One of my products is a software package for doing proofing calculations when blending, diluting or fortifying spirits. Over the years a few customers have asked me whether the software could be used for calculating blends involving liqueurs which include syrup or granular sugar. Unfortunately my software cannot cope with anything beyond pure alcohol-water mixtures.

Whenever I have followed up on these requests I have found the producers of the liqueurs were very reluctant to explain their calculation needs in any detail. The email exchanges always died out quickly and I concluded that these recipes were closely guarded secrets.

I have had two more of these requests, followed by the usual silences, in the last few weeks and it got me wondering whether it would be worth investing in getting the necessary data and developing a blending calculator that could include the effect of sugar.

If any of you have experience of how the blending calculations are currently done for liqueurs I would be very grateful for your comments. I am absolutely not interested in getting at anybody's recipes (I don't run a distillery) and I am only interested in the general procedures used for doing the blending calculations. From what I understand, it is necessary to do a lab distillation after every blending operation to determine the proof. If the proofing calculations are being done as simple proportions (as in the Pearson Square method) and neglecting the shrinkage this could be a slow and laborious process of creeping up on the target proof.

I supposer at the top end of the market the blenders are using fixed recipes that have been refined by trial and error over decades, and at the bottom end of the market accuracy may not be important. If you are able to comment on this process, without giving away your trade secrets, please help me to see if there is a problem I can help solve. I don't want to put a whole lot of work into developing a solution to a problem that does not exist.

Thanks in advance for your comments.

Reply:

Depending on the price, I beleive there would be a market for a spreadsheet

Reply:

We use a program that can blend alc. based on weight or volume. We do a very simple test, for example X amount of cane sugar will displace X amount of product. So we enter that in to the program and poof......... rest is history.

Take Care.

Reply:

Dehner,

I am also interested in this subject. But your reply is a little brief.

I assume you mean you put a certain mass (weight) of sugar into your alcohol water mix, and measure the increase in volume once it is dissolved.

But then how do you "proof" ? Is that by knowing the original volume of alcohol and your final volume? or do you mean running it through a lab still?

Calculating by volume is not easy because you need very accurate volumetric flasks (ie with the long skinny neck) and they need to be held for some time at the calibration temperature.

Reply:

Ok here is one method of how I develop a recipe.

Equipment needed-

1. volumetric cylinder 50ml, the smaller the more precise normaly +/- .01 ml. We use only top namebrand equipment not cheap Chinese junk. Accuracy is the most important thing here.

2. scale in grams. We use a 120 gram scale, with an accuracy of .001 grams

3. magnetic stir plate

4. precision spoon

XXXXXXXXXXX

1. weight the volumetric cylinder, record the weight.

2. place 20 ml of water into cylinder, record weight

3. fill up 1 oz container with sugar and place on 120 gram scale, record weight

4. put sugar into cylinder until volume in cylinder has risen at least 10ml

5. put on magnetic stir plate until solution is dissolved. If the volume of the cylinder has decreased because of solution being mixed add more sugar to bring the level back up and continue mixing. Avoid any splashing or turbulent mixing.

6. once the level is stable, record the weight.

XXXX done.

example= lets just make up numbers. cylinder=60 grams, water=40 grams, sugar=15 grams per 10ml (don't forget to take off the stir bar)

results-

1. you should be able to say 115grams is the total weight

2. for every 10 ml of displacement you need 15 grams of sugar.

XXXXXX example

Lets say you have 315.80ml of 190 proof spirit @ x amount of grams , so you want to get it to 80p so you will need to add 456.18 ml of water (@ x amount of grams) to thin down the batch. this will make 750ml

You will lose about -21.98 ml do to blending and the spirit absorbing.

Now lets say for every bottle you need 150 grams of sugar. So 150 grams = 100ml of displacement.

now it will look like this

315.80 ml spirit or x amount of weight

356.18 ml water or x amount of weight

150 grams sugar

** by knowing the weight of everything it makes mixing and blending very easy.*** We always mix by weight, weight is Constant whereas volume can change depending on temperature.***

I hope this helps.

Reply:

Jo Dehner, thanks for the detail.

You copied the amount of water as 356.18 instead of 456.18 but that doesn't matter for this example.

If you add 100 grams of sugar that will increase the volume by 66.66 mL (according to your example above)

Your proof is now less than 80

If you add sugar to different proof samples is the volume increase always the same?

Meerkat, I hope you don't mind me hijacking your thread, as you know I enjoy getting my head around this type of problem

Reply:

no i did it right.

the displacement was only an example not for real.

instead of 456ml of water you add 356ml of water because the sugar added displaces 100ml of the water that you would have added.

also you have to account for the alcohol absorbing everything around it. that is why there is a minus -21ml.

**Within reason sugar will always displace the same amount of volume all the time. As long as it is fully dissolved in it solution.

no worries

just trying to help.

Take Care.

Reply:

Thanks Jo, I see how you did it now.

Reply:

Thanks to Roger, Dehner and PeteB for the comments so far. Special thanks to Dehner for taking the trouble to provide a numerical example - that always helps.

PeteB - you are not hijacking the thread at all. This is exactly the sort of in-depth discussion that I was hoping for. I know that not only do you enjoy getting your head around this type of problem, but you are very good at it as well.

Reply:

In our case, we zeroed in via trial and error with the lab still, but now always blend by weighing everything. Our base alcohol is 190 proof GNS. Like others, we calculate the sugar as simple displacement but take contraction into account for alcohol & water mixtures.

Would definitely be using Alcodens if it could estimate ABV% w/ sugar (or honey, juice concentrate, etc).

Reply:

Brothers Vilgalys, I wondered how you got on with your honey. You started a conversation some time ago and I assumed you ended up with lots of lab still testing.

I make a liqueur and that is how I formulated my recipe, then went to weighing all components and getting good consistency.

Meerkat, I wonder if the sugar or honey was dissolved in water first, test the specific gravity of that with a hydrometer (including temperature correction) then use that figure in Alcodens to calculate the amount to add to the alcohol.

Not sure if obscuration would cause problems with honey but suspect it could with juice and concentrates.

Also, I would be very interested in having accurate evidence that when adding a set amount of sugar to say 190 proof or 40 proof there is exactly the same displacement.

Dehner said "**__Within reason sugar will always displace the same amount of volume all the time__"

"within reason" does not satisfy my mathematical curiosity.

Reply:

Brothers Vilgalys, I wondered how you got on with your honey. You started a conversation some time ago and I assumed you ended up with lots of lab still testing.

I make a liqueur and that is how I formulated my recipe, then went to weighing all components and getting good consistency.

Meerkat, I wonder if the sugar or honey was dissolved in water first, test the specific gravity of that with a hydrometer (including temperature correction) then use that figure in Alcodens to calculate the amount to add to the alcohol.

Not sure if obscuration would cause problems with honey but suspect it could with juice and concentrates.

Also, I would be very interested in having accurate evidence that when adding a set amount of sugar to say 190 proof or 40 proof there is exactly the same displacement.

Dehner said "**__Within reason sugar will always displace the same amount of volume all the time__"

"within reason" does not satisfy my mathematical curiosity

Reply:

On the question of "will the sugar always displace the same volume of liquid?": The TTB regulation 24.181, which really applies to wine, says that "each 13.5 pounds of pure dry sugar results in a volumetric increase of one gallon." Unfortunately they do not give ranges of alcohol or sugar to which this applies.

The information I have so far indicates that there is actually a slight increase in the volume displaced per pound as the sugar concentration increases - and the amount of growth is also affected by the alcohol concentration. But whether it is enough to worry about I cannot say at this stage. Clearly, many people are successfully making liqueurs using the simplified assumptions.

PeteB - I do envisage a calculator that could turn hydrometer readings (with temperature correction) into sugar concentrations. It should be possible to use the ABV as an input as well. This would allow you to do a lab distillation to determine the ABV of the liqueur, and then use the ABV and the hydrometer reading to calculate the sugar concentration. This could be used on a plain sugar syrup by setting the ABV to zero. And then this value could be used in a blending calculator.

The non-sugar obscuration would probably be very small compared with the amount of sugar present, so treating it all as sugar in the ABV determination should be fairly accurate.

Again - thanks to all for sharing your knowledge and experience.

Reply:

Would this program work exclusively for water/sugar/ethanol or would it also be able to account for liqueurs made from fruits, herbs, and spices?

Reply:

Nabtastic, these are the things I need to learn so that I do not build a product that does not solve the real problems. TTB sections 30.31 and 30.32 talk of solid levels up to 600 mg per 100 ml. I find this limit easier to visualize as 6 gram per liter. At these levels they suggest each 1.0 g/l will obscure 0.4 proof. This is very similar to what sugar would do, so I suspect that it wouldn't be too far wrong to treat "solids" as sugar in this range. Generally, the final sugar level in a liqueur would be much higher than this and the small amount of non-sugar solids will hopefully be insignificant in the final calculation.

But in any case it would be necessary to determine the true proof or ABV of the base spirit, as well as the solids (or sugar) level, so that the program can "know" what it is dealing with. To actually answer your question - yes, as long as the program can be told the proof and solids level of the base spirit and the sugar loading of the syrup it should be possible to calculate the proof and sugar loading of the final liqueur.

Like any blended spirit, the final product would have to be checked for true proof and adjusted if necessary. I suspect it will be difficult to hit the target on the first try.

Reply:

Hi, I contacted meerkat a few weeks ago from Greece about using his software in the preparation of Liqueurs and still try to set the problem right.

First of all there is a triple contraction between ethanol , water and syrup(sugar) so it will be better working with weights in order to avoid the parameter of temperature.

I read a great book “ the soft drinks companion a technical handbook for the beverage industry” that is great for our case. There are many examples of contraction between syrup kai water mixtures ( the author uses weight during mixing as we have to do)

I think Dehner way of solving the problem will not be precise to large batches (more than 200 litres) because temperature is not under account.

My idea is to prepare a sample of the final product and calculate its density using the official method with a precise scale and a pycnometer

We have to weight the exact amount of syrup, the exact amount of ethanol 96% (in order to have the correct amount of dehydrated ethanol inside) and after setting our flask to a bath (I don’t know how it is called in English) we have to fill the flask with water to a certain amount under 20 oC all the time.

(I am still working on that ……………. )

After that we just know everything

We know the weight of the syrup we want to use

We can use the density d20 from above to calculate the weight of the dehydrated ethanol and the weight of the ethanol 96% we will use

Weight of water = weight of final product ** - weight of syrup – weight of ethanol 96%

** lets say we want to produce 100lt of a liqueur. We have calculated the density d20 and we end up with the weight of the final product

If you use densities of all the above ingredients you will end up with volumes of each one.

If you sum them you will end up with the REAL volume of the final product so

Initial Volume – REAL VOLUME = total contraction

I have also found that there are 2 tables

- Walter table of 1955 ( it shows how much syrup , ethanol , water you have to mix in order to end up with 100lt of final liqueur ) I found a reference about it in a greek book I have but no other details except it was used by beverage industry as a very accurate oneFEYDT table of 1957 (it is a plato based table that shows contraction)

I think both would be calibrated to 15 degrees Celsius

If someone could find them it would be a great help

Best from Greece

Reply:

Hi, I contacted meerkat a few weeks ago from Greece about using his software in the preparation of Liqueurs and still try to set the problem right.

First of all there is a triple contraction between ethanol , water and syrup(sugar) so it will be better working with weights in order to avoid the parameter of temperature.

I read a great book “ the soft drinks companion a technical handbook for the beverage industry” that is great for our case. There are many examples of contraction between syrup kai water mixtures ( the author uses weight during mixing as we have to do)

I think Dehner way of solving the problem will not be precise to large batches (more than 200 litres) because temperature is not under account.

My idea is to prepare a sample of the final product and calculate its density using the official method with a precise scale and a pycnometer

We have to weight the exact amount of syrup, the exact amount of ethanol 96% (in order to have the correct amount of dehydrated ethanol inside) and after setting our flask to a bath (I don’t know how it is called in English) we have to fill the flask with water to a certain amount under 20 oC all the time.

(I am still working on that ……………. )

After that we just know everything

We know the weight of the syrup we want to use

We can use the density d20 from above to calculate the weight of the dehydrated ethanol and the weight of the ethanol 96% we will use

Weight of water = weight of final product ** - weight of syrup – weight of ethanol 96%

** lets say we want to produce 100lt of a liqueur. We have calculated the density d20 and we end up with the weight of the final product

If you use densities of all the above ingredients you will end up with volumes of each one.

If you sum them you will end up with the REAL volume of the final product so

Initial Volume – REAL VOLUME = total contraction

I have also found that there are 2 tables

- Walter table of 1955 ( it shows how much syrup , ethanol , water you have to mix in order to end up with 100lt of final liqueur ) I found a reference about it in a greek book I have but no other details except it was used by beverage industry as a very accurate oneFEYDT table of 1957 (it is a plato based table that shows contraction)

I think both would be calibrated to 15 degrees Celsius

If someone could find them it would be a great help

Best from Greece

Reply:

hi Jo Dehner. i agree that working with mass does make things easier and that is my approach too. the protocol you follow i disagree . you want to avoid temperature but you

2. place 20 ml of water into cylinder, record weight

how you are accurate in the water volume ?(temperature effect?)

even if your results are close enough i have the feeling that the deviation will increase when you will increase the batch of your final product. what is your usual batch volume?

when you say you know your final proof you are not taking under account that there is a triple contraction so you just take as granded that the volume of water is 456.18ml needed (maybe 1-2% more i would say because of the contraction between water and syrup and the sugar content in general )

if you use a brixometer you could find the density of the syrup so you could make the volume -mass change easier, follow your approach , and by measuring %vol of the liqueur (i believe that it would be increased ) find the deviation and add more water to correct.

best

p.s i am sure that meercat needs more than that for his calculator but i will thank Dehner D. for his help.

Reply:

hi Jo Dehner. i agree that working with mass does make things easier and that is my approach too. the protocol you follow i disagree . you want to avoid temperature but you

2. place 20 ml of water into cylinder, record weight

how you are accurate in the water volume ?(temperature effect?)

even if your results are close enough i have the feeling that the deviation will increase when you will increase the batch of your final product. what is your usual batch volume?

when you say you know your final proof you are not taking under account that there is a triple contraction so you just take as granded that the volume of water is 456.18ml needed (maybe 1-2% more i would say because of the contraction between water and syrup and the sugar content in general )

if you use a brixometer you could find the density of the syrup so you could make the volume -mass change easier, follow your approach , and by measuring %vol of the liqueur (i believe that it would be increased ) find the deviation and add more water to correct.

best

p.s i am sure that meercat needs more than that for his calculator but i will thank Dehner D. for his help.

Reply:

Comparatively, I asked the TTB to weigh in on this (pun intended) and this is the response I got:

"Unfortunately we don’t have much experience with industrial processes and blending techniques and our expertise is more on proof determination of final products.

Can you estimate the final proof from the volume and proof of the blending ingredients? Is adding water an option for lowering the final proof? These are the only solutions that come to my mind."

So yeah, I would think that a program to get us non-engineers on a steadier path would be helpful to say the least.

Reply:

hello,

There is a lot more that I do when setting up an experiment. I do that temp, and density into account, it is very important. But we do so many experiments and large batch sizes we have are process down.

We weight are tanks as product is being added. The tanks are weighted by the pound. and anything smaller than that goes on a different scale. All the way down to .001 grams

We deal with the normal blending but we also deal with a lot of very non-normal blending.

We could get in to some real deep talks about how some of the flavoring we use are extracts and they are 40%-60% alcohol, so if you are adding any amount of that to your batch, where your main alcohol is anything different....... when then...... MATH MATH MATH.............. O Boy let me tell you about mixing creams...........MATH MATH MATH.

I comes down to precise do you want to be??? With in the TTB regs? or way more precise than that?? My thought is way more precise is just not worth the time.

"Time to me is money, I just make sure I'm not giving time or money away." Joey D.

STAY IN SCHOOL KID MATH MATH MATH.

Reply:

hi , sorry if you think i insulted you in any way. that was not my intention.

best

Reply:

There have been threads about software in the past that never went anywhere, so I thought I should post a short update. Also, I would like to thank the members that have continued to correspond with me directly with data, advice and encouragement. It gets lonely being shackled to a computer all day so your input is much appreciated.

The only way I know to do blending calculations accurately is by having all the quantities in mass terms. So my first task was to be able to convert sugar levels in gram/liter or SG to Mass %, and to convert liqueur alcohol strengths from ABV, Proof or SG to Mass %. These conversions are now working - see the attached screen shot.

There is still a lot to do, but at least now I believe we have a fighting chance of getting the math to work.

Although the conversion calculator isn't hugely useful, I do see one potential advantage. In the example shown two simple and accurate tests allow us to get a good estimate of the alcohol in the liqueur without having to do a lab distillation. A simple evaporation and weighing exercise can accurately give the sugar level, and an hydrometer or EDM can tell us the SG. The calculator combines these two bits of information and calculates the liqueur alcohol content for us. Here it is shown in Mass %, but we could have chosen ABV or Proof as the display.

The final gauging would have to be done with the lab distillation to meet the TTB requirements, but do you think this short cut could save some time during the blending process?

Reply:

Ok here is one method of how I develop a recipe.

Equipment needed-

1. volumetric cylinder 50ml, the smaller the more precise normaly +/- .01 ml. We use only top namebrand equipment not cheap Chinese junk. Accuracy is the most important thing here.

2. scale in grams. We use a 120 gram scale, with an accuracy of .001 grams

3. magnetic stir plate

4. precision spoon

XXXXXXXXXXX

1. weight the volumetric cylinder, record the weight.

2. place 20 ml of water into cylinder, record weight

3. fill up 1 oz container with sugar and place on 120 gram scale, record weight

4. put sugar into cylinder until volume in cylinder has risen at least 10ml

5. put on magnetic stir plate until solution is dissolved. If the volume of the cylinder has decreased because of solution being mixed add more sugar to bring the level back up and continue mixing. Avoid any splashing or turbulent mixing.

6. once the level is stable, record the weight.

XXXX done.

example= lets just make up numbers. cylinder=60 grams, water=40 grams, sugar=15 grams per 10ml (don't forget to take off the stir bar)

results-

1. you should be able to say 115grams is the total weight

2. for every 10 ml of displacement you need 15 grams of sugar.

XXXXXX example

Lets say you have 315.80ml of 190 proof spirit @ x amount of grams , so you want to get it to 80p so you will need to add 456.18 ml of water (@ x amount of grams) to thin down the batch. this will make 750ml

You will lose about -21.98 ml do to blending and the spirit absorbing.

Now lets say for every bottle you need 150 grams of sugar. So 150 grams = 100ml of displacement.

now it will look like this

315.80 ml spirit or x amount of weight

356.18 ml water or x amount of weight

150 grams sugar

** by knowing the weight of everything it makes mixing and blending very easy.*** We always mix by weight, weight is Constant whereas volume can change depending on temperature.***

I hope this helps.