Making a wash

Drinks, Spirits No Comments »

Maybe should also be “making a wish”? 😉

To make beer, wine or spirits, you need alcohol. How so you get alcohol? You use yeast to ferment sugars anaerobically (means without oxygen). If you do the ferment aerobically then you won’t get alcohol – really – you won’t.

Ok – so I can just get some sugar and some yeast and I get alcohol and we are done? In theory – yeah – but it won’t taste too good. You are missing a lot of things, possibly the main on being taste. Also – there is a really good chance that it won’t ferment properly. Yeast, like all living things, needs nutrients as well as just food. Without nutrients – those little yeast cells just won’t do what you want them to.

Where do those sugars come from?

Well, for beer, they come grains. Grain is heated in hot water and then left for a while. The grains release their sugars into the water. The water is then cooled. The resulting liquid is called a “wort“. The wort forms the base for the taste of the beer. The taste can also be affected by the type of yeast used and what else is added.

For wine, the sugars come from the grapes (if making grape wine) or from the fruits used. Grapes are an ideal source of sugars for making alcohol as they not only provide the sugar, they also have an almost ideal level of nutrients for yeast. To get the sugar from grape, the fruit needs to be pressed and thats about it (other than you call this a “must“). Throw in water and yeast, leave and you get wine on the other end.

So for spirits, I just need to grab some sugar and some nutrients and water and call it a funny name? Then add yeast and get whiskey or gin?

Partially this is right but – if only it was that simple…

First off – it’s a called a “wash“. Second – there are a few other things to add to give it flavour. Third – after you have added the yeast and it’s finished fermenting – you get something called a “fermented wash“. This is almost like a wine but isn’t too good to drink as it contains potentially all sorts of things besides alcohol. Fourth – it doesn’t contain the amount of alcohol required to call it a spirit. It’s typically between 8% to 12% ABV.

Sediment, lees, trub?

A little side step – after fermentation, there is a lot of junk in the bottom of the container that you used to do the fermentation in. This is the dead yeast, bits of stuff that didn’t get fermented and general gunk. This is a useful source of nutrients and also potential new yeast for your next fermentation. More on using this in later posts but for now – know that it’s got a name and is useful.

So I need to make a wash?

Yup – simple as that. And here is a simple wash to begin with. This would allow (in theory) a simple wash to be made suitable for (after distillation) making rum…

  • 4 kg Molasses (food grade, no sulphur)
  • 3 kg raw cane sugar
  • 14 g instant bakers yeast (2 sachets)
  • Enough water to make up to 25 l
  • 7.5 g DAP
  • 25 ml Magnesium Sulphate
  • 75 g Potassium Nitrate
  • 0.15 g plaster

To make this, sterilize your fermenting vessel, dissolve the molasses in 5 l of hot water (ideally about 80 deg C). Add this to your vessel. Dissolve the sugar in 3l of warm water (again around 80 deg C). Top up with cold water to around 25 l.

An initial SG reading should be around the 1065 to 1080 range. This will give you a potential alcohol of around 8% to 12%. In general this is an ideal percentage for a spirit wash. Wines will typically by higher. Beers usually a bit lower.

The idea is to have a finishing temperature of around 30 to 35 deg C. Using a clean long handled spoon, stir things up and add the chemicals (except the yeast). Don’t forget to leave some headspace (the space between the top of the liquid and top of the vessel) because fermentation can be quite vigorous.

Note on Nutrients:

Nutrients are needed for yeast growth and development. Simple as that. If you are using grape juice then there is (usually) sufficient of everything for the yeast. Unfortunately, we are not using just grape juice, we are using mostly just sugar and whatever else is in the molasses and sugar. Typically this is nowhere near enough for the yeast to do their thing. So we need to add. The items included above are perhaps not directly available to everyone. In this case, there are alternatives (including using tomato paste) that should be used. A good place to start would be a local home brew/wine making store. They will have a range of nutrients. Start with an all in one mix. Even better, maybe ask them for advice?

Move the fermentation vessel to somewhere out of the way and relatively warm. You will need to be able to keep the temp of the thing above 20 deg C.

When moved and the temperature is correct (30 to 35 deg C) – “pitch” the yeast. This means just sprinkle it on top of the wash. No need to stir it in. In fact, it’s better that it isn’t stirred. Put the top on, make sure the airlock is in place and leave.

Bakers yeast? Yes – this is a good choice for rum. It adds flavour. If you were making other products (say a brandy) then you would use a wine makers yeast. This would give a cleaner finish.

If everything is correct then fermentation should finish in 4 to 5 days. In any event, leave the thing for maybe 10 to 14 days to finish. There should be no more bubbling. If you take an SG reading – then it should be below 1000, meaning it’s gone to completion.

And thats it. You’ve made a rum wash. And now you are ready for the next bit – distillation.


Drinks, Spirits No Comments »

In this blog (which I admit isn’t updated anywhere near enough) there are numerous posts about electronics, food and drink. Electronics is fun. Food is fun and drink – surprisingly enough – is also fun…

Let’s have a look at drink though.

I’ve made beer (not a lot and a long time ago), it’s probably something to do again but it always seems such a messy process.)

I’ve made wine and is something that I will certainly do again. It’s a fun but yeah, slower process than beer making, not as messy though.

I’ve made liqueurs, quick and tasty. Tasty and relatively simple. To make though they do tend to require a constant supply of vodka as a base. It gets expensive quickly.

What I haven’t made, until now, is (hypothetically) spirits like rum or gin. Sure, at school we all did the distillation thing and had a giggle at something so subversive but to make the real thing? For yourself. From scratch? For real? Won’t I get arrested?

And that’s kind of the issue…

In some countries, distilling your own spirits is (very) illegal. Some countries (hello New Zealand) it’s perfectly legal. In most countries however, it’s a grey area. It’s (probably) ok for personal use but most certainly not to sell. There may be a permit required and records needed to be kept and shown to the customs and excise man.

There is also the question of safety…

Whilst it’s not difficult to distill your own, it’s very important to do it correctly. Two main hazards spring to mind:

  • Methanol poisoning
  • Explosions from alcohol vapour.

Couple that with cost of equipment, the potential cost of energy and all the materials, then maybe it’s not like making a bit of tea wine or milk stout. But…

Then again…

Whats life without a challenge?

I will put up a few posts about hypothetically making spirits. Rum in particular. It’s relatively simple to get a reasonable product. It can be done at home and it can be done safely.

A great introduction into a rabbit hole of a hobby 😉

Watch this space for a series of posts on how you could (if you wanted to) make your own rum.

Pi3 Wifi stops working

Raspberry PI, Technology No Comments »

Long story short but…

You have a Pi3 (B+). You do an os upgrade. Your wifi become unstable and/or stops working…

Culprit is broken update. You need to rollback the upgrade for the network. This is how to do it:



sudo dpkg -i firmware-brcm80211_20161130-3+rpt3_all.deb

sudo reboot

For more information – see this link:

Will a cluster improve my desktop speed?

Raspberry PI, Technology No Comments »

A cluster is used to work on distributed computing tasks. So things that need a lot of number crunching. The idea is to run many processes at the same time to make the whole run quicker. Note that often the single processes will take longer because they need to be assigned and marshaled etc (overhead) but running many at the same time makes it worth it.

A GUI , which is what your desktop is, is not suitable for this because there are many different processes that run at random times. The best way to speed up desktop is:

  • Faster disk
  • Faster/more memory
  • 64 bit OS to tack advantage of memory
  • Faster processor
  • More cores on processor
  • More caching memory
  • Etc

(the above list is not in any order)

So the short answer is “no”😊

Taking a screenshot on Raspberry Pi OS

Raspberry PI, Technology No Comments »

It should be easy – take a screenshot. Well – turns out it is but it’s not exactly the latest and greatest in tools…

“Scrot” is a screen capture tool installed by default on pi os. Nice – but – it is just that – it captures the whole screen. Just press “Prt Scrn” and click – a nice picture saved in your Pictures directory. Fine, all well and good, but what if you only want the active window?

A quick google found the “Gnome Snapshot tool” (gnome-snapshot). It’s simple and effective. I allows you to capture:

  • fullscreen
  • active window
  • area,

How to install?

sudo apt install gnome-screenshot

Run it from the menu, place it on your desktop or change the keybindings for prt scrn.

Hint – to change keybindings – here’s a useful link to Tom’s Hardware:,40215.html

Nice 🙂

How to play Netflix on Chromium

Raspberry PI, Technology No Comments »

The latest version of chromium on raspberry pi OS does not work for Netflix. This is because wildvine (DRM software) is broken.

There are a lot of tutorials and advice on how to get this fixed. The two most popular are to use Kodi and to get chromium media edition.

Using media players (like Kodi) seems a bit of overkill when all you want to do is watch via the browser. It’s also quite a messy way that never worked for me.

By far the easiest way I have found (and also works for Disney+ and probably anything else that uses wildvine) although Spotify is a little unpredictable is to install “pi-apps” and use that to install what you need.

It can be found here:


This little wonder also makes visual code easier an a number of other apps to install.

One thing to remember…

If you install chromium media edition, kill all other chromium processes before you start the media edition.

If you don’t then it won’t work.

Hint – you can use htop, put it into tree mode and send sighup to the root chromium process. htop is also very useful to monitor whats going on in your system. If it’s not already installed the sudo apt install htop.

What to do with potato peelings?

Uncategorized No Comments »

Normally I don’t peel potatoes before cooking them. After all – all the good bits are in the skin. But, when the family decides it likes the new and improved mash recipe that is “fluffier” without the skins – what can I do?

3 Kg of spuds, peeled.

Seems a shame to just compost those skins.

An idea for you…

Make potato chips (aka crisps).

Put the skins in a bowl, pour in some olive oil, add salt and pepper and a bit of fresh chopped rosemary. Use your hands to make sure everything is mixed through well. Put them on a backing try and in the oven at 180 deg C for 30 minutes or so.

Take them out and leave to cool and you get some really good tasting home made chips that you know exactly what went into them. Lower fat? Maybe not but it’s olive oil so it’s healthy – right 😉

The Raspberry Pi 4

Uncategorized No Comments »

I’ve had pi’s for a long time; 2, 3, zero and now the 4. With 4Gb. Cool…

So – is it good enough to replace a desktop?

Quick answer is yes.

Longer answer is as long as you aren’t doing video editing or wanting to play 3d games and stuff that requires a lot of fast processing. For standard day to day stuff – it’s great.

I’ve set mine up with an 8Gb Transcend SD card. The pi was originally supplied with an unbranded 16Gb SD card pre-installed with latest Raspian. I hate to say the amount of time i wasted on that. It eventually loaded and trying to do anything with it was horrendous, slower than the 3b and it kept hanging…

Being the brave soul I am – I decided to use that install to move over to a small second hand SSD I had laying around. Again – the amount of time I wasted!!! Lets not go there.

Moral is:

  • Use a good quality, fast SD card
  • Don’t use second hand SSDs (or at least check them first)

Anyways – after a lot of messing – I am writing this using WP’s block editor in Chromium. Even starting Chromium previously on the old pi – even with a working SSD was a no go – it would just lock up. So far – this one seems great. I’ve a YouTube video playing and a couple of other windows open. And still running on just the SD card.

Sound quality out of the headphone jacks is great. It does use micro-HDMI so it’s important to not forget that or have kids who hoard cables and don’t mind you raiding their stash. Wifi speed is great as well – this is all down to the much improved architecture of the pi. more UARTs, improved USB bus and not everything going through the same bus.

Temperature wise…

This is maybe a bit of a different story. I’ve no fan on and it’s in a case. The temp is now around 70 deg C as measured by (from

/opt/vc/bin/vcgencmd measure_temp

This seems a bit excessive so maybe I need to flash the firmware. I don’t really want to use a fan as this connects onto a few GPIO ports and I want to use a pi cobbler on this for doing some electronics stuff. That said – I will try it and see what it turns out like. I’ve no intention of clocking the thing so well – maybe just leave it.

It does need a 5V 3A USB C power supply. Not a biggie but maybe you will need to get one.

In short – if you are looking for a new working machine, don’t mind getting your hands dirty and aren’t wanting to do processor intensive work then you could do a lot worse than a Pi 4.


A few days later – I’m still happy with it – I’ve noticed a few issues with the wifi keeping dropping but that could be the range. I’ve also found out that I needed to do a lot of work with the SSD to get it working well. I’ve written about this in another post.

HINT – The SSD wasn’t broken – the USB/SATA interface needed an update.

I plan to use this one the coming weeks as my main machine and see how it all goes. I’ve code to write and things to build so it should get a good work out.

SSD boot for Raspberry Pi 4

Raspberry PI, Technology No Comments »

An early birthday present to my self – 4Gb Raspberry Pi 4B. With a case and a fan and a 3A power supply. Also – a vendor supplied 16Gb SD card preinstalled with latest raspbian. and lastly – an external USB 3.0 SSD housing.

What could possibly go wrong?

Reading the documents – it should be easy to boot from the latest version of RaspberryOS (aka Raspbian). Just download the image, un-tar, burn it to the disk, plug the disk in and boot.

Well – erm – nope.

First was the fun and games with the supplied SD card. You would think the vendor would supply an adequate, fit for purpose, unit? Nope. They must have found the nastiest, cheapest, slowest PoS they could. Booting it took for ever. Once booted – I ran the diagnostics because there is no way this can be slower than a 3b right?

Diagnostics are giving almost 50 IOPS! Wow – that fast. NOT. The limit is set at something like 400. Doubtless to say the card was not fit for purpose. But thats ok right – I plan to burn to SSD and boot from that anyways. Using the pi to do this was not the most pleasurable process. It took literally hours.

In the end (and 3 nights later) – I quit with it. I got an old card that I knew worked, flashed the latest image, booted and bang – it was there. Amazing. Even just running from the card was fast. 4Gb really makes a big difference. Chrome would run without killing the entire OS.

Next step – start again with the SSD. Burned the image – booted – nothing.

Waited – nothing.

Tried again – same thing.


One thing I found was that it kinda worked if it went through USB 2 rather than 3. Ok – this pointed me to something else…

The need to update the firmware on the USB/SATA. Did that. Booted – almost same thing. Note – almost – when doing this sort of stuff – keep an extra eye out for things that are slightly different – it’s important.

I would love to provide the link but I’ve managed to loose that one.

Googled again – Now we find out that there is something called UAS. And it’s important. Because on some cheap units – it’s not implemented entirely cleanly. This resulted in finding out way more about the boot process than I ever really wanted to know and also editing a file in the boot directory to add an exclusion for that protocol. Downside is that it would slow my disc down a bit but it would still be way faster than SD.

So I did that.

And guess what?

It worked!

Finally, after a long time and much trying but not giving up. Nice new PiOS on a 128Gb SSD.

Well impressed.

Lessons gained:

  • Don’t give up
  • Look at the small differences – they may give you a clue.
  • Try different ports
  • Google and read what you google. Don’t skip the detail.


These are useful resource links:

Jeef Geerling – pi 4 booting from SSD

PI4 USB boot Ubuntu:

Update firmware for JMS578:

How to improve speeds for PI4 USB

Celery Wine?

Drinks, Soup, Wine No Comments »

Making your own wine seams kinda cheap sometimes. The average bottle price is well below 1 euro per bottle in general when you are using found ingredients. Even if you buy them – it’s still relatively cheap.


Well – many home made wines don’t have grapes in them. They taste different from “normal” wine and can be cloudy or be a little unpredictable with taste. Add to that the idea that they are often made on the kitchen top or the shed and folks get a bit of a bad opinion. They are used to being sold wine as an exclusively grape based product and that the more you pay, the “better” should be the taste.

This is a shame. There is a whole world of taste experience out there to be had. Trying different fruit, vegetable, berry or herb wines expends your taste experience. It gives you more food pairing options. It even gives you more stand alone drink options. Not a beer, not a cocktail, not a spirit; a home made country wine. A chilled light peach wine on a warm summer afternoon or a heavy celery wine on a cold winters evening.


You mean that sort of long green bitter thing that uses more calories to eat than it actually contains? The love or hate vegetable of salads? Like, celery?

Yup, celery. Plain, simple, green, crunchy celery. Without salt because the yeast doesn’t like salt but yes, celery.

As a little side bonus – this is a two for one show – for main course you get the wine, for. starter – you get soup. What could be better?

What could be better? The cost. It’s cheap to grow your own and even if you buy, then it tends to be not the most expensive green in the veg shop.


Celery wine. Slightly bitter, makes a great aperitif. Here’s the recipe…

  • 2 kg celery, finely sliced
  • 1.5 kg regular white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon citric acid
  • 4.5 l of water
  • Regular wine yeast and nutrient.

Wash the celery and finely slice it. Put this in a large, clean pan and add the water. Bring to boil and leave it simmering until the celery is soft and the juice has been extracted. This could be 30 minutes or longer (possibly shorter). It all depends on your celery. This will make your “liquor”.

Strain the liquor into a sterilized 10l fermenting bucket or other suitably large bowl. Add the citric acid and the sugar. Stir using a sterilized stirring thing (ideally RVS or plastic) until all the sugar is dissolved. Loosely cover and leave to cool to around 21 deg C.

When cooled, tip in the yeast starter that you had made, cover and leave for 4 days.

At this point, take a hydrometer reading. This is your starting specific gravity (SG). It tells you how much sugar is dissolved in the liquor that can potentially be converted to alcohol by the yeast. In my case the SG was 1102. This give a potential of around 13.5% alcohol. Always take a starting SG and a finishing SG. Whilst is is possible to estimate the alcohol content from the recipe, during the process, fluid values may vary, sugar content of your veg or fruit can change etc.

After 4 days, give a good stir with a sterilized stirrer and put in a sterilized fermenting vessel (5l glass Demi-John), stopper with an airlock and leave to bubble until complete. Rack once, and bottle or follow your own gut on this one.

The result is an interesting aperitif wine, light and a little bitter.

When the liquor has cooled,


Soup and whats a Yeas Starter?


Yup – when you make this wine – you have a lot of cooked celery left. You could just throw it out or put it in the compost or whatever. You could also make soup out of it…

Put the cooked veg in a pan with 1.5l of water, a couple of veg stock cubes and bring to boil. Stir for a little, remove from het and then blitz with/in a blender.

Makes a fantastic soup base, or even on it’s own, with a little cracked pepper and a blob of Greek yoghurt with crispy brown bread. Can be frozen.


If you don’t normally do this. Or are unsure of the process – this is really something that is worth doing. It gets fermentation off to a healthy start and well just do it…

Get a sterilized jam jar. Add some lukewarm water (maybe 100ml). Add a teaspoons of sugar and dissolve. Add yeast activator or nutrient at the prescribed dose (it will be written on the container) and shake. Then add your dried yeast, loosely cover and leave in a warm place for an hour. The liquid in the jar will bubble and smell a little like wine.

Why do this? Yeast comes dried.It’s in a dormant state and needs to be woken up. You can either give it the short sharp shock of being thrown into it’s work environment with no preparation OR you can be kind, give it a bit of time to wake up and acclimatize, have some breakfast and then get on with work. Which would you prefer?

Allowing the yeast to wake up and start reproducing in an ideal situation really does get it off to a good start. Your fermentation will be stronger and better. Your end product will reflect this.


Well, erm, eat your soup and then wait for 6 months?

Actually, that. The soup is a bonus but don’t look gift horse in the mouth. Try and (re)use your bi-products where you can. The wine it’s self. That needs time to go to completion and then rack out before bottling. It’s worth the wait (as it is with all homemade wines)…

It’s worth the effort and time and waiting to be able to taste the fruit of your labors. Amaze friends and family with your skills.


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