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Cold climate crops for ethanol production  RSS feed

 
Tyler Miller
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I was wondering if anyone has ever experimented with using potatoes for ethanol production. They grow pretty well in my climate (Alaska, zone 3a) while most grains do not.

I did a little research and it sounds like they are low in the enzymes needed for fermentation. Some of the websites said adding a little barley could help with this. These websites were all geared more towards producing alcohol as a drink rather than a fuel.

Any other cold-climate crops that would work well? I planted some sunchokes this summer and I've heard they have potential.
 
Steven Harris
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it does not matter if they potato is low in enzymes, you can buy them pretty cheaply and add them into your mash and it will convert the starch to simple sugars that the yeast will eat. MALTED barley also has a great deal of enzymes in it to do the same thing. That's how beer is made. Barley has 10x the enzymes it needs to convert itself into sugar for the yeast.

Steve
 
allen lumley
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Tyler Miller : It has always been my understanding that most of the Polish and Russian Vodkas came from Potato's, I have not looked into the lack of
enzymes but it certainly appears that this problem has been solved in the past !

Corn (maize) has often been the premier crop anywhere it could be made to grow because at the cellular level it produces 4 sugars for every 3 sugars
all other grass plants can produce ! hope this helps and is timely ! Big AL
 
Mat Smith
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If you want to improve conversion of the spuds (conversion of starch to sugar, and therefore sugar to alcohol) you want to add a grain with a diastatic power as high as you can get.
American 6 row barley is the best, and if you can't find out what it's diastatic power is then the general rule of thumb is to go for the lightest colour available (more heat = darker colour = less enzymes).

You could make yourself some mighty strong hooch. (For running engines of course.....)

Mat
 
Tyler Miller
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Thanks for the replies!

Steven Harris wrote:it does not matter if they potato is low in enzymes, you can buy them pretty cheaply and add them into your mash and it will convert the starch to simple sugars that the yeast will eat. MALTED barley also has a great deal of enzymes in it to do the same thing. That's how beer is made. Barley has 10x the enzymes it needs to convert itself into sugar for the yeast.

Steve

Good to know, I might just by the enzymes for the sake of simplicity. My understading is that malted grains are grains that have been germinated and then dried. It is important that they be dried again, or would it work just as well to add sprouted barley?

allen lumley wrote:Tyler Miller : It has always been my understanding that most of the Polish and Russian Vodkas came from Potato's, I have not looked into the lack of
enzymes but it certainly appears that this problem has been solved in the past !

Corn (maize) has often been the premier crop anywhere it could be made to grow because at the cellular level it produces 4 sugars for every 3 sugars
all other grass plants can produce ! hope this helps and is timely ! Big AL

I had always heard the same thing regarding Russian vodka being made from potatoes. When I was doing a little research it sounded like grains were actually commonly used. I only did a tiny bit of research though, so I could very well be wrong.

Our summers are short and cool, so most years corn doesn't produce. I'd bet with the right microclimate it might be possible to make it produce more reliably.


Mat Smith wrote:If you want to improve conversion of the spuds (conversion of starch to sugar, and therefore sugar to alcohol) you want to add a grain with a diastatic power as high as you can get.
American 6 row barley is the best, and if you can't find out what it's diastatic power is then the general rule of thumb is to go for the lightest colour available (more heat = darker colour = less enzymes).

You could make yourself some mighty strong hooch. (For running engines of course.....)

Mat

Is the heat that gives it the darker color the heat during the growing season or heat applied during the drying process?

I'm definitely interested in trying to grow barley. My grandmother tells me that most years it never reaches maturity, but maybe with the right environment I can overcome that. If not, there are a lot of people in other areas of Alaska who successfully grow barley so I can get it relatively inexpensively.

My brother and I want to grow more potatoes than we would normally eat. The extra would be an emergency food and seed supply, just in case things go bad. I was thinking ethanol production might be a good way of ensuring this extra amount of potatoes doesn't go to waste.
 
Tyler Miller
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When potatoes get too cold they turn sweet. Do you think intentionally chilling them before making the mash out of them would help the process of breaking them down into sugar?
 
Steven Harris
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Lord NO!!
 
Tyler Miller
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LOL, I guess I'll nix that idea then.
 
alex Keenan
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If you making potato alcohol you are going to need amalase enzymes.
Check you vodka recipes for amount of enzymes you need to make a great mash.

Development of Bio-ethanol Production from Waste Potatoes
http://www.oulu.fi/resopt/wasmin/liimatainen2.pdf

Using Potatoes to make alcohol
http://homedistiller.org/fruit/wash-fruit/pot

Mother Earth News
http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library/ethanol_motherearth/meCh2.html


On a interesting note

Although the Jerusalem artichoke traditionally has been grown for the tuber, an alternative to harvesting the tuber does exist. It has been noted that the majority of the sugar produced in the leaves does not enter the tuber until the plant has nearly reached the end of its productive life [3]. Thus, it may be possible to harvest the Jerusalem artichoke when the sugar content in the stalk reaches a maximum, thereby avoiding harvesting the tuber. In this case, the harvesting equipment and procedures are essentially the same as for harvesting sweet sorghum or corn for ensilage.

 
Tyler Miller
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Thanks for the links!

It definitely seems like it would be easier to harvest the Jerusalem artichoke stalks than the tubers. The ones I planted didn't get very tall this year, but I planted them quite late in our already short growing season. Any tips on how to tell when the plant is about finished?
 
alex Keenan
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It seems to be based on the flowering. My chokes flower late in the season. Once it start to flower alot of energy will go to seed production.
It has been suggested that they be harvested at the beginning of flower formation when some flowers are just breaking.
You may wish to harvest in stages and used harvest weight to make some home brew and use a hydrometer to measure the alcohol content after fermenting stops.
A few one gallon jars from each batch based on X pounds of chipped, boiled, and fermented harvest should give you a good idea of the exact stage.
I would also test the residue mash on some farm animals as a feed supplement. I am thinking pig may like it.
 
Dale Hodgins
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If you're producing good quality organic potatoes, they are bound to be worth more than a dollar per pound. Even if there were no work involved, the fuel created from them would be very expensive.

Wood waste is abundant and would seem a good choice in Alaska.
 
Dan Boone
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Depends on what part of Alaska he's in. The barley-growing zone extends well up into the tiaga country where the forest peters out into a low-density mess of stunted black spruce sticking out of the tundra. If he can't grow barley, it's a good chance that trees aren't in surplus either, especially given local needs for high volumes of firewood.

My family grew 600-800 lbs of potatos a year about 100 miles south of the arctic circle, but Mom bought malted barley syrup in cans for making beer. So I don't know how to ferment potatos. We ATE as many as we produced and it's hard for me to imagine having a big surplus. I agree that if you're in any kind of community at all, they ought to sell well in competion with air-freighted Idaho spuds.
 
alex Keenan
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I may have found a faster way to test Jerusalem artichokes stems and leaves for sugar content.

Degrees Brix (symbol °Bx) is the sugar content of an aqueous solution. One degree Brix is 1 gram of sucrose in 100 grams of solution and represents the strength of the solution as percentage by weight (% w/w). If the solution contains dissolved solids other than pure sucrose, then the °Bx only approximates the dissolved solid content. The °Bx is traditionally used in the wine, sugar, fruit juice, and honey industries.

BRIX quickly, easily, and inexpensively reveals any plant's nourishing ability (or inability) for us and animals + it shows disease and pest resistance. Plants use minerals + water + sunlight + CO2 + temperature + soil biology byproducts to make health “goodies” like sugars, vitamins, enzymes, proteins, oils, and hormones. Plants are complex factories designed to create nutrition while being disease free despite a diseased world. BRIX is simply a “goodies” concentration in that plant sap. Good human and animal health depends on “Wow!” BRIX produce. It really is that simple. The higher the BRIX, the better the food is.

http://www.strategicrelocationblog.com/blog/sustainable-gardening-brix-values
 
Cj Sloane
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What about growing beets? They are cold tolerant and certainly have high sugar content.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Dan Boone
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Dale, I didn't know where in Alaska he was, so was just going on the info in the post. I grew up about 200 miles east of Fairbanks, so I know those conditions in my bones. We burned 20 cords of wood a winter just keeping warm, too. Barley should grow there -- it grows fine in Delta, though nobody makes money at it -- but agriculture at any kind of scale is incredibly expensive in those parts. Frankly doing *anything* is expensive there. Fuel production from wood waste, I'm guessing, is no exception; but nobody was doing it in the 1970s and 1980s, which was when I was there.
 
Dale Hodgins
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If I was there, I'd concentrate on potatoes and brassicas and a few other cold climate crops. Sounds like you needed a rocket mass heater when you were a kid. I lived in Newfoundland in 1981. Most people had mountains of firewood. One guy had a Russian fireplace and a much smaller stash of wood.
 
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