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922 South Morton Street
Bloomington, IN, 47403
United States


Cardinal Spirits is a craft distillery in Bloomington, Indiana that specializes in producing extraordinary spirits from local ingredients.  

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Flavor Extraction in Water and Alcohol

Adam Quirk

During product development we use alcohol (EtOH) infusions to extract flavors. Over the years we've learned that optimum flavors are extracted from ingredients based on four main variables: time, temperature, ABV, and ratio of ingredient to substrate. We've also found that contrary to some published recipes and common knowledge, higher ABV does not always mean a faster or better extraction.

For instance, coffee is extracted for optimum flavor in a very low 10% ABV solution, in just over 12 hours, at around 60°F, using a 1:10 ratio of medium ground coffee to liquid. That sort of thing just takes trial and error to figure out, and sometimes you can lean on previous work by reading as many recipes as you can find.

Another very visual example of this is cardamom. When you extract cardamom in-pod, you want to use around 40% ABV over the course of 72hrs or so. If you use a higher ABV, like say NGS at 95% ABV, the extraction isn't as complete because a lot of the flavor and color molecules in cardamom are water soluble, not EtOH soluble. 

Cardamom extraction after 48hrs in 95% ABV NGS on left - 40% ABV vodka on right

Cardamom extraction after 48hrs in 95% ABV NGS on left - 40% ABV vodka on right

Most melons, fruits, and vegetables with high water content will be similar - the extraction needs more water than alcohol. 

Something to keep in mind when you're trying to hone your recipes!