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I'm making herbal and medicinal mushroom tinctures and extracts. Normally I'll use everclear but it isn't cheap and 95% alcohol. Also I don't know what that other 5% is. Is it just water?

Is there a way I can reduce alcohol to near 100% without a still? I've heard poring it over epsom salts through a few layers of coffee filters will remove some of the non alcohol contents. Is this true?

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Distillation of ethanol yields 95% ethanol and 5% water. That is the best one can do unless you don't want to drink it afterwards (it will have a little benzene, a known carcinogen). The Epsom salts may remove some water, but I don't think it will remove all the water, not to mention that some of the Epson salt will dissolve into solution.

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    $\begingroup$ If you have very, [very]$_n$ dry $\ce{MgSO4}$ and labgrade absolute alcohol, then it does significantly slow down the hydration process (given inert atmosphere). It is often used since $\ce{MgSO4}$ usually does not disturb (in)organic reactions. $\endgroup$ – Martin - マーチン May 16 '14 at 3:53
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Compared to anhydrous ethanol with about 100 US\$/L -everclear seems to be a very nice and cheap substitute (30 US\$/L). It is perfectly safe to drink diluted so the remaining stuff should be almost only water. (Almost undetectable) Trace amounts of essential oils might be present, but as it is made from grain, very unlikely.

Anhydrous Magnesium Sulphate is about 6 US\$ for a quarter pound (about 110 g) and you might need to add all of it. As LDC3 already mentioned you might solve some of it, not sure if you want that.

Coffee is also kind of expensive and in my humble opinion far too precious to use as a filter. Yet again you will solve some of its contents in your solution. (In response to LCD3's comment)

If you use your potions for outside application only, you could try and search for perfume base alcohol, which could be a little cheaper. It is denatured, so it is absolutely not safe to drink it. There is also industrial cleaning alcohol on the market - but here again you cannot be sure what exactly is in there. It is very hard and expensive to get rid of the additives in denatured alcohol.

The main price of alcohol comes from taxes anyway. If it is intended for drinking, the in most countries spirits are heavily taxed (luxury goods). Working around that is no good idea. When it comes to your own safety and your potions users, do not by too cheap - consequences could be far more expensive.

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    $\begingroup$ hortstu means to use the coffee filters as one would use Watman filters, not the coffee. $\endgroup$ – LDC3 May 16 '14 at 4:06

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