Specialist Questions - Spirits, Essential Oils, Vinegar

Would you like to ask us about spirits, essential oils and vinegar? Please observe our forum rules (see Helpful tips for use).

June 2018:

It has now been an unbelievable 16 years (!) since the last major change to the website and forums. When you think that two to three years are an eternity for the Internet sector, that is really something. In any case, there has been so much going on in terms of technology that it has become urgently necessary to completely redesign not only the forums, but also the entire website, from scratch and bring the programming up to date. Naturally, along with this we also introduced various new features; for example it was high time we allowed pictures to be uploaded with a forum post too or enabled users to subscribe to the forums via RSS feeds. And of course we have subsequently included pictures that are saved on external websites and were then integrated here using an img tag, so that no valuable information is lost. In any case, we hope you continue to have fun swapping experiences and trying things out.

Juni 2002:

At this point, we would first like to extend a big thank-you to all the users of our specialist questions for their lively involvement. Without you, we could never have developed such an informative and high-quality reference guide in such a short time (the first post dates from April 8, 1999). The large number of posts and high numbers of visitors made it necessary for us to develop the specialist questions ourselves using PHP and MySQL (at last no more annoying advertising banners!). During the course of this, we have hopefully introduced several improvements.


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Helpful tips on use:

Below are a few rules so we can maintain the high quality in the future as well.
  • This is a moderated forum. This means that anyone can write whatever they want, and the post will also be saved, but the content will only be published once it has been reviewed by our editorial staff, or deleted if necessary. Therefore, there is no point in posting the same contribution multiple times simply because it doesn’t appear immediately.
  • If you would like to see the most recent posts (irrespective of the topic), click Show the latest posts.
  • The forum is very comprehensive, and many topics have already been dealt with extensively. Therefore we recommend using the search function or alternatively the advanced search function before you add a new post in order to avoid having posts with the same content.
  • After you add or answer a post, you then have a chance to change the text you have written. So read through your text again carefully after saving it and click on “Change post” if necessary.
  • If you ask a question, then also expect an answer. Think about this as well when you are wording your question. Hardly anyone will answer vague questions such as “How do I distil schnapps?”, “No oil comes out; what am I doing wrong?” or “The vinegar isn’t fermenting, why?”.
  • The three topic areas, i.e. distilling spirits, distilling essential oils/hydrosols and making vinegar, are divided into three different websites. Each website contains the two forums “Recipes” for all the topics concerning fruit and recipes, and “Discussion” for all the other topics related to distilling spirits, essential oils/hydrosols or making vinegar. If we find posts that are unintentionally in the wrong forum, we will move them to the right forum. These posts have not been deleted, just moved.
  • ANY TYPE OF ADVERTISING WILL BE DELETED WITHOUT EXCEPTION! This also means seemingly “innocent” posts such as “I have a question about...” or alternatively “Does anyone have experience with...” followed by links or pictures to any external shops.
  • The same applies to bizarre posts which most likely come from drunks or don’t have the remotest thing to do with the topic area, e.g. football or “Where can you burn CDs here?” They will be deleted without exception.
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So, that’s it. We hope you have a lot of fun swapping experiences, reading, posting and naturally also trying things out afterwards. Dr Malle & Dr Schmickl Dr. Malle & Dr. Schmickl
  • Question 22

    Robert | Medetirian, 17.01.2024 16:32:30
    What are the ingredient of Digestif drinks that affect the stomach? How and why these ingredient affect the stomach whereas other liquors and alcoholic drinks such as apéritifs affect the throat? How these specific ingredients work specifically on the throat?
    ad 1) Herbs in a positive way, undesired fermentation by-products in a negative way, e.g., nausea is induced by ethylacetate, among other substances, and after having consumed too much alcohol.
    ad 2) Herbs ingredients are healthy, good for your stomach, whereas pungent smelling drinks affect the throat, caused by acetaldehyde.

    ad 3) To avoid this issue, just don't drink alcoholic beverages with a pungent smell.

  • Question 13

    LS | USA, 18.12.2023 04:19:50

    Hi! I have your book and love it!

    Im in the process of fermenting some satsuma juice and have noticed a bit of a yeasty smell and off flavor. im wondering if the yeast is stressed and what i can do to fix it.

    i started by juicing satsuma and grapefeuit, adding the juice and pulp to a sanitized glass jar. i added honey, about a 1/3 to the amount of juice, and then hydrated some red star wine yeast to mix in.

    fermentation was great for first few days but now im on day 5 and it seems fermentation has slowed way down. i know honey is microbial so this could contribute to slower fermentation times, but the smell and taste make me think its a yeast problem.

    would you recommend that i add more fruit juice, potentially more yeast, or just wait and continue to stir to release CO2 and hope for the best?

    I did not take a hydrometer measure at the beginning of fermentation. I appreciate your help!

    Thank you!

    If after yeast addition the fermentation has strongly started after 24 hours at latest, everything should be in order. Your desired yeast type has taken over and killed other (unwanted) strains. It's normal behavior if fermentation speed decreases over time. Having said that, to notice this effect after 5 days already, is usually too early. But this behavior also depends on the volume of the fermenting batch. With not more than about 4 liters (1 gallon), it should nevertheless be in order, whereas with the tenfold of this volume, there shouldn't be a noticable difference yet.

    After a successful fermentation start, yeasty smell and off flavor is caused by the active yeast strain. Unfortunately, even some cultivated yeast strains have this issue. I hope this is not the case here, I've never heard anything like that with Red Star brand products, but who knows. In any case, it cannot be lack of nutrients, satsuma juice contains more than sufficient of that.

    BTW, fermenting honey by adding yeast to a honey-water-solution (or honey-juice-mixture) is normally trouble-free, especially, if the fermentation has already successfully started.

  • Question 21

    Amateur backyardigan | Arkansas, 30.06.2023 03:38:51

    Made a mash of 50% cracked corn 50% sweet grain. Checked at 5 days and hydrometer showed .990 so I decided to run 5 gal of mash. Discarded 250 ml head and next jar tastes horrible and only proofs at 90. Suggestions?


    It seems the alcohol content is rather low, so not much alcohol has formed by fermentation. Maybe the starch wasn't properly turned into sugar and / or the alcoholic fermentation didn't perform well. Check the ratio of starch - sugar with iodine tincture, analyze the alcohol content of your mash.

  • Question 12

    Tickled pickler | USA , 24.06.2023 16:13:22

    Can you send English instructions on how to use the pectinase?

    I can't speak for products of other brands, here are the instructions for product "Verflüssiger Spezial" (company: Oestreich GmbH, Germany):

    drupes & berries: 5 - 10 ml / hl (hl = 100 liters)
    pome: 10 - 15 ml / hl
    jerusalem artichoke: 20 - 50 ml / hl

  • Question 11

    rodrigo | spain, 28.02.2023 11:25:23

    the total alcohol was too high at around 7%ABV so the bacteria stopped working once they got close to 6.5% acidity?

    seems odd since generators say they can go to 12%). I have successfully made vinegar to 6% before but never tried higher.

    No. Even for non-specialized vinegar bacteria (the "good" ones) is 7 %ABV not too high. BUT: It's also important to consider the so-called "total concentration". This is the sum of acidity (in %) and alcohol concentration (% ABV). If this value

    is too high, even a lower alcohol content may cause troubles. To be save, take care the total concentration is not higher than

    something about 10 to 12.

  • Question 20

    mario | italy, 27.02.2023 11:28:30

    I bought 1kg of dry roots on the link you gave me, for now I will try to make gentian-apple brandy, next year I will try to

    make pure root gentian brandy, I tried to ask here in Italy for the sale of roots fresh from those who make them, but they told me that for a large one they must be ordered first… I just wanted to ask you: do the dried roots I bought have to be finely chopped before they are added to the mash? or can I leave them as they are?

    They are already chopped, so they're ready to use.

  • Question 20

    linda | usa, 27.02.2023 11:21:50

    I'm wondering if the Leonardo can distill both essential oils and spirits?


    As extensively described in the online-shop, the type Leonardo is only for hydrosols and essential oils. If you want to produce, or rather distill, both, essential-oils/hydrosols and alcohol, the type Deluxe would be perfect.

  • Question 19

    Emerita | Venezuela , 15.10.2022 19:13:21

    Hello, I hope You are well. A question: I distilled oregano, and I obtained essential oil in several containers. I Left it in the containers for more that a month and as can be seed in the photography, there are many drops of the oil disperse in the bottle, Why is this happening? Thanks You very much for your attention.


    The oil drops stick on the wall because of adhesive forces and surface tension effects. Just strongly twist the bottle along its
    vertical axis back and forth, as thoroughly described in our book.

    Having said that, in general, colored oil bubbles look much bigger than they are, if they do not flow up to the top after twisting. These bubbles are even too small to be soaked up by a syringe with attached hypodermic needle.

  • Question 10

    Wanderer Wondering | Portugal, 24.03.2022 20:30:20

    First time i attempted to make vinegar.

    I cut fresh oranges into 8 pieces and filled a 4litre jar 75%. Then added 3litre of water and 1 cup sugar.

    Stopped bubbling after 4 weeks. Removed fruit and strained most of it. Seems to have a mother.

    pH is 3.7 but earlier in the process while still bubbling is went down to 3.2.

    Not a strong vinegar taste. Leaves a bitter aftertaste.

    Can i correct this? What did i do wrong?


    Thank you for your photo, it obviously shows, there is no mother-of-vinegar (MOV) at all. Since orange juice is very rich in trace vitamins, minerals, and sugar, the MOV will become considerable thick after fermenting for only about a week, i.e., between 0.5 and 1 cm (about 0.2 to 0.4 inches). Besides this, for the same reason the MOV will be quite stable (can only be torn up with both hands and a bit of force) and gelatinous like a jellyfish.

    To learn properly how a vinegar fermentation works, I would suggest to mix vodka, water, and orange juice, don't forget to add cultivated mother-of-vinegar, available at winery or vinegar producing suppliers. A detailed description of the recipe you'll find in the mentioned books (see https://www.making-vinegar.com/books/) or in our online seminar of course.

  • Question 9

    Des Pirkhoffer | Scotland, 20.02.2022 11:44:55

    Thank you for your book, "The Artisanal Vinegar Maker's Handbook", I have been reading it in detail but have 2 related technical questions:

    1. I understand that during the conversion phase of alcoholic substance to vinegar the process should not be allowed to convert 100% of the alcohol to vinegar. On page 77 (of the English version) you state the alcohol content will sink to about 0.3%

    Is this the only measurable value that should be used to determine that conversion should be stopped? I know that you mention smells and so on, but I’m interested in a measurable value.

    2. If the above measurement is in fact the only true technical way to determine when to stop conversion, then how should I measure this value?

    I have read your process for measuring ABV via distillation, starting on page 109 (again the English version) but it seems to require the measurement of the distillate via a refractometer to values of less than 1% Is this realistic?

    Using your suggested volumes and formula on page 113, and wishing to observe a sample ABV of 0.3% I see the following calculations:

    Volume of distillate 0.4ml

    Alcohol content of distillate 0.375%

    Volume of sample 0.5ml

    Alcohol content of sample 0.3%

    You will notice that this requires me to use a handheld refractometer to 3 places of decimal accuracy. This is not realistic. Even an accuracy of 1 decimal place is highly questionable.

    So, in summary, how should I determine the point at which to conclude alcohol conversion?

    Many thanks,


    Thank you, we appreciate that you enjoyed reading our book! :-)

    ad 1) Yes, this is true, no other measurable value indicates if the acidic fermentation is very close to its end or not. Of course, you could also observe acidity, but even the most accurate method (titration) will not show the difference between for example 0.5 and 0.0 % of residual alcohol. It's not guaranteed that every "piece" of alcohol will turn into acetic acid, you can't accurate enough take into consideration the amount of evaporated alcohol, effects from over-oxidation, losses caused by the formation of mother-of-vinegar, etc.

    ad 2) Of course, it would be ideal if hand-held Ethanol-refractometers with 0.1-%-tick-marks would be available. But they aren't for a reasonable price. So we intentionally use "standard" Ethanol refractometers for our equipment (the one's with a scale from 0 to 80 %ABV Ethanol). With the proper instruction (see book, online course, or video) and a little bit of experience it's quite easy to estimate the read off value with an accuracy of 0.1 %ABV. Will say, the value between for example the tick mark 1 %ABV and the tick mark 2 %ABV. Surprisingly enough, this estimation can be done without any effort by completely inexperienced, non-scientific people visiting our vinegar hands-on workshop. Up to now, every attendee were able to "find" the correct 0.1-%-value after my five-minutes explanation. We're hosting vinegar seminars since 2008 already. Of course, to be sure, it's advisable to perform a so-called error calculation: you're not sure if it's 0.6 or 0.7 %ABV? Just calculate the result by using both values and hereby determine the margin after the calculation. It's not necessary (and not possible) to be more accurate with the read off than +/- 0.1 %ABV.

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