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In my country obtaining a bottle of applejack is about impossible, while cider slowly gains some foothold. I have managed to obtain a few liters of apple cider for reasonable price and happen to have a decent quality freezer. I'd like to use freeze-concentration to produce some applejack from it, to have a glass of the legendary drink.

I know the ground theory of how that process is supposed to work, but I don't know any details. What is the right temperature? What kind of container should I use? Should it be covered/airtight to prevent alcohol evaporation? How much ice should I allow to form before removing it? Any special techniques of removing the ice? Also, I heard some account that you keep the ice and discard the liquid - is there any truth to that?

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Water freezes at a higher temperature then alcohol so no idea why yo would discard the liquid. – Wayne In Yak Nov 25 '13 at 20:10
@WayneInYak: I think the rationale went like "alcohol, lighter than water, floats to the surface and gets trapped in the porous ice". No clue how much truth there was in that. The ice is, truth be said though, very porous in the test batch - more resembling packed damp snow. – SF. Nov 25 '13 at 20:55
up vote 6 down vote accepted

start with sterile carboy airlock funnel and cold pressed Apple cider. Don't use anothing that has preservatives in it. Pitch in a camden tablet per gallon of juice to kill any un-identified bacteria or yeast. Let sit for 24 hours. Then pitch in some champagne or cider yeast. Watch it ferment. Save some 2litre bottles in the meantime. When the brew is done bubbling in the air lock, syphon the juice into the 2 liter bottles and freeze them with a hole in the cap to prevent an explosion. Wait 12-24 hours to pull the bottles invert them over another vessel or bucket. I use a clean milk jug inside a 5 gal bucket to stabilize it. Let the mass thaw till the ice is mostly clear. And you have a good amount of liquid in the milk jug. Throw away the ice. Return the liquid to the 2 liter cap and re freeze. Repeat this process until it no longer freezes. Enjoy.

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That's a good example. However, I think one stage would be enough to get 10% apple jack from 5-6% ABV cider. Doing it 2-3 stages with 5 gallons of cider might get you 1 gallon of applejack or ice cider with 15-20% of ABV. Honestly, I would do it only once just to check how it works, and would stick to one stage icing. – Red Trigger Apr 3 '15 at 15:42

The process of freeze distillation exploits the difference in freezing points of water and ethanol. Wikipedia has a good article that explains the process. The short explanation is that the frozen portion of the liquid has a lower concentration of alcohol than the liquid portion. By removing the ice, you can thereby increase the concentration of alcohol in cider. You can repeat the process using progressively lower temperatures to produce a higher alcohol beverage.

Note that the wikipedia article warns that freeze distillation can increase methanol levels to a dangerous degree. Methanol is a nerve toxin that can permanently damage the optic nerve.

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It doesn't produce methanol though, right? If I'm using cider from a reputable, certified source, I shouldn't be at risk. – SF. Nov 26 '13 at 0:50
Did a bit of research, and found this article on methanol. It comes from the breakdown of pectin occurring in high temp. fermentation, adding enzymes, and fermenting beyond 12% ABV. Apples are particularly high in pectin. Might explain why cider is traditionally fermented at lower temperatures. – S. Albano Nov 26 '13 at 3:54
It doesn't produce methanol, but it concentrates it. Apple cider can contain high levels of methanol, due to high levels of pectin in the juice. There's some more information here: homedistiller.org/intro/methanol/methanol – Tobias Patton Nov 26 '13 at 3:56

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