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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Full disclosure, I make alcohol distilleries, and am a sponsor.

Anything discussing alcohol has to be clear that in order to make alcohol, you must first get the proper licenses and pay the proper taxes and fees. My sub-forum has information about where to go to get those licenses. Or you can just got to the TTB (formerly ATF) website. I do NOT advocate alcohol production without following all applicable laws!

That being said, I'd like to see what the forum thinks about the uses of alcohol.

I grew up in the legal alcohol industry, and my father and grandfather grew up in the not-so-legal alcohol industry. I've got some pretty interesting stories of them if anyone cares to hear, but that's a different subject.

I was raised with the idea of alcohol being a perfect fuel for people wanting to be self-sufficient. It's extremely easy to make using things that most people have on any farm or available in any rural area.

One of the best things about alcohol fuel was always its ability to have a nearly indefinite shelf life. Alcohol will draw moisture from the air, thus diluting itself, but if kept in a sealed container, you can easily use 50+ year old alcohol as a fuel and it will work just as well as newly made alcohol.

In an acronym situation like TEOTWAWKI or otherwise, the bartering power of a stable and long lasting fuel like alcohol is pretty obvious.

My father was already running several vehicles on alcohol by the time I was born. In some of the news articles you can actually see my mom carrying a tiny me around while he was showing them off. As I recall they were a 1976 Dodge Pickup, a '69 Lincoln Mark III 460 (still one of my favorite cars!) a Triumph Bonneville (also one of my favorite motorcycles. I wonder if there's a pattern here.) and several others, plus a lawn mower.

Personally I have a 1977 Ford 4x4 with a 460 that I'm thinking of running on alcohol. Big, easy to work on, bulletproof, and the ability to have a replenishable stockpile of fuel for it that doesn't go bad really appeals to me. Add in a dirt bike, and I feel golden. Although now that I'm writing this, I suddenly want a Triumph Bonneville again. Not exactly practical, but still.

When I was a kid, my brother did something stupid. He had a little lantern that he ran on alcohol. He was using it in his bedroom, during the day, set it on the windowsill, and promptly caught the drapes on fire. Amid all the excitement, yelling, and wondering if the house was going to burn down this led to four discoveries for my young mind.

1. High quality and nearly pure alcohol has a flame that can be hard to see in daylight.

2. Alcohol fires are easily put out with water. I was later told this is why they are used on boats.

3. Spankings were practiced in our house.

4. If I wanted to be able to sit down unlike my brother, I'd better not play with fire.

I also learned to associate alcohol with pigs for some reason. I never understood why until later on when my father was telling me stories about himself, his father, and his grandfather all bootlegging. They would feed the hogs the used mash to dispose of it, and the smell of the hogs would cover the smell of the still.

Oh, and apparently you can get pigs drunk.

The things you learn as a child...
 

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Heliphobe
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Knowing nothing at all about types/kinds of alcohol ...

How is denatured different from other kinds of alcohol? I use denatured in stoves as it puts off less soot, so in my BOB there is a flask of denatured of enough quantity to match what I also have packed to cook on the stove. Is it a special process to make denatured? Could I use denatured for any other application? I've used pretty much every form of alcohol from isopropyl to everclear in a stove, and denatured has worked the best.

Personally, I think alcohol production may be a critical industry in even a slight degradation of society, never mind TEOTWAWKI, its so useful. The question in my mind would be how many kinds for how many different applications would you have to consider if you were going to set up for it before hand. Thanks!
 

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Premium Member
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Denatured alcohol is basically any alcohol that has been rendered unsafe to drink.

For the uses we're talking about though, it would be simply grain alcohol of a high alcohol percentage (proof) that has had an ingredient added to it. The list of ingredients are here:

http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-id...e=27:1.0.1.1.17&idno=27#27:1.0.1.1.17.6.253.1

When you say you find denatured alcohol works best, it's the high purity of alcohol that is generally associated with it that is working so well.

We've consistently made alcohol that was over 180 proof using just corn, sugar, water and yeast. That's something nearly anyone is capable of doing. Alcohol fuel is only 160+ proof.

If you check out our sub forum there's how to get started information on there, but the simple answer is that you'd need to get an alcohol fuel (small) production permit from the TTB. It's free, and you can make up to 10,000 gallons per year with it. You should also check with your state and local laws, but in general, it's as simple as getting just that one permit.
 

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I've been experimenting with Denat Alcohol for a number of years now. The advantages I see as a cooking fuel are:
1. Can be stored for many years without worrying about temperature (won't freeze and won't over pressurize container in heat of summer)
2. Stoves are cheap to make and have no moving parts. They will last forever as long as you don't stomp on them
3. Very little odor and no smoke or soot when cooking indoors.

The major disadvantage is the lack of temperature control that you get with butane, white gas, or propane stoves. I've gotten around that by making different size stoves for different types of cooking. A shot glass wick stove for simmering pasta or rice for 30 minutes. For steam baking corn bread in a Can Cooker Jr I use 2 water bottle wick stoves that can boil 3 cups of water for 2 hours.
I believe most people start out experimenting on a small scale but see that the fuel cost is much more than say propane. The economy of scale is at work here. You can pay $7.95 a quart at REI! However if you are convinced of the benefits and are willing to store a 5 gal can you can get it for $6.60 per gallon at Menards. That works out to be 5 cents to boil 2 cups of water for a MW pouch! Long term I am looking at sustainable methods to grow the crops and convert to ethanol. The energy needed to distill is concerning. Off Grid you would need wood or alcohol to burn which would be very hard to control. I can't imagine how many solar panels you would need to heat electrically. For now I will maintain my inventory of 15 gals and keep experimenting and hope that someone develops a commercial solar parabolic mirror or fresnel type still.
 

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Heliphobe
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We've consistently made alcohol that was over 180 proof using just corn, sugar, water and yeast. That's something nearly anyone is capable of doing. Alcohol fuel is only 160+ proof.
How much soot would that 180 proof produce when burned? That sounds like a perfect all purpose product that could be diluted down for consumption (or straight in producing herbal extracts like echinacea, or sterilizing medical tools), used topically for medical applications, and burned for lamps & stoves.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Personally, I think alcohol production may be a critical industry in even a slight degradation of society, never mind TEOTWAWKI, its so useful. The question in my mind would be how many kinds for how many different applications would you have to consider if you were going to set up for it before hand. Thanks!
and

How much soot would that 180 proof produce when burned? That sounds like a perfect all purpose product that could be diluted down for consumption (or straight in producing herbal extracts like echinacea, or sterilizing medical tools), used topically for medical applications, and burned for lamps & stoves.

This is kind of a hard question to answer, because of current laws as compared to a situation of lawlessness that you're asking about.

The uses I can think of would be:
Fuel for engines
Medical uses/sterilization
Heating source
light and compact source of fuel for cooking while on the move
Solvent and cleaner for equipment (alcohol was used to clean printing presses among other things)
Industrial uses such as rubber production (alcohol and coal combine to make synthetic rubber)
Beverage
Pain killer (in the civil war they'd just get the soldiers drunk before they amputated)
Powerful barter tool
Plus many others I'm sure I'm missing!




However, to answer it in the terms of current laws:

If you wanted to make a product that could be used for as many purposes as possible, including bartering as a beverage, you would have to make an alcohol that is safe to drink. This is different than just making a fuel alcohol.

When making alcohol, it contains fusel and distillate oils, which are poisonous. Fortunately, these oils can be separated out when distilling, by keeping only the "heart" run. Roughly the first and last third of the distilling run will have these oils in it, but the middle third, the "heart", will be free of the oils and safe to drink. The head and tail thirds are then set aside and re-distilled later, so you're not actually wasting any alcohol, you're just recycling the head and tail. There are other ways to separate the oils out as well, but the head, heart and tail separation is the most simplest.

If a person then made a very high proof alcohol that was safe to drink, it could be used for medical uses as well as fuel, and could be cut with water or juice etc to be a barter substance for drinking.

Also keep in mind that while straight 180 proof alcohol would burn cleanly, it's the fusel and distillate oils that would create the soot, so making high proof beverage grade of just the heart run would have the added benefit of burning very very cleanly.

The law used to say that alcohol fuel only had to be denatured before it leaves the premises of manufacture, but I am not sure about the current law. I'm looking into this now. Beverage alcohol would of course require a beverage license, etc.

Please keep in mind, whether I sell a still, or merely talk to someone about distilling, I don't get involved in the permitting process. That's up to each person to do themselves, just like a car dealer informs a person that they need a license to drive and lets them do that themselves.

I'm not trying to scare anyone off alcohol, I just have to be very clear on the law to avoid any trouble myself.
 

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Premium Member
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I've been experimenting with Denat Alcohol for a number of years now. The advantages I see as a cooking fuel are:
1. Can be stored for many years without worrying about temperature (won't freeze and won't over pressurize container in heat of summer)
2. Stoves are cheap to make and have no moving parts. They will last forever as long as you don't stomp on them
3. Very little odor and no smoke or soot when cooking indoors.

The major disadvantage is the lack of temperature control that you get with butane, white gas, or propane stoves. I've gotten around that by making different size stoves for different types of cooking. A shot glass wick stove for simmering pasta or rice for 30 minutes. For steam baking corn bread in a Can Cooker Jr I use 2 water bottle wick stoves that can boil 3 cups of water for 2 hours.
I believe most people start out experimenting on a small scale but see that the fuel cost is much more than say propane. The economy of scale is at work here. You can pay $7.95 a quart at REI! However if you are convinced of the benefits and are willing to store a 5 gal can you can get it for $6.60 per gallon at Menards. That works out to be 5 cents to boil 2 cups of water for a MW pouch! Long term I am looking at sustainable methods to grow the crops and convert to ethanol. The energy needed to distill is concerning. Off Grid you would need wood or alcohol to burn which would be very hard to control. I can't imagine how many solar panels you would need to heat electrically. For now I will maintain my inventory of 15 gals and keep experimenting and hope that someone develops a commercial solar parabolic mirror or fresnel type still.
There's actually several stove designs out there that have an adjustable flame for temperature control. It might help with your problem of having to use multiple stoves. I'm not affiliated with any of these companies, and haven't used any of them, so I can't speak for their quality.

http://www.batchstovez.com/stoves.php
http://brasslite.com/
http://packafeather.com/stove.html

As to heating the still itself for distilling, we make wood burning bases for stills, it's hard to beat wood for a cheap and easy to get source of fuel, at least in most parts of the country. You also end up with hot water as a byproduct of using the still, which can be used in other ways as well.

You're correct that economy of scale is evident in alcohol production. A 25 gallon still is more efficient than a 5 gallon, and efficiency increases with larger sizes. Buying it at $8 a quart for fuel is $32 a gallon, it can be produced for yourself much cheaper, which gives it powerful bartering power in a degradation of society situation as was mentioned.
 

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Alcohol is an awesome liquid multi-tool for ultra-light backpacking, EDC, or a BOB.

I recently added nesting Ti cups to my water bottles, and a 1oz Ti alcohol stove/pot stand to my EDC bag. Then swapped my bourbon out for 190 proof grain alcohol in my flask so I could have my booze, stove fuel, medicinal antiseptic, fire starter, and solvent/cleaner (for my new "kitchen")... all from a single container. This gets my sub-10 L/lbs EDC/GHB bag to a minimalist equivalent of my camping backpack, good for an overnight or two outdoors (incl shelter).

 

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There's actually several stove designs out there that have an adjustable flame for temperature control. It might help with your problem of having to use multiple stoves. I'm not affiliated with any of these companies, and haven't used any of them, so I can't speak for their quality.
In my experience any time you try to limit the size of the flame with a simmer ring or reduce the air flow you get incomplete combustion and this results in very irritating gases being given off. Outside it might not be problem but in the kitchen it is intolerable. My eyes were burning to the point I had to stop. Using a smaller diameter stove is better since the fuel consumption rate is slower and this is what you need to simmer. As far as wood being used for distillation I believe during the initial stages temperature control is not a problem since you are boiling off the ethanol as fast as possible but when you are approaching the concentration needed for fuel ethanol (90%) I would think you would need fine temperature control that you couldn't get with wood. I realize the old time moonshiners were able to make their booze with these methods but I'm talking fuel grade. What do you think about a butane stove? I have been stocking up on butane cylinders and they are rated for 8 year shelf life. One can will burn for over an hour at full blast. I'm not a fan of propane.
 

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Premium Member
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
As I said, I've never used any of those stoves, so I can't speak for them. A decent alcohol stove might be something good for me to look into.

As to heating a still, while not all still designs work the same, our stills are generally run on high heat. We want that liquid really boiling, so that it's releasing as much vapor as possible. Then the temperature and distillation proof (concentration) is controlled in the column itself. It's normal to have the column fine tuned to within a single degree.

Using this method we've been able to consistently distill 180+ proof, which is 90% purity on just one distillation run. So it is very possible to do, but it depends on the design.
 

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In Memory
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There's actually several stove designs out there that have an adjustable flame for temperature control.
There are a lot of vintage ( circa 1890 / 1920) Alc chafing type burner stoves with adjustable flame/heat output.







There are also a few old school Alc wick burners that work well.








 

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SI vis pacem,para bellum
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//////////////

Alcohol is an awesome liquid multi-tool for ultra-light backpacking, EDC, or a BOB.

I recently added nesting Ti cups to my water bottles, and a 1oz Ti alcohol stove/pot stand to my EDC bag. Then swapped my bourbon out for 190 proof grain alcohol in my flask so I could have my booze, stove fuel, medicinal antiseptic, fire starter, and solvent/cleaner (for my new "kitchen")... all from a single container. This gets my sub-10 L/lbs EDC/GHB bag to a minimalist equivalent of my camping backpack, good for an overnight or two outdoors (incl shelter).

That is an awesome idea,were did you pick up the stove?
 
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