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Brewing - Testing for methanol?

Discussion in 'Alcohol' started by Potter, Apr 7, 2010.

  1. Potter

    Potter Platinum Member & Advisor

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    There any reagents or other tests one could use to test for methanol in home-brew? Would it be possible to use a cheap spectroscope and flame test?

    Such a test, especially if quantitative would be incredibly useful to reassess the dangers of homebrewing and moon-shining. The recent news about the FDA demanding higher and higher quantities of denaturing in industrial alcohol during prohibition, knowing it was being re-distilled and sold, gives good cause to reassess the situation. IT might also be useful in creating new yeast strains...
     
  2. b3ni

    b3ni Newbie

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    There is one test I know: You add a sample to a test tube (beaker, flask w/e), then add about twice as much iodine solution, followed by about the same amount (as the alcohol sample) of 1M NaOH.

    It's not much use in context though, as ethanol produces a yellow precipitate and methanol makes the solution colourless.
     
  3. goldmc

    goldmc Newbie

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    I was told a little ryme by a old asian fella who used to make desi upto silly alc%, "if its blue its true, if its red your dead". Take a small sample of your moonshine 40%+ and set a light, if it burns with a red/orange flame then it contains methanol. If it burns blue/white then its ethanol. Always worked for me and he aint gone blind yet.
     
  4. b3ni

    b3ni Newbie

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    What is that based on? I was always under the impression that carbon always burns with a yellow flame if the combustion is incomplete (ie not enough oxygen) or pale bluey if complete combustion has occurred.
     
  5. Potter

    Potter Platinum Member & Advisor

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    Nope, that's not going to work. When choosing an alcohol to dye with metal salts, you use de-natured alcohol because it burns clear. Red would be an indicator of stramonium salts.
     
  6. bcubed

    bcubed Gold Member

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    I'm completely editing this because I forgot what Lizard did, way back when he started distilling.

    He went to the local university (was a student) and asked a chemist, "Hey, I'm really worried about my roommate...found him drinking this stuff one night...wouldn't tell me where he got it...smells like booze...any way to check it and make sure it won't cause him to go blind?"

    I'm sure the guy knew what's what, but he ran the tests!
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2010
  7. b3ni

    b3ni Newbie

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    At uni, he well may have had access to a gas chromatography machine.
     
  8. Erytheia

    Erytheia Silver Member

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    Well I (stupidly) thought, "Let's ask Google, the divine font of modern wisdom" :laugh:

    Seems "Computer says no."

    I've got no background in chemistry but every result on the various searches resulted in questions about the contaminants expected in the given sample, with no "hard and fast" test.

    The only "easy" test suggested was to give it a sniff, which sounds like a ridiculous risk to take with one's eyesight/life...

    Long story short, any given layman seems to be lacking the tools required to conclusively test any sample of moonshine/homebrew :(
     
  9. b3ni

    b3ni Newbie

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    The amount consumed by a sniff is pretty much negligible.
     
  10. Erytheia

    Erytheia Silver Member

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    I completely agree. My (attempted) point was that it'd be kinda reckless to judge the "quality" of a drink by "how-it-smells" when the risk could be so high..

    I'd never suggest than a person could inhale enough methanol in a single sniff to cause serious damage... some-SWIM's inhaled lungfuls of butane, petroleum, "methylated-spirits" and any number of other volatile-solvents that don't appear to've caused permanent damage (including "propellant", which is a mix of any number of the more damaging solvents... to say nothing of "air-dusters", which are subjectively similar)

    Regardless of her personal experience, however, is it really worth inhaling neurotoxic gases for a few minute's giggles? Furthermore, is it worth drinking any amount of Methanol simply because it probably isn't damaging, when taken with the con-commitant quantities of ethanol?

    Erm... SWIM's thinking she went off on so severe a tangent it invalidated the initially-attempted point... but, erm... she thinks there's something relevant lurking somewhere in there! o_O