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Alkalizing Snuff?

doctorbeatdoctorbeat Member
edited November 2011 in General
No, I'm not trying to turbo charge commercial snuff in an attempt to get the ultimate nicotine buzz!

If I buy some whole tobacco leaf to make into snuff, should I add alkaline ingredients to the basic flour?
I've heard baking soda can be used, but from what I gather, commercial manufacturers use other compounds.

Can someone give me a brief alkalizing 101?


  • howdydavehowdydave Member
    edited November 2011 PM
    Deleted post since I obviously don't know what I'm talking about!
  • @ doctorbead: To alkalise tobacco you can use products like potash and salmiak. The amounts differ, 1% to 3% is used in different proportions.
    Disolve these products in water, about 10 - 15% of the amount tobacco used. In warm surroundings the mixture will start to ferment. To stop this fermentation add about 10 - 20% kitchen salt.
    Good luck wih your experiments.

    Jaap Bes.
  • WhalenWhalen Member
    edited November 2011 PM
    There you go, he should know! That is exactly what I do. Very concise. Thank you so much for sharing that.
  • Thanks guys, that's exactly what I wanted to know.
    I happen to have some potash already (I make black powder occasionally) so that's ideal.
    So does the alkalizing process bring about the fermentation then?
  • Wait, I just reread your post @snuffmiller- surely you don't mean 10-20% by weight of salt?

    Is the fermentation a desirable thing, or is it best to stop it dead in its tracks?
  • WhalenWhalen Member
    edited November 2011 PM
    Ok, now it gets complex! No keep water 10 to 15 %. Keep salt at 1/2 to 1 %. Fermentation occurs while moistened with PH solution at WARM temps. This develops complexity in the tobacco taste, and enhances nicotine uptake. The byproducts of fermentation can be undesirable TSNA's. You want some, not too much fermentation. This is where it becomes an art form as much as a process.

    I grind whole leaf, using water to dissolve small amount sodium carbonate, set it aside in a warm place. Check it daily. Add small amount of salt and begin some aging at cooler temps. This makes snuff. Screw it up enough times and you begin to learn to make good snuff. Make great snuff every day and you become snuffmiller!

    @snuffmiller- If the 10 to 20% salt is correct then please advise! I never add that much. Do a search for snuffgrinders blogs.
  • @doctorbeat- Remember a lot of great snuffs are made with tobacco taken from the heart of large bales where natural fermentation has occurred with age/shipping. That is hard to duplicate with whole leaf. I would give anything to have a large amount of tobacco to select from, nothing like the center of a five hundred pound hogshead of year old tobacco. I spent a day at a storage warehouse and have never forgot watching it being sorted out.
  • Baleheart snuff!
  • @Whalen: right, got it.

    Why don't you try bagging it really well and bury it in a fermenting compost heap?
  • @doctorbeat - very same principal, although you would not want any outside microbes from the "heap". I think you really are on to a process, I have a huge heap around the corner that is steaming away. My luck someone would find it right away, but now you have me thinking! Brilliant idea actually, you could not ask for better conditions to ferment the raw snuff in.
  • Couldn't you use an egg incubator and avoid the inherent problems (blech!) of the heap? I would think that would keep the tobacco warm but not cooking.
  • doctorbeatdoctorbeat Member
    edited November 2011 PM
    @whalen: well I guessed that a large bale of tobacco that was naturally fermenting would basically be a compost heap of tobacco.
    I'm sure it wouldn't be too difficult to isolate the tobacco from the compost, maybe double bag it tightly and put it in a sealed mason jar?
    I take it the fermentation process is anaerobic?

    Is there any other alkalyzing agent I could use?
    I just found out that potash isn't what I thought it was (potassium nitrate, I got confused with salt of potash, or saltpeter) and I am having trouble finding washing soda (sodium carbonate)
    Would slaked lime (calcium carbonate) work?
    What about the original idea of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate, or more correctly, sodium hydrogen carbonate)?
  • @doctorbeat - Potash should be potassium carbonate. I use sodium carbonate, washing soda, since it is an approved additive for snus also. I stay away from baking soda, since that would just be too damn easy! Actually I believe it is not the best to use. Slaked lime is pretty high PH and should be used with caution. I spent quite some time researching all of this one time and wanted Potash, settled for Sodium Carbonate. The trick is that all of these agents have different PH levels and will need to be adjusted accordingly, and slaked lime can just fry sensitive nasal tissue. So please get some further input on this other than my word, there is good reason to use the right product. I have forgotten more than I have retained, and today is not a good day for me to revisit. Sorry for that, I have some emergency work that just jumped up and bit me on the butt.
  • doctorbeatdoctorbeat Member
    edited November 2011 PM
    Yes, The stuff I have is potassium nitrate, most often called 'saltpeter' but sometimes called 'salt of potash', which is how I got it confused with 'potash'.
    I also got calcium carbonate wrong, it's not the same thing as slaked lime, slaked lime is sodium hydroxide.
    Confound these archaic names!

    It seems to me like you know what you're talking about, so I'll continue the quest for washing soda.
    So far I have tried three drugstores and one supermarket with no luck, but when I do manage to find some, one box will be several lifetime's supply :o)
  • @doctorbeat & whalen: The 10-20% kitchensalt is used to kill the microorganisms and stop the fermentation. Making snuff is still as in the old days: experimenting with fermentation. Indeed things as humidity, temperature, pH, available nutrients (sugar, melasse syrup), available microorganisms (addition of wine lees), availability of oxygen will influence the outcome.
    We are now in the last phase of experimenting (nearly two years now) with "Karotten" to produce the historical St. Omer No. 1.

    Jaap Bes.
  • doctorbeatdoctorbeat Member
    edited November 2011 PM
    I bet that St. Omer No. 1 is going to be some special snuff.

    So just to be sure, do you mean 10%-20% dry weight of salt?
    As in if you had 100g of snuff, you'd add 10-20g of salt?
  • JuxtaposerJuxtaposer Member
    edited November 2011 PM
    Normally fermentation does require oxygen however there is an anaerobic aging that pipe smokers have known about for years. I have not been able to find out any details about anaerobic aging of tobacco as of yet. None of the blenders of pipe tobacco that I know use this process. It is just something that pipe tobacco cellar enthusiasts have discovered as effective. Great thread by the way. If I may suggest @doctorbeat you may be interested in using snus recipe times and temperatures to create a Rappee like snuff (ie. SG KB). I have done so using plain Scotch snuff (Bruton) with excellent results.
  • A rappee is an excellent idea.
    I don't know much about snus, so it didn't occur to me to try snus recipes.
    Time to do some research...
  • Just remember that the American Scotch snuffs already have salts (alkalizers) in them.
  • Here is a priceless video regarding making an easy karrotten for those of you with whole tobacco leaves. An alkalizing agent as well as other casings could easily be spayed on the leaves instead of plain water.
  • Cool video, I like the idea of making a few carrotes and grating them, just like they did when snuff first came to Europe.

    Are the American scotches so, er, composty because they are fermented longer than English types?
  • Are the American scotches so, er, composty because they are fermented longer than English types?
    That may be an accurate conclusion, I can't say, but there IS an obvious difference in the alkalizers used which would definitely support this theory.
  • Judging by the way oral tobacco is made here, it follows that prolonged fermentation might well have a lot to do with it as well.
  • I'm fascinated by that video. It makes me want to order leaves and have a go at it.
  • @doctorbeat: exactly. The people in the video need some practice! Here we do it slightly different.
    Attached som pictures.

    Jaap Bes.
  • @snuffmiller I wonder what knot he uses on the end to keep it from being all funky like the one in the video.

    Enquiring minds want to know.
  • @Dogwalla: The end of the cloth is fitted between the end of the double folded rope and then you start to turn and pull. I hope this is clear. If not I'll take a picture.

    Jaap Bes.
  • JuxtaposerJuxtaposer Member
    edited November 2011 PM
    I use half hitches, one to start and one on each end. I start in the middle, half hitch on end, move back across to middle then tie off. I have only done it once though lol. I did use a tension line for added tightness. I have me a nice `coyote tobacco rum cased prik and I am forced to age it because I am obligated by safety to sprout the seeds from the plant to be sure it actually IS tobacco before I use it.
  • I have more questions :oD

    Is alkalyzing common amongst British snuff manufacturers?

    I always thought that ammonia stink when you open a can was from the alkalyzing process, but obviously this is not true, because Toque has no additives and still has the ammonia smell.
    So, which snuffs are likely to be alkalysed, and which are not?

    What causes the ammonia? Is it brought about by fermentation under special storage conditions after the snuff is milled and flavored?
    Does this natural ammonia alkalyse the snuff and freebase the nicotine?

    Were alkaline ingredients historically added to snuff?
  • The ammonia is a natural byproduct of tobacco aging/fermentation. It is not an additive. And yes it does have some effect on the PH level, although how much I can not be sure of.

    You have to remember that raw green tobacco is unusable for all practical purposes. It has to undergo curing, which is a natural process, that can and may be augmented. This is all to develop the natural flavor of the tobacco, and yes to make it slightly higher in PH.

    I believe you are confused about Toque, they use natural additives for flavor, but the underlying snuff base tobacco is processed in some manner.

    You do know that what twisted information I have here was hard earned. There are very knowledgeable people who know the answers, but the processes for many are trade secrets. Go look at the resources on this site:

    Then you and I together can help each other piece it together. I have been blessed by being given some important information from knowledgeable people, and I can not give it out, and it is only a fraction of what you need to know. I have been at this for years now. It is a great deal trial and error.

    I for one am grateful as can be for snuffmillers input. The rappee snuff technique has me hoping for the best commercial
    results. Jap's efforts to continue the art of snuff making are priceless, please buy his snuff, I do.
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