Liquors - FAQs

  1. What is Turbo Yeast?

    A turbo yeast is nothing like an ordinary pack of wine or beer yeast. In fact, it is not very good at fermenting beer or wine, it is usually far to fast and brutal for this, leaving nothing of the desired flavours and bouques in your brew if you try. Instead the turbo yeast is designed for the fastest and most reliable fermentation of a pure sugar/water mix, into pure alcohol.

    The idea is of course to make alcohol by fermentation, up to 23% at the moment, but this limit may be pushed further. Fermenting alcohol is usually legal and tax free in most countries, with some exceptions (you are recommended to check up on this in your country before you use our products).

    The finished product, pure alcohol between 14% - 23% alcohol, can then be used as a base for mixing drinks, mixing with essences to make lower alcohol versions of many spirits, or (where legal) as the perfect base for distilling into high alcohol.

    Turbo yeast come in many flavours today. The typical groups are

    Moderate alcohol turbo yeast - fast

    Turbo's in this group are Alcotec 6 (3 day fermentation), Alcotec 48 (which does it in 48 hours, hence the name). The alcohol level is usually around 14% by volume. This is the result of full fermentation of 6 kgs of sugar in 25 litres final volume (the rest being water).

    High alcohol turbo yeast - slower

    The most well known turbo here is the Alcotec 48 again, but this time used as a high alcohol turbo. It's a very versatile turboyeast as it allows you to choose whether to go for moderat alcohol (fast) or high alcohol (slower). It's done simply by adding more sugar to get the higher alcohol. For a 19-20% result, simply add 8 kgs of sugar into 25 litres in total. We also have the extreme Alcotec 23% which contains activated carbons used in a clever way to take it to this high alcohol.

    Speciality turbo yeast - hyper fast, hyper clean

    We have the Alcotec 24 - makes moderate alcohol in only 24 hours, it is the most extreme fermentation you have ever seen. There are also a few "super clean" fermenting yeasts such as the Alcotec VodkaStar and the Alcotec Triple Still.

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  2. How do you make high alcohol spirits at home?

    Turbo yeast alcohol fermentation - how it works

    turbo yeast moonshine You can of course use a turbo yeast for making alcohol wash without knowing how it works, the instruction is simple enough, just follow it and you will end up with a homebrew wash ready for distillation, or treatment with essences (depending on legality in your country of course). But then it can't hurt to know what you are doing, it may actually help you avoid some pitfalls, especially if you experiment with larger scale fermentations so you have to make up your own instruction for making home brew alcohol.

    Yeast cells in turbo yeast fermentations

    Yeast cells, whether dried or fresh, has one aim in their lives. That is to reproduce and grow into a larger colony. There is no egoism, yeast cells live and think as a colony and the collective goal in life is to get bigger and to live for as long as possible.

    If there is food (sugar in any form such as pure white sugar, dextrose mononydrate, molasses, fruit juice etc), yest cells will eat and they will reproduce (fast!). With enough supply of sugar, oxygen and some minerals and enzymes, there is a perfect environment and any yeast cells in there will reproduce until there is no more food. That's not what we want of course, we want to make alcohol. We do want a certain reproduction as the amount of yeast we normally add is not enough for the fermentation into alcohol.

    But once we have enough yeast cells in there, we would prefer it if they converted the sugar into alcohol. The key to this is the amount of oxygen available. Enough oxygen there, and the yeast will only reproduce. The six carbon atoms joined up in a glucose molecule (this is Dextrose sugar - if you use white sugar, it will break down into Glucose first before yeast can start working with it) can be broken up by the yeast, but without enough oxygen present, yeast can only break one of the atoms out. That will create a little growth and the by product we want - ethanol.

    For all this to work, we need yeast, sugar, water as a base but also the nutrition (a nitrogen source such as diammonium phosphate, vitamins, trace minerals etc).

    A turbo yeast is a package of yeast (of a particularly good strain for alcohol making) mixed with the essential nutrition required for the alcohol fermentation. The nutrition is the difficult bit, get it slightly wrong and the yeast will produce much less alcohol of inferior quality.

    Fermentation by-products (fusel oils)

    Ethanol is the by product we want, but there are other by-products as well. The obvious one is carbon dioxide (CO2) which commonly is what you see as bubbles in your airlock if you make wine. If you put a small obstacle in the way for the CO2, such as an airlock, you will get a protective layer of CO2 inside your fermenter which keeps the oxygen out and prevents infections from other organisms. This is particularly important when fermentation slows down if you leave it there for a while.

    There are thousands of other by-products created during the fermentation, we normally call them volatiles. They are created in very small levels, but some of them can contribute a lot to off flavours. Among the volatiles we have

    • Higher alcohols (fusel oils)
    • Esters
    • Sulphur components

    Charcoal treatment

    All alcohol produced by fermentation will contain these volatiles, whether it's commercial wine, beer, cider or home brew. In some cases, the producer depend on the volatiles to create a particular taste - so Whisky tastes very different depending on how it was made, what exact equpment used etc. The smallest change there can make an enormous difference.

    For homebrew purposes, we don't want that so we aim to make as pure alcohol as possible, then to add the flavour with carefully chosen essences to produce a perfect result. In order to produce really clean alcohol, it is essential to treat it at some stage with charcoal (activated carbon) which removes a lot of impurities. This can be done in the pre-distillation stage (normally by using a liquid activated carbon that is left in the solution for 24-48 hours first) and after distillation (usually granular charcoal filters). Using both will create even better results.

    Using finings to remove yeast after fermentation

    Whether you want to use your home brew turbo wash as it is and treat it with essences, or for home distilling to achieve higher alcohol, it is important to get rid of any yeast cells still floating in the wash. You will normally rack off into another vessel, that removes the bottom sediment, but the rest is usually fairly cloudy from yeast cells which are still floating around.

    In order to clear this in a reasonable time, you need to use finings such as the Alcotec 24 TurboKlar (you could of course also use a wine filter). If you use liquid carbon sometime during the (late) part of the fermentation, the finings will also help removing a lot of that.

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  3. Whats the best temperature for turbo yeast?

    For a turbo yeast to work well, it needs a certain temperature range and ideally not too varying during the fermentation. The temperature is always the liquid temperature. The air temperature is only important when it changes the liquid temperature. 

    The more active the yeast cells are, the more internal energy (temperature) they will create. This means that during the reproduction phase, the first 24-36 hours, the wash will create a lot of "internal" heat. There is usually a peak in the liquid temperature after some 24-30 hours.

    Yeast cells will die if the liquid temperature goes too high, this usually happens around 35-40 C when there is little or no alcohol present. However, should you raise the liquid temperature when alcohol is high (near end of fermentation), the combination of high temperature and alcohol will kill the yeast at a lower temperature.

    Alcotec 48 is one of the best turbo yeasts for temperature tolerance.

    Generally, the two main causes of problems are:

    • The temperature peak after around 30 hours
    • Large fluctuations in air temperature during the fermentation

    If you use a normal sachet of turbo yeast to make 25 litres and follow the instructions, you should not have any major problems with temperature. If you make more than 25 litres in the same container though, there will be much higher internal heat generation and you are likely to see some problems. You will then need to monitor very closely the 30-hour peak. If you get liquid temperatures there which are too high, there is very little you can do except adjust your recipe next time (using less yeast or less sugar or both).

    During stress, yeast cells produce more undesired volatiles, i.e. bad taste. So this is another very good reason for trying to keep the liquid temperature as constant as possible, ideally in the 25-30 C range. Looking at only the production of volatiles, it will be better to ferment (very slowly) at 15 C, but the difference is very small and you add a lot of time to your fermentation so it is not really worth it.

    A "normal" turbo fermentation (6kgs of sugar into 25 litres total volume) will take around 3 days at 25 C, but it may take up to 14 days if you lower the liquid temperature down to 15 C and there is very little benefit. We recommend aiming at 25 C constant liquid temperature.

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  4. Novice...... I did a 1st run of Cumberland Brandy which is bubbling away O.K. The 2nd run is not now bubbling.. Any suggestions please..

    You need to check with a hydrometer.

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