How Alcohol is made

The fermentation process used to produce alcohol

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How is alcohol made?
Ethanol is commercially produced using a process called fermentation.
Many other alcohols can be made this way, but are more likely to be
produced by synthetic routes - from natural gas, oil or coal.
Fermentation is the process in which yeast breaks down sugar into
alcohol and carbon dioxide. Yeast are tiny single-celled fungi that
contain special enzymes responsible for this reaction.
The word equation for this process is:
Glucose + yeast alcohol +
carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide gas bubbles out of the fermenting solution into the air
leaving a mixture of ethanol and water. It's important that no air is
present or the yeast will produce ethanoic acid - the chemical found in
Beer and lagers
Barley, hops, water and live yeast produce beers and lagers. The sugar in the mix comes
from the spouting barley. Bitter, stout and ale use top-fermenting yeast, while lager
uses a variety that sinks to the bottom.
In wine making the sugars come from the flesh of the crushed grapes. The type of wine
produced depends on the type of grape used in the process.
Spirits and distillation
Yeast cannot survive in high levels of alcohol, so to create stronger spirits an additional
process, distillation, is required. Fermented drinks are distilled to create vodka, rum and
other spirits. Distillation relies on ethanol having a lower boiling point than water. When
the fermented drink is heated the ethanol vaporises at 78.5 degrees and the water is
left behind (water boils or vaporises at 100 degrees). The ethanol gas is caught and
cooled so it condenses into a stronger concentration of ethanol liquid.


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