How to Make Potato Vodka: A Simple Guide for Homemade Spirits

Potato vodka has been a staple in many cultures for centuries, and now it’s time for you to learn the art of crafting this classic spirit. In this guide, we’ll explore the step-by-step process of how to make potato vodka at home, providing you the knowledge and confidence to embark on this rewarding journey. From selecting the right potatoes to mastering the distillation process..

Before diving into the process, it’s important to understand the basic principles behind vodka production. Vodka, in essence, is a distilled spirit made from a fermented base of carbohydrates. While many commercial vodkas are made from grains, like wheat and corn, potatoes have remained a time-honored choice due to their high starch content and ability to produce a uniquely smooth and creamy spirit.

In this article, we will walk you through the critical steps involved in learning how to make potato vodka at home, including preparing the wash, fermenting the potato mixture, and utilizing the right distillation techniques.

Potato Vodka Basics


Potato vodka has a long history, dating back to the 18th century in Eastern Europe. Early vodka production primarily used grains such as wheat, rye, and barley, but potatoes later became a popular alternative due to their abundance and low cost. Initially, potato vodka was mainly produced in countries like Russia, Poland, and Ukraine, where potato cultivation was widespread.

Throughout the years, potato vodka has gained popularity because of its distinct flavor, which many people describe as having a rich, creamy, and slightly earthy taste. It is generally considered smoother than grain-based vodkas, making it a top choice for sipping on its own or incorporating into your favorite cocktails.

How to Make Potato Vodka

Before proceeding any further, be sure to see the section at the bottom of the article titled: “Safety Precautions and Legalities.”

When it comes to making potato vodka at home, here are a few basic steps to follow:

1) Clean and chop your potatoes: Thoroughly scrub them with a produce brush to remove any residual dirt and chop them into cubes.

2) Boil the potatoes: Boil the potato cubes for about 20 minutes in a large pot filled with 7 gallons of water.

3) Mash the potatoes: After they’ve cooled, use a hand masher or immersion blender to mash the potatoes until well mashed or blended.

4) Fermentation: After mashing, add sugar and yeast to the potato mixture and let it ferment for a few days until the yeast consumes the sugar.

5) Distillation: Once fermentation is complete, proceed with the distillation process using a pot still or other distilling equipment.

Ingredients and Preparation

Selecting Potatoes

When making potato vodka, choosing the right type of potato is crucial. High-starch potatoes, such as Russet, Idaho, or Yukon Gold, are perfect choices as they will provide more fermentable sugars during the process. Make sure to scrub the potatoes thoroughly to remove dirt and debris, but don’t worry if some skin is removed in the process.

Creating Potato Mash

To create a quality potato mash for your vodka, prepare the following:

7 gallons of water
25 pounds of high-starch potatoes
A large pot for boiling and mashing

Cut the potatoes into cubes and place them in the large pot. Add water and boil the potatoes for around 20 minutes or until tender. Do not drain the water, as it will be used in the fermentation process.

Next, mash the potatoes using a potato masher or immersion blender, ensuring a smooth consistency for optimal fermentation.

Adding Enzymes and Malted Barley

Enzymes and malted barley are essential for breaking down the starches in the potato mash and turning them into fermentable sugars.

For this step, you will need:

5 pounds of crushed malted barley
A thermometer

Once the potato mash has cooled to a temperature around 150°F (65°C), add the crushed malted barley and mix well. The enzymes in the malted barley will break down the potato starch, allowing the yeast to ferment the sugars effectively.

Keep the mixture at a consistent temperature for at least an hour, stirring occasionally to ensure even conversion of starches to sugars. After this time, cool the mixture down to room temperature before moving on to the fermentation process.

Remember to always adhere to safety measures and local regulations while attempting home distilling.

Fermentation Process

Using Yeast Starter

To make your potato vodka, start by creating a yeast starter. Sanitize a standard mason jar, pour 4 oz. of 110°F water into the jar, and add 2 tsp. of sugar. Stir thoroughly until the sugar dissolves. Then, introduce brewer’s yeast (avoid using standard bread yeast) and let it sit for a few minutes until it becomes active.

Temperature Control

During the fermentation process, maintaining the right temperature is crucial. You should aim for a consistent temperature between 68°F and 75°F. Lower temperatures can slow down the fermentation process, while higher temperatures can negatively affect the yeast and produce off-flavors in your potato vodka.

Monitoring With a Hydrometer

It’s important to monitor the progress of fermentation with a hydrometer. A hydrometer measures the gravity (density) of the liquid, which can give you an indication of the alcohol content in your wash.

Take gravity readings before and after fermentation to calculate the alcohol content. Remember to check your hydrometer instructions for the proper calculation.

Stage Gravity Reading
Before Fermentation High
After Fermentation Low

Duration and Proper Airlock Usage

The fermentation process for potato vodka takes at least 7 days. Using a proper airlock on your fermentation bucket is essential during this time. An airlock allows carbon dioxide (generated by the yeast) to escape while keeping air and contaminants out. Check the airlock regularly to ensure it’s functioning correctly and not clogged.

Following these guidelines will ensure a successful fermentation and produce high-quality potato vodka. Remember to pay close attention to the yeast starter, temperature control, monitoring with a hydrometer, and proper airlock usage during the process.

Distillation Techniques

Pot Still Versus Reflux Still

When making potato vodka, you have two main types of stills to choose from: the pot still and the reflux still.

Pot stills are simpler and more traditional, allowing for a straightforward distillation process. Reflux stills are more complex but offer better control over the purity and quality of your vodka.

– Pot Still: This works by heating the fermented potato mash and collecting the alcohol vapor that forms. The vapor is then condensed, resulting in raw vodka. However, pot stills don’t provide complete separation of impurities, which can influence the final taste and quality of your vodka.

– Reflux Still: In this setup, the alcohol vapor is forced through a reflux column before being condensed. The vapor rises and falls within the column, interacting with cooler components and allowing for greater purification of the alcohol. This results in a higher-quality vodka with improved purity and flavor.

Stripping Run

Once you have chosen the appropriate still for your distillation, you need to perform a stripping run. This is the first distillation stage, where the fermented potato mash is separated from the liquid.

1) Transfer the fermented mash to your still, ensuring it’s free from any solid particles.

2) Heat the still to approximately 173°F (78°C). This causes the alcohol to evaporate, leaving behind the water and unwanted substances in the still.

3) Collect the resulting vapor in a separate container as it condenses.

Remember to monitor the process closely and make adjustments as necessary. The stripping run helps concentrate the alcohol, making the next step more efficient.

Reflux Run

The reflux run is the second and final stage of the distillation process. In this step, the alcohol collected from the stripping run is further purified to produce higher quality vodka.

1) Transfer your collected alcohol to the still, and if needed, dilute it with water to lower its proof. For safety reasons, a maximum of 40% ABV is recommended.

2) Heat the still again, allowing the alcohol to evaporate and rise through the reflux column (in reflux still) or follow the process for pot still distillation.

3) As the vapor condenses, collect it in a separate container but pay close attention to the alcohol content. Use a hydrometer to measure the ABV.

During the reflux run, the “heads” and “tails” must be separated from the “hearts.” The hearts contain the desired alcohol content for your vodka. The heads, which come out first, contain impurities that negatively impact flavor and can be dangerous to consume. The tails, which emerge later, will have a lower ABV and can be saved for subsequent distillations.

Once you’ve completed the distillation process and gathered the hearts, your potato vodka is ready for cutting and bottling.

Quality and Purity

When making potato vodka, ensuring the quality and purity of your final product is essential. This section will cover the important aspects of measuring alcohol content, filtering the distillate, and aging and storage.

Measuring Alcohol Content (ABV)

Determining the alcohol content or alcohol by volume (ABV) of your potato vodka is crucial. You need to know the ABV to ensure the vodka is at the desired strength and complies with legal requirements and safety concerns.

You can use a hydrometer or an alcoholmeter to measure the ABV accurately.

– Hydrometer: This device measures the specific gravity of a liquid, which can be used to calculate the ABV. To use a hydrometer, place a sample of your distillate in a tall, thin container and gently lower the hydrometer into it. Read the result where the liquid touches the scale on the hydrometer.

– Alcoholmeter: Similar to the hydrometer, the alcoholmeter measures the alcohol content directly. Place a sample of your distillate in a tall, thin container and lower the alcoholmeter into it. Read the result where the liquid touches the scale on the alcoholmeter.

Filtering the Distillate

After completing the reflux run, it’s essential to filter the distillate to remove any impurities and ensure the quality of your potato vodka.

Filtering can be achieved through various methods, such as using a fine mesh or charcoal filter.

– Fine Mesh Filter: Place a fine mesh filter, like cheesecloth, over a clean container and slowly pour the distillate through it. This will help to remove any solids or large impurities.

– Charcoal Filter: Pour the distillate through a charcoal filter to remove smaller impurities and improve the taste of your vodka. Make sure to use food-grade charcoal.

Aging and Storage

Proper aging and storage of your potato vodka will help to preserve its quality and taste. Store your vodka in a cool, dark place, such as a cellar or closet.

To age and store your distillate:

1) Transfer the filtered vodka into a mason jar or another airtight container.

2) Store the jar in a cool, dark place for a minimum of a few weeks, allowing the flavors to develop.

3) Periodically check the taste and smell of your vodka during the aging process to determine when it has reached the desired flavor and aroma.

By following these quality and purity guidelines, you can produce a high-quality potato vodka with a clean taste and consistent alcohol content.

Potato Vodka Making Recap

To recap the basic steps in making potato vodka are:

1) Scrub your potatoes to remove any dirt and boil them to prepare for the mash production.

2) Create a yeast starter by sterilizing a glass jar, heating 4 oz of water to 110℉, and adding 2 tsp of sugar. Stir well, add distillers yeast, and let it rest for 20 minutes.

3) Make the mash by adding cooked, mashed potatoes and amylase enzyme to the water. Leave it to convert starch into sugars.

4) Ferment the mash by introducing the yeast starter, then leave it for a few days until fermentation is complete.

5) Proceed with the 1st distillation (stripping run) to separate the liquid from the mash solids.

6) Finally, perform the 2nd distillation (reflux run), add water to bring the proof down, and bottle your homemade vodka.

Comparing to Grain-based Vodka

While both potato and grain-based vodkas follow similar production processes, the main difference lies in the taste and texture:

– Potato vodka often has a smoother, creamier texture that is more viscous than grain-based counterparts.

– Some connoisseurs find potato vodkas to be earthier and more complex in flavor, while grain-based vodkas are lighter and more neutral.

Cocktails and Connoisseur Tips

Potato vodka can be used in a variety of cocktails or savored neat by vodka connoisseurs. Here are a few suggestions:

– Martini: Shake or stir potato vodka with ice, strain into a chilled glass, and garnish with olives or a lemon twist.

– Bloody Mary: Mix potato vodka with tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and seasonings. Serve over ice and garnish with celery and olives.

– Infused Vodka: Add fruits, herbs, or other ingredients to potato vodka and let it sit for a few days or weeks. Strain and use the infused vodka in your favorite cocktails.

Remember, always taste-test the vodka and make notes of its flavors and nuances, so you can evaluate your homemade potato vodka and continue to improve your recipe. Enjoy responsibly!

Safety Precautions and Legalities

Awareness of Local Regulations

Before attempting to make potato vodka, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the legal regulations in your area. In many places, distilling spirits like vodka at home without a proper permit is illegal. Research your local laws, and consider obtaining a license if you’re serious about your vodka-making venture. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in fines and other legal consequences.

Responsible Distilling

When making potato vodka, following safety precautions to ensure you produce a safe, quality product is crucial.

Here are a few critical points to keep in mind:

– Equipment maintenance: Make sure your still and other equipment are in good working condition, clean, and free of any debris.

– Temperature control: Monitor your still’s temperature closely during the distillation process to prevent overheating.

– Hygiene: Maintain a clean working environment and wash your hands and other surfaces regularly.

– Storage and disposal: Store your finished product in food-grade containers, and dispose of any waste materials responsibly.


Remember, as with any alcoholic beverage, responsible consumption of potato vodka is paramount. Drink in moderation and never drink and drive. Additionally, distributing or selling your homemade vodka without proper licensing may be illegal. Be aware of your local regulations, and, as a general rule, only share your vodka within your household.

By following these safety precautions and legal guidelines, you’ll be better poised to enjoy your homemade potato vodka responsibly and safely.

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