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I may know, but I would like an expert opinion and a possible solution?

I had an ethanol product from molasses, brown sugar and yeast which was clear. I then added (and feel all information is important): 1 vanilla bean 1 cinnamon stick whole allspice berries whole black peppercorns 1/2 star anise 1/8 tsp grated nutmeg 3, 2-inch pieces ginger 3-inch strips orange zest

I let that sit for 2 weeks and remained clear. I then poured that solution through a coffee filter into beaker and it remained clear.

Then I took tap water, boiled it and poured it into the bottle with the used spices and let that sit for a day. I then used that water to dilute the ethanol solution to a lower percentage. Again, running it through a coffee filter.

Final product, cloudy.

The only thing I can think of is my water. We get our water from a well so it could be high in mineral content.

Would water be the problem? And solution to make it clear again?

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You likely formed an emulsion. Many of the flavor compounds in the products you mentioned are negligibly soluble in water but soluble in ethanol. Once you add the ethanol extract to water the much of the ethanol from the extract will mix with into the water but the flavor compounds in the extract will not dissolve in the water, which leaves micro-sized spheres of flavor floating around the water. these micro-sized spheres have a different refractive index of light and thus disperse the light making it cloudy. The same thing will happen if you mix water and oil with soap. If you look at Gatorade or PowerAde sport drinks all of them are cloudy because of the emulsion produced from micro-size pockets of flavor in the drink.

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This is a well known phenomenon in certain alcoholic drinks called "louche" or the ouzo effect. It's often seen in the preparation of absinthe and ouzo.

It's caused by essential oils and other non-polar compounds from the botanicals (in your case the spices and orange zest - primarily the orange oils) which can be dissolved in the relatively non-polar high-ethanol solution, but are not soluble in a relatively polar high-water solution. When you add water to the alcohol these oils are no longer soluble, and they come out of solution in microdroplets, giving the solution a cloudy appearance.

To make the solution clear again, I see two options. The first is to add some sort of (edible) surfactant/detergent which will be able to promote the solubilization of the oils in water. There are a number of compounds that are used in food chemistry to do this, although few are easily accessible to home users. (Lecithin may be an option, although I don't know how well it would work in alcoholic drinks.)

Your other option is to simply increase the amount of alcohol in the solution until you reach a point where it's non-polar enough to dissolve the essential oils.

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  • $\begingroup$ So I poured a couple ounces to a glass, then added some ethanol and sure enough. Cleared up! SCIENCE!! $\endgroup$ – Speg Dec 14 '15 at 14:59

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