Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Other discussions for folks new to the wonderful craft of home distilling.

Moderator: Site Moderator

Locked
kiwistiller
Master Distiller
Posts: 3215
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 4:09 pm
Location: Auckland, NZ

Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by kiwistiller » Wed Sep 16, 2009 4:17 pm

•••••••••••••••••
The Lazy Stiller's Novice Guide to Cuts and Fractions (pot still)

This guide is aimed at educating a pot still novice about the different fractions in a distillation, and to help them learn how to make cuts between them.

1 - What are cuts and fractions?
2 - An outline of fractions
3 - Cuts and blending the easy way


1 - What are cuts and fractions?

Cuts are the points in a distillation run where the stiller separates the distillate into separate fractions (divisions between sections of the run). In order to make good cuts, it is important to understand what the different fractions of a run are, and how to recognise them.


2 - An outline of fractions

Once you know your equipment and your mash, fractions are fairly predictable. The ABV% will drop (and temp will rise) over the course of the run, and this is one indicator of cut points that can be used as a crutch to judge with. However, temperature and %ABV are not recommended as a guide for cuts. Vapour temp is directly related to %ABV, just basic physics. If you know the temp you can reliably predict the %abv, and vice versa. They tell you the same information. For example, 20% abv output = 98C. There is a chart for converting temps to %ABV and a more detailed discussion of this here

There is an issue of reading the temp correctly, ie in the right place, at the very top of the vapour path, just where it turns down into the lyne arm / product condenser. But that is a very minor design detail compared to the unreliability of thermometers.

Temp is no worse than %abv for deciding where to make the cuts, but both are rough guides at best. Cuts are (should be) ultimately made by taste and smell, not %abv or vapour temp.

I will provide some ROUGH figures as to where the fractions can be expected. These will be in %ABV as I think the average alcoholmeter / alcometer is probably more accurate than the average thermometer, and many folks don't have thermometers in their pot stills. Fractions normally follow this rough outline:

1: Foreshots - this fraction is the first part of the distillate collected. A major component of this fraction is acetone, or nail polish remover. But there are other compounds in there as well. In my experience, often the very first drops of foreshots, that can start slowly coming over from around 40-45C, have a wonderful, rich, sweet smell, but you really don't want to be drinking this stuff (headache city :lol: ).

On a pot still, the absolute minimum that should be allocated to foreshots is 150ml per 25l of wash. So, for a second distillation of, say, 3 stripped 25l washes (with no cuts made in the first distillation), you would want to discard 450ml of foreshots. This fraction should never be recycled, or used in any way for beverages, but it does have some uses. It's a great solvent, can be saved for cleaning runs of new stilling equipment, and is great for starting charcoal BBQs. Use it around the house / shed in place of methylated spirits (denatured alcohol).

In my still charged with 40% low wines, this fraction reads about 82% on the alcoholmeter / alcometer)

2: Heads - Heads are a mix of methanol, acetone, ethyl-acetate and ethanol as the main components.

Because a pot still does not separate the different fractions very cleanly, there will be diminishing 'nasty stuff' and increasing hearts (ethanol) throughout this fraction. While not completely awful like the foreshots, heads is generally blamed for hangovers, and a sharp biting taste. Like foreshots, they can smell sometimes smell a little sweet and buttery, but will have a biting, solvent like, alcohol sting to them as well. Many seasoned shiners will start to notice heads in store bought alcohol, especially vodkas. Most people find it desirable to remove the heads from finished product as well as the foreshots. There is however a lot of usable ethanol in the heads fraction, so the standard practice is to save the heads in a separate 'feints' (see later) container for further processing. If you can't be bothered, throw them in with the foreshots.

In my still charged with 40% low wines, this fraction is from about 82 to 80% on the alcoholmeter /alcometer. In our hypothetical still charge of three stripped 25l sugar washes, I would expect to collect roughly 2-3 liters of heads, maybe more (I really don't like them). Some people are more sensitive to the tastes of different fractions than others, so you will have to find your own tolerances. Also, some washes will produce a lot more heads / foreshots than others. Apple brandy, for example, is notorious for having a large proportion of heads, while for a full bodied, sweet rum, you might actually want a touch of heads in your final (at the cost of the headache that follows the next day, probably).

3: Hearts - The hearts, or 'body' fraction as it is sometimes called is the purest section of the run in ethanol terms. Hearts is very clean tasting and smelling, without the chemical bite of heads, but still with good flavour. When you are blending your fractions, the hearts should be considered the foundation that you build your product on.

Hearts will generally start around 80% abv in a run of 40% low wines, but again, this will vary. A very conservative lower cut for, say, a mild whisky, might be 70%. for a full bodied spirit like rum, you may go quite deep into the tails, even as low as 50%. Some may go even lower. The hearts will probably be the biggest fraction you collect in your run, but this will again depend upon what you are making.

4: Tails - The tails of a run are signalled by the distinctive and pretty unpleasant smell of wet dog, wet cardboard, damp socks, etc. As well as the change in smell and tastes, and the dropping ABV, the collection rate for a given power input slows as well at the onset of tails, (and continues to fall through the tails).

Tails are rich in fusel oils, which cause unwanted tastes in your product. Some times you can see an oily film on top of the collected tails. Some parts of the tails, if left for a day or so, will start to develop floating crystalline... things. This is all highly undesirable in your product.

As the tails progress, the underlying taste of the product will probably become stronger, and more bitter, cardboardy notes will keep coming through. Late tails generally just tastes of dirty water to me. This will vary substantially depending upon the mash.

The tails still have quite a high proportion of ethanol, however, and some of the deepest flavours of all can be hidden in the tails fraction (see Pugirum for a discussion of this). It is generally desirable to recycle these tails with the heads into the feints container, and add them back to the next run. Alternatively, if storage is not an issue for you, you can save them up and do a all feints run, which will produce a very special, deeply flavourful product. This is highly recommended, for a rum at least. Other flavoured spirits may vary. There is no point doing this for a neutral/ vodka of course.

ASIDE: if you are running an all feints spirit charge, it might be better to do these runs a bit slower than usual for a spirit run.

Tails are normally collected until the distiller decides the abv returned is not worth the time and heat being applied to the still. Personally, I take down to 10%, but many people seem to use 20%.


3 - Cuts and blending the easy way


Some stillers simply just save the hearts cut for drinking, and recycle all the feints back into the next run, or into the feints jar for an all feints run when it is full. Some like to blend small amounts of various fractions from the heads and/or tails back into the hearts, to add particular extra flavours. There is no right and wrong way. Personal preference rules here.

Being capable of cutting the fractions directly off the still and without a alcoholmeter / alcometer etc is a huge accomplishment for a distiller. But for the novice, this is a daunting art that will take runs (and mistakes) to perfect. There is an easier way, however.

Procure a good number of small (say 500ml) jars, number them, and get a big ol pot that is big enough to hold everything you'll want to blend. Collect your run in these numbered jars, and leave them to air out for a day or two with a coffee filter or similar over them to keep out the bugs and dust. Some of the more volatile and unwanted components will evaporate off over this time, and you'll be able to make better cuts and blends.

Now, when the time comes to makes cuts, or do any further blending, you have to remember that the spirit will smell & taste different when watered down. The tails in particular seem to come out with dilution. To get around this, when tasting for blending, dilute a small sample with some very clean water in a clean glass, swirl around and mix well. Aim for a %ABV of between 35-40%. Then have a gentle sniff of each, do it 2-3 times, with all the fractions.

Then try tasting them in very small amounts. Don't swallow the product, spit it out. Seriously!!! Making cuts/blends when drunk usually leads to a substandard product and many regrets. Rinse your mouth with water between tasting different fractions.

First make the main cuts between heads-hearts, and hearts-tails. For the novice stiller, it is probably best to just learn this first, before moving onto the more complicated and tricky art of blending.

If you want to blend some of the other fractions in, start with the cleanest section of hearts, and work up and down the line, adding heads and tails into your blending pot one by one. Only add very small amounts at a time. If in doubt, be conservative and blend a small amount first in a trial glass, then you haven't made an awful mistake if it doesn't taste good. Depending on your tastes and the recipe, you can expect to keep around 30 to 50% of the total volume collected in the blended product, and the rest will be feints.

If you mess up the cuts or blending, for whatever reason, you can just throw it all back into the still, except for the foreshots, then add some water to dilute it a bit (or the backset from the run), and run it all over again. It is a good learning experience.

After you have finished your blend, everything remaining can be treated as feints and reused or stored for an all feints run.

The first time you make cuts, and especially blends, it will probably be quite difficult to pick the often subtle but important differences in smells and tastes, and you may not be happy with the result. But do not be discouraged, this skill improves a lot with practice, and in many ways it is the most important skill of all for a stiller to develop. So be patient, and just keep practicing!

•••••••••••••••••
Colour Guide to Cuts 1.jpg
Colour Guide to Cuts 2.jpg
Updated versions.
Run%20colours%205%20pot.jpg
Run%20colours%206%20strip.jpg
•••••••••••••••••
Further Reading:
http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopi ... nding+tips
http://homedistiller.org/dtw.htm#toss" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" rel="nofollow
http://homedistiller.org/theory.htm#strong" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" rel="nofollow
•••••••••••••••••
Thanks to all the mods and mentors who have been proofing and perfecting this guide...
Special thanks to all the geniuses who've posted up this information in the first place. Names escape me for the most part, but I know Usge has put up some great info lately.

Cheers,
Kiwi
Last edited by kiwistiller on Wed Sep 16, 2009 11:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Three sheets to the wind!
My stuff

olddog
Master Distiller
Posts: 3618
Joined: Fri Jan 16, 2009 6:16 pm
Location: WEST OZ

Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by olddog » Wed Sep 16, 2009 4:33 pm

Nice tutorial Kiwi, things like this should be made a sticky in the main menu.
OLD DOG LEARNING NEW TRICKS ......

ORR
Novice
Posts: 8
Joined: Thu Aug 13, 2009 1:07 pm

Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by ORR » Wed Sep 16, 2009 4:47 pm

Nice tutorial indeed,thank you Kiwi.

new_moonshiner
Trainee
Posts: 951
Joined: Sun Jan 21, 2007 7:15 am

Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by new_moonshiner » Wed Sep 16, 2009 8:34 pm

Good job Kiwi..!!!

Moon Masterson
Novice
Posts: 10
Joined: Tue Jan 20, 2009 5:03 pm

Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by Moon Masterson » Thu Sep 17, 2009 1:30 pm

Kiwi, Thanks for taking the time to explain it in detail. I copied it into my "study guide"!

Boozehound
Novice
Posts: 89
Joined: Fri Mar 20, 2009 12:09 pm

Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by Boozehound » Thu Sep 17, 2009 4:31 pm

Excellent stuff, mate. This kind of thing really helps out us new guys trying to make decent drinks. The distilled elderflower thing I made tasted pretty sharp so I guess I got the cuts wrong.

Should you always build up a collection of low wines and then distil twice? Is that better than just getting a 25L wash and doing a single pot distillation with the right cuts?

And, if that wasn't enough questions, is there any chance one of the experienced guys could do a guide with the same clarity for Ian Smiley's method of using a reflux still to make flavoured drinks like whiskey and rum?

Questions, questions, I know.

Anyway, I'm just about to try a rum so the timing of this is perfect. Thanks again.

kiwistiller
Master Distiller
Posts: 3215
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 4:09 pm
Location: Auckland, NZ

Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by kiwistiller » Thu Sep 17, 2009 4:54 pm

Boozehound wrote:Excellent stuff, mate. This kind of thing really helps out us new guys trying to make decent drinks. The distilled elderflower thing I made tasted pretty sharp so I guess I got the cuts wrong.

Should you always build up a collection of low wines and then distil twice? Is that better than just getting a 25L wash and doing a single pot distillation with the right cuts?

And, if that wasn't enough questions, is there any chance one of the experienced guys could do a guide with the same clarity for Ian Smiley's method of using a reflux still to make flavoured drinks like whiskey and rum?
Double distillation is not absolutely necessary and not always desirable... some folk like to do single runs for more flavour, some like doubles for greater strength / purity. its a taste thing. Personally, I'd always double for whisky etc as I can't get up to aging proof on one pass. I've tried single run rum, but I prefer double / refluxed. for fruit washes I've only done single. not really sure why, it just tasted good the first time around I guess.

I'm fairly confident that not many round here use a reflux column (at least in reflux mode) for whiskey.
Three sheets to the wind!
My stuff

Selby
Novice
Posts: 70
Joined: Mon Sep 22, 2008 12:59 am

Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by Selby » Thu Sep 17, 2009 6:53 pm

I liked your tutorial Kiwi, good stuff. Would you mind telling me- (a) What yeast do you use for you grain whisky over there?,(b) Do you find Turbo Yeast okay for this purpose? I'm in Oz. Thanks, Selby.

kiwistiller
Master Distiller
Posts: 3215
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 4:09 pm
Location: Auckland, NZ

Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by kiwistiller » Thu Sep 17, 2009 7:03 pm

I don't do all-grain, I'm a bit constrained by space in my current home. However, turbo yeast is definitely not what you want for a grain whisky... try a nice ale yeast.
Three sheets to the wind!
My stuff

Dnderhead
retired
Posts: 13667
Joined: Sun Dec 23, 2007 8:07 pm
Location: up north

Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by Dnderhead » Thu Sep 17, 2009 7:11 pm

I used Irish ale yeast this year so far so good.

Boozehound
Novice
Posts: 89
Joined: Fri Mar 20, 2009 12:09 pm

Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by Boozehound » Fri Sep 18, 2009 4:53 am

I'm fairly confident that not many round here use a reflux column (at least in reflux mode) for whiskey.
Yeah, before I got the book I though he'd just cut down on the reflux ratio. Instead he rips all the 95% alcohol out of a wash and has this to say about the tails:

"Tails: At some point late in the middle-run a certain family of esters begins to bleed into the
middle-run. These esters are what give the whiskey most of its character and flavour. As
these esters flow into the middle-run they become increasingly intense and strong flavoured.
Past a certain point they become so intense and strong that they are acrid and bitter and spoil
the flavour of the whiskey. The still operator has to select a point before these acrid and
bitter esters prevail, to end the middle-run. Everything following this selected-end of the
middle-run is called the tails. The tails are only collected until the still-head temperature
reaches about 81 or 82oC (178 or 180oF). Above this temperature there are no useful
congeners but just unwanted fusel alcohols. After this point the still is switched off and the
spirit-run is complete."

So, it seems, you get all the flavour in a little bit between 78C and 81C. Is this right? Does anyone actually use this method? I'm just interested because it's different.

I'll be pot-stilling for my stuff.

User avatar
LWTCS
Site Mod
Posts: 11066
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2009 6:04 pm
Location: North Palm Beach

Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by LWTCS » Fri Sep 18, 2009 4:37 pm

I never had a thermo. Plus, I took to heart when goose eye commented (some time ago) that he may have known someone that on occasion my have needed to cook in the dark.

Very difficult to read alcometers and thermometers and such in the dark.

I am pretty sure that he implied one sould get to know your unit and your product by feel, smell and taste...............So I did.

I started by using the small collection jars method. I did lots of washes and lots of runs. I tried to learn,,,,,,,,about where my cuts were in relation to any average run. Lots of smelling(and tasting :mrgreen: ).

After I got over the uphoria of making a nice proofy drink. I started really trying consentrate on not being greedy.

I can tell how long just prior to heat up it will take for distillate (fores)to come coolly rolling out of the discharge.

When I get my new unit up and running I'm gonna have to learn to read my still all over again.
Trample the injured and hurdle the dead.

blanikdog
Angel's Share
Angel's Share
Posts: 4545
Joined: Tue Aug 09, 2005 11:55 pm
Location: Bullamakanka, Oztrailya

Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by blanikdog » Fri Sep 18, 2009 6:30 pm

Great tute, Kiwi.

blanik
Simple potstiller. Slow, single run.
(50 litre, propane heated pot still. Coil in bucket condenser - No thermometer, No carbon)
The Reading Lounge AND the Rules We Live By should be compulsory reading

Cumudgeon and loving it.

gstuetzle
Novice
Posts: 2
Joined: Sat Sep 12, 2009 4:08 pm

Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by gstuetzle » Mon Sep 21, 2009 12:45 am

Good tips, thank you.

I have just finished distilling my very first wash. I kind of meant it to be a rum wash, but I don't think I fed the yeast enough molasses- it ended up being only about 1 kg (all I could get) to 6 kg of dextrose.

In any case, what I have now smells like vodka with a bit of metho in it, which came out of my pot still at 70% and I have now added water to make 40% . I couldn't decide if I should double distill, and have ended up throwing some carbon in to soak.

My questions are:

If I am to double distill, I understand I still break it in to cuts? Does it get harder to distinguish between the foreshots, heads, hearts, tails, etc...?

When I do get my rum wash right (have checked out some of the recipes on here), does adding carbon absorb the flavour and therefore undo the purpose of fermenting molasses?

Gemma.

rad14701
Master Distiller
Posts: 20866
Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2007 4:46 pm
Location: New York, USA

Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by rad14701 » Mon Sep 21, 2009 11:05 am

gstuetzle, first, welcome to the forums...

With a proper recipe and yeast you shouldn't need carbon filtering at all... Carbon is only required for nasty turbo wash recipes...

What you made was essentially just a sugar wash that had a bit of molasses in the brown sugar for nutrient but not enough to give any rum flavor... You need all brown sugar for a light rum sugar wash... If you want dark rum you'll need molasses instead of sugar...

If you were to double distill then you still want to make proper cuts... The only time you bypass making cuts is if you are doing stripping runs that will later be combined for a spirit run or runs...

Dnderhead
retired
Posts: 13667
Joined: Sun Dec 23, 2007 8:07 pm
Location: up north

Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by Dnderhead » Mon Sep 21, 2009 11:33 am

what ever you make the more flavorful the wash/mash the more flavor in the distilled beverage.
with rum I use about 2x the molasses that you whould sugar,,,,
1lb (1/2kg.)of sugar per gal. = 7% wash
2lb.(1kg) of molasses per gal.=8% wash (molasses varies ,,check it out before making)
(adding DAP. to wash seems to help ferment)

skyline
Novice
Posts: 10
Joined: Fri Aug 14, 2009 3:04 pm
Location: New Zealand

Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by skyline » Sun Oct 04, 2009 3:49 pm

Could this guide be used for a reflux still. I have a suger wash ready for distilling. I am mainly wanting to make vodka at the moment so will not be adding any flavours hopefully.

Cheers

kiwistiller
Master Distiller
Posts: 3215
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 4:09 pm
Location: Auckland, NZ

Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by kiwistiller » Sun Oct 04, 2009 3:58 pm

Sort of... not really... what type of still are you running?
Three sheets to the wind!
My stuff

skyline
Novice
Posts: 10
Joined: Fri Aug 14, 2009 3:04 pm
Location: New Zealand

Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by skyline » Sun Oct 04, 2009 4:19 pm

I'm running a still spirits reflux still. I have done Winos sugar wash and it has been clearing for a while now. What sort of jars do you collect the spirit in to be ble to get readings from the alcometer. Would 1l preserving jars be alright or too big?
Cheers

kiwistiller
Master Distiller
Posts: 3215
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 4:09 pm
Location: Auckland, NZ

Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by kiwistiller » Sun Oct 04, 2009 4:35 pm

have a look at my guide to a brew shop CM. if you're running a still like that you'll probably want to do stripping runs to get it a bit cleaner.
http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopi ... 17&t=11265
Three sheets to the wind!
My stuff

Captain Morgan
Novice
Posts: 48
Joined: Sat Sep 26, 2009 3:52 am
Location: Oz - NSW

Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by Captain Morgan » Thu Oct 08, 2009 8:20 pm

I guess what the beginner needs to realize is that not everything that comes out of the still is good. I remember when I first started out with my 5L pot that I didnt even like throwing the first 50ml because I thought I was missing out :P hehe
Duct tape is like "The Force". There is a light side, a dark side and it holds the universe together.....

kiwistiller
Master Distiller
Posts: 3215
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 4:09 pm
Location: Auckland, NZ

Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by kiwistiller » Thu Oct 08, 2009 8:57 pm

Just wanted to give credit to the awesome drawings that have been edited into the original post to Ayay - Nice! :D
Source thread is here: http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopi ... 15&t=11913
Three sheets to the wind!
My stuff

kiwistiller
Master Distiller
Posts: 3215
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 4:09 pm
Location: Auckland, NZ

Notes from the cutting bench...

Post by kiwistiller » Wed Nov 11, 2009 7:17 pm

I ran an UJSM varient a few days ago and I thought I might keep some records of the cuts as a indication of what to expect for cuts on a spirit run.

The Charge: ~40l (hard to see in the keg :) ) of low wines @~45%, from successive ferments of UJSM style corn + rye + barley malt.

The Run: Heat up at full power (I'm using a 3 ring gas burner, about 30k btu I think), slow down and take foreshots off on very low power, power up a bit on heads, more power still on hearts (around 2/3 of full power now), and then let the take off rate naturally decrease as the % in the boiler drops, and tails start to creep in. once definately in tails, full power to strip.

The Destination: It is a good idea to decide what you are going to do with your spirits before doing cuts. If you plan to drink it white, for example, you need to make very tight cuts. oaking will smooth out some heads and tails, and help transform them into nicer flavours (although this is voodoo to me), so oaking lets you get away with slightly wider cuts. This run was destined to go on my toasted barrel sticks for 6 months to a year (hopefully :) ) so my cuts on this run will be reasonably wide.

The Result:
Untitled.jpg
I've also been experimenting with power settings, I read that it is possible to run too slow, and powered up more during hearts. This increased my hearts cut by about 2 bottles on the heads side! Now as I said this is going on oak for quite a while (well, its a while for me!), six months to a year, so the heart cut is probably a bottle or two wider than usual. I was tempted to go one or two deeper into tails, but I have a fear of tails after the disappointment of screwing up my first pot still run that held all my hopes and dreams :lol:

Anyway thought this might help some folks get a visual of sorts.

Kiwi
Three sheets to the wind!
My stuff

big worm
Trainee
Posts: 758
Joined: Sun Jan 20, 2008 4:19 pm

Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by big worm » Thu Nov 12, 2009 3:29 pm

very nice!. also the cuts change with what your actualy fermenting off and, what your tastes are. i did a very simular run on a wheat/corn malted barley ujssm. charge % and size close to yours. i started keeping around 76% down to 68% for a total of 13L of cut 45% that suits my tastes. you don't run into the tails as far as i did ,but i kept less heads. you are correct about changing up the speed on the middle of the run, i'm going to play with the speed more on this grain bill. one thing about ujssm you get a chance to good at it and know exactly what to expect...so experaments keep ya learning.
GOT BAIT?
small children left unatended will be sold as bait

kiwistiller
Master Distiller
Posts: 3215
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 4:09 pm
Location: Auckland, NZ

Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by kiwistiller » Thu Nov 12, 2009 3:54 pm

yes I'd normally have about 2l more of heads, speeding up a bit really helped that. Stoked about that. Can't believe I hadn't come across it before.
big worm wrote:i started keeping around 76% down to 68% for a total of 13L of cut 45% that suits my tastes.
My still sticks at 80% like glue on a doubling run. no idea why, but 76% for me is the second to last bottle of hearts (I just checked, they're still on the bench awaiting attention). different equipment I guess :) . I wonder if our proportions are similar. But you're right, I'm very tails-averse. Can't stand them.
Three sheets to the wind!
My stuff

User avatar
LWTCS
Site Mod
Posts: 11066
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2009 6:04 pm
Location: North Palm Beach

Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by LWTCS » Thu Nov 12, 2009 6:39 pm

kiwistiller wrote:speeding up a bit really helped that. Stoked about that. Can't believe I hadn't come across it before.
big worm wrote:you are correct about changing up the speed on the middle of the run, i'm going to play with the speed more

I've been following and I sure do wish I had a controller rather than the DPDT right about now.

Maybe Santa can help me out.
Trample the injured and hurdle the dead.

adama_bill
Novice
Posts: 60
Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2009 12:25 am
Location: OzLand - South

Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by adama_bill » Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:07 pm

Just wanted to say thank you Kiwi.
Good clear readin' :)

kiwistiller
Master Distiller
Posts: 3215
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 4:09 pm
Location: Auckland, NZ

Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by kiwistiller » Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:13 pm

No worries. I didn't come up with any of it, I'm just the messenger :D
Three sheets to the wind!
My stuff

Usge
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 3243
Joined: Sat Aug 18, 2007 8:22 am

Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by Usge » Mon Nov 16, 2009 3:15 pm

kiwistiller wrote:yes I'd normally have about 2l more of heads, speeding up a bit really helped that. Stoked about that. Can't believe I hadn't come across it before....

...My still sticks at 80% like glue on a doubling run. no idea why, but 76% for me is the second to last bottle of hearts (I just checked, they're still on the bench awaiting attention). different equipment I guess :) . I wonder if our proportions are similar. But you're right, I'm very tails-averse. Can't stand them.
Been my experience on pot-stills too that you can run it too slow and it makes your likker meaner than hell. Gotta find the sweet spot through the hearts for each one. There was a flow-rate thread on the subject a while back. Also, I think Ayay updated the graphics/charts in that thread to more accurately depict a true pot-still run (the heads and tails fade further into the middle).

BLENDING WITH TAILS: I've been playing around a lot lately with blending for making oaked whiskey. As you say, if I'm making white-dog, I usually keep cuts lean and mean. But, doing whiskey or brandy, I'm always doing a much deeper cut. I've been experimenting with my cuts/blending to try and make the end result smoother and oak up more to my liking/taste and have come up with a few things you can try and see how they work for you. (taste being personal and all)

After I do a preliminary walk through using my nose and sampling watered down spirit, I start at the middle and move towards each end looking for jars that might be complimentary. At this point, the heads are pretty easy....the more you add, the more of "that' particular thing you get (including chemical like taste and sting). I keep a glass of ginger ale and water nearby. My next phase is to sample each of my jars from the initial cut full strength by putting just a teaspoon in a shot glass. I hold it in my mouth for just a second, then spit it out. If it stings like hell, or tastes really off...I don't include it (NOTE: this could mean "skipping jars as well). If it smells bad/strong...dont' include it. Same caveat as before. If it passes that test, I might swallow just a touch of it to check whats left for throat burn. From there, I move to adjacent jars doing the same thing. Once I get through it this way, I narrow it down to my initial cut (fairly conservative, just a "hint" of heads and/or tails..and NOTHING that stings my mouth or throat or or remotely smells/tastes bad or off).

From there, I move left or right...to see about additional adjancent jars that might be a possiblity for further testing. Moving left, more into heads, seams fairly linear to me. By that I mean..the further to the left of middle I go...the more smell, taste, sting, of heads it has. So, I won't spend a lot of time on it, other than to mention that late heads have some "vanilla" in it if you nose it out careful that are really nice. If it gets into a pronounced "butter" smell, you are too far. Again, if it stings...leave it out.

Tails are a little tricker... On nearly every run I've done, I've found that when tails first start to fade in....within a jar or 2 after you can just smell/taste a hint of tails, it will dump some absolutely nasty fusels out. And because this happens in early tails, its easy to overlook it and just include it if you are doing your cut..this jar...to this jar (linearly). I don't use a hydrometer on it at all. I do it purely by taste/smell. The flavor of tails, to me, as long as it still sweet and not bitter or too strong, is not objectional and it will add body, mouthfeel, a deeper "bourbon" like flavor and nose to your oaked corn or corn/barley/rye spirits. So, I keep the very early tails. But, anything that burns in your mouth a lot or smells a lot...is no good. Pass it over. On my last run, I tasted the hint of warm bourbon taste of tails starting and knew I was in early tails. Next jar, it was a little stronger, just slight smell of "grapes". Then the 3rd jar past middle...POW...burned like hell, very pronounced odor, and it was oily to rub between your fingers. OUT it went. Then something really interesting...the jar or so AFTER that, actually had "less" smell of tails, and was sweeter, and although the tails/bourbony flavor was a growing more pronounced, it was otherwise smooth. So, I brought it along for the next phase. Sometimes even later jars, where it gets watery, smooth out, and the smell/taste is much less objectionable and could be possibles for moving into next round. But in this case, it wasn't to be...the later jars got more and more smelly (disgusting) and the bitterness underneath, while diminishing, was too much. So, now I move on to next phase with 2 things..an initial cut that is "fairly" conservative, removing anything that stings, or has pronounced smell/offtastes, along with some adjacent jars, that also do not sting nor have pronounced smell or offtastes...that otherwise "might" be possiblities with further testing.

BLENDING IT: With my initial non-linear cut in front of me, and any additional jars I've included along for the ride as possibles.....I do my blend. I start by putting one teaspoon (full strength) from each of only the initial jars (which there were not many (maybe 3 out of 15) left from my initial cut (that didnt' burn/smell, etc) in my shotglass...nose it real good, and then taking as small a sip as I can I swallow it and check for burn (same as before) . You'll find at this point (if you've followed along tossing out anything that burned, stung, etc.), it actually compliments each other and smooths out even more together than it does separately! It's something of the alchemy of it...that the 3 things together are actually smoother than each one separately. Those jars that had just a hint of bite to it, or a hint of tailes...now are smooth like silk. You'll pick up some vanilla coming over in the nose, as well. Now, I pull up my possibles, and one at a time, add them into the mix (a teaspoon at a time). If it makes my blend sting or go off in one direction or another...I try using 2 teaspoons of my initial jars..and just one of the other jar to see if I can mix it out. I do this purely by taste. More "bourbon" flavor?? Add a touch of some of the tails...but be careful cause they are 'powerful' in the mix flavor wise. More vanilla? Let your blend go slightly more on the heads side. I try and find some tentative mix/ratio using teaspoons and a shotglass that is 1) smooth...not a hint of burn. 2) has the flavor profile I'm looking for. I also check it with water to make sure it holds as it's watered down.

When I get that far, I move on to using the jars to blend with each other. I start with my inital cut jars...and pour them together into a larger vessel. Then if there was any additional jars that had some flavor I wanted..I blend some in A LITTLE AT A TIME...checking it inbetween carefuly. Mix and match by taste till it tastes like you want. Check it full strength and with water. If you've done the previous work carefully, nothing you add at this point is going to make it "sting" bad or burn. But, if for some reason it does...toss it out. But, you CAN overdo the flavors one way or antoher (particularly with tails) if you add too much from these jars. So, just be careful. IN the end, I think I had 3.5-4 jars..out of 15. Its very smooth, even at full strength. It's even "smoother" when I water it. And it has a nice "bourbon"/grain flavor...just a hint in the tails...thats going to oak out real nice. Give it a try and see how it works for you. It wasnt' may idea (ie., non-linear blending), but that's my take on it. Give it a shot on your next go-round. Just use a shot glass and teaspoon. Can't mess up too much if you screw up that way. Check it that way before dumping your jars/bottles together. For my pot-still whiskey, I aim for a final blend that has a slightly pronounced sweet, bourbony like nose and flavor..with no burn/stinging. That bourbony stuff comes from doing the tails right. There can't be a "strong" odor coming from the bottle. It's "more "leaning" in that direction (no dirty sox smell, etc) . From there..I water it to 120-127 proof and oak it on cubes. Use less oak and longer time, and don't leave it too open or it will evaporate, drop a lot in proof and get WAY woody. I also shake it up good nearly every day. Point of this is...I never put a hydrometer to it..until the end. I did it purely by taste/smell to focus on that. Give it a try and see how it changes things.

HookLine
retired
Posts: 5628
Joined: Sun May 13, 2007 8:38 am
Location: OzLand

Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by HookLine » Mon Nov 16, 2009 3:43 pm

Nice stuff, Usge. Thanks.
Be safe.
Be discreet.
And have fun.

Locked