The Great Limoncello Filter Debate
I've been interested in making some of my own limoncello for a while now, and have been combing Chowhound for info for the past few days. I feel like I have a pretty good idea of what I'll be doing for everything except for the initial filtering of the 151-proof Everclear (prior to infusing the lemon zest).
Filtering seems to be somewhat contentious around here; some users (most notably the proprietor of limoncelloquest.com) swear forwards and backwards that filtering the liquor in advance leads to noticeably smoother / mellower results. Others insist that filtering is redundant because the liquor is a neutral grain spirit in the first place.
Assuming I go with the first camp, there's also the matter of HOW to filter the alcohol safely. Brita is often mentioned, but the concerns I've seen raised about using Brita's plastic containers and filters with such high-proof liquor appear sound. I assume the most reasonable alternative would be food-grade activated charcoal, but there doesn't appear to be much discussion of the stuff on this board, and I have no idea where I'd begin looking for it (much less the valid way to use it).
Does anyone have any concrete information as to whether or not filtering is worthwhile? And if it is, do you have any recommendations for the filtering process?
As a professional distiller I say filtering is nonsense. As would anyone in the field.
As for limoncelloquest.com I can find no info that this is a professional lemoncello producer. Just someone who is an avid amateur.
No concrete information (I don't filter when I make mine) but that said . . .
If you really wanted to filter but were concerned about using the plastic - you could also break open the Brita filter to get the charcoal out, sourcing issue solved. Put the charcoal in a coffee filter and filter away.
You can definitely skip filtering the limocello, unless you have random zest particles floating after you take them out. If you make something like liquore di cioccolato with cocoa, you definitely need to filter 2X to get all the cocoa out, however. The contrast in the fine texture of cocoa and the coarse slices of zest makes quite a difference in the need for this. And I just use unbleached coffee filters for that, not Brita.
My recipe came from an Italian colleague's grandmother -- the traditional recipe from their family (it's roughly the same as all the others).
She doesn't recommend filtering the alcohol. I use high-proof white rum (she didn't specify -- just 40%/80proof).