How To: Tomato Paste Wash

A simple recipe for neutral spirits.
1.       Description
Tomato Paste Wash (TPW), also known as ‘Birdwatchers’ is a basic sugar wash designed for home distillers. A sugar wash typically contains sugar, water, and yeast as its primary ingredients. TPW also includes yeast nutrients (tomato paste, epsom salts) and citric acid (for inverting sugars and adjusting PH). Because of its simplicity and the availability of its ingredients, TPW is one of the easiest and most common recipes for beginners.

More importantly, TPW is very forgiving with ingredient measurements, water hardness, yeast tolerances, and other variables that beginners often miss. It yields a comparatively large amount of neutral spirit with no off-flavors. This flavorless neutral spirit can be used in a variety of applications. These include, but are not limited to: hand sanitizer, vodka, gin, and liqueurs like lemoncello.

Because of these attributes, beginners and traditional distillers utilize this recipe time and time again.

1.1       Origin

The original recipe can be traced to a 2007 forum post at (

The original owner’s recipe, instructions, and recipe calculator can be found at (

2.         Recipe


Per Gallon

Per Liter

5 Gallon (19L) Bucket

6 Gallon (23L) Carboy


1.88lb (0.85kg)

0.5lb (0.23kg)

9.42lb (4.28kg)

11.41lb (5.18kg)

Baker’s Yeast

0.38oz (11g)

0.1oz (3g)

1.88oz (53g)

2.28oz (65g)

Tomato Paste

1.31oz (37g)

0.35oz (10g)

6.58oz (187g)

7.97oz (226g)

Epsom Salts

0.02tsp (0.09ml)

0.01tsp (0.04ml)

0.12tsp (0.59ml)

0.14tsp (0.69ml)

Citric Acid

0.02oz (0.71g)

0.001oz (0.19g)

0.12oz (3.56g)

0.15oz (4.31g)

A note about fine measurements:

These quantities are calculated to the hundredth decimal, but that doesn’t mean you need to be as precise. When dealing with a fraction of a gram, teaspoon, or ounce, it’s perfectly acceptable to round up or down, and if you can’t measure the smallest amounts, a pinch of the ingredient is fine.

2.1       Equipment

You will require the following:.

  • A stove, or hot plate.
  • Boiler, stock pot, or other large vessel to heat water.
  • Large spoon or something to stir with.
  • Fermentation vessel with airlock.
  • Pot or Reflux Still.
  • Hydrometer.
  • Kitchen scale.
  • PH Meter (optional).
  • Ensure your equipment is sterile to prevent contamination of the fermentation.

2.2       Procedure

  • Measure and prepare the water for your fermentation. You will require slightly less than the fermentation vessel size to allow proper headroom.
  • For an effective fermentation, the water must be clear of municipal water disinfectants. Many of these chemicals (including chlorine) can boiled off. In most cases, the chlorine in municipal water can be evaporated by letting the water air out for several days. For persistent odors and harder to remove compounds such as chloramine, a charcoal filter, campden tablets, or products outside the scope of this guide may be required.
  • Heat up about half of the total water in a large stock pot or equivalent. Pour in the sugar and dissolve to make a simple syrup.
    • Note: Sugar will dissolve in any temperature, but heating the water will make this process faster.
  • Add this syrup and the other half of the remaining water to your fermentation vessel.
  • Measure the specific gravity (SG) of this solution with your hydrometer. You are aiming for an SG of 1.060 to 1.090. If the SG isn’t high enough, you can create and add more simple syrup. Record this value for future reference.
  • Stir in the tomato paste to completely dissolve it. Ensure there are no clumps.
  • Add the citric acid to the solution.
    • Optional: Measure the PH of the solution and adjust (by adding small amounts) for a value between 4 and 5.
  • Wait until the solution has cooled and is between 26ºC (79ºF) and 30ºC (86ºF).
  • Add your yeast by sprinkling across the top of the solution. Do not stir the yeast in as any sudden temperature changes will create unnecessary stress on the yeast.
    • Note: Under-pitching (not having enough yeast) is fine, but things will take longer and open the fermentation to potential infection during the beginning.
  • Seal the fermentation vessel and attach an airlock.
  • Measure the SG after 5-14 days. You are looking for a value of 0.990. You may have to wait until the airlock completely stops bubbling. Record this value for future reference.

A note about bubbling:

Dissolved gases, such as CO2, can continue to be released after fermentation. This may lead you to believe the fermentation is still active, when it is not.

  • Allow the solution to cool for a few days to allow the solids to settle at the bottom. You may crash-cool the wash, or apply a clearing agent to speed up this process.
  • Rack from the fermentation vessel to your boiler, leaving the yeast cake in the fermentation vessel.
    • This is necessary to avoid scorching of solids during distillation. However, for most immersion elements a cloudy wash (absent any large solids) is acceptable.

2.3       Deviations      

  • Tomato paste as a yeast nutrient is not a superior replacement to Diammonium Phosphate (DAP), although it can be found cheaper at the local grocery store.
  • Baker’s yeast is often used in this recipe for its cost and availability, but any distiller’s yeast will do. EC1118 is often favored for its high (18%abv) yield.
  • Citric acid can be substituted with lime juice, lemon juice or almost anything acidic. This will require closer monitoring of the PH to get a correct value.
    • Lemon juice can be substituted for citric acid at a ratio of 1.61floz to 1g.
  • Tomato paste as a yeast nutrient can be substituted with cereals, brans, and wheat germ, but not in the same quantity.

2.4       Expected Yields

Assuming the SG started at 1.070 and finished at 0.990, the wash would be approximately 10.32% alcohol-by-volume, and would yield the following:

Per 5 Gallon (19L) Bucket

Per 6 Gallon (23L) Carboy

Per 15 Gallon (57L) Wash

Per 23 Gallon (87L) Wash

 Total yield of 100% alcohol-by-volume (abv):

0.52 Gal (1.96L)

0.62 Gal (2.37L)

1.55 Gal (5.88L)

2.37 Gal (8.98L)

 Hearts cut (40% of total yield), and further diluted to drinking strength (45% abv):

0.46 Gal (1.74L)

0.56 Gal (2.108L)

1.38 Gal (5.23L)

2.11 Gal (7.99L)

These are approximate values. Your yields will vary depending on your fermentation, distillation, hearts cut, and so on.

2.5       Visual Aids

Before pitching yeast



Ingredients are dissolved in the solution. A natural separation of ingredients by density may occur. Shown here, the tomato paste and water is on the top, and the sugar syrup is on the bottom. No yeast is present.

During peak fermentation, a foamy, rocky head of yeast develops which is called a Krausen. This is an indication of a healthy fermentation.

Early Fermentation

Active Fermentation


Some movement of yeast is visible and the airlock begins bubbling.

The yeast is very active. The airlock is bubbling consistently and the Krausen is visible.

The Krausen has almost entirely disappeared. Most of the solids have settled into a yeast cake on the bottom. There is little to no movement.

3.         Distillation

Is there methanol?

TPW is primarily a sugar wash. In a sugar wash, no methanol is produced.

  • TPW is best distilled in a reflux column, or by multiple pot distillations. The general procedure for producing a neutral spirit can be used.
  • Please refer to the "How To: Distillation" article for this process.

4.        Applications

.A quick search online will show there are countless recipes involving neutral spirits. Here are some all-time favourites:

Faux Amaretto


  • 2 Cups (500ml) 45%abv neutral
  • 1 Cup (250ml) water
  • 1 Cup (250ml) dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 Cup (125ml) white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp (30ml) almond extract
  • 2 Tsp (10ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 Peach, sliced and pitted. (optional)


Heat the water first and add both sugars, stirring until they are dissolved. Add both extracts.

Wait until the solution is cool to touch and add the neutral spirit.

Optional: Add the sliced and pitted peach to the completed mixture. This adds a complementary flavour.



  • 2 1/2 Cups (750ml) 50%abv neutral
  • 2 1/2 (750ml) Cups water
  • 2 Cups (500ml) white sugar
  • Zest of 8 lemons


Add the zest to the neutral and let steep for at least 45 days. Filter out the zest with coffee filters, or a fine sieve.

Heat the water and add the sugar, stirring until it is dissolved.

Wait for the solution to cool, and add it to the spirit.

Note: Care must be taken to avoid zesting any white pith of the lemon. Adding even the smallest amount of white pith will add a bitter flavour to the spirit.

Hand Sanitizer


  • 1 Cup (250ml) 96%abv neutral
  • 1 Tbsp (15ml) hydrogen peroxide
  • 1 Tsp (5ml) glycerol
  • 1/3 Cup (80ml) water


Combine all ingredients. 

Note: The water is used to dilute to approximately 70%abv. A solution of 60%abv is the minimum requirement for hand sanitizer use.




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