Molasses and rum
Molasses: the lazy way to make your own fuel.
You can make 180 proof ethanol fuel for only $1.00/gallon, or less.
Molasses as a feedstock
Back about 25 years ago, when I kept milk goats, I would feed them molasses poured on top of their grain and alfalfa pellets. It is a good source of minerals for them, especially phosphorous. Anyway, I lived in the mountains, and would drive to the Port of Stockton (California) once a month, where I could fill up a 50 gal barrel of molasses for $.21/pound. A 50 gallon barrel was around 600 pounds (273 kilos) and it kept a lot of goats happy and made them good milk producers, as well. 
Molasses is what rum is made from. It makes a pretty powerful brew and you can easily get 180 proof out of it.

As a fuel source, molasses is ideal, as it easily mixes with warm water. When you add the yeast, it ferments pretty good, as the yeast organism love it, too! Molasses, by the way, is what rum is made of, mainly, sugar cane molasses. It smells great when it ferments, and though it can be messy if you spill it, it is a lot less work than grinding corn or fruits. So, I would make the trip once every couple of months, and buy one barrel for my goats and an extra one for experimenting with making my own fuel. Now at a price of $0.21/pound, a barrel weighing 600 pounds (molasses is about 12.5 pounds to the gallon, same weight as honey, almost.) cost me $126.00. I would get one barrel, mix it down with water, so I ended up with three barrels of black watery syrup, and then take a balling hydrometer reading.

Before you buy a huge amount of molasses, taste it to see if it tastes sweet. There are a whole lot of different types and sources of molasses, and some of it has already had the maximum amount of sugar already removed. But you can buy molasses which still tastes sweet. To the right, I explain the different types of molasses you can buy as an agricultural commodity.

I diluted my barrel until I had a sugar content of 25%. If you try to add yeast to the more concentrated molasses, you won't ferment out all the sugar, as the yeast will end up dying when the alcohol level reaches 14%, unless you use a turbo yeast (allowing you to start with 32% and yield 16% alcohol). You end up with three 50 gal. barrels of fermented brew, or 150 gallons at 25% sugar which ferments down to 14 % alcohol. After fermenting, you have 14 % alcohol, and 90 to 95% alcohol is the end product after distillation. Once distilled, it yields around 23.3 gal of 190 proof for about $144. (remember, you get half as much alcohol as you get sugar. Then the formula for 180 proof (90% alcohol) made from 14% alcohol content beer would be (150 gal x .14)/.9= 23.3 gallons. If you are making your own E85, then you remove the last 10% of water using zeolite (see my web page on E85) and you will end up with 21 gallons of 200 proof. 

$126.00 for 23 gallons of fuel works out to around $5.40/gallon. You can see I didn't make any money with this back then, but it was a good one-time education, something I had to try. I was more interested in being able to demonstrate how well the still worked, and next, how well engines ran on the 160 to 180 proof. This was twenty-five years ago but you can do a lot better than this. 

Although I was getting it at the port and buying in bulk, it was brought in from Hawaii in tankers, direct to Spreckles Sugar.

Searching on the Net for commodity per ton prices on molasses, I found the Calif. Agricultural commodities directory, published by the Dept. of Agriculture, (USDA).

These prices are for July 6, 2004: The bulk price for molasses, per ton (2,000 pounds): Molasses, Cane Feeding FOB Stockton is $87.50 per ton, and Los Angeles Ports = $95.00/ton.  So, $95.00/2,000 pounds = $0.047/lb. I was paying an exorbitant price at $0.21 /pound (but I was buying a small quantity, not a whole ton).
Okay, so let’s do the math for buying a ton of molasses at a time, say, for $0.05/pound (that is $100.00/ton):

2,000 pounds of molasses / 12.5= 160 gallons of molasses. To determine the sugar content if you don't know what you are buying, first take a small sample and dilute one part molasses with one part water. Then measure the sugar content with a balling hydrometer. Multiple your Brix reading by two and this gives you your starting sugar percentage. (You don’t want to add too much water, either, as then it will take extra energy to boil it off again). For example, if you have 69% sugar, you can add two parts water to you 160 gallons, you will get 480 gallons syrup for fermenting with one third of 69% or 23% sugar. It is better not to dilute it quite this much, as you can start with a 26 or 28 % sugar content when adding the yeast. Then you can ferment it to 14% alcohol. At 180 proof you get 480 gal x .14)x.9= 74.6 gallons of 180 proof. Remove the water with Zeolyte and you have 67 gallons of 200 proof fuel, as a cost of $100 per 67 gal=$1.49/gallon.

But what if you pay $90.00 for a ton of molasses, and it turns out that it is only 48% sugar? (You can approximately figure out the sugar content by weighing it. 69% sugar molasses will weigh 12.5 pounds/gallon, and pure water is 8.34 lbs/gal. Everything in between is a proportional ratio.) No problem. Dilute your ton of molasses 50/50 and you have 4,000 pounds of liquid (divide by 10 lbs/gallon) and you have 400 gallons of 24% sugar. This will yield 12% beer, which you can turn into 400 x .12 = 48 gallons of fuel. This works out to $90/48 gal= 1.87/gal. for fuel. So, you can see that it will pay you much better if you can buy the higher (69%) sugar cane molasses. Sometimes the price drops down as low as $65/ton and then your cost would be $1.00/gallon for fuel.

If you can make ethanol fuel for a raw materials price of $1.00/gal, it is not unreasonable to figure that the manufactured cost of molasses-derived alcohol would be about $1.25/gal (we have to figure in fuel and labor costs, etc, as well as to capitalize out the cost of manufacturing equipment over a ten year period). 
If you can make it for $1.25/gallon, you can sell it at $1.85 /gallon, and make a $0.60/gallon profit. That is better than what gas stations are making these days! I need to remind my readers, I am not a drinker and do not advocate this as a business for making hooch to sell. I am only promoting the making of ethanol as a fuel which you can use in your car or truck, instead of gasoline.

A report for BBI, an ethanol industry group, states; If the price of molasses is $65 per ton, the feedstock will cost well over $1.10 per gallon of ethanol less any return on the concentrated molasses stillage residue (called condensed molasses solubles or CMS). The CMS returns around $6.00 per ton of original molasses. Therefore, the feedstock cost would be about $1.00 per gallon of alcohol produced. At this cost, using molasses for alcohol production in the US is usually not economically feasible when compared with other feedstocks. (They don’t think $1.00/gallon is feasible because they normally make ethanol from corn at a feedstock cost of $0.60 to $0.70/gal.) If you are making it for you own use, even $1.50/gallon is a lot better than the price of gas at the pumps.

Another product you might try, although it is much more expensive, is honey. (I have kept bees for over 25 years). There were a couple times when I had a big honey accident, like dropping two one gallon jars on the concrete steps, or leaving the honey barrel spout open when filling 60 pound (5 gallon) tins from the settling tank. Honey doesn't make any noise as it runs, so it is easy to forget you have a spigot open, then discovery you have a few gallons of it on the floor of the honey extraction shed, along with a lot of dead bees, ants, mud, etc. So this was another perfect use for my still, and I diluted it quite a bit. Honey is 70% sugar by volume. It is a mix of mostly glucose, lots of sucrose, smaller amounts of dextrose, but also 2 or 3% polysaccharides (more complex sugars), plus flavors, fragrances, and trace amounts of bee pollen. Every honey is going to be different from other honeys, depending on what flowers were in season before the honey was harvested. 

There are likely some books on making mead, and I am sure you can find a source for that. 

The Great Molasses Tragedy!
Now for a sobering piece of history about molasses: this is from:
This is a story that I had heard when I was very
young, but cannot place its origins. It was one of those stories that I always assumed was pure fiction until I stumbled upon it once again more than twenty years later.

Clearly (since you can read the title above), I am talking about the Great Molasses Flood that swept through part of Boston, Massachusetts on January 15, 1919.

At this time in history, molasses was America's primary sweetener. It was used to make all types of cookies, cakes, bread, and especially rum.
Due to its popularity at the time, there were many molasses factories, warehouses, and storage tanks lining the shores of Boston. After all, Boston was considered to be the distilling capital of the United States.

To tell this story, we are only concerned with one of these facilities - a large storage tank located in Boston's north end - near the sites where the world famous Fanuel Hall (Quincy Market) and the New England Aquarium stand today.

This was no small tank of molasses. The tank stood over 50 feet tall. Estimates of its capacity range from 2.2 to 2.5 million gallons!

And we all know where this story is going. A sudden thunderous cracking sound was heard. The tank exploded and all the molasses began to flow down the city streets.

The actual wall of molasses was estimated to be from 15 - 30 feet high and moved at 25-35 miles per hour in the area around the tank. The depth was only (only?!!) several feet in the surrounding area. You could not outrun this thing.

There was no chance of saving anyone in its destructive path. Anyone that
attempted to go near the sticky goo got stuck in it themselves and could have been cooked alive. It could suck your boots right off your feet.

The flood killed twenty-one people and injured an additional 150. Some were suffocated, some cooked, and others were swept by the wave into the harbor. I guess you could say that these unfortunate people were molassessed to death. Not exactly how I wish to go. The wave also destroyed millions of dollars worth of property. Homes and warehouses were swept off their foundations and destroyed. Even part of the city's elevated train line was destroyed.

Once the flood stopped, cleanup began. They could not remove the trapped horses from the sticky mess, so they had to shoot them to death. Freshwater from the fire hydrants would not wash away the molasses, so salt water from the harbor had to be sprayed on the land.

It took over six months to remove the molasses from the cobblestone streets, theaters, businesses, automobiles, and homes. The Boston Harbor was also stained brown for six months (must have made for a beautiful photo opportunity).

Believe it or not, there were reports that the molasses would actually continue to creep out of the ground and cracks in the sidewalks for 30 years! Others claim that you can still smell traces of it on a very
hot day in the city.

So what happened to cause this mess? No one is really sure, but there are two theories: First, it was believed that the tank was overfilled due to the impended threat of prohibition. It cracked open due to the extra force.

An alternative explanation has to do with the weather that day. On the prior day, the temperature was only 2 degrees Fahrenheit above zero. On the day of the accident, it had quickly shot up to an unseasonably warm 40 degrees. Some believe that this caused rapid expansion of the molasses and overstressed the tank.

This accident is certainly one that will stick in the minds of Bostonians for many years to come.
The Smithsonian Magazine has an online article,
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