uncle jesse's simple sour mash method

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uncle jesse's simple sour mash method

Post by Uncle Jesse » Mon Feb 28, 2005 2:47 pm

Moderator edit: This is an edited (condensed) version of this recipe. The original version which is available as a normal discussion thread can be found here - http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=725 .


i'd appreciate any comments on this, especially ways in which i need to simplify things or explain things more clearly.

http://wiki.homedistiller.org/Uncle_Jes ... ash_Method



This method was originally taken from J.W. Walstad's book Simple Sour Mash to Simple Alcohol Fuel! and has been modified according to my experiences.

This method is the most inexpensive I have found for producing Corn Whiskey. It is perfect for beginners because it does not rely on skill for mashing and does not require any cooking which greatly reduces the hassles and expenses.

I used this method for years until I mastered the processes involved in creating a quality sour mash whiskey, at which point I moved on to cooked mashes and more advanced efforts.


Ingredients

For a 5 gallon mash: (~19 liters)
5 gallons soft, filtered water.
7 lbs (3.2kg) cracked corn. 6-8 pieces/kernel is the proper crack. If using bird feed, make sure it is perishable, or in other words is free of preservatives.
7 lbs (3.2kg) of granulated sugar.
1 tbsp yeast (distillers yeast if available.)


Theory

Unlike a cooked mash, a simple mash does not rely on grains for starch. The corn is included for a bit of alcohol, but mainly for flavor while the sugar provides the alcohol. The conversion of starches to sugars is a natural process, accelerated by cooking. An uncooked mash will convert starches to sugars but much more slowly and less efficiently. Your added sugar will ferment rather easily and will provide most of the alcohol in your beer.

Your first distillation run will be a "sweet" run since you will not have any backset to use for sour mashing. I recommend using the spirits you collect in your first run as feints for the next run. Yes, all of them. Your second run will produce your first batch of sour mash, which will be good, but in truth the flavour and consistency will not start to reach their peak until the third or fourth run in my experience.

Practice, practice, practice!


First Fermentation

Put your ingredients into the fermenter in the order listed and close it. You should start to see fermentation of the sugar within 12 hours. It should take 3 or 4 days for the ebullition to end. Siphon your beer out of the fermenter with a racking cane and charge your still.

Siphoning is the best method because it allows you to pull the beer off the top of your lees, leaving them undisturbed. You do not want suspended solids in your still and this method works quite well in keeping the lees at the bottom of your fermenter.

At this point you need to make your first decision. How much backset will you use in your subsequent mashes? The legal minimum for a sour mash is 25%. I do not like to go above 50% in my experience. For the sake of simplicity, let's say you will start with 25% backset. This means that for a 5 gallon mash you will use 1-1/4 gallons (~4.75 liters) of backset and 3-3/4 gallons (~14.25 liters) of water.

Since you will be running your still for hours, you do not want to leave the fermenter empty. Put your 3-3/4 gallons of water back into the fermenter so your yeast won't die while you distill. While you're at it, this is a perfect time to scoop the spent corn off the top and replace with an equal volume of newly cracked corn. Later we'll add the 1-1/4 gallons of backset and 7 more pounds of granulated sugar.


Basics of Pot Distillation

There are two basic types of pot distillation:

The first involves a traditional pot still, which has no cooling in the neck or column. The distillate produced is lower in proof than that produced by a reflux still with a fractionating or splitting column. This is the traditional method of distillation and requires multiple runs. The distiller will save up enough low wines from the first runs or stripping runs to fill the still for a second run. If a triple distillation is desired, the product from second distillations are collected until enough spirit is saved to fill the still for the third spirit run, and so on.

The second type of pot distillation is performed in a reflux still equipped such that the column can be cooled during distillation. This type of still is far more efficient and can produce a high proof, high quality spirit in a single run.


First Run

Pot distill your wash, being careful to keep things running slowly. For beginners, 2-3 drops of distillate exiting the worm every second is just about the perfect speed. As you collect, periodically put 4-5 drops of distillate into a spoon with an equal amount of water and sip it. You will learn to identify the off-taste of the heads very quickly.

For your first run it is best to take very conservative cuts. I recommend very generic whiskey cuts, say 80% down to 70%. As your skills improve you will be able to go deeper into your cuts, tasting periodically for the off-taste of the tails. Once you learn to identify the off-tastes of the heads and tails you will be able to make proper cuts without the use of a hydrometer, a big step toward becoming a competent distiller.

By law any spirits collected above 80% cannot be called whiskey because they are considered too "light" or neutral. In other words, they are too high in proof and thus do not properly imbue the spirit with the flavour of the grain mash. I use anything collected above 80% as feints for the next run. For more information on the legal definitions for whiskies and other spirits check out Title 27 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations.

Remember to discard the first 150ml or 5 fluid ounces collected so you don't get any methanol build up over time and batches.


Second Fermentation

Your fermenter should now contain 3-3/4 gallons of water, your old yeast (barm) and your old corn.

Take 1-1/4 gallons of backset from your previous distillation and add to it another 7 pounds of granulated sugar. This will dissolve the sugar rather easily. Hot backset directly from the still works better at dissolving sugar, but adding hot backset to your fermenter will kill your yeast, so allow the backset to cool if you use this method.

Next, add this mixture of sugar and cooled backset to your fermenter, which already contains 3-3/4 gallons of water. This will bring your total beer volume back to 5 gallons.

Now is the time to make sure you have removed and replaced any spent corn kernels, which float to the top of the fermenter. You only need to do this if you plan on a continual ferment, that is, past 7 or 8 fermentations at which point your corn would otherwise be expended.

Cover the fermenter and let it ferment for another 3-4 days or until the ebullition ends.

Congratulations, if you have done everything properly you are now ready to run your first sour mash!


Second Run

Siphon off your beer and charge your still. Again, replace 3-3/4 gallons of water into your fermenter so your yeast doesn't die while you distill.

Distill your whiskey in the same manner you did during your first run, being conservative with your cuts until you gain more skill. Anything collected under 80% ABV on this run is considered a Sour Mash whiskey. Congratulations! This spirit is a palatable moonshine when collected directly out of the still.

Collect your run down to your stopping point. Again, I recommend 70% ABV for beginners, perhaps a few degrees into the 60's if you are bold. Save all of the spirit run as good sippin' whiskey.

Most moonshiners keep running their stills long after they are finished with the spirit run, collecting down to about 20% ABV before stopping. Together, the heads and tails are reused as feints. I do not normally go as low as 20%, you'll have to find your comfort zone. If you start to get blue or green flecks in your spirit, you've gone too far or run things too hot.


Repeat the Process

After your run, collect 1-1/4 gallons of backset to return to the fermenter for your next batch. Repeat the process starting at the Second Fermentation.

You are now producing a simple sour mash whiskey and with practice you will be able to produce a very high quality moonshine. Age this whiskey in an uncharred oak barrel to produce a traditional Tennessee-style whiskey.


Safety first, Duke boys. Have fun!



So, for 40l wash. Recipe goes like this.

7kg cracked feed corn,
7kg raw or white sugar (I like raw)
Dissolve sugar in hot water, then add enough cold water to make 40 l total.


Strip in potstill discarding 100ml of foreshots down to 20%. Save the strip. While the drum is empty, scrape off 1/3rd of a bucket of corn and add 1/3rd of a bucket of new corn.
Add some water (20l or so) to the yeast bed so you don’t burn the yeast next step.

Use 10l of hot slops (backset from the still run) to dissolve 7 more kg of sugar, stir it up and add to the drum. Add water to bring it up to the level it was before.

Watch it ferment and strip again and again.

When you have 40l of strip saved up, do a slow spirit run in the potstill making careful cuts. Age it on toasted oak sticks.

_
Last edited by Uncle Jesse on Tue Sep 13, 2005 9:40 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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distillation

Post by Uncle Jesse » Mon Mar 07, 2005 9:09 am

i do single runs through a fractionating column, which is why i can get over 80% on a single run. i didn't make this point clearly enough, but if you single pot distill, your product will not come off impressively strong in proof and you'll need to save up low wines for a 2nd run. i've done this before and i like it, but it's more time consuming.

i use a ten gallon still so i save up 10 gallons of low wines over 3-4 runs and then run them. it takes a long time but you get a lot of product. the most i ever got out of one 10 gallon run was almost 3 gallons of spirit.

i try to get 8-10% in my mash...the book says go for 15%. i don't measure all that closely, but in this case the higher you can go the better up to about 15%.
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Post by Uncle Jesse » Mon Mar 07, 2005 9:47 am

Anonymous wrote: I also do my first run fast and dirty and collect until product is coming out of the still around 25% I don't bother discarding the foreshots until my second run.
My second run is usually quite a bit slower and I toss the first 200ml as foreshots, Then I collect in smaller containers until the spirit is coming out at about 40%. Then I speed it up a little bit and collect the tails into a gallon jug until it is coming out at 20%. I save the tails from all my runs until I have enough for an all-tails run, and I collect that down to 40% and toss what is left over.
this is a nice description of a typical, traditional moonshiners method and it will serve anyone well to try it.
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more info

Post by Uncle Jesse » Wed Mar 09, 2005 11:57 am

I'm glad you asked.

This process is continual. You'll have to distill many times a month..I was doing it 2-3x a week when I had it rolling. How do you stop a mash for the time being?

When you drain off your beer, fill the fermenter with cold, clean water. No backset, no sugar, no yeast. Let it sit this way and it will last - I'm not sure how long - but I've let it go a week and had no problems. To reactivate, rinse your grains clean, add more yeast, sugar and your water/backset mixture.

I normally save backset so I can do a sour mash. I put it into a Connie keg and put it into the beer fridge.

Also, another tip for those of you who have decided to read this far - corn silos have a lot of weight which pushes down and crushes some of the corn. As this happens a syrupy juice is created when has traditionally been removed and used to make...corn squeezin's! so there ya have it.
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Post by Virginia Gentleman » Tue Jul 26, 2005 1:02 am

So on a second fermentation of a sour mash, there's no reliable way to get an S.G. reading, right, you just go by what the ingredients should yield?

There's already yeast in the mash from the first fermentation, and lots of particles floating in it from corn and yeast so I would think that would throw the hydrometer off. I did a second fermentation the other night and the S.G. reading was way off, it read about 6% potential alc. for 7 lbs. sugar, 7 lbs. corn, 2.5 gal water, 2 gal. backset, yeast lees, which I know ain't reight because I got 10-11% potential on the first fermentation with the same ingredients (except backset which should have about 2.5% abv still in it).
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more

Post by Uncle Jesse » Tue Sep 13, 2005 9:35 pm

I am not sure about SG readings in the second mash. My guess would be that you are right, but the use of a simple vinometer (http://wiki.homedistiller.org/Vinometer) would probably suffice to rectify (har har) this problem, or at least that's my guess.

You're following in my footsteps though, VG. I too learned for a few years on the simple sour mash method simply for the inexpensive and easy procedure. I've brewed a lot of beer in my life and know how time consuming it can be. The simple sour mash method allows you to learn the art of distillation without spending the time and money involved in mashing.

Let's not forget, I learned the basics of this procedure from a 4th generation moonshiner and this was the family recipe. I've also done a simple rye mash via the same method, though not as much. I don't do sour mashes for that method, I simply re-use the grains and add sugar. I love the economy and simplicity of moonshiner methods.

I've had several folks who grew up in Georgia try my simple sour mash and they agreed it's a very high quality moonshine. And let me tell you from personal experience, it's a very high quality moonshine. :wink:
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Re: Need to be sure before to begin...

Post by Uncle Jesse » Mon Feb 06, 2006 1:48 pm

1. The corn, except floatin' parts after each fermentation, stays in the fermenter during the hole process. Yes / No?
yes
2. No need to add corn, except for replacement of that floating as written at #1. Yes / No?
correct, no need to add corn except expired corn as in question #1.
3. No time to loose! It seems important to ferment-distill-ferment-distill... every ± 4 days, without interruption of the cycle. Yes / No?
yes unless you interrupt the cycle as explained earlier in this message:
This process is continual. You'll have to distill many times a month..I was doing it 2-3x a week when I had it rolling. How do you stop a mash for the time being?

When you drain off your beer, fill the fermenter with cold, clean water. No backset, no sugar, no yeast. Let it sit this way and it will last - I'm not sure how long - but I've let it go a week and had no problems. To reactivate, rinse your grains clean, add more yeast, sugar and your water/backset mixture.

I normally save backset so I can do a sour mash. I put it into a Connie keg and store it into the beer fridge.
4. No need to add yeast... The first will survive / reproduce and will be sufficient during the hole process. Yes / No?
yes.
5. A last one, not under Yes / No form (!) : How long (I'd say how many times / batches) is it possible to make this process? Would it be possible that it never ends?
yes, continual if you treat your grains and mash properly. well, i can't say it goes on forever, but i've easily pulled over 20 runs off a simple mash before i had to discard it for other projects.
So, I surely begin with my first Simple Sour Wash experience next saturday. Sorry for these "newbie" or "illeterate" questions, but I've sometimes a real problem with translation (it took me more than 15 minutes to write this reply, with a big dictionnary by the hand!!!)
Thanks a lot for your help.
always glad to help, please let us know how your final spirit tastes!
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Post by Rocky_Creek » Tue Feb 07, 2006 12:23 pm

You may wish to keep in mind if it has not been mentioned before, that the more renditions you go through, the less use a hydrometer becomes. Apparently more and more solids are in suspension throwing the reading of. The best way to know when it is done is by watching for the cap to fall. Just know how much liquid you are removing and how much sugar you are replacing.
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Post by Husker » Fri Sep 22, 2006 8:46 pm

My first mash has now been going for exactly 4 days. It is still "boiling" like crazy.

What things signal when the 'ebullition' has ended? All I have done to this point was sugar washes, which I fermented to completion (about 2-3 weeks to get to about 19%). With this batch, I am only using 4.5k (10lb) of sugar (vs the 8kg I was using in a plain sugar wash). There is a frothy "foam" on the surface. I can see this, when I look through the little hole if I pull my S lock out and peer through the hole. I have not opened the fermenter yet, as I would like to not chance a contamination (since this ferment is made to run forever, or until I get bored with it, or run "out" of time). Does this frothy head "drop" when the ebullition has ended? Is that the "signal"? I know that bubbles will happen for a LONG time, if you simply allow the yeast to continue forward.

2. When starting the 2nd run, do you aerate the new water (or backset), or simply dump in water (and cooled, sugar'd backset) with little or no disolved O2 in it?

H.

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answers

Post by Uncle Jesse » Fri Sep 22, 2006 10:39 pm

the crust may not fall as it does with a beer mash, so wait until things slow down for the most part in your fermenter. there's no secondary ferment with distillers mashes so you don't want to wait that long. i like to let mine rest until it 'clears up' and the crust usually falls.

i aerate my backset/water mixture before i put the yeast in. boiled backset doesn't have much oxygen to it.
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Re: answers

Post by Husker » Sat Sep 23, 2006 12:24 pm

Uncle Jesse
the crust may not fall as it does with a beer mash, so wait until things slow down for the most part in your fermenter. there's no secondary ferment with distillers mashes so you don't want to wait that long. i like to let mine rest until it 'clears up' and the crust usually falls.

i aerate my backset/water mixture before i put the yeast in. boiled backset doesn't have much oxygen to it.
Thanks for the reply UJ. Everything answered, except for one item (which may have been a mis-statement).

i aerate my backset/water mixture before i put the yeast in

You do not mean you re-add yeast? I was thinking that the yeast in the dropped lees where what fired up the next batch. That you simply put in some water (with O2 disolved it seems), to keep the yeast healthy while distilling, and then dump in the cooled, sugar'd and O2'd backset when distilling is done (and replace any spent grain if need be), and nothing else was added. Did I read the instructions from wiki wrong?

H.

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oops

Post by Uncle Jesse » Mon Sep 25, 2006 9:44 am

you're right, i was thinking of a cooked mash which i aerate before i pitch the yeast. since you arent pitching yeast, but rather are using the old barm, aerate any time before fermentation starts. in other words, i don't think it matters if you aerate your water/backset before or after adding it to the fermenter. just do it at the very onset so your yeast have that o2 to work with as soon as possible.
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cracked corn

Post by Uncle Jesse » Mon Sep 25, 2006 9:48 am

as for the corn, as long as they aren't adding chemicals i wouldn't be concerned. i used to get my corn from large retail pet food stores (bird feed) or 'harvest' markets which specialize in 'healthy' foods. the bird food corn worked great but you have to be sure you aren't getting any preservatives! make sure the corn is perishable. as for the 'harvest' store, they have cheap, high-quality corn and rye and will order 50 pound bags for you on request. problem here is cracking the corn kernels once you receive them and that's not an easy task for some grain grinders/mills.
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Ok

Post by Uncle Jesse » Wed Jan 10, 2007 4:59 pm

Hope I'm not repeating a question, I might of missed a page in the reading. My question is, in Ians book he says to skim the spent grain 2 or 3 time a day but it look like this method only removes the spent grain at the end of each ferment cycle. Am I reading that right? Is there a lot of spent grain that sinks back down and if so does it matter?
I've been doing Ians recipe of Flaked maize, barley and rye. I'm getting overrun with barrels, bottles and jars of the stuff so I thought I'd try something else for a while.
Thank Uncle Jesse for all the good information.
Ian's version is basically what he learned from me, and I'm not familiar with his particular procedure. The first version of his book didn't have any info on sour mashing so we corresponded and he learned how. I'm sure whatever method he uses works fine as he's a very competent distiller.

I wait until fermentation is finished and scoop off the grains on the top. I have done it when fermentation was first starting as well but normally I get rid of the grains on top of the beer before I drain it to charge the still.

Again, don't get too married to a procedure. I tried to keep this very simple as it's a beginners guide which is also why the cuts are so conservative. There is a lot of room to experiment and that's part of the real joy and intrigue of this hobby.
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Post by tracker0945 » Sun Oct 14, 2007 3:17 pm

One question if I may.
With all the opening and closing, scooping, adding etc that goes along with this procedure, how do you cope with sterilization?
I am presuming that you are still using the same fermenter that you started with, without emptying or cleaning.
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Post by Husker » Sun Oct 14, 2007 5:28 pm

You keep your hands out of the fermenter. Also, keep your hands washed (you shed LOTS of skin cells, so if you wash and semi dry your hands and forearms, you dont shed for a bit). Also, ANYTHING you put into the vat, make sure it is sterilized.

Yes, you open, and mess around with it quite a bit, but think of it, you have a HUGE yeast colony. That giant glob of yeast, will out compete anything. Also, the PH gets pretty low, and does NOT provide an environment where any living thing other than your yeast can thrive

So yes, you are opening up, however, infection should not be an issue. The one thing I do beyond the recipe, is that I put my "next" corn (and the sugar), into the slop right off the boiler (still about 205 °F or so). Anything living on the corn, dies. I then practice cleanliness in "handling" the open fermenter. Doing this, I have never had an infection creep into a UJSM batch (yet).

H.

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Cracked corn question in UJSM

Post by Cletus » Mon Dec 03, 2007 7:03 pm

Is it recomended to wash the cracked corn before adding to mash on initial startup, or just scoop it directly from the bag?

Thanks - Cletus

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Post by Husker » Mon Dec 03, 2007 7:11 pm

I boiled mine a few minutes. I wanted to be a little cautious here, since it is supposed to run for MANY generations. I do everything I can to maintain sanitary environment.

When I do my next generations, I put a pound of so of corn, and a few pounds of sugar into a 4L glass jug. I then dump in 3L of BOILING backset (direct out of the still). I shake this up, the sugar dissolves, and then it stays very hot for a while. This is what I have done to "sterile" the additional corn on each gen.

Now, the recipe does not call for this, and it probably works fine without doing this. However, this is just the technique I have used, and it does work great.

H.

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Post by Cletus » Mon Dec 03, 2007 7:30 pm

Thanks Husker - I probably should have... I started my 1st batch yesterday & it seems I am not getting too much activity in the fermenter. It may be becuase it's not exactly warm in the garage @ 50 to 60f.
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Post by Husker » Mon Dec 03, 2007 7:52 pm

50-60 F is cold. You might have to bring the temp up on the mash, or it will simply slowly ferment (over a 3 week to a month period of time).

Usually on your FIRST run (which builds up the yeast colony), you want that to happen quicker, so that the yeast have a chance to "super dominate" anything else that might be alive in there. Once the yeast colony is huge, it is pretty safe, and can easily overwhelm just about anything and keep the infections away.

H.

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Post by Cletus » Tue Dec 04, 2007 5:26 am

OK, I picked up a "brew belt" at the local home brew shop. It's a heat belt that wraps around the fermenter. Also have made a cardboard enclosure to insulate it as well - I have (sanitized) electronic thermometer poked into a small hole in the top of the fermenter - the kind that has the long flexible lead. Work pretty nice - I have the readout head of the thermometer outside of the enclosure & it is maintaining 70 ~75F.
I may add a heat lamp as well, but am a little worried about leaving it unattended & the possibility of a fire.

- Cletus

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Post by Husker » Tue Dec 04, 2007 5:46 am

If you can keep it closer to 75, then all will work out fine. Make sure your bucket is off the ground, on something that insulates. If it is on the concrete floor of the garage, that will suck out a lot of heat. However, the bet and an insulation box is certainly the right way to go when it is way too cold. Having good internal temp readings will tell you if things are too cold, or start getting too hot.

H.

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Post by Aidas » Sat Dec 22, 2007 12:16 pm

ER70S-2 wrote:My first USJM has finished fermentingafter 7 days, but I don't think I'm goin go be able to run it until between Christmas and New years. Is it a problem to just leave it in the fermentor until I get back?
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Re: uncle jesse's simple sour mash method

Post by Dnderhead » Sun Jun 08, 2008 7:29 pm

Seams that a lot of people want to make 80-90% alcohol then wonder why there's no flavor and it "bites" your distilling out all the flavor to git the
high alcohol. if you run it off at 60%more or less you will have much more flavor and not have to add so much water some of that "bite" is alcohol it burns the soft tissue of the mouth (try on a scrap/cut and you will see) (60% is a good place for flavor and generally good for ageing at also)

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Re: uncle jesse's simple sour mash method

Post by StabbyJoe » Sun Aug 10, 2008 1:56 am

From what I hear people aim for a starting specific gravity of no higher than 1.080 and do not ferment wash above 12% to avoid off flavors. Some prefer even lower SG and like a wash to ferment out to no higher then 8% for flavor purposes but lower starts to be too much of a productivity sacrifice... somewhere in the 8-12% range you should find something that suits you.

From what I hear at least.

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Re: uncle jesse's simple sour mash method

Post by Barney Fife » Thu Jan 08, 2009 8:42 pm

My best UJSM has been 4 strip runs(collect everything 'cept the first 50ml), and on the 5th generation, I added all the strip run collections to the wash. Great heaps of flavor, very distinct cuts, and now, almost 2 months later, I'm sipping the first of it to test, and wow! Nice! It was the best, by far, straight off the still, and has kept that edge. Ess. Emm. Oooooooooooth. Tasty, too <lol>

So, don't worry with high gravity; keep it low, it'll ferment quick and clean, the strip runs take little time, and the final run is SO worth it.

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Re: uncle jesse's simple sour mash method

Post by theholymackerel » Fri Jan 09, 2009 9:25 am

trthskr4 wrote:For some reason I don't seem to get the same tasty smooth outcome that everyone else gets by doing just strip and spirit runs......... I run them fast, even on a spirit run I run a little fast.
That explains it. If ya do a spirit run too fast ya don't get good seperation and the final product is often rough.

Do a calm, slow, smooth spirit run next time. Then let us know if that helped.

Stevewhiskey
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Re: uncle jesse's simple sour mash method

Post by Stevewhiskey » Mon Mar 09, 2009 8:02 pm

OK so Im a newbie at all of this just to let you know, I apologize in advance if these questions have already been answered, but i couldn't find anything.

I just made my first batch following UJ recipe exactly, I used Prestige Whiskey yeast with Amyloglucosidase.

My question/concern is that I put all the ingredients in my fermenter a week ago today and it is still bubbling, I know that the recipe says it should be done fermenting in 3 to 4 days, So do I let it continue to ferment, or should i run it through my still now.

Im sure ill have more question to come later on,

Thanks in advance for any help

olddog
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Re: uncle jesse's simple sour mash method

Post by olddog » Mon Mar 09, 2009 8:07 pm

Wait til it stops, I have just run a batch that took 10 days to stop. :D
OLD DOG LEARNING NEW TRICKS ......

Dnderhead
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Re: uncle jesse's simple sour mash method

Post by Dnderhead » Mon Mar 09, 2009 8:13 pm

Let it finish, a lot depends on type of yeast ,,,how much sugar/starch,,,,,the temperature of wash/mash ,,,nutrients in the wash/mash
all wash/mash should finish.

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