|Written by Hanz|
When you think of alcohol, you may conjure up memories of good times at the local saloons such as: The Dusty Boot, Los Amigos, Loaded Joes, and Billyâ€™s Island Grill. The Mountain Man uses this age old liquid for much more than the killing of brain cells for inebriated entertainment. I do not condone the abuse of alcohol or the illegal production of moonshine; however, I will divulge the methods of procuring and using ethyl alcohol for survival purposes in this article. Alcohol can be made easily from many types of sugars and starches and can be used for a plethora of applications.
First of all, ethyl alcohol is produced from the fermentation of a carbohydrate. Wine employs grapes; beer uses wheat, and distilled liquor can be made from everything from potatoes to blue agave. When choosing what to ferment, stay clear of anything high is acid because yeast doesnâ€™t like acidic conditions. In fact, you can treat a yeast infection with acids like vinegar but this is also why you have not seen oranges made into a wine like grapes. Once you have a carbohydrate source, you will make a hearty soup from the food; in beer making this is called the wort. To this soup, you add brewing yeast and seal off the fermentation vessel from air. This makes the yeast live without oxygen in a process called anaerobic respiration which is what causes alcohol to form. In humans anaerobic respiration creates lactic acid which is what causes the burn while exercising.
After 3-4 weeks of fermenting, you should have an alcoholic brew that alcohol can be distilled from. In beer making, a sugar is added and the brew is bottled creating the carbonation. In liquor making, this is the point when distillation occurs. Making a still is very dangerous and the alcohol vapors can explode if you are not careful. With that said, a still has 3 main components: a heating vessel, a cooling tube, and a collection vessel. The heating vessel is where the brew is heated to about 173 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the boiling point of ethanol. This causes the alcohol vapors to rise and pass through the cooling tube which is usually a spiral with cold water or ice around it to cool the vapors causing them to condense on the tube, which should slope downward to the collection vessel. The alcohol vapors condense and form droplets of liquid that run down into the collection vessel. The process can be repeated as many times as desired if you want a higher content of purified ethanol. At this stage you have broken federal alcohol laws by producing moonshine without a license so donâ€™t do it.
Ethanol production has purpose beyond illegal liquor distillation. Most founding fathers of this country produced spirits as did many farmers. Making liquor is a great way to make use of a harvest that may otherwise go to waste, so most plantation owners or farmers would convert their excess harvest into nonperishable grain alcohol rather than letting it spoil. This is another use of fruit harvests that would otherwise rot. I make an excellent peach wine from our well renowned Colorado peaches.
Alcohol makes a great fuel for burning, as we see it being added to our gasoline. Brazil drives mainly from ethanol made from sugar cane; most people know the substance as rum. If you have a solution that is at least 50% ethanol, or 100 proof, it will burn hot with a blue flame. This can be used for lamps, starting a fire, engine fuel, and I have even used it as lighter fuel in a Zippo. Avoid using it engines because it burns very hot and is not good for the engine despite what Detroit auto makers seem to think.
I often keep a flask of ethanol when hiking in case if I need some fuel to start a fire in the rain, or to treat an injury. Ethanol is a great antiseptic, and is the main active ingredient in hand sanitizers. You can also make home-made mouthwash from ethanol. I simply soak fresh mint leaves in alcohol to make a tincture that works well for mouthwash as well as schnapps.
Ethanol works well as a cleaning solvent or degreaser. I mix a 50/50 solution of ethanol with water and spray it as a general cleaner like Windex. Ethanol also has a very low freezing point and can be used to de-ice automotive locks in the winter. Alcohol can even be used as nitro solvent to clean firearms.
Lastly, if you are trying to make alcohol from wood, or it gets contaminated from other bacterium, you might produce the deadly toxic methanol also known as wood alcohol. Drinking methanol will cause blindness or death. If you are suffering from methanol poisoning, ethanol can save your life as it is an antidote for more toxic alcohols and it can prevent the crystallization of glycols in the kidneys.Â