is made out of?
Vodka being a neutral spirit does not have a definite taste or aroma and is clear in colour and so forth can be derived from any fermentable ingredients.
Most grains contain starches instead of sugars. Therefore, an ingredient is added to the mash to ease the conversion of starch to sugar. These converted sugars respond in an efficacious manner to the enzyme diastase that is present in malt. Malt is an all natural ingredient wherein three simple processes of steeping, germinating, and drying are involved in its making. Thereafter, it is grained into a meal and added during the mash process.
Yeast is of crucial importance in the production of vodka as it will allow the food cells to extract oxygen from starches or sugars which in turn produce alcohol. Saccharomyces cerevisiae is the most commonly used yeast species in the manufacturing of vodka.
On completion of the distillation process, the alcohol content is greater than 70%. So, water is added to reduce the alcohol content to about 40% to 50%.
Once the process of distillation is over, essence of herbs, fruits, grasses, and spices may be used to incorporate flavour in vodka.
Vodka Production Process| How Is Vodka Made
Preparation of the mash
First of all, all the grains are loaded into automatic mash tub machines. As the tub starts to rotate, it breaks down all the grains and then granulated malt meal is added to aid the conversion of starch to sugar.
Sterilization and Inoculation
It is a quintessential part of the process which helps in preventing the growth of bacteria. Sterilization is carried out by heating the mash to the boiling point. Thereafter, lactic acid bacteria are introduced so as to facilitate fermentation by raising acidity levels. When the desired level of acidity is attained, the mash is inoculated.
The mash after sterilization is poured into stainless steel vats to which yeast is added before they are sealed. In a time span of 2 to 4 days, the yeast enzymes convert the sugars to ethyl alcohol which are present in mash.
Distillation and Rectification
The ethyl alcohol produced is in liquid phase which is pumped into stills, stainless steel columns which have on the top a series of vaporization chambers. The alcohol is cycled continuously up and down and also heated with steam to produce vapours which are condensed. The vapours rise in the upper chamber and extracted materials flow into the lower chamber where they are concentrated and discarded respectively.
The concentrated vapours have a proof of about 190 which equals to an alcohol content of 95-100%. Thus, water is added to the distilled spirit to decrease the proof to 80 and alcohol percentage to 40.
These beverages are stored in glass bottles because glass is non reactive. The bottling process is highly mechanical and involves cleaning, filling capping, sealing, labelling, and loading into cartons. Also the rate can be as high as 400 bottles per minute.
Is vodka a spirit?
The boiling point of ethanol is lower than that of water, so if the mixture is boiled all the alcohol in vodka will evaporate much faster before the water does. Since the vapours after distillation have a very high proof which corresponds to about 95-100% alcohol which is very close to being pure alcohol. This pure alcohol requires very little elevation in temperature to evaporate being the reason of water addition. That is why it is also known as distilled spirit.
Alcohol in vodka
In addition to the usual process of fermentation, the production of vodka is souped up with distillation to increase its strength. Hence, water is added to decrease the alcohol content. Vodka contains about 40 ABV (Alcohol by volume) typically but can go as high as 95%.
Vodka brands | How Is Vodka Made
Ketel One, Chopin, Grey Goose, Absolut, Van Gogh, Belvedere, and Stolichnaya are some of the most popular brands of premium vodka with alcohol content from 37-40%.
In spite of being extensively used in cocktails (especially of Screwdriver type, Martini, and Bloody Mary), vodka is used as a base for the “Ready to Drink” flavoured alcoholic beverage (FAB) commonly known as ‘Alcopop’.
How Is Vodka Made Video