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A little leprechaun told me of a traditional Irish illicit spirit called poitin (sometimes spelled 'poteen' or 'potcheen') that was once common in Ireland and is still distilled in some places even today. This little leprechaun didn't know how to actually make poitin and doesn't know anyone who makes it. This little leprechaun has a pot of gold waiting for me at the end of the rainbow if I can find out for him how make it, so that he can well and truely 'drown his shamrock'.
Just out of curiosity, what's the difference between poitin and potato vodka? FWIW, here's Lizard's recipe for potato vodka.
1. Take a bunch of potatoes
2. Cut 'em up and boil the hell out of 'em
3. Cool down below 80C, then add malted grain/amylase to convert the starches to sugar
4. Cool below 35C, add yeast, pour mixture into a 5-gal carboy and put airlock in place
5. Let ferment ~5 days until bubbling stops and yeast drops to bottom
6. Siphon off top 80% and add to still boiler
7. Distill with sufficient reflux to produce product of >= 85% ABV (170 proof). (If using potstill, distill multiple times...at least 3X...until 170 proof reached).
8. Toss out first 5% produced, and ~last 1/3 (this varies by taste)
9. Cut w/ distilled water to taste
(Usually, lizard will get up to 50% of his sugar from sucrose...doesn't have a very big effect on taste, so long as it's at least half potato.)
Just out of curiosity, what's the difference between poitin and potato vodka?
My little leprechaun doesn't know. Its probably the same thing except one is Irish and the other is Russian. But my little leprechaun tells me that it is a slightly different flavour, more like rum, and it is very strong.
The strength of any spirit is arbitrary depending on how much you distil it and how much you dilute it afterwards.
Poitin just means 'little pot' - you can make it out of almost anything, but i've seen recipes for using potatoes and oats. Nowadays the cheapest and easiest option is sugar, but if you want the traditional taste go for one or the other.
Mashing, brewing and distilling is a complex process. You'd be best doing a search for home distilling information, as there are plenty of good guides out there and I'm not going to explain the entire process from scratch.
Nobody looked at some other sites that claimed to have instructions for this. At least one MB had soemthing that was utter BS, didn't include any distillation, had all sorts of errors in their alcohol content, over all a mess. Just saying, make sure you get more the one recipe.
As for learning to distill, we live in a wonderful time where good information on the subject is easily availible and very well documented. The best site has a message board on it, so it can't be posted, but it's easy to find, and they cover damn near every aspect of the process.
This is an 1842 recipe for poitin (pronounced Pah-cheen) - I have modified it for modern "ease-of-use"
* boil 5 gallons of water and pour it over a mix of ten pounds of rolled oats (unflavored oatmeal) that has had a pound of 6 row barley (ground) and mixed in to it.
* Allow this to sit until it is cool enough to add yeast, then add a dry ale yeast and 15 drops of liquid beano (or three of the pills). When you add the yeast/Beano enzyme to the cooled mash the stuff may be thick - like stiff oatmeal- don't worry. The yeast breaks it down with the beano as it is fermenting. Within a day it will be a liquid with grain floating in it.
* ferment until dry
* double distill in a potstill.
* Don't age drink it white.
From what I have read, oat whiskey is the ONLY spirit to have totally died off.. The last commercial distillery was in Ireland- and it shut down in 1975. Oats are a relatively expensive grain, as well as being very sticky, so distillers don't like it very much. If it is filtered well, and run on a water-bath still (or an ice water/wok still) there should be no problem
And from further notes on the above
To get a good conversion,your mash water shouldnt be boiling.You want a mash temp between 148f-158f.If you go hotter,you will denature the enzymes in the malt,and not get a good conversion.Make your strike water about 175f,and dont add the 6 row until you check the temp of the mash.If I were making it,I would add 7 pounds of sugar to it,as soon as the mash is converted so that you get more booze off of it.It will still taste like oats,even with the sugar.If you use whole oats,it will be alot easier to rack,and will have a better flavor,but you need to crack them in a grain mill.
And for more on using potatoes, the following is quite detailed:
Potatoes are harder than most people think and you need a bit of experience to get them right. Books make it sound so easy because they tend to simpIify the process and take for granted that you have a full understanding and experience of all the steps involved quite often leaving out some of the elementary steps. Most of us need to fully understand the basics first before we really begin to learn. I have not tried potatoes yet myself but know this from my reading, broad experiernce of other aspects, and experience with other forms of starch.
What you will probably need to do is what is called a Stepped Infusion Mash. This is where you start the saccharification process at a low temperature and then move it up in steps, halting for a certain time period at each step to give each enzyme time to break down as much as they can at each stage. If you have made beer in the past using an all-grain mash you will understand the process.
To get a feeling for it and to understand the process better try the following:
1. Cook your potatoes so they are still stiff - about 12- 15 minutes at reasonable heat. Up to 20 minutes at low heat. Note they should still be a bit undercooked, definitely not soft, mushy, or floury.
2. Add coarsely milled barley (particles mostly about 1/16 to 3/32" in size. Definitely not too fine.). Use malted Ale barley or standard malted barley rather than Lager barley as it is definitely higher in enzymes and enzymatic action. Note you need sprouted malted barley not spray-dried malt which is normally on a maltodextrin base and has had most of the enzymes destroyed or inactivated because of the excessive heat used in the drying process.
3. Cover with sufficient water and bring to 113 F (45 C). Hold 15 minutes stirring regularly.
4. Bring up to 133 F (56 C). Hold 15 minutes etc.
5. Bring up to 149 F (65 C). Hold 15 minutes stirring constantly.
6. Bring up to 158 F (70 C). Hold 15 minutes stirring constantly. All up this makes 60 minutes which should suffice for a small batch. Some batches will take longer especially bigger batches. Most of the liquifaction and saccharification occurs in steps 5 & 6 rather than 3 & 4. If you want to alter this reduce 3 & 4 to 10 minutes and increase 5 & 6 to 20 minutes or longer where required.
7. Once virtually all the starch is liquified and broken down to simple sugars to halt the enzymatic process raise the temp to 176 F (80 C) (Mashing Out) and then drop it back as quickly as possible to between 140 F (60 C) and 122 F (50 C) so the sugars dont get scorched or burnt.
8. Cool down further to 75 F (24 C), establish an SG of 1060 (min) to 1080 (max = ideal) and begin fermentation.
If you muck around with the basic formula doing several batches, altering the temperature and times a small amount each time you will quickly get a feel for it and learn far more than you can learn initially out of books or I can spell out for you.
I suggest you start with 3 or 4 kg of potatoes and 1/2 kg of barley each time so you have plenty of enzymes together with a very large pot so it dosnt boil over. Once you have got this basic process under control and gained a bit of experience I can help you further with advice and help with enzymes. Also once you have the experience and understand fully what you are doing with the right selection of enzymes you can reduce this 4 to 5 steps down to 2 or 3 steps and save a lot of energy and time producing virtually the same result.
At first for the small amount produced it hardly seems worthwhile but you will be amazed at how quickly you have control of the process with a bit of experience. Learn this process properly now and it will save you a lot of time later.
So that should be a damn good start. In order to bring your recipe as close to traditional as possible, it would be best to research the varieties of potatoes grown in Ireland and attempt to secure on of them, especially if you can find an heirloom variety, sure it may take a season to grow them but if you want it to be accurate...
Now nobody's wondering if there strain that was wiped out during the famine is still around anywhere, that would be awesome to be growing again.