You really can’t SEE methanol burn, you can only feel it.
You can only SEE how the surface of your skin is rolling off as it burns because methanol’s flames are invisible.
Methanol is formed when pectin-rich beverages are fermented.
It is the simplest alcohol and is colorless, light, extremely volatile and very much flammable.
When ingested in large quantities, the body metabolizes it to produce formate salts – a chemical that poisons the central nervous system, cause coma, blindness and death.
When making moonshine, always throw the first 50 ml (out of a 20 l wash) you collect as this mostly consists of methanol.
It is methanol that is mainly responsible for hangovers and blindness.
If you are a first-time distiller of moonshine, NEVER distill alcohol indoors unless you want to set your house on fire or cause an explosion.
Alcohol vapor is easily combustible. If you are distilling and a leak occurs, the probability of alcohol vapor escaping is possible. The instance this occurs, you will not know it. For some people, they only get the sense that something’s wrong when they see items around them melting or when they see their skin folding.
You do not have to believe me though. You can try it out for yourself, better yet, watch how race car driver Rick Mears is engulfed in invisible flames back in 1981 during the Indy 500.
If this doesn’t terrify you, nothing will.
To the untrained eye, the reactions of these men would simply be odd, funny even. But to those who have the knowledge to detect burning methanol, Rick Mears and his mechanic demands immediate attention because they are burning!
Since the 1960s, methanol is combined with water and put in high-performance diesel engines to increase its power. Pure methanol is also used in open wheel auto racing. It was only in 2007 when IndyCars converted to ethanol.
Best Ways to Stay Safe
When distilling alcohol, it is important to seal any leaks present in the still. Doing so helps prevent explosions from occurring. You can place flour paste on the leak. When you see leaks during the distillation process, stop the operation and turn off the fire. Make sure the leaks are all repaired and soldered.
Also, do not leave a still unattended. When distilling, it is best that you know the time it would take to complete a batch. Doing so helps you know how long you have to wait it out. Some inadvertently leave a still for a short amount of time and then forget about it completely. Do NOT do this unless you want to tempt fate or see your still explode. Moonshine is so potent that if it touches a flame, it could instantly catch fire and burn anything and everything in its path.
It is also not advisable to use a plastic vessel to collect the distillate as plastic could easily burn and melt. A still operator who was distilling potent shine and collecting it in a plastic container got the shock of his life when it suddenly melted right before his eyes. Little did he know, it’s not just because plastic is a flimsy container for such a hard liquor, it’s the fact that his moonshine caught fire when it touched the flame and the operator didn’t know his hand was already burning. He was able to put the fire out though (which almost burned his kitchen). This situation also serves as a good reminder to not distill indoors.
See how pure methanol burns (the one on the left) compared to pure ethanol (the one on the right).
Despite the below video being done indoors, DO NOT DO THIS AT HOME!