Cut Points? Foreshots? Heads and Tails? Feints?

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Cut Points? Foreshots? Heads and Tails? Feints?

Postby *MoonShine* » Sun Sep 24, 2006 5:27 pm

I read and its not soaking in.... Its like they wrote this for someone who already know how to distill. I dont understand anything about what they are saying about making cuts. Can anyone help?

Re: Cut Points? Foreshots? Heads and Tails? Feints?

Postby maze48 » Sun Sep 24, 2006 6:42 pm

*MoonShine* wrote:I read and its not soaking in.... Its like they wrote this for someone who already know how to distill. I dont understand anything about what they are saying about making cuts. Can anyone help?

I know how you feel. I must read somethings 3 or 4 times before they sink in.
The terms used can be confusing at first, because it depends on who is giving the info.
Foreshots and Heads are the same thing. This is when you take your first sampling of your product or "cut". This is NOT what you drink, it's got all kind of nasties in there. You start taking this first "cut" after your still has had time to stabalize at around 172 deg. F. and is steady at temp. Just do remember to calibrate your thermometer. To do that boil some water and check the temp, should be 212deg F. Keep checking the hooch with a alcohol hydrometer. The one that gives you the % of alcohol, and the scale will usually read from 0 to 100%. If you use this, after a while you can rely on your sense's. Now from that 1st sample let it run till you have collected about 1/2 pint, and use that to clean tools or throw that away. Now change jugs, this will be your 2nd "cut" and collect until the temp. starts to rise past about 180deg. F. That you have just collected is the good stuff. This is called the "heart" Once you see that temp rise to 180 change jugs. Now you are collecting the "Tails" or the "Feint" You keep collecting till maybe 190deg. F. Save this for your next run. The temps I have given you are what works for me. I know alot depends on your make-up of mash and the quality of your still. Don't give up, this hobby is very rewarding. :D
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Postby Shine Man » Sun Sep 24, 2006 8:37 pm

I agree with Maze48. Don't give up. If this were easy it would not be fun. Like he said, cuts depend on your wash (the fermented stuff you poured in your still) and the type and efficiency of your still. I run a reflux still with no packing in it. After my tower stabilises at or above 172 degrees I collect 125 ml if I have five gallons of wash and pour it in the Coleman lantern or clean the counters in the kitchen with it. Don't drink it, that's your heads. Next I collect 8 oz at a time in a quart mason jar. Each 8 oz I test to find out the percentage then add spring water to it until it gets to 40% that's 80 proof. Taste it. Keep doing this until you begin to notice sort of a twang or an off taste to it, when you do, that's when your next cut is. The rest of the distillate coming out is tails, save it in a jar and pour it in the next batch of wash that you run through your still. Its a learning experience, trial and error. My tails does not start coming in until about 200 degrees. Your temperature will gradually increase on its own as each 8 oz you collect will be a little weaker than the last. Let it run slow out of the still, sort of a fast drip. Remember you are trying to separate the ethanol from all the other junk in the still. The faster you run it the more junk you carry over into your final product. Keep your chin up and be bull headed about and it will come to you

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Postby theholymackerel » Sun Sep 24, 2006 8:39 pm

I'm talkin' 'bout a potstill here, and these are the terms I learned when younger. Many folks use different terms for the same thing, or stage of the run.

Charge a still with a fully fermented mash or wash. Start the heat to the still and bring it up to operatin' temp. Collect ALL distillate, makin' no cuts. Collect untill the abv% of the distillate drops to 10%. You should have about 1/3 the origional volume now.

You now have done a strippin' run. Huzzah!

Now you have an option: Do yer second run now, or ferment out and strip two more washes or mashes.

If ya do yer second run now ya get X amount of distillate from runnin' the still twice. If ya combine three stripped batches and run 'em the second time all together ya get 3X amount of distillate from runnin' the still four times. Huge savin's in overall time and energy by combinin' stripped runs, but we don't always have that luxury.

The Second Run: Here is where we do "cuts" and divide the run into foreshots, heads, body, and tails.

Charge and fire-up yer still. Adjust heat as to get a fast drip, or a tiny stream from yer condencer (I use a coil)[The stream should actually be tiny... size of a pencil lead or a bit smaller]. The first bit out of the coil should be run into a graduated cylinder, or measurin' cup (with ml graduations). Collect and discard 200 ml, or more, per 5 gallon wash or mash. This is foreshots. Foreshots are where most of the methanol, and bad nastys are.

So if ya combined three stripped 5 gallon rum washes into roughly 5 gallons again, and were discardin' foreshots, you'd wanna collect and discard AT LEAST 600ml. This is a pot still we're talkin' 'bout here.

Now yer collectin' heads. Heads often smell and taste sweetish. Heads are a mix of ethanol and the lighter alcohols. Collect and discard, or save yer heads. But this isn't yer drink... don't drink heads unless ya want a nasty splittin' headache and a sour stomach.

Next comes the body, and the body is what ya age/flavor/water down and bottle. The body is yer drink. Where ya make yer "cut" from head to body is based on the intended drink (whiskey, rum, brandy, etc) and upon the distillers sence of smell and taste. The distillers experience tells him or her where to make the cut.

Collect and save the body.

When the body is finished (up to the distillers experience) make the cut to tails. If this is all new to you and yer a new distiller... I suggest ya make the cut from body to tails when the output of the still drops to 50 or 45% abv.

Tails are usually (but not allways) low proof and watery... the still will start dischargin' the distillate slower and the nice tiny stream will change in appearance to a thicker stream that will eventually break apart into large watery drops. Tails from some stuff, like whiskey mashes, can be oily. Tails are most allways stinky, and become more nasty and stinky as ya get further into the tails.

Save or discard tails. I save 'em. It's probably silly of me, but I save tails 'till I have a full charge for my still, then I run it and mark it "tails XX". When I have a full charge for my still of tails XX I run it and collect till the overall collected amount of distillate is roughly 70% (140 proof) and I use it as fuel in a few alcohol stoves and I use it as a solvent.

A word about cuts: With experience yer nose and tongue will guide you. With enough experience no tastin' will be necessary... a good sniff will be all ya need usually. Also hydrometers are way better gauges of where ya are in a run than thermometers for a potstill.

I hope this was clear enough, and is able to help.

I wish ya luck.
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Postby *MoonShine* » Mon Sep 25, 2006 3:28 am

You made it where I can clearly understand.


Postby hornedrhodent » Mon Sep 25, 2006 4:49 am

Where do 'feints' fit into the picture?
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Postby Miraculix » Mon Sep 25, 2006 4:52 am

Feints = tails
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Postby Big J » Mon Sep 25, 2006 5:44 am

Feints can also mean the heads and tails together, that is, that which will be saved and re-distilled at a later date.

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Postby copperhead » Thu Sep 28, 2006 6:31 pm

well said holy i use a reflux but taste and smell is still the better way to make your cuts temp helps. but you still can't beat senses. and just my 2 cents but i think you learn more from doing stripping runs.I'm still new to this hobby to but i don't think i really new the driffernce in cut untill i started doing strippings runs i was more or less guessing.
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Postby markx » Fri Sep 29, 2006 12:04 am

I totally agree......taste and smell are way superior to temp reading. I only rely on temperature to tell me when the column has reached equilibrium. The cuts are done purely by smell and taste and I can tell you that the off smells can creep in way before the temperature changes a 10th of a degree. My first reflux distillation setup had no thermometer and I successfully operated it purely with the aid of my senses. So basically temperature readings should be regarded as a crude marker to tell you when column has reached nice equlibrium, when to start or stop collecting etc. But the fine tuning and cuts should be done by taste and smell.
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Re: Cut Points? Foreshots? Heads and Tails? Feints?

Postby Kiwi-lembic » Tue Jan 25, 2011 7:45 pm

great stuff
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Re: Cut Points? Foreshots? Heads and Tails? Feints?

Postby Usge » Sat Feb 12, 2011 11:42 am

Obviously, making cuts for vodka is going to be a lot different than making cuts for brandy. So, it's important to understand the relationship that heads/tails have to the middle no matter which style you are after. Once you know heads/tails (at both ends) you'll easily see how that relates to the middle regardless of what kind of still you are running. That's the first step in learning to make cuts (to know where everything is and how it relates to each other). Do a spirit run and save everything in equal/separate containers. If you line them all up in a row...smelll down the line.... you first cross the heads which have an acetone and sometimes buttery smell with a chemical bite/taste (think finger nail polish). Keep'll see that it starts to fade away...till it has little odor/taste at all. Then another odor/taste will start to fade "in". It's entirely different from the previous and easily recognizable once you've done it a few times. That's your tails. fores/heads fade "out" to the middle. Then tails fade "in" from the middle. Pot stills tend to smear all that linearly through the run. This is where all your flavors come from. The more reflux you add to tends to "compress" the impurities and leave a larger "middle....albeit with less flavor. By compress I mean...the heads still come out..only very concentrated/nasty and end more abruptly. Same for tails. There are as many variables to that (shades of grey) as there are stills and ways to operate them.

Since a pot still tends to smear everything makes it good for making flavored spirits where you can find a cut point anywhere along the line of just how much sweetness/heads you want...vs tails..etc. The faster you run it..the more it smears into the middle from both sides...(and even across!). You can even run your pot hard just smear one all the way "through" the other (ie., pulling tails early). Finding the "sweet spot" is a matter of finding the right "blend" of things...that give you the kind of flavors you want through your run. So, the art of cuts on a potstill is a bit different in this regard. It's not just finding "the middle". It's also about finding the right "blend" of things. So, what you are looking a little harder to find and a lot more subjective than it would be coming from a hard refluxing still.

The reflux still side of things works differently. There are different methods/designs of how they reflux...but regards to tends to extract E02 at higher purity (less flavor) and compress the cut points more leaving a larger, more distinct, somewhat more homogenous middle. It makes your cut more clear..but somewhat more decided for you. The more reflux you use...the more the cut points become black and opposed to grey. And the more homogenous your middle becomes . In other leaves a wider middle, that is somewhat more the opposed to a linearly smeared middle that fades more of the flavors of both heads and tails through it. They can be run within a range as, detuned with no packing, output wide open..refluxing less than it would otherwise. Then, there are hybrids...which try to get the best of both worlds....which have their own trade-offs, etc. sometimes succeeding to various degrees, and sometimes reaching neither.

But, it's all ultimately a matter of personal taste. I would be remiss to not mention the other variables as well that go into, recipe/mash/wash, fermentation, yeast, etc.
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Re: Cut Points? Foreshots? Heads and Tails? Feints?

Postby Kiwi-lembic » Sat Feb 12, 2011 1:12 pm

Uage thats an excellent easy to understand explanation ..well done Kiwi-L
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Re: Cut Points? Foreshots? Heads and Tails? Feints?

Postby Usge » Sat Feb 12, 2011 1:29 pm

btw...if you are more visually oriented....kiwistiller has some great graphs/charts he made in his excellent readme/stickie on doing cuts in the novice forum (at a stickie).

If for some reason you haven't read that yet...I'd suggest you'll find a lot more detailed information there.
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Re: Cut Points? Foreshots? Heads and Tails? Feints?

Postby djamesnz » Fri Apr 08, 2011 10:56 pm

This is all great stuff for a total newbie like me.

I just finished my second run, discarding the foreshots (100ml) and split my distillate into approx 500ml jars.
After leaving them for a day the differences are quite clear.
My first 2 are rather sweet smelling, 3-6 pretty neutral with 7 and 8 being a bit sharp on the nose. Jar 9 was like a kick in head! I remember reading a smell described as "wet cardboard", well that described it perfectly. I kept on running and got another 1.5L to go back in my next wash along with jar 9.

This is such a steep learning curve, but its great.

Thanks to all the "pros" for the great posts. I spend more time on this site at night than I do talking to my partner...much to her disgust.. I keep reminding her that the payoff is good, cheap grog. Seems to work :D
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