So, how is Vodka made?
Vodka can be made from any agricultural crop with high starch content. Traditionally, vodka is made from wheat, rye or potato, but can also be made from barley, corn, sugar cane or grapes. These raw materials are then treated to release the fermentable sugars within. These steps will depend on the raw materials used. For example, in the case of grapes, it’s as simple as pressing them. However, in the case of grains, these may need to be milled, ground, and steeped before the fermentable sugars are released and ready for conversion. During the fermentation, yeast is added to what now should be a liquid substance with sugars in it. The yeast will convert the sugars in the liquid into alcohol. So far this process is pretty much the same as that of the production of beers and wines.
Depending on the raw material used and the length of fermentation, the initial wash tends to have an ABV between 5 and 12%. Vodka can be distilled in either a pot or a column, however, column still is definitely the most prevalent. The end product here tends to be a neutral spirit sitting around the 96% ABV mark. Interestingly, for many vodka producers, their real step starts below. It is very common, especially for newer brands, to simply purchase a high-grade food quality neutral spirit from a commercial distiller and then “finish” the vodka off by following some or all of the below steps:
- Copper pot distillation – some vodkas will at this stage undergo an additional step where it is distilled into a copper pot still. This is said to improve mouthfeel and viscosity as well as remove certain sulfurous compounds.
- Filtration – most vodkas will be filtered before they are bottled. This is to remove any further unwanted flavors or impurities. Charcoal is a traditional and popular method although several other materials are used as well. All vodkas will be cut back with water to achieve bottling strength. Vodkas can be as low as 37%, but like most spirits are mostly bottled at 40%.
- Water – No other spirit category puts as much emphasis on their water as vodka does. Given that vodkas often strive to be as pure and clean as possible, it’s only natural that the water used in the bottling process is as pure as possible as well.