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What is Maceration & How is it Different From Distillation?

maceration in alcohol free drinks

Hey, we’re CROSSIP. We make macerated non-alcoholic spirits so we know a thing or two about maceration.

People often ask us what macerated actually means so here’s our complete guide to maceration, from pressure cooking to steeping and blending.

What is maceration?

Macerate

mac·​er·​ate | \ ˈma-sə-ˌrāt  \

To cause to become soft or separated into constituent elements by or as if by steeping in fluid

Does that clear things up? No? Oh ok then, we’ll go into a bit more detail…

In terms of food preparation, maceration is a process that involves soaking (or steeping) raw agricultural ingredients in liquid, which softens them and draws out their natural juices. It is a technique that is used to enhance and extract the flavours of fruit but other ingredients can also be added to the mix, such as spices, herbs, roots/rhizomes and flavoured extracts.

Think of it like taking a soak in a bath. Only, instead of you taking on the scent of the fragrant bathwater, you’re the one that diffuses your flavours whilst your body goes all soft and flaccid…

How? Through the magic of osmosis!

How does maceration work?

Much like how we strive to create balance in our drinking habits, water also tries to reach a sort of equilibrium. This is why, when two bodies of water are connected via a semi-permeable cell membrane (e.g. the outer walls of fruit), H20 molecules will move from an area of higher concentration to an area of lower concentration. This is known as osmosis.

The molecules responsible for the scrumptious flavours of fruit can be drawn out as solutes (dissolved in liquid) through the process of osmosis. But first, these molecules must be persuaded to cross the cell membrane. Maceration achieves this through the introduction of fruit into a liquid with low water potential. In other words, a liquid with lots of dissolved solutes.

To put it simply, maceration works by soaking fruit in a liquid with a low water concentration. In order to reach equilibrium, the water flows through tiny gaps in the fruit walls and brings the flavour molecules along for the ride, since they’re small enough to pass through the cell membrane.

Creating unique flavours for CROSSIP 0% macerated spirits

By soaking multiple fruits together, the individual flavours combine to generate a delicious piquancy that is more than the sum of its parts. At CROSSIP, we use a mixture of natural botanical ingredients that are known for their health benefits whilst having the ability to impart exquisite flavour. All three of our signature 0% spirits contain a core base of eucalyptus, ginger, cayenne, gentian and glycerine.

The role of humectants

Many food and drinks brands use sugars, salt and alcohol in their soaking liquids to create a low water concentration. However, at CROSSIP we strive to create healthy, low calorie and 0% spirits. That’s why we use natural fruit juices and glycerine instead.

hibiscus being used for maceration of alcohol free drinks

The glycerine (or glycerol) we use is a natural compound derived from vegetable oils. It’s a clear, odourless and sweet liquid with a syrupy consistency. It’s also a humectant, meaning that it attracts water and supports the extraction of flavour molecules without having to douse fruit in a liquid containing loads of sugar, salt or alcohol.

Glycerine is sweet like regular sugar but is lower in calories and doesn’t support tooth decay or increase blood sugar levels. Whilst there are plenty of anecdotal health benefits related to the consumption of glycerine, including constipation relief and improved physical performance, these claims are yet to be fully supported by scientific research. Nevertheless, it’s much healthier than sugar!

It’s getting hot (and pressurised) in here

To aid extraction, we like to heat things up a little at The Steep (CROSSIP’s non-alcoholic alternative to a distillery). By using gentle heat and pressure on the raw natural ingredients, we’re able to squeeze out every last drop of flavour.

A teetotal maceration process

As mentioned earlier, alcohol is often used in food and drink production to extract flavour. This is because ethanol is a solvent and is a cheap and easy way to capture aroma compounds.

However, we’re a non-alcoholic brand so we understand that there are many benefits of drinking alcohol-free. We also wanted the ability to create elegant and refined non-alcoholic cocktails that could be enjoyed by everyone, no matter their age, belief or dietary requirements. Drinks that impart the same complex sensory experiences but without the use of alcohol at any stage in our production process.

hibiscus being used for maceration of alcohol free drinks

That is why we’ve had to find a way to work around the use of alcohol to extract flavours and after many hours of shutting himself away in a dark room, CROSSIP’s Founder Carl Anthony Brown perfected his unique 0% maceration technique to unlock deep layers of flavour steeped in sophistication.

Click here to learn more about how we maintain 0% throughout production.

These concoctions were then bottled up to create the CROSSIP 0% macerated spirits that we know and love today.

How does maceration differ from distillation?

We’re glad you asked!

Random fact: distillation stems from the ancient art of alchemy…pretty cool right? Whilst many alchemists were intent on turning lead into gold, others were more preoccupied with understanding the true nature of substances, leading them to the creation of a pot still (a contraption that captures vapours from a heated liquid). Pot stills are still used today in the distillation process.

Anyway, we digress! The main difference between maceration and distillation is that the latter is a method of transforming a low alcohol base into a liquid of higher alcohol concentration. This is done through heating a ferment and then capturing its alcoholic vapours (since alcoholic compounds evaporate at a lower temperature than water), which are then cooled until they condense back into a liquid.

On the other hand, maceration is where raw ingredients are steeped in a soaking liquid to extract flavour. Since our process emits the use of ethanol, the CROSSIP method of maceration is 100% alcohol-free. We then strain and blend the resulting elixir to create a smooth and delicious non-alcoholic spirit!

So there you have it. Here ends our complete guide to maceration. Hope it’s shed some light on the subject!

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