Are you curious about the latest trend in alcoholic beverages?
Many new drinks are hitting the market with “cold-brewed sugar” or “fermented cane sugar” as their alcohol base. But what exactly is real cane sugar alcohol, and how is it made?
In this article, we’ll explore the process of creating alcohol from sugar cane, including the fermentation and distillation methods used to produce popular drinks like rum, cachaça, and hard seltzer.
Whether you’re a fan of classic cocktails or looking to try something new, read on to discover the secrets behind this sweet and flavorful spirit.
What Is Alcohol From Real Cane Sugar?
Real cane sugar alcohol is a type of alcoholic beverage that is made from sugar cane. The process of creating this type of alcohol involves fermenting and distilling the juice of the sugar cane plant. The result is a sweet and flavorful spirit that is used in a variety of popular drinks.
The History Of Sugar Cane Alcohol
Sugar cane, a grass with a stalk up to six meters tall and a diameter of about five centimeters, originated in Oceania. The juice in its stalk can contain up to 15% sucrose. Over time, sugar cane migrated from east to west, and Christopher Columbus brought it to Santo Domingo on his second trip to America in 1493. The conquistadors aimed to produce sugar for export to Europe, leading to successful sugar production. Unfortunately, this success came at the expense of significant slave labor from West Africa.
Sugar cane is used for more than just sugar production. Heat and natural yeasts cause the juice in the stalk to ferment spontaneously and turn it into an alcoholic beverage. The first distilled spirits were made on the island of Barbados, an English colony at the time. In the latter half of the 17th century, Père Labat perfected the distillation process by redistilling the alcohol a second time. This was when rum became a product in its own right and sugar factories became equipped with distilleries.
Distilleries started to produce rum by distilling sugar cane wine obtained by fermenting molasses or black treacle, the viscous residue of refining sugar cane. In the late 19th century, the discovery of sugar beet led to a decline in sugar cane production, and some distilleries began distilling fermented sugar cane juice instead.
Today, rum is produced in nearly every sugar-producing region of the world, including the Philippines where Tanduay is the largest producer of rum globally. Rums are produced in various grades, with light rums commonly used in cocktails and “golden” and “dark” rums typically consumed straight or used for cooking. Premium rums are made to be consumed either straight or iced.
Sugar cane alcohol is also used for other purposes such as food applications and perfumes. At RECREATION, they use sugar cane-derived alcohol as a base for their fragrances due to its environmentally friendly nature and lack of pollutants or toxins.
How Sugar Cane Alcohol Is Made
The process of making sugar cane alcohol starts with crushing the sugar cane stalks to extract the juice. This juice is then fermented using natural yeasts and heat, causing it to turn into an alcoholic beverage. The resulting product is known as sugar cane wine.
To make rum, the sugar cane wine is then distilled. The distillation process involves heating the wine until it evaporates and then cooling it down to condense the vapor back into a liquid. This process is repeated multiple times to increase the alcohol content and purity of the resulting product.
The leftover residue from the juice extraction process, called bagasse, is commonly used as fuel to generate heat and electricity for in-plant use. After fermentation, the remaining liquid, known as beer, is delivered to a distillation column where the ethanol is recovered and the liquid residue, called vinasse, is co-generated at the bottom of the column.
It’s important to note that true sugar cane alcohol is made exclusively from sugar cane or its by-products, such as molasses or syrup produced during the manufacture of cane sugar. Regulations around the world require that rum be made from sugar cane or its by-products, and not from other sources such as sugar beets or sorghum.
The Fermentation Process
The fermentation process is a crucial step in creating real cane sugar alcohol. The juice of the sugar cane plant is extracted by crushing the stalks and collecting the liquid. This juice is then placed in a fermentation tank where yeast is added to convert the sugar into alcohol. During this process, the yeast consumes the sugar and produces carbon dioxide and ethanol as byproducts.
The fermentation process typically takes anywhere from one to six weeks, depending on various factors such as temperature, yeast type, and sugar concentration. As the yeast consumes the sugar, it produces heat and releases carbon dioxide gas, causing the mixture to bubble and foam. The resulting liquid is called “beer” and contains approximately 5-12% ethanol by weight.
After fermentation, the beer is then distilled to increase its alcohol content. This involves heating the beer in a still, which causes the ethanol to evaporate and condense into a higher concentration of alcohol. The remaining liquid residue at the bottom of the still is called vinasse.
The final product of the distillation process is a fuel-grade anhydrous ethanol that can be used as a biofuel or as an ingredient in alcoholic beverages. The purity of this ethanol can be up to 92-95%, but further water separation is required to achieve 100% purity.
Distillation: Turning Fermented Sugar Into Alcohol
Distillation is a crucial step in turning fermented sugar into alcohol. After the sugar has been converted into alcohol through the process of fermentation, the resulting liquid is still relatively low in alcohol content. Distillation is used to increase the alcohol concentration and create a more potent spirit.
During the distillation process, the fermented liquid is heated in a still, which causes the alcohol to vaporize. The vapor is then collected and cooled, causing it to condense back into a liquid form. The resulting liquid is much higher in alcohol content than the original fermented liquid.
The distillation process can be repeated multiple times to create an even more concentrated alcohol. This is how high-proof spirits like whiskey and vodka are made.
It’s important to note that not all fermented beverages are distilled. Beer and wine, for example, are not distilled and therefore have a lower alcohol content than spirits like whiskey or rum.
Popular Sugar Cane Alcohol Drinks
There are several popular sugar cane alcohol drinks that are enjoyed around the world. One of the most well-known is rum, which is made by fermenting and distilling either molasses or sugar cane juice. Rum comes in various styles, including light, dark, gold, spiced, and flavored. It is also often aged in oak barrels for at least a year.
Another popular sugar cane alcohol drink is rhum agricole, which is made in the French Caribbean islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe, and St. Martin. Unlike most types of rum, rhum agricole is made from fresh pressed sugar cane juice instead of molasses. It has a unique flavor profile and is considered a specialty spirit among rum enthusiasts.
Cachaça is another popular sugar cane alcohol drink that is often referred to as Brazilian rum. It is made from pure cane sugar juice and is most well-known for its use in the popular cocktail caipirinha.
Finally, aguardiente is a type of spirit made from fermented and distilled beer-like beverage made with either raw sugar cane juice or molasses. It has a high alcohol content and is sometimes referred to as “firewater” due to its potency.
Health Benefits And Risks Of Sugar Cane Alcohol
Sugar cane alcohol, also known as sugarcane ethanol, is a polar solvent that is commonly used for extraction procedures. This type of alcohol is organic, environmentally friendly, and helps processors get a high-quality product. Sugarcane alcohol is known for its high levels of antioxidants, which can help to reduce inflammation and protect the body from free radicals. It also contains several essential vitamins and minerals that can promote good health.
Studies have found that sugarcane alcohol can help reduce cholesterol levels and improve blood flow to the heart, which may reduce the risk of heart disease. Additionally, consuming sugarcane alcohol may help reduce inflammation in the body and boost the immune system. Regular consumption of sugarcane alcohol has also been linked to a decreased risk of certain types of cancer.
However, it is important to note that chronic consumption of sugarcane-spirit can lead to liver injury and anxiolytic-like effects in mice. Therefore, it is important to consume sugarcane alcohol in moderation and with caution.
In addition to potential health benefits, sugarcane alcohol is also a popular ingredient in various food and beverage products. Food companies use cane ethanol to make vinegar, which can help boost your immune system because it’s rich in sugarcane antioxidants. Sugarcane alcohol is also used to make CBD tinctures without minimal expenses.