Over 30 people have recently died in a hooch tragedy in the Saran district of Bihar, where alcohol is prohibited.
What is hooch?
- Hooch is a commonly used term for poor quality alcohol, derived from Hoochinoo, a native Alaskan tribe that was known to produce very strong liquor.
- Unlike branded liquor which is produced in factories with sophisticated equipment and rigorous quality control, hooch is made in more crude settings without any quality checks.
- All that matters is to produce alcohol that will intoxicate, and hooch surely does that. The only problem is that if prepared incorrectly, it can kill.
- Importantly, it is near impossible to tell whether hooch is safe to consume before actual consumption.
How alcohol is produced?
- Alcohol is produced using two basic processes:
- fermentation and
- When heated, yeast reacts with sugar (from grain, fruits, sugarcane, etc.) to ferment and produce a mixture containing alcohol.
- However, as this process continues and the alcohol levels rise (with more of the sugar getting converted to alcohol), the conditions become toxic for the yeast itself, eventually ending the process of fermentation.
- Thus, to make anything stronger than beer or wine (above 14-18% ABV or alcohol by volume), distillation is key.
- Distillation is the process of physically separating the alcohol from the rest of the mixture using evaporation and condensation.
- Since different parts of the mixture have different boiling points, theoretically, if one heats the mixture up to a correct temperature, it will be possible to separate only the alcohol from the water and other remnants.
- This will be far more potent than any fermented beverage. All spirits (such as whiskey, vodka, gin, etc) are made using this technique.
How is hooch produced?
- Hooch-makers also use this principle.
- First, they heat water, locally available yeast, and sugar or fruit (often fruit waste) to produce a fermented mixture in a large pot.
- Once sufficient fermentation has occurred, they distill this fermented mixture to produce concentrated alcohol using a rudimentary setup.
- Often, this setup includes a big vat where the fermented mixture is boiled, a pipe that captures and carries the alcoholic fumes, and another pot wrapped in a wet cloth (to make it cooler), where concentrated alcohol condenses.
- Distillation can be done repeatedly in order to increase the alcohol content of the final product.
What are the effects of spurious liquor?
- Methanol or methyl alcohol can cause impaired vision, high toxicity and metabolic acidosis, a condition in which the body produces excessive acid that cannot be flushed out by kidneys.
- The treatment for this is to intravenously administer Fomepizole and ethanol. However, fomepizole can be expensive and unavailable in many parts of India.
- In such cases, doctors administer a mixture of ethanol and water (1:1 ratio).
- Ethanol inhibits methanol’s conversion into toxins and helps in flushing it out of the body either naturally or through dialysis.
Q1) What is Extra Neutral Alcohol?
Extra Neutral Alcohol (ENA) is the primary raw material derived from sugarcane molasses and grains used in the production of alcoholic beverages such as whisky, vodka, gin, cane, liqueurs, and alcoholic fruit beverages. It is a colourless food-grade alcohol with neutral smell and taste and typically contains over 95 percent alcohol by volume.