Have you ever wondered how vodka is made? It can be made from so many different things like potatoes, wheat, grains, etc. So, what is the process that makes those things into something so tasty to drink?
Our team thought it would be interesting to share an overview of this interesting process, don’t you agree? Vodka is odorless, mostly colorless and tasty! How do they make it?
What Vodka is Made From …
Interestingly, vodka can be made from many things. Wheat, rye, corn, potatoes, grapes or barley can be the base for making vodka. Essentially, you need something with starch to start this spirit’s journey.
How it is Vodka is Actually Made …
Making Mash –
Crushing the main ingredient is how this process begins. Much like a large blender the size of a commercial washing machine, grains like wheat or corn are crushed into meal. A bit of water is introduced to make it into a mash if the water content of the base isn’t sufficient for that to happen naturally.
Of course, modernization has changed this step quite a bit. Enzymes are added to aid the chemical processes.
Sterilization & Innoculation –
Controlling bacteria is a very important step. Essentially, this requires heating the mash to the boiling point. Next, lactic acid bacteria are added back into the mixture to aid in reaching the correct acidity level for the next step.
Combining your base ingredient with a yeast to ferment is the next step. This fermentation is what creates the alcohol. If you are using potatoes, they must first be cleaned and skinned. If you are using a grain, you must make it into a mash by adding water and heat. Interestingly, if you use grapes they have their own yeast on their skins. To start the fermentation process, crush the grapes and allow them to sit.
Today, alcohol producers introduce certain strains of yeast to their fermentation tanks to yield a uniform quality product. Traditional fermentation methods relied more on what Mother Nature provided. Fermentation processes can take from a day to a couple weeks and produces what they call a “wash.”
The article “How Polish Vodka is Being Produced?” explains distillation very well.
Distillation is a typical thermal process, which consists of heating the mash to high enough temperature for the ethanol to evaporate and then re-condense once the vapour mixture is cooled. Apart from the alcohol, other compounds contained in the liquid also evaporate while heated, including some water. The liquid produced gradually achieves a higher levels of alcohol concentration; the end product containing 88-93% ABV. Therefore, the raw spirit produced by distillation is a mixture of many ingredients whose isolation from ethanol occurs in specialised rectification plants rather than in agricultural distilleries.Muzeum Polkskiej Wodki
Essentially, distillation separates the alcohol from the other parts of the mixture.
This process seems to repeat distillation four more times to purify the alcohol and further remove other components from it yielding a “neutral spirit.” The vapors are captured to yield a 95 – 100% pure alcohol or fine spirits. Understandably, the “proof” of this alcohol would be too high.
When you buy a bottle of vodka, 2/3 of it is water. It has been watered down to make the proof level enjoyable and safer for consumption. Modern water purification processes have greatly improved the water that is added to create what we all call vodka.
Have you ever wondered why alcohol is packaged in glass bottles? The reason is that glass bottles do not chemically react with the spirits contained in them.
Filtration & Finishing –
Vodka is typically filtered to give it clarity and smoothness. Just like your water filtration pitcher at home that uses activated carbon these filters remove any impurities without impacting the alcohol content of the vodka. Many different filtration systems are used by producers but all with the same goal of purifying it.
Many producers “finish” their vodka by adding citric acid, sugar, honey or other additives to improve the mouth feel of their spirit. Vodka’s finishing touches are somewhat similar to asking someone for their spaghetti or chili recipe, everyone will have their own reason for adding their special ingredient to heighten the enjoyment of the dish.
Making Vodka is Both Simple & Complex, Isn’t It?
Of course, specialized equipment is needed to craft modern vodka. The process is a simple one that utilizes both modern chemistry and tradition. Still … after researching this, we are happy we have friends who know how to make vodka for us!
If you would like to learn more about vodka, here are a few other articles that may interest you –
Seeking an American Source for Quality Vodka?
CKJY Exports proudly represents Eastside Distilling in markets abroad. They produce a high quality potato vodka that is smooth and enjoyable. As you can see below, they offer a few other flavored varieties.
Please reach out if you would like to learn more about Eastside Distilling’s terrific vodka offerings –
Born a Southern girl, I was transplanted a few times as a Navy wife! Now, our “retired” USN family, calls CA home. As UNC business school grad, I gained lots of useful insights by finding different opportunities and challenges along our military life’s path. Love of traveling, making friends, experiencing other cultures and sharing the best of all that with everyone are now all part of me.