Manual Rum Making Made Easy

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After six years or so it was common to plant another crop to reinvigorate the soil but modern fertilisers are now often used to stretch a few more years of cane growth. Once a field of cane is ready to be harvested, that particular field is sometimes burnt to remove the leaves and scorpions and such like.

The Best Rum Cocktail Recipes to Make You Feel Like You're on Vacation

The cane is left standing and is only singed by the fire due to its high water content. Once the cane is burnt it must be quickly harvested and then milled within 24 hours to prevent deterioration of its sugars and bacterial infection.

Sugar extraction

Traditionally, cane is harvested by cutters wielding machetes, who cut the cane close to the ground as this part of the stem has the highest concentration of sugars, before lopping off the leafy tops. A good cutter will average three tons of cane per day but this is a tiny fraction if what a machine can cut and gradient allowing mechanised harvesting is now used.

In Jamaica it is common for the cutters to leave an odd cane or two standing at the edge of the field. These are tied in elaborate shapes to represent a watchman, which the cutters believe will ward off the 'duppies' or mischievous spirits. The harvested cane is washed, chopped into short lengths and milled pressed to extract the water and sugar juice. Rum can be made by distilling the beery type liquid produced from fermented fresh sugar cane juice. This method of rum production is common on the French islands, particularly Martinique where it is called 'rhum agricole'.

Elsewhere, it is rare to find rums made directly from sugar cane juice. By far the majority of rums are produced from molasses - known as 'rhum traditional', but also sometimes rather unkindly described by producers of rhum agricole as 'rhum industriel' industrial rum. Rum can also be made from cane syrup, made by boiling cane juice to remove some of its water content.

The sugar found on your supermarket shelf, whether white or brown was produced from sugar cane juice and regardless of its end colour was originally brown - white sugar is the result of a further industrial process.

The process of extracting sugar from cane juice produces a by-product called molasses and this is what most rum is made from. This syrup is clarified and mixed with sugar crystals, which provide a core for the dissolved sugar in the syrup to crystallise on.

This mixture is boiled and then cooled to encourage the sugar crystals to enlarge. It is then spun in a centrifuge to separate the crystals from the liquid. This process is repeated a couple of times and the sugar produced sold on the world market. What's left is the thick black liquid by-product known as molasses. This is fermented and then distilled to make rum or the neutral alcohol on which some liqueurs are based. The sugar and molasses produced by the first process are termed A-grade and the second B-grade. The third batch of sugar produced by this process is known as Low-grade sugar and this is used to mix with the next batch of syrup to start the process again.

A Short Background on The History of Rum

Thus a good sugar factory will produce bad molasses as it will have efficiently extracted most of the sugar. As the sugar processing industry becomes more efficient so the amount of rum that can be produced per ton of molasses is failing. The resulting 'wash' can then be distilled to make rum. Put simply the yeast eats sugar and in doing so produces alcohol, heat and carbon dioxide.

In addition, yeast also initiates chemical reactions in the wash to create compounds such as aldehydes, esters and acids which are collectively known as congeners. The compounds are flavoursome and depending on the type of rum to be produced, their formation will be encouraged or discouraged by the type of yeast used and the temperature of the fermentation. It's worth remembering that distillation can only separate and remove flavours while fermentation generates flavour in the first place.

Molasses are so rich in nutriment that the yeast needs to be propagated and slowly introduced to progressively higher concentrations of molasses as its cell numbers increase. It is typical for rum distillers to talk about three or four-step fermentation in reference to the number of ever larger vessels used between propagation and the fermenters. The type of yeast used varies tremendously from country to country and distiller to distiller. This can be commercially cultured yeast or natural ambient yeast found on the leaves of the sugar cane.

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The rate of fermentation and the alcohol level produced is partly governed by the levels of non-sugar dissolved solids, being mainly minerals and Potassium Chloride, high concentrations of which inhibit yeast growth. A longer, slower fermentation will result in a heavier, more acidic wash due to other contaminating bacteria also given time to reproduce during the process. Fermentation can be a quick as 24 hours or as long as a fortnight. The pH of the molasses will also affect fermentation and ideally will be in a range between 4.

Rum is termed 'light' or 'heavy' depending the level of flavour components or 'congeners' - products of fermentation that are not ethyl alcohol.


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The level of these esters, aldyhydes and lower alcohols is dependent on the length of the fermentation and the purity to which it was distilled. When alcohol is concentrated during distillation, the levels of congeners are reduced. The fewer congeners, the lighter the rum, the more congeners the heavier it will be. Rum produced from a pot still or single distillation column is usually described as heavy. Multiple-column stills can produce both heavy and light rums depending on where the spirit is removed from the still.

Light rums tend to have a short fermentation while heavy pot still rums are usually distilled from a wash formed by a long fermentation. The odour, texture and taste of light rums are more subtle and refined than those of heavy rums, which have a heavy, syrupy flavour to match their dark colour. The level of impurities in light rum is less than a third of those found in heavy rums. Distilleries producing light and heavy rums often blend the two to produce a rum having characteristics of both. Light rums tend to originate from countries originally colonised by the Spanish, such as Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.

Give them a try, especially if you're trying to avoid HFCS. Adding the juice from a lime will create a drink called the Cuba Libre.


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  5. Recipe Tags: cocktail american party beverage. Rate This Recipe. I don't like this at all. It's not the worst. Sure, this will do. I'm a fan—would recommend. I love it!

    A third way to make home made rum

    Thanks for your rating! Show Full Recipe. The Spruce Eats uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. Strain into a tall, straight-sided glass such as a Collins or highball, and top with soda. Garnish with a lime wheel and that mint sprig, being sure to give the mint a quick slap against the palm of your hand to release the oils beforehand. This might look silly, but it works. Trust me. A rum old-fashioned is typically made with aged rum, sugar in some form, and bitters. How to make it: Cut just the very ends off 1 lime and cut it into eight wedges.

    Take your rocks glass and throw in two lime wedges. Gently muddle the limes with the syrup and bitters. Add 2 oz. Stir for a good ten seconds. Shake and stir the heat away and you may even feel a pleasant tropical breeze! If not, keep sipping and crank up the air conditioning.