How Is Vodka Made?


Quick Answer

Vodka is made by first fermenting a food product that is high in sugar and starch, and then distilling the alcohol out of the fermented mixture. Most vodka today is made from grains, such as corn and rice, but some is made from potatoes or even fruit.

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Full Answer

Vodka originated in Eastern Europe, with the first production likely occurring either in Russia or Poland around the 9th century A.D. Early vodka contained only about 14 percent alcohol by volume, or ABV, since this is the maximum concentration that can be obtained by fermentation alone. The process of distillation developed several centuries later and is used to make vodka with a higher alcohol content. During distillation, the entire batch of fermented ingredients is heated. The alcohol has the lowest boiling point, so it turns into steam first. This steam is collected and becomes the vodka when it condenses back into a liquid. The original ingredients, including yeast, water and the starchy food, are left in the heating vat and discarded.

Thanks to the distillation process, most modern vodka contains between 30 and 40 percent ABV, with some brands offering varieties up to 96 percent ABV. Many brands use a filtering process after distillation to remove additional impurities that may contribute unwanted flavors to the vodka, but some traditional producers prefer not to filter their vodka, as they believe filtering removes some of the subtle flavors that make their products unique.

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