How to Make Alcohol from Sugar Cane
from sugar cane is a way of life for many families in this part of
Ecuador. In the steep foothills of the Andes, where they have
been making alcohol for generations, they mostly
and harvest their sugar cane by hand and use a traditional process to
make the all natural
alcohol. Many of the families farm without chemicals
and some now have formal organic certification.
cane is cut with a machete on our farms. In this area the
hills are too steep to use heavy machinery. Each individual
cane is cut when it is ready. The sugar cane is cut as low
down as possible because the heavy, sugary sap sinks down the stem.
The more sugar there is in the juice, the more alcohol can be
produced. The leaves are cut off the end and left in the
field to rot
back into the soil.
sugar cane is carried by hand to the mill if it is close, or loaded
onto a horse or donkey.
sugar cane mills are powered by horse or donkey. The horse
walks in a circle pulling a strong beam of wood which turns the wheels
of the mill, while the sugar cane is carefully fed between two heavy
rollers. The squashed sugar cane stalks are called bagasse.
The bagasse is used as fuel for the stills, this avoids the
need to cut down trees for firewood.
sugar cane juice pours out of the mill into
tanks. It is delicious to drink, but to make alcohol it must
left to ferment for a few days. Yeast can be added, but the
juice will also ferment with natural yeasts from the air.
make alcohol, the
fermented juice must be distilled. First, it is
put into a tank over a fire of bagasse to be heated.
The heat causes the juice to evaporate and the vapour passes
through the still. Stills are traditionally made from copper,
though stainless steel is also used these days. The vapour
passes through a "serpentine" (a coiled tube). Cold running
water from a nearby stream is used to cool the still so that the vapour
is condensed back to a clear liquid which is collected at the other
end. The water cools on its journey back to the stream and
returns to the ecosystem.
a new distillation tank for making alcohol from sugar cane, which is
safer and more efficient, but we need
more funds to make this technology available to our farmers.
technology loan fund will give
them the chance to benefit
from this new alcohol-making technology as soon as possible - your
donations to the fund will help
them to escape from
liquid produced by the still is known as aguardiente and contains about
60% alcohol. The strength is measured with a hydrometer to
determine the specific gravity. The price that the farmers
receive for their aguardiente varies with the percentage of alcohol it
aguardiente is transported in plastic tanks to the village collection
point, by horse or donkey, or on the back of the bus. From
there it will go to the sugar
farmers' co-operative's main
collection point to be
rectified at a large plant which will make all-natural alcohol of 70
percent. Alcohol is not just for drinking, it has many other
uses. Some of the alcohol made in this way is sold to
globally-known companies such as Dr. Bronner's for
use in cosmetic products.
this way, with organic certification and on a fair trade basis, is
changing lives for the better in one of the poorest areas of rural
Ecuador. CADO's sugar cane farmers are holding on to the best
their traditions while adapting to the modern world to make alcohol
their route out of poverty.
How to make alcohol from sugar cane.
all natural alcohol-making process used by
the farmers of CADO,
a co-operative of sugar cane farmers in the
western foothills of the Andes in the provinces of Cotopaxi and Bolivar.
Progress organic farming project from CRACYP.