Thursday, June 24, 2010

Maceration: Day 2

So today marked our three-day cutoff for the Armoise blanche maceration.  Pascal and I opened up the lid of the cuve to see this beautiful greenish brown extraction staring back at us.  The smell was powerful, it took me a little while to get used to, but I could definitely recognize the organic notes over the burning alcohol.  Pascal's filtration method turned out to be very effective as there was hardly any plant matter floating in the liquid. 

We used an iron and chain pulley to lift the bags out of the cuve, suspending them over the alcohol because they still retained quite a bit of liquid that we needed to let drain out.
The pump we used to stir up the maceration came in handy for a second purpose: to suck our solution from the bottom of the cuve into the tank that we started our alcoholic solution in.
As the pump siphoned our extraction into its new receptacle, I stuck my camera over the opening in the top, and blindly got a really cool shot.
After transferring the solution, we took a little break, waiting for the filtered bags to drain as much liquid as possible before our next step.  Pascal joked, "I love this job because it's a lot of waiting.  If you don't know how to wait, you need to find a different job."

We left the bags to sit and drain while we ate lunch, coming back after a few hours to find them drier and more manageable.  There was still quite a lot of liquid in the bags, so our next step was to put them all into a mechanical press.
The green sack on top was filled with blocks of wood in order to add some pressure to our bags and to provide a buffer in between the delicate filters and the hard metal press.  Slowly the disk descended into the cage, bringing the pressure up to 300 bars.  As the machine came to our predetermined pressure, more liquid seeped out of the cracks in the metallic mesh.
In order to minimize the amount of plant matter going into our extraction, we filtered this liquid through more cloth, draining it into a bucket.
We waited a little while longer, letting everything in the press drain out into our collection bucket.  When we returned to check up on the process, pretty much everything had drained out, so Pascal hoisted the bucket over the brim of our larger container.
We removed the metal bars holding the two shells of the mesh press together, dissembling it in order to take out and reweigh our bags.
Each bag took on about 4 kg in weight, even after all of the draining and pressing.  I put each of our filtered bags into black trash bags, and we added tags to each with the weight of each bag and the date of our extraction.
After the plants were taken care of, we had to clean up the mess we made.  That involved washing out the cuve with a high-pressure hose and draining the water out of the warehouse through a series of connecting pipes.  I wheeled the bottom part of the presser outside and washed that down with the hose as well.
The life of a liquorist isn't always as glamorous as it sounds.

So that's it!  I finished an extraction.  Pascal jested afterward, "Now you can make your own absinthe!"  Haha, I doubt it.  Our next extraction is going to be licorice.  Personally, I'm not a big fan, but it'll be fun nonetheless.  I'm hoping that we're going to make some Versinthe La Blanche, because that process involves using a vacuum partial-pressure alembic so that it can be distilled at a low temperature (less air pressure allows the liquid to evaporate under lower heat), which all sounds very official and exciting.

Hope you enjoyed the post.  Leave me some love in the comments!


  1. Well, well, the master says you can make your own absinthe. You just might be the most popular junior in the history of Cal, OR have a very lucrative way (if illegal) to pay the tuition!!! You seem to have a very complete recording of the whole process--excellent work. I sure would like to try some of that thar stuff.

  2. This is great stuff. The photos are getting better and better. I love the shot of the swirling cauldron. Keep up the good work!