Sugar cane alcohol is a versatile and environmentally friendly solvent that has been used for centuries to make a variety of alcoholic beverages, tinctures, edibles, sanitizers, and cosmetics.
Made by fermenting and distilling the juice of the sugar cane plant, this alcohol is almost completely odorless and tasteless, making it perfect for a wide range of uses.
In this article, we’ll explore the history of sugar cane alcohol, its production process, and its many applications. So sit back, relax, and let’s dive into the world of sugar cane alcohol!
What Is Sugar Cane Alcohol?
Sugar cane alcohol, also known as sugarcane ethanol or cane alcohol, is an alcohol made from the juice of the sugar cane plant. The process involves fermenting and distilling the juice to produce a clear, high-alcohol content liquid that is low on impurities. This versatile solvent is almost completely odorless and tasteless, making it ideal for a wide range of applications.
The History Of Sugar Cane Alcohol
Sugar cane alcohol has a rich and fascinating history that dates back centuries. The sugar cane plant, which originated in Oceania, was brought to the American continent by Christopher Columbus in 1493. The conquistadors aimed to produce sugar for export to Europe, and sugar production soon proved successful, although unfortunately at the expense of sizeable slave labor from West Africa.
Sugar cane is used to produce more than just sugar. 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.
They distilled 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.
Sugar production was mostly switched from the Madeira islands to Brazil by the Portuguese in the 16th century. In Madeira, aguardente de cana is made by distilling sugar cane juice into liquor, and the pot stills from Madeira were brought to Brazil to make what today is also called cachaça.
Cachaça can only be produced in Brazil, where it is consumed in large quantities annually. It is typically between 38% and 48% alcohol by volume. When homemade, it can be as strong as the distiller wants. Up to six grams per liter of sugar may be added.
Sugar cane alcohol has become increasingly popular due to its environmentally friendly production methods and low impurity content. Organic cane alcohol is now available, which is grown without chemicals and produced using methods that do not result in pollutants that harm the environment.
How Sugar Cane Alcohol Is Produced
The process of producing sugar cane alcohol starts with the harvesting of the sugar cane plant. The canes are cut into sections, each with two or three buds, and buried in soil for propagation. Harvesting begins just before the cane flowers, when the sugar concentration has reached its peak. As the sugar accumulates in the lower stalks, these are cut flush with the ground.
The stalks are then cut into pieces and run several times through a series of mills. They are watered as they are crushed, as soaking the fibres dissolves the residual sugar, thus increasing the amount of sugar extracted. The resultant cane juice is called ‘vesou’ and the residual viscous liquid is the basis of molasses.
The juice obtained from crushing the sugar cane is then clarified to remove any undesired organic compounds that could cause sugar inversion. This process prevents hydrolysis of sugar into fructose and glucose. Once clarified, the juice is fermented using yeast to break down sugar and produce ethanol.
After fermentation, the resulting liquid is called cane wine and has an alcohol content of 5% (10 proof). The cane wine is then distilled to separate water from the alcohol and aromatic substances. The resulting liquid is high in alcohol content and low in impurities, making it ideal for a wide range of applications.
The final product is then titrated to 70% alcohol (140 proof), and spring water is added to lower its alcohol content. This clear, high-alcohol content liquid is almost completely odorless and tasteless, making it perfect for use in a variety of industries, including industrial alcohol production, distilled spirits such as vodka, bitters, liqueurs, rum and caçhaca production, as well as food applications like preservatives and vinegar production.
The Characteristics Of Sugar Cane Alcohol
Sugar cane alcohol has a number of unique characteristics that make it a popular choice for various industries. Firstly, it has a high alcohol content, with our bulk alcohol made from sugar cane containing 96% alcohol per volume. This makes it a potent solvent that can dissolve a variety of substances.
Additionally, sugar cane alcohol is antibacterial, making it an effective disinfectant. It can be used to sterilize surfaces and equipment in medical facilities, laboratories, and food processing plants. Its antibacterial properties also make it an ingredient in some personal care and cleaning products.
Sugar cane alcohol is also a preservative, which is why it is used in the production of some food and beverage products. It can help to extend the shelf life of certain products by preventing the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms.
Furthermore, sugar cane alcohol is a renewable resource that can be produced sustainably. It is derived from the sugar cane plant, which is grown in tropical and subtropical zones around the world. This means that it can be produced locally in many regions, reducing the need for transportation and minimizing its carbon footprint.
Sugar Cane Alcohol In Alcoholic Beverages
Sugar cane alcohol is widely used as a base for many alcoholic spirits. Despite being made from sugar, it has a neutral taste, which makes it perfect for almost any distilled drink. Vodka, bitters, liqueurs, rum, and caçhaca are some of the most popular spirits that are made using sugar cane alcohol. This base spirit is also used in the food industry as a preservative or solvent for flavors and colorants.
The flavor of sugar cane alcohol comes from the hand of the maker. The way the stalks are processed, fermented, and distilled can impact the final taste of the drink. The cane itself also plays a crucial role in determining the flavor of the drink. Fresh-pressed juice, dehydrated piloncillo, or caramelized “black” sugar can all be used to create different flavors.
Cachaça is a popular distilled spirit made from fermented sugarcane juice. It is the most popular spirit among distilled alcoholic beverages in Brazil and is used almost exclusively as an ingredient in tropical drinks, with the caipirinha being the most famous cocktail. Cachaça must be produced in Brazil and contain an alcohol content of 38 to 48 percent by law.
Sugar cane alcohol has been an indispensable item in every single household in Mexico. It is a common ingredient in many cooking recipes like Christmas punch or simply to prepare a variety of home remedies. Vicario Sugar Cane Alcohol is a clean sugar cane alcohol triple filtered and bottled at 98 proof. It is used to prepare traditional ‘pajarete’, a laborer’s morning beverage containing milk, chocolate, sugar, instant coffee, and a shot of Vicario.
Sugar Cane Alcohol In Tinctures And Edibles
Sugar cane alcohol is commonly used as a solvent in the production of herbal tinctures and edibles. In fact, many manufacturers prefer it over grain alcohol due to its gluten-free properties and ethical considerations. Sugar cane alcohol is often used in the production of organic tinctures, which are highly sought after by health-conscious consumers. These tinctures are made by steeping herbs in high-proof ethyl alcohol to extract and concentrate their medicinal constituents. The alcohol acts as a powerful solvent, extracting the compounds and active ingredients that aren’t water-soluble, such as essential oils, alkaloids, and resins.
Sugar cane alcohol is also a preservative, giving herbal extracts a longer shelf-life than other solvents. This allows manufacturers to create potent tinctures that can be stored for years without losing their potency. Additionally, sugar cane alcohol is highly concentrated, meaning only a small dose is required to reap the benefits of the tincture.
Consumers who are sensitive to gluten or who have celiac’s disease can rest assured that sugar cane alcohol is a safe and gluten-free alternative to grain alcohol. Manufacturers who value the health and well-being of their customers often use sugar cane alcohol in their products to ensure that everyone can benefit from the healing properties of herbal extracts without any discomfort or concern.
Sugar Cane Alcohol As A Sanitizer
Sugar cane alcohol is a potent and effective sanitizer that can kill up to 99.9% of bacteria on the skin. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends using alcohol-based hand sanitizers with a minimum concentration of 60% alcohol to prevent the spread of infection and illness when hand-washing is not an option. Sugar cane alcohol is a natural and safe alternative to chemical-based sanitizers.
When using sugar cane alcohol as a sanitizer, it is important to ensure that the proper water to alcohol ratio is maintained. A higher water content in the ethanol will help kill microbes more efficiently than increased alcohol concentration (> 70%). Water slows down alcohol evaporation from the sanitizer or cleaning agent, facilitating adequate cell-wall protein breakdown, which leads to cell lysis and the death of germs.
Sugarcane alcohol is also fast-drying, making it an excellent choice for use in hand sanitizers. Its astringent properties help tone the skin and reduce pore size, while its natural ability to fight door-causing bacteria makes it a great choice for underarm sanitizers as well.