How to Make Rum: The Quick Start Guide

Ever thought about making your own rum but don’t know where to start? Well, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’re going to walk you through the process of making rum from scratch. I’ll also share some common pitfalls that many (including myself!) have encountered along the way and how you can get around them. If you’ve already done some research into distilling your own rum, you’ll be well aware of the scientific methodology behind its production. Production methods vary from distiller to distiller, each claiming to know the perfect method to produce their own rum.

For the sake of this beginners guide, we’ll skirt around some of the more expert methods and show you a simple homemade rum that you can replicate using the most basic distilling equipment in your own kitchen. This is exactly the same method that I followed whilst producing my first ever homemade batch. So, finally ready to learn how to make rum?

Let’s get started…

Assembling Your Rum Making Equipment
Before you go ahead and start mixing your ingredients, it’s important to have all your equipment ready-to-go. Timing is a crucial part of the rum making process and you can’t afford to have your ingredients sitting (and potentially going off) whilst you wait for delivery of a certain piece of equipment. Here’s what you’ll need as a minimum:

  •  Pot Distiller – To keep things simple whilst you learn how to make rum, I would recommend going for a small (around 12L), stainless steel pot still with integrated thermostat and condenser. Some people choose to make their own, but if you’re anything like me you’ll want to take the easy route and make sure it’s ready to use out of the box. You can find them on Amazon or eBay.

 

How to Make Rum

  • Fermenting Buckets 20L x 2 – For versatility, I recommend opting for two fermenter buckets, one with an airlock lid and one with a solid lid. 
  • Syphon Tube – You’ll need a syphon tube of around 1.5 – 2 metres in length so you can easily transfer liquids during the process. These are usually available from any home brew store or can come packaged with your fermenter buckets.
  • Still Burner – You’ll need a stove capable of running for a few hours continuously whilst you distil your rum. There are some specialist versions available (similar to camping stoves), or you can simply use your kitchen gas stovetop.
  • Electric Thermometer – Goes without saying, you’ll need one of these to test temperatures at various stages through the rum making process.
  • Various Size Beakers – A good set of accurate, graduated (ml) beakers are essential for when you eventually start the distilling process. These will allow you to easily measure out the spirit as it comes from the still.
  • 100ml Funnel – This will come in handy when you need to start measuring the alcohol levels in your spirit.
  • Hydrometer – You’ll need this to test your potential alcohol content during the production process.
  • Stick on Thermometer – Maintaining the correct temperature of your wash is vital during the fermentation process. A stick on thermometer is a simple way to know what temperature your wash is working at so that you can adjust accordingly.
  • Long Spoon – Large enough to make it a simple task when mixing up to 20L of rum wash.

Rum Wash Ingredients
For the sake of this guide, we’ll provide proportionate measurements of each ingredient based on making 12L of rum wash to ferment. Like any other recipe, if you would like to make less or more, simple divide or multiply the ingredients.

  • Black Strap Molasses 740G x 2- This can be purchased from most supermarkets or food stores such as Holland & Barrett.
  • Brown Sugar 2KG
  • Still Spirits Pure Turbo Yeast
  • Still Spirits Turbo Clear – This is the clearing agent that will be added to your wash before distillation.
  • Still Spirits Turbo Carbon
  • Water –You’ll need access to warm water during the initial stages of making your rum wash.

Rum Fermentation
Now you’ve finished getting all of the equipment and rum making ingredients together, you’re finally ready to start to make your own rum!

Making Your First Rum Wash

1. Run the warm tap and use your thermometer to test the temperature until you reach a steady 32 degrees. Add 8L of water into your fermenter bucket. If you have access to a bath this may be easier to use than a kitchen sink as the buckets are quite large and this process can get messy!

2. Add in your 2KG of brown sugar and stir using your long spoon until it is completely dissolved.

3. Add in your 2 jars of blackstrap molasses and stir into the mix. This is the messiest part of the job. Ensure that you get the all of the molasses out of the jar. A quick tip to get the remaining bits out is to fill the jar halfway with water, put the lid back on and shake.

4. Once the molasses and brown sugar is fully diluted into the water, stir in your Still Spirits Turbo Yeast. For the 12L wash that we are making as part of this guide, you will only need half of the yeast packet.

5. Stir in your Still Spirits Turbo Carbon. Again, just half of the packet is enough for the 12L rum wash that we are making. 

6. Top up the bucket to the 12L mark with 32 degrees water and give the whole mix one last stir.

7. Seal your bucket with an air-locked lid (don’t forget to fill half of the airlock with water). Store the mix in a dark place at a temperature of around 18-22 degrees. Attach your stick on thermometer to the side of the bucket so you can keep a check on its temperature.

How to make rum: fermentation

Fermentation

The fermentation process for this particular wash should take somewhere between 7-10 days to complete. When the process is underway you should see bubbles appearing in the airlock. This is a good indication that the mix is working. You’ll know when the mix has finished fermenting as there will be no more bubbles or movement in the airlock.

 

Clearing Your Rum Wash

Once the fermentation process is complete, it’s now time to work on getting the wash as clear as possible prior to fermentation.

1. The first step is to remove the leftover sediment that has rested on the bottom of the bucket during fermentation. This will be a thick, black layer consisting of yeast, carbon and sugars. The easiest way to separate this from the rest of the wash is to use your second bucket and simple syphon the wash from one bucket to another whilst leaving the sediment behind. Whilst doing this, be sure not to pick up any of the bottom layer as we do not want any of this in the completed wash. If you’re not keen on the syphoning technique, you can purchase a bucket with a tap which makes this task somewhat easier.

 

How to make rum: clearing the wash

2. The next step is to perform a simple degassing technique. Take your finished wash and a second bucket and simply pour from one to the other. Doing this will froth up the wash and help release the gasses. Its recommended that you do this process 10 times to ensure that the wash is fully degassed.

3. We’ll now move on to the final clearing process now that you’ve finished degassing. This is where the Still Spirits Turbo Clear comes in. As you labelled on the packet, there are two solutions; part A and part B. Start off by adding part A to the wash, slowly stirring as you add the solution. Once you’ve added the full part A, let the wash sit for approximately one hour whilst it works its clearing magic.

4. After 1 hour, add part B of the Still Spirits Turbo Clear. It’s important that you do not vigorously stir the Part B as you want it to remain in the upper layers of the wash. Essentially part B works by dragging all of the leftover sediment to the bottom of the wash. Once stirred in, add the lid to the bucket and leave to rest for 24 hours.

5. Once part B of the turbo clear has fully completed, we now need to perform once more bucket-to-bucket syphon procedure as you did during step 1. Once complete, you now have a clean rum wash ready for distilling!

Distillation
First things first, let’s get your pot still ready. Make sure all of your hoses are secure and that your cold/hot water pipes are fitted as per the instructions that you should have received with your still. Make sure the connection between your still and condenser are secure and that you have a container ready to collect your first drops of spirit (you won’t want to miss that!). It’s also important to keep your distillation area well ventilated so don’t forget to open a nearby window or turn on your extractor fan.

 

Running Your Pot Still

1. Add your wash to the pot, secure the lid and fire up your pot still on a low to medium heat. Keep an eye on your the temperature gauge. You should see the first few drops of spirit drip out at around 65 degrees celsius and this is the start of what we call the foreshots. The foreshots consist of methanol and other volatiles such as acetone and aldehydes. These are poisonous substances that we must separate from the rest of the spirit and discard of. It is vital that you take care during this period as consuming the foreshots can cause blindness.Keep collecting the foreshots up until the temperature reaches 80 degrees celsius.

2. When the still reaches 80 degrees, what’s now coming out of the condenser is called the heads. These are primarily ethanol and usually 80% + ABV. At this stage, it’s a good idea to start collecting in small batches and labelling the containers as they fill up. You will continue to produce the heads until the still reaches 91 degrees.

3. As soon as you reach 91 degrees, you’re now collecting the hearts. This is the good stuff and the bulk of the spirit that you’ll be using for your finished rum. Keep collecting the hearts the temperature reaches 95 degrees.

4. Start collecting the tails. Again, you’ll want to be using multiple separate collection containers and be sure to label them accordingly. Most of the ethanol will already have been collected during this point but there is still some remaining that is worth saving. Keep collecting the tails until the temperature rises to around 98 degrees.

5. You will have now collected all of the spirit worth collecting. Turn the heat off the still but do not turn off the cold water. Despite the heat being turned off, there will still be some vapour being produced and potentially ethanol. Keep running the water until you are certain that no more vapours are being produced. Your distillation process is now complete.

 

Blending & Flavouring Your Rum

By now, you should have a load of containers, precisely marked as foreshots, heads, hearts and tails. From here on out, it’s mainly a case of trial and error in terms of creating your desired outcome. You may wish to use only the hearts (the best part), or you may wish to mix in part of the tails to get a bit more out of your batch. Either way, it’s best to keep hold of any leftover heads and tails as these can be redistilling or mixed at a later date.

 

Ageing Your Rum

Now is the part that gets really interesting. Blending and flavouring is the part where you can really put your own stamp on this rum and make it unique to anything that’s available in your local off-licence. – Your own homemade rum recipe!

You may have already heard of the concept of ageing spirits. It’s an age-old concept that is particularly infamous in the makeup of whiskey. The same concepts apply for rum, and it depends entirely on the flavour that you want and whether you want your finished spirit to be a white, dark or spiced rum.

The type of barrel that you use to age your rum in will have a great effect on its colour and flavour. American oak barrels are the most commonly used and can vary depending on whether they have been charred inside or not. The length of time that you leave the rum to age in the barrel should also be taken in to account. The longer the rum is left to age, the most of the colours and flavours will be taken from the wood.

So, there’s your quick overview of the ageing process, now let’s look at what you need to do to create a white, dark or spiced rum from your homemade spirit.

Rum Oak Chips

White Rum

White rum is the easiest to achieve. You’ll be pleased to know that no ageing is required if this is your desired outcome. Simply dilute your spirit with water until it reaches 45% ABV, mix and leave to settle for a few days.

 

Dark Rum

Simply age your rum in a charred American oak barrel for a minimum of 6 months. Your clear spirit should eventually start to take on that dark colouring and oak flavour from the barrel. If like me, you don’t have space for a full-sized barrel, you can simply add wood chips to your spirit to achieve the desired effect. These are just any old wood chips though. you should look to source American oak which will be available from most homebrew stores. I personally buy mine from Home Brew Online.

 

Spiced Rum

After the ageing process is complete, you are now ready to turn your dark rum into a spiced rum. Simply remove from the ageing barrel into another container and add your chosen flavours. There are a number of basic spiced rum recipes available, or you may wish to experiment with your own quantities of each flavour. Some of the most common flavours found in spiced rums include; peppercorns, vanilla, honey, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. This is where things get really exciting as you can make a homemade rum that’s different to anything else available.

 

Your Homemade Rum is Complete!
And that’s it, you’ve learned the step-by-step guide of how to make rum and you can now enjoy your homemade product. i hope this this guide has helped you create a a top quality product to enjoy. Thanks for reading and feel free to let us know how you got on in the comments below.

 

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