Bitters from Cinchona Succirubra Milled Powder


(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #1

I’ve moved this to the Alcohol category for reasons which will be obvious later today when I add my next entries. Working all day, so have to wait until I get home again.

I recently purchased Cinchona Succirubra milled powder from Only Bitters in Australia. This is cinchona bark in powdered form. Cinchona is the source of quinine. I ordered this a couple months ago and it finally arrive about a week ago. Today, I got around to my first experiment with extraction. This is the package:

See here for a previous discussion about bitter flavours. My initial intention ordering this stuff was to try to extract the quinine for medicinal use (ie COVID prophylaxis). However, it took so long to get here that I’m less interested in that and more interested simply extracting quinine for the bitter flavour. I will then use the extract to make ‘tonic soda’ and maybe add it to other concoctions for the bitterness, rather than medicinal uses.

So today was my first experiment at extraction.

  • 5 grams of powder
  • 250 grams of water

Brought the water/powder mix to a ‘near boil’ in a saucepan of boiling water. This took 30 minutes! I then turned the heat down to about ‘simmer’ for another 30 minutes. I had to add water a couple of times to the saucepan to top up. I ended with 200 ml of mix. Then removed from heat to allow the mix to cool sufficiently to start filtering it. Filtering is apparently the big challenge!

Here’s the mix cooling:


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#2

That sounds awfully complicated. Have you tried it yet? I am amazed that the bitter taste in the bitter drops I bought immediately cut off any need for a sweet taste on my tongue.


(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #3

@Chantarella It’s not particularly complicated but I’ve decided to abandon the ‘water extraction’ method in favour of ethanol extraction. The efficiency of extracting the quinine and related alkaloids is two orders of magnitude better. It’s also lots less work as I will explain later.


#4

If it works against carb cravings- then do it! I will stick to ordering online. :upside_down_face:


(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #5

11 June 2020

Further reading about quinine ‘syrup’ lead to the decision to try ethanol instead of water. Ethanol extracts quinine two orders of magnitude more efficiently than water! That is: you get 0.05 gr of quinine dissolved in 100 ml of boiled water; you get 125 gr dissolved in 100 ml of ethanol. So this is basically a no-brainer choice for extraction.

What I intend to do is buy a 750 ml bottle of something cheap (here in Canada that means cheapest of not-so-cheap), add 5 grams of cinchona powder, shake and let it settle out. First experiment, I’m not even going to attempt to filter it, just let the sludge settle to the bottom and pour carefully.

I expect this to result in a much greater concentration and bitterness. I’ll report back soon.

After a trip to my local BC Liquor Store, here’s the ethanol ‘solvent’:

PS: This was not cheap. It was $35, but I went for it to get the high octane, which I hope will extract the alkaloids more thoroughly.


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(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #6

The Mix Calculations

I want to be perfectly clear upfront. I am aware of the dangers of mixing one’s own tonic syrup for use in making tonic soda and other bitters. See here, for example (lots of links!), and here. First, the alkaloid content of the source is not precisely known only a range of possible values, so I am using the max values in my calculations. Second, it is not possible to determine exactly how much alkaloids are actually extracted, so I am presuming 100%. So my calculations give the max possible values for the concentration of alkaloids. Realistically, the actual concentration is less. Using 63% ethanol as the solvent, I hope to extract something approaching the calculated values.

Bottom line, from the second citation above: Cinchona bark seems to be safe for most people when used appropriately. However, in large amounts, cinchona is UNSAFE and can be deadly. Symptoms of overdose include ringing of the ears, headache, nausea, diarrhea, and vision disturbances. Cinchona can also cause bleeding and allergic reactions, including hives and fever.

So onward. From here:

I get these percentages in Only Bitters’ cinchona succirubra powder:

  • total alkaloids: 6-16%
  • total quinine: 4-14%

I intend to use 5 grams of powder as a start, the max alkaloid content per 5 grams are:

  • total alkaloids (16%): 0.8 grams
  • total quinine (14%): 0.7 grams

The Calculations Per here

1 gram in 1000 ml is 1000 ppm: 1 / 1000 = .001

0.8 gram in 750 ml is 1000 ppm: 0.8 / 750 = .001

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) limits the quinine content in tonic water to 83 ppm[3] (83 mg per liter if calculated by mass), while the daily therapeutic dose of quinine is in the range of 500–1000 mg,[4] and 10 mg/kg every eight hours for effective malaria prevention (2100 mg daily for a 70 kg adult).[5]

My initial dilution: 10:1 = concentration of 100 ppm, slightly more than commercial tonic soda but well within the safe range for alkaloid ingestion. And, keep in mind I’m using cinchona powder, not pure quinine which is what the safety regulations are based on. So I think I’m doing this safely.


(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #7

First Mix

Resulting mix in the bottle:

Note: the most complicated thing I had to do (aside from some simple math) was get the plastic diffuser off the top of the bottle. Doing so made it useless as a cap, so I replaced it with a plastic stopper that fits snugly enough to prevent accidental spills.


(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #8

First taste test

  • 10 ml of my mix
  • 100 ml of Perrier Lime Flavoured Carbonated water

Rather interesting to say the least. Not as bitter as I thought it would be, about the same as standard tonic water. Bitter is there, but more of an aftertaste rather than up front. Remember, this is not sweetened with anything, it’s just cinchona powder dissolved in rum. On the other hand, the rum taste is very up front. With the 10:1 dilution, water is the primary flavour. Even the lime is barely there. And the ethanol is unmistakably there. I guess you could call this a “Rum and Tonic” if there is such a thing. I don’t think adding gin would accomplish much other than increase the ethanol concentration. I will probably try with Tanqueray Flor de Sevilla since it doesn’t have much flavour of it’s own and that is mostly orange which I think will mix well with the rum flavours.

PS: Maybe the alkaloid extraction takes longer than about 24 hours. So I’ll be determining whether or not the bitter increases with longer extraction times over the course of the next several days.


(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #9

15 June 2020

Three days in and the mix has gotten slightly more bitter but not significantly so. It has also gotten slightly darker in colour. I used up the Perrier and started on a 2-liter bottle of plain club soda last night. This is very drinkable, noticeably bitter but much better tasting than Fernet Branca, for example, in my opinion. I’ve been giving the bottle of mix a good shake mornings and evenings, including inverting to break up the layer of sludge on the bottom of the bottle. If the bitterness remains the same for another day or two, I’ll stop doing this and let the sludge ‘firm up’ as much as possible on the bottom. I’ll post a photo later this AM to compare the colour with the photo in the previous post.

Posted 24 hours later, due to forums being down.


(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #10

17 June 2020

Hoping the forum stays up today. After I get home from work later, I’ll post some interesting observations about my current bitters experiment. Stay tuned.


(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #11

So the forum went down again and now it’s a day later for my observations.

First, a bit of background. My entire adult life until about a decade ago consisted of getting the flu or a ‘cold’ twice a year, once in the early fall and once again in mid-late spring. That is, when the weather turned. That pattern changed a bit when I passed 60 years old. Instead of getting sick only once in the fall, I’d get sick, then well, then after a while sick again. Maybe two or three times. Which gradually became getting sick off and on all winter until the following spring. Generally nothing serious, but a nuisance. This past October, the routine started again, however, about mid-late Feb my cough moved from my throat to my lungs. I could feel a bit of pain in my lungs when I coughed. To me that’s a sure sign of pneumonia, which I’ve had several times before and didn’t want to get it again. Plus, with the COVID scare starting I doubly did not want to get pneumonia. I had a used Vick’s Inhaler with camphor laying around, so I thought maybe the camphor would help prevent getting pneumonia. So I started breathing through the inhaler through my mouth, filling my lungs with the vapor. It worked! Within about 3 days the pain in my chest was gone and my cough went away. I got well!

As a COVID preventative I continued breathing through the inhaler, replacing it once a week or so as it wore out. I also started taking zinc supplements and tonic soda every day. Which led me to ordering the cinchona powder from Only Bitters. My winter colds/flu stopped! All of March, April and May I stayed well and was quite happy about that. Then I stopped the daily tonic soda and zinc supplements because I also experienced increased thirst and dry mouth and throat. I wanted to determine whether it was the zinc/tonic causing it. Turns out it was.

Anyway, I went for about two weeks without the zinc/tonic and almost immediately I fell ‘under attack’ from flu/cold again. The inhaler kept it at bay but only just. I did not get sick, but my throat was irritated, I had a lot of nasal mucous and generally felt enervated from fighting it off. Then I started my cinchona tonic experiment described here. Within a few days, I was back to full health again!

I’m trying to determine adequate dosages. I started taking 10 ml of my mix in 100 ml of soda 4 times per day. That dose stopped the incipient illness, but it also brought back the thirst, the dry mouth and throat. Once I was clear of whatever virus/bacteria was attacking, I reduced the dose to 2 times per day. That seems to be working to keep me healthy and has reduced most of the dryness of the heavier dose.

So I’m thinking now that for prophylaxis 2 x 10 ml per day, or possibly even 1 x during the summer months. And 4 x 10 ml per day as a therapeutic dosage.

I’m also going to increase the mix concentration by using 10 grams of powder for the next batch so I can reduce the overall amount of ethanol I’m consuming with my daily dose. The ethanol is noticeable and I’d prefer to get it down as low as I can. Also, the stuff is fairly expensive, so if I can get adequate dosage with less of it, so much the better.


Worst cold and cough since carnivore
(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #12

Got around to trying this and as I suspected it’s not worth the effort. The orange flavour actually clashes (surprisingly I find) with the bitters. So just more ethanol but crappier tasting. I’ll save the Tanqueray for plain club soda with a few drops of lemon juice.


(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #13

02 July 2020

A month into this experiment. I’m still well, although from time to time I’ve felt ‘under attack’. So I’ve mostly been dosing myself with 40ml daily. And zinc supplements. Occasionally, I’ve skipped a day without adverse effects. So if summer ever actually starts here in Vancouver, I’ll probably continue to dose every other day until fall.

Here’s what’s left of my original ethanol mix, about 150ml. The photo shows it immediately after I poured it out (very carefully!) from the Wray & Nephew bottle into a smaller ‘flask-style’ bottle. The sludge stuck very nicely to the bottom of the bottle, but I still poured through a coffee filter just to make sure little to nothing got through. Very clear and a nice colour, too.

PS: For my next mix, I’m going to double the cinchona powder so I can half the dose to reduce ethanol consumption.


(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #14

I should also mention that I’ve tried drinking the concoction in various mixes: Red Bull Sugarfree, Fresca, Bubly Grapefruit and Lime flavoured sodas, and plain soda with a squire of lemon juice. The taste is OK with pretty much all of them, but I’ve decided I don’t need aspartame so I’ll stick to plain and/or flavoured soda.


(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #15

02 July 2020

Second Mix

The max alkaloid content per 10 grams are:

  • total alkaloids (16%): 1.6 grams
  • total quinine (14%): 1.4 grams

The Calculations Per here

1 gram in 1000 ml is 1000 ppm: 1 / 1000 = .001
1.6 gram in 750 ml is 2000 ppm: 1.6 / 750 = .002


(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #16

17 July 2020

Two weeks on. This second mix seems to be working very well so far. I’ve dosed primarily 20ml in plain soda or Bubly once per day along with my zinc. Several days or maybe a week ago I again felt like I was ‘under attack’ so doubled the dose of tonic and zinc for about 4 days. That seems to have ended that nicely. Doubling the concentration was a good idea! I still have about 2/3 of the bottle left so that will get me through the rest of July and maybe a few days or a week into August. Also, I put a light on the bottom of the bottle in the photo to show the nice layer of sludge on the bottom. As a homebrewer, I really appreciate just how solid that layer of sludge is!


(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #17

12 Aug 2020

I duplicated mix #2 today for batch #3. I’ve still got some of mix #2 left and expect it will last another few days. So I decided to mix today to give the new batch time to extract as much quinine as possible before starting to use it. Still dosing 20ml per day along with my zinc supplements.


(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #18

25 Sep 2020

I duplicated mix #2 today for batch #4. I’ve still enough of mix #3 left to last another few days, maybe a week or 10 days. Again, I decided to mix today to give the new batch time to extract as much quinine as possible before starting to use it. Still dosing 20ml per day along with my zinc supplements.