Has the Lemon Been Steeping in Alcohol Long Enough?

Is the Lemon Peel Infusion Finished?


This is a common question I get over email so I wanted to write a post that covers the issue. I'll add it to my email series as well. It's an important question because it can save you a lot of time in the process depending on how strong the liquor is that you're using. 

Lemon zest in alcohol

Stronger (higher proof) liquors will do a faster, more efficient job of pulling the lemon oils out of the zest. Therefore you can shorten the infusion times if you develop an eye for when your zest has fully given up the ghost.

This is easier to see if you have zest at several stages of infusion, but I wanted to give you a benchmark for what zest looks like when it is finished. Below is an image of the finished zest in the alcohol. It's a bit harder to see that it is as pale as it is when it's in the infused liquor because the yellow color is now in the liquor itself. ‚Äč

Here's what it looks like out of the infusion. As you can see, it's very pale in color, almost a sickly grayish tint. The shade varies a bit, sometimes it's more whitish, but you're just looking for the distinct lack of the vibrant yellow color that the zest had to begin with.

Lemon zest

Below is the real close-up and you can tell here that the zest is pale and translucent. There's still a small amount of yellow left but this zest has given up every bit of lemon oil that it has to give.

Lemon zest after infusion

And now you know! If your zest is pale and translucent, it doesn't matter if it's been sitting there for 30 days or for 45 days. You can stick a fork in it, 'cuz it's done. 

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(11) comments

KK November 25, 2015

Placed my zest+ alcohol in a sous vide cooking ‘water oven’ setup – water temperature controlled to 135F for 2-3 hours – \190 EverClear. Than aged it a few weeks. The pre-hot water aging seemed to speed things up however I did not run a side by side with pre-treating vs no pre-treating. I do not think the exact temperature is critical as it is with meats etc. so it should be easy to rig something up.

KK November 25, 2015

Part 2 to sous vide comment – we made a 2 liter extraction and than made up 750 ml batches using different waters – You would not think it makes a difference but water has a taste profile and a big component. Best to avoid chlorinated/fluorinated tap water.
1) Distilled
2) Aqua Panna (Italian)
3) Evian – Alps (bottled Evian-Les Bains)
Some profiles changed with aging finished limoncello (freezer stored)
Distilled seems smoothest, not always first choice – matter of taste.
One possible variable – simple syrup prep. We like to simmer about 5-7 minutes for thicker mouth feel. Simmer time not carefully measured but close.

Ben November 27, 2015

I completely agree. I used to use distilled and now I use reverse osmosis water. The water definitely has a flavor of its own.

Serg April 19, 2016

I am confused, do we do a final filtration of the limoncello before we place it in the final bottles

Ben April 24, 2016

Yes, I like to do that to remove any fine particulates for limoncello I intend to give as a gift.

Don April 25, 2016

Do you typically use one of the wide variety of really good looking 250 ml bottles for gifts? Or something larger? The 250 ml bottles are terrific, but that seems like an awfully small quantity to give. I was thinking more like 350-400 ml. Any thoughts?

Ben June 10, 2016

The next typical size is 375ml or 500ml, which are also great gift sizes.

Richard Le Mesurier August 18, 2016

Hi, really like all your helpful information. Great alcohol calculator too. I have one question: on adding the cooled clear simple syrup to the strained lemon infused 95% ethanol, he mixture goes cloudy. Does that matter – it still smells fine?

Karen Hilliard December 10, 2018

From here it looks like sauerkraut! Or would that be too gross for some people? I love sauerkraut, but I don’t want to think of it and Limoncello in the same sentence. lol

Kim July 9, 2019

Has anyone found something to make with the zest from the Limoncello batch?

M February 17, 2023

I used whole kumquats for a similar recipe and was able to candy the peels afterwards.

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