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Freezing Distillation

Many varieties of alcohol are created via freezing distillation. Applejack, made by freezing hard cider, is perhaps the best-known of these, but other fun varieties of drink, such as Eisbock and ice beer, are also made through freezing distillation.

Freezing distillation, or better yet, ‘freezing concentration’ is a process in which a drink is frozen and then allowed to melt, removing excess water from it. ‘Distillation’ is a bit of a misnomer, because nothing is heated—one might say it’s rather the opposite.

During this process both the concentration of the drink and the alcohol content are increased. Contrary to regular distillation, freezing distillation is considered legal all over the world.

Why do it?

In addition to increasing the gravity of a drink, freeze distillation brings out the taste of any other drink, because you end up with a concentrate of the stuff you had before.

How to do it?

The easiest method is to pour the drink into a container, such as a plastic jug, and freeze it, either in the freezer or outdoors if you live somewhere cold. This may take up to a few days (still faster than aging) but you can speed it up by freeze distilling in a number of smaller bottles. Once it’s frozen, let it slowly unfreeze and drip into another vessel. Remove once most of what’s left in the jug is ice. Carefully stir and have a sip or two.

It’s hard to estimate the gravity of the final product--it depends on how much water was removed, which in turn depends on the temperature of the freezer, etc. If, however, half of the volume of the drink is lost, a bit less than double of the original alcohol percentage will be retained. Do note that there’s only so much you can do with freeze distillation—the end gravity depends not on the count of times freezing distillation is done, but rather on the end temperature.

Which drinks to freeze?

Go to town! As long as you start with something reasonably good, you can come up with your own varieties of cordial made from Apfelwein, with your own ice beer or perhaps good ole applejack. It’s been said that hopped drinks get too bitter, but maybe that’s just what you’re going for.

Posted by Jason Stone on


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