Batch #3 Split Test

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This test is as scientific as I’m able to conduct at home. I used the exact same materials, time, lemons, etc. for both halves of one batch. The only difference was filtering the liquor. I wanted to see what kind of difference, if any, liquor filtration has on the final product. Here are the ingredients for the whole experiment.

Liquor: Two 750ml bottles of Everclear 151

Liquor filtration: Varies

Lemons: 17 Non-organic, waxed and scrubbed

Days peels and liquor rested: 55

Simple Syrup – Cups Sugar: 4, Cups Water: 5

Days syrup rested with infusion: 48

Final filtration: 4x

Just after zesting the lemons, I divided the zest into two even halves and put each half into an identical glass jar. I then poured one unfiltered bottle of grain alcohol in one jar and the other jar received an identical bottle of alcohol but after 4 filtrations in the Brita filtering pitcher. Everything else was identical down to the amount of time I waited to taste them and the temperature of the Limoncello at tasting.

The results for the first, unfiltered, half are:

Batch #3 Unfiltered

As you can see, it’s fairly rough stuff. It’s pretty sweet, which offsets the harshness in the flavor somewhat but it has a lot of heat and is a very rough Limoncello. Drinkable but not great.

Here are the results of the second half of the batch:

Batch #3 Filtered

As you can clearly see, the results were very different this time. The smoothness of this half of the batch was a world of difference from the unfiltered half. Compared to this half, the unfiltered half feels like getting punched in the throat. This one is smooth and silky with a little bit of heat and both halves had some off flavors on the finish that were probably due to the fact that I couldn’t use organic lemons and/or didn’t scrub them hard enough. Because of the smoothness, the sweetness of the Limoncello is more apparent which is why I rated this one as more sweet despite the fact that the two halves contain exactly the same amount of sugar.

With this direct comparison under my belt, I can tell you with absolutely no reservations that filtering the liquor makes a HUGE difference in the smoothness of the final product. Since this batch was created I’ve made a couple others and forgotten to filter the liquor. I’m now acutely regretting that. I strongly recommend that you filter the liquor before the infusion with the lemon zest. I plan future tests to see where the point of diminishing returns is on filtration. Less filtration is faster but if I could double the smoothness by filtering the liquor 8 times, I’d do it. It’s still much faster than letting the finished Limoncello rest for a year or two, which is what I’ll need to do with the unfiltered half.

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(15) comments

Dane February 23, 2008

I use 100 proof vodka instead of everclear. do you think filtration is as important with vodka?

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admin February 23, 2008

I do filter my vodka as well. The filtration of the liquor is actually an idea I borrowed from other sites that filter cheap vodka to make it taste like high end vodka:

http://www.ehow.com/how_2041159_improve-vodka-filter.html

They even have contraptions to make multiple filtrations easier:

http://cocktails.about.com/od/spirits/gr/vodkastick_rvw.htm

I think how much benefit you get is closely associated with what kind of vodka you use. Using cheap vodka will definitely require filtration, but even then it will likely have off flavors. I use mid-grade vodka, usually 100 proof Smirnoff, and then filter it a minimum of 4 times. I think this is a good compromise of price and taste.

For making Limoncello, what you want is no flavor at all so the infusion can take on the flavor of lemon without other less desirable flavors. One other thing to know is that depending on your sugar/water mixture, Limoncellos made with 100 proof vodka can freeze in the freezer. This has happened to me a lot though I still use it because it’s very hard to get either Everclear or higher proof vodka around here.

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Natrous May 29, 2008

How long/how many times can you use a single Brita filter when you are doing your filtering? Is there any rule if thumb you use for when you toss the filter and get a new one?

Have you done testing yet to see if 4 filtering passes is that much better than 2?

Should you filter lower-proof alcohol more than higher proof stuff?

The filters aren’t that expensive, I suppose, but with the cost of the high-proof vodka it adds up.

(Great site, btw… I was just curious about making limoncello, but all the recipes i found seemed to just be posted by people who hadn’t actually tried them. I wasn’t going to bother, then last week I found your site. Last day of the 3-for-a-dollar lemons was today… zesting begins tonight!)

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Ben May 30, 2008

I’m not sure about how many times you can use a filter, quite a few but not as many times as with water. My rule of thumb for when to change it out is just to look at the flow coming out the bottom of the filter when you first pour the liquor in the top. When it reduces to drips I change out the filter.

I have done some batches with one or two filtrations and some with as many as six filtrations. I can tell you that one or two isn’t as good as 5 or 6, but that’s as fine grained as I can tell you right now. What I haven’t done but would like to do is filter like 10 times and see if that is a real improvement.

On the issue of proof, I usually do it by quality. I filter the lower quality, cheaper liquors more than more expensive ones. I think that generally speaking, filtering decent quality vodka doesn’t result in massive improvements (though still worth doing) but filtering grain alcohol is an absolute must and produces massive taste improvements.

I’m glad you like the site! Stop back and let me know how it goes for you!

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ipodnananewnibnipnwt July 27, 2008

The site limoncelloquest.com is excellent resource, thanks

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wspybotwormremovetool July 28, 2008

Your site limoncelloquest is a cool resource, tnks, owner.

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Natrous October 9, 2008

My first batch came out great! I gave a bottle of it to an Italian friend of mine, and he reported back that his mother said it was the best she’s ever tasted. (These people have 30+ family members over on the holidays, and know how to cook and eat, so that’s no small praise!)

I guess I should start in on another batch to make sure I don’t have a lapse…

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Anthony August 16, 2009

Your site rocks; thank you so much. I have a question/concern, however.

I’ve been following your Brita-filtering method and doing a bit more homework on it.

Have you seen this conversation:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/474541#3267108

where the safety of filtering spirits through that type of filter is discussed? Maybe we ought to ask Brita, but it was concerning enough for me to start wondering.

Thanks again & keep up the great work. 🙂

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Ben August 27, 2009

Ooh, I had not seen that thread. I’m kind of a freak about toxins in general so I’ll have to give this some serious thought or maybe even ask Brita. I’m sure they’ll say not to use it on anything but water though, if only just to protect themselves from any potential liability.

Knowing this, I’ll probably not use Brita filters anymore. What I’ll use in their place is a question mark. The activated carbon filtering from Brewhaus is a fairly expensive system for the casual limoncello maker.

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Dave December 30, 2009

I finally started on a long awaited limon/buddha-cello project and was very happy to stumble across your site, it is easily the best resource out there.

I made one batch (steeping/macerating now) with a mix of 7x filtered Everclear 151 and 2x filtered Ketel One vodka and was fascinated with how much better the booze smelled after filtering.

Buddha’s hands are very seasonal and I wanted to use the resources out there while I could, hearing that the flavor is phenomenal, so I started another batch today.

This time I started off by reserving 1/4oz of Everclear 151 in a shot glass and then started filtering while cooking dinner. I got 10x filtrations done and then did a taste comparison. HUGE difference in smoothness and finish/aftertaste. The filtered stuff was still pretty heavy handed, but it was much much more palatable, while the unfiltered stuff was very harsh. I didn’t save anything between 1 and 10, so I don’t know how many times are really necessary though.

Anecdotally I can even tell the difference in purity by watching the streams of 151 filter through the brita. In the first pass you can see swirls of impurities (a Schlieren) where the streams meet the “pool.” On the last few passes the liquid is absolutely clear and without any detectable schlieren or any other that crystal clear liquor.

I am many weeks from being able to tell you how it all turns out, but the filtration is certainly a step I am wholeheartedly endorsing.

Thanks again.

Dave

Reply
Regina August 9, 2014

Coffee filters?

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Jim August 9, 2014

Ben, first of all thank you for the results of your test.
A couple of questions:
Does filtering after you made the limoncello diminish the lemon flavor at all?
Have you tried the Gray Kangaroo filter? I finally got mine and it seems to work well on distilled spirits but I haven’t tried it yet on infused spirits.
Jim

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Ben August 17, 2014

Hey Jim, I’ve always preferred the filtered flavor, though that could definitely be just a preference. I do have a Gray Kangaroo, but only use it before adding any lemon peel. After the liquor is infused you shouldn’t run it through a carbon filter, it will just ruin filters.

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Quisp December 20, 2014

Quick solution for filtering w/ Brita filter… we tried taking the charcoal filler from a Brita filter and putting it into a gold-tone fine mesh coffee filter (about $10 at bed bath). The plastic in the filter is Polypropylene which doesn’t react with ethanol.

On the downside, we tried for 10 passes through the charcoal and on about the 7th, the Everclear started to go grey, presumably from the charcoal. Rinsed the charcoal and ran it through a few more times and it lightened up a bit, but maybe 4 times is adequate.

Thanks for this site!!!

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Natalie October 21, 2016

Hi: I’m not sure whether Gray Kangaroo is still in business. They haven’t responded to my attempts to contact them. I didn’t receive product, so I disputed the credit card charge.

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