From plant to bottle: How ethanol is produced

The secret behind Ethisan hand sanitizer is ethanol, a plant-based product with a multi-step production process.

It starts on the farm, where wheat is harvested and sent for milling. There, the plants are ground into flour, or as its more commonly called, meal. This meal is mainly starch; a carbohydrate made of long chains of sugar molecules.

From there, the meal is mixed with water and cooked down to a liquid. This step allows molecules to break into smaller pieces. To speed up this process, an enzyme called alpha-amylase is added.

At this point, an event known as saccharification occurs. Essentially, the starch from the meal has broken down into sugar or glucose. This reaction is initiated by an enzyme called glucoamylase producing a substance sometimes referred to as a slurry” due to its physical appearance. This must be cooled before heading to the next step in production.

Before this substance officially becomes ethanol, one crucial biochemical process must occur. Yeast — microorganisms that feed off the glucose molecules for energy — is added to the slurry. This step is called fermentation.

At this point, the liquids separate from the solids and the solids must be removed. That liquid is now approximately 10% to 15% percent ethanol.

To produce between 60% and 95% ethanol, the alcohol by volume (ABV) required for an effective hand sanitizer, the liquid needs to be concentrated through distillation and dehydration. Distillation is the action of condensing and evaporating the liquid to reach anywhere up to 95% ethanol. For pure ethanol, the remaining 5% is dehydrated and strained.

Ethisan hand sanitizer is made with seven ingredients or fewer. Each product contains between 70% and 80% USP grade ethanol, the highest quality, the very same used to produce spirits like rye and vodka.

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