Acetone smell present throughout the hearts

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Acetone smell present throughout the hearts

Postby Throwthedauntlet » Sat Sep 03, 2011 8:39 am

Hi guys, I've been lurking on these forums for months, eventually registered and now I have some questions.

I use a 10 litre potstill with a worm condenser. I've had no problem doing stripping runs but the hearts on my first spirit run are just massively contaminated with an acetone/isopropyl smell. The heads and even the foreshots are neutral in comparison, the tails are more appealing. I collected in 250ml jars and the smell gets worse until they disappear when the tails come out.

This particular spirit run was 7 litres of low wines collected from 40 litres of sugar and malt wash (three generations of UJSM style sourmash). They probably fermented a little on the hot side.

Could badly made wash make nail polish remover smelling hearts? The low wines were treated with bicarb for a week before the second run.
Is there anything I can do to get rid of the smell? Airing? Re running the whole batch?

I was trying to make tight heart cuts for a potstilled gin. Right now though none of the distillate is worthy. :thumbdown:
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Re: Acetone smell present throughout the hearts

Postby Odin » Sat Sep 03, 2011 9:57 am

T,

I read your questions. UJSSM is a big interest to me. Drinking it at the moment and loving it. What you say is ... not something I understand. How can fores smell/taste not be in the first parts of your run, but somehow are there in abundancy while collecting hearts ...? I do not get it.

Could you inform us about what kinda still you use? Could you post how/where you make your cuts, how strong your beer was? How strong your low wines were? I think more info is needed to be able to give you any answer, because this is so far of from my experiences (and others I guess) with UJSSM. Now, I will not be the one to answer these questions, since there are bigger brains around (well, on distilling, that is :wink: ). But they too need more info to help you, I guess.

Met a guy just a week ago on a Dutch site similar to HD. He wanted to make vodka for his parents, but his results were ... bad. They did not like it. He told me, he did not understand, since - on 25 liters of 17% sugar wine and on 8 liters of around 50% low wines - he DID throw away the first 50 ml as fores and collected everything else. No heads being thrown out, was the problem, of course, but maybe I am telling you nothing new.

Good luck! Please give us some numbers and I expect the mentors to step in!

Odin.
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Re: Acetone smell present throughout the hearts

Postby Dnderhead » Sat Sep 03, 2011 10:16 am

your probably running to hot and "smearing"
on a spirit run bring the temperature up slowly,then you can remove fores/heads.
if you run the temperature up to fast you "skip over" these smearing all together.
distilling is a rather slow proses.not to be hurried.
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Re: Acetone smell present throughout the hearts

Postby Throwthedauntlet » Sat Sep 03, 2011 10:24 am

My girlfriend can confirm the smell of the hearts compared to the foreshots and heads. It isn't subtle, I'm quite perplexed.

Anyways the washes were fermented to 8-9% from white sugar and barley malt. I used mostly spent grain from brewing and about 15ml of DAP per 15 litres of wash. The sugar was boiled with the grain and dunder for 30 minutes before adding cold water and pitching yeast. The yeast was top cropped from a very low hopped beer during the peak of fermentation. The washes took about a week before settling out, they were stripped hard and fast. The low wines were aged a week with sodium bicarbonate (15ml per litre of low wines) and shaken twice daily.

The still is stainless steel with the lyne arm and condenser of copper. Total rise of the lyne arm is 50 cm, condenser diameter is 3/8" or 9.5mm.

On the 7 litre run of low wines (no abv% without an alcometer) I took 350ml of foreshots and 350ml of heads before the smell came out. At first I thought it was just more heads (as it should be) but it got stronger as the run continued. I have 1.8 litres of smelly stuff before the tails (1.5 litres). The whole run took 4 hours although I may have been running it too fast.

I keep thinking my washes fermented too hot, above 25C for the most part.
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Re: Acetone smell present throughout the hearts

Postby LWTCS » Sat Sep 03, 2011 10:31 am

Cycling heat can smear too......as well as forced reflux being incorrectly introduced too low on your column riser.
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Re: Acetone smell present throughout the hearts

Postby Throwthedauntlet » Sat Sep 03, 2011 10:41 am

Ok I'm assuming my electric oven works on a cycle of heating and cooling unless it's on the max setting (it most definitely isn't). I can't really get around that though, my setup was built around the oven and the kitchen sink.

Now introducing forced reflux too low on the column riser is a little above my current knowledge of stills. Could you elaborate a bit on what this is, or refer to a post that does?
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Re: Acetone smell present throughout the hearts

Postby Odin » Sat Sep 03, 2011 10:45 am

I can see how cycled heating can have an influence ... but that much? Ready to learn more, LWTC! T, I guess what is meant by the other reason for your result is the question: where do you cool your reflux column. Too low in the column might leave you with off flavours.

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Re: Acetone smell present throughout the hearts

Postby rad14701 » Sat Sep 03, 2011 11:48 am

Throwthedauntlet, are you distilling in your oven...???
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Re: Acetone smell present throughout the hearts

Postby Throwthedauntlet » Sat Sep 03, 2011 12:02 pm

rad14701 wrote:Throwthedauntlet, are you distilling in your oven...???


Hahaha, lets just say English isn't my first language. I should have written electric range or stove top.

A lyne arm coming out of the oven vent would be pretty crazy though.
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Re: Acetone smell present throughout the hearts

Postby LWTCS » Sat Sep 03, 2011 12:41 pm

So alcohol vapor has weight and a temperature. And the different alcohols(via boiling points) can be assembled/stacked/fractioned/////,,,managed (by using a column) according to the weight/boiling point of the vapor.
So the weight of the vapor will ultimately determine where in the column the vapor will largely dwell during the distillation and especially during the equalization phase of the process.

Prematurely cooling fores and heads will force them back to mingle and smear with the forth coming vapors....Thus not giving One's column the opportunity to stack fractions. This is why the highest point on the column is recommended for One's reflux condenser.....And why the taller column is prefer'd for the best possible fractioning.

Others can explain this better than me.
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Re: Acetone smell present throughout the hearts

Postby Throwthedauntlet » Sat Sep 03, 2011 12:51 pm

Is this an issue with a potstill? If it were run too slowly to start and then too hard after that, would I have refluxed the fores and heads a bit then smeared the rest into the hearts?
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Re: Acetone smell present throughout the hearts

Postby mash rookie » Sat Sep 03, 2011 12:59 pm

Yeast from any hoped beer and spent grain with hops will not distill well even a very good reflux column. It will always taste bad. And then you are trying to make it work with a pot still that you can not manage temperature accurately.

This is not a recipe for success. Start with a simple sugar or grain/sugar head wash, use regular bakers yeast if you don’t have distillers yeast.

Putting your pot still in a larger pot of water on your stove top (double boiler) will make it easier to have steady temps through out your run.

Dunder and LW are correct. If your temprature fluxuates you will not be able to do good cuts. There will be constant smearing of flavors.

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Re: Acetone smell present throughout the hearts

Postby Throwthedauntlet » Sat Sep 03, 2011 1:13 pm

Spent grains have some nutrients and a little sugar left. I've gotten good grain flavour in the past by fermenting on the grain with added sugar. Even if there were tons of hops in the wash, wouldn't that affect the flavour and not the smell?

I'm not sure how much temperature variation is a problem. I have a meat thermometer reading the temperature of the simmering/boiling wash and it was locked at 85C for the hearts. Is it more complex than that though? I can probably run a double boiler setup with my brewpot.

I've got 24 litres of all grain rice and malt wash ready to strip tomorrow. I want the grain flavour so I'll probably do the three stripping runs followed by the spirit run. No bicarb on this stuff, just grains and toasted+charred white oak heartwood.
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Re: Acetone smell present throughout the hearts

Postby rtalbigr » Sat Sep 03, 2011 1:42 pm

Throw, I'd be interested in knowing how much of your top cropped yeast you are using in your mash. After you crop it are you cleaning it? Over pitching can result in bad tastes and smells.

If your wash is holding steady at 85C I don't think heat is your problem. If you have just a pot set up don't worry about any reflux issues. What reflux you get will be insignificant and will have very little effect on your product.

Part of the problem is the size of your still. The smaller your pot the more smearing you will get and the stove top cycling has a more deliterious effect. I use a stove top that cycles and I overcome it with mass,I have a lot of material in my pot (heavy aluminum exterior, heavy gauge copper liner) and the mass stabilizes the temps.

I think you have a combination of problems but I'm more concerned with the yeast. Is there a possibility of contamination from harvesting? Did you clean it? Did you over pitch?

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Re: Acetone smell present throughout the hearts

Postby mash rookie » Sat Sep 03, 2011 1:46 pm

Throwthedauntlet wrote:Spent grains have some nutrients and a little sugar left. I've gotten good grain flavour in the past by fermenting on the grain with added sugar. Even if there were tons of hops in the wash, wouldn't that affect the flavour and not the smell? You could have several problems there
I'm not sure how much temperature variation is a problem. I have a meat thermometer reading the temperature of the simmering/boiling wash and it was locked at 85C for the hearts. Is it more complex than that though? I can probably run a double boiler setup with my brewpot.


Temp managment will make ALL the difference. Major problem. Heck, I have screwed up runs with my flute because of temp changes.

Heads usually have an acetone smell. Heads come off at lower temps. If your temps drop then comes up during a run then they will mix with what you think should be hearts. Additionally if it gets too hot the tails will be pulled through as well.
It is not as simple as first collected, middle collected, and last collected if the boiler temperature is changing.
It is critical that consistant temperature is maintained for getting good seperation and good cuts.
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Re: Acetone smell present throughout the hearts

Postby rtalbigr » Sat Sep 03, 2011 2:27 pm

Think ya'll are mssin the point here. Throwthedauntlet is using a pot still and not a reflux so temps aren't that critical unless he's runnnin his spirit run too hard. 85C/185F is a decent temp for a pot still, and even a little fluxuation won't hurt much except that his pot is too small to handle fluxuations.

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Re: Acetone smell present throughout the hearts

Postby Throwthedauntlet » Sat Sep 03, 2011 3:30 pm

rtalbigr wrote:Throw, I'd be interested in knowing how much of your top cropped yeast you are using in your mash. After you crop it are you cleaning it? Over pitching can result in bad tastes and smells.


Oh it was probably about a cup of unwashed yeast. Not an overpitch in my books for 15 litres of 1.070 ish wort. Then again the wash I get with these sugar and grain mixtures is never appealing to begin with. All that white sugar and too little nutrients is probably stressing the yeast into producing secondary alcohols. I'm a novice potstiller with a small boiler capacity. Little room for error eh?

I actually started the run on max power and dropped to medium when the wash got to 60C. After that it was a slow rise to 82C, then a step up to 85 for the hearts, then a slow rise up to 98 when I figured I had better things to do than supervise a still. :ewink:

This stuff is going to be diluted and redistilled. Electricity here is some of the cheapest on the planet. I'll go slow and steady. The next washes will probably be all grain, lower OG, ferment cooler and fully cleared before they get stripped. I'm an all grain beer brewer, but I've never given much thought or energy towards making a good wash. :oops:
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Re: Acetone smell present throughout the hearts

Postby mash rookie » Sun Sep 04, 2011 2:56 am

rtalbigr wrote:Think ya'll are mssin the point here. Throwthedauntlet is using a pot still and not a reflux so temps aren't that critical unless he's runnnin his spirit run too hard. 85C/185F is a decent temp for a pot still, and even a little fluxuation won't hurt much except that his pot is too small to handle fluxuations.

Big R


I defer to your experience Big R. I assumed that most principals would apply to a pot still as well or maybe worse.
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Re: Acetone smell present throughout the hearts

Postby rtalbigr » Sun Sep 04, 2011 4:55 am

MR - With a pot still temps can be an important factor but not near as critical in as in refluxing. Pot stillers don't need equalization/stabilization in their column. With low/slow temps there is good reduction of smearing so ya get better seperation between fores/heads/hearts, but they still transition, it's never a "clean" seperation. Hearts are always gonna be a gradual transition from heads to tails, like a bell curve. Controling your energy unput by adjusting it to get the distillate flow ya want is about as technical as it gets for me. I like a stream just above a steady drip. With that I get adequate seperation without necessarily prolonging the overall duration of a run. I do that whether it's a strip or spirit run. I dont run strip runs hard.

How one designs their pot still can also have an effect on the product. Size/height of the head, angle/length of the arm can all have minor effects on the final product. I think it would be great fun (if the resources were available) to have a number of different head/arm sets and the means to chemically analyze what ya get from each. There's a post in resources and reviews about some Scotish distilleries and it includes what the lyne arm does, acending, desending, straight. Their positions are deliberate because of how it affects the distillate that they are producing.

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Re: Acetone smell present throughout the hearts

Postby Throwthedauntlet » Sun Sep 04, 2011 6:22 am

I'm running her at a slow and steady pace right now, the smell was almost all concentrated midway through the heads. The hearts are coming out slow, just quick enough to be flowing and not dripping. There's a bit of flavour in the heads but the hearts are quite dead. Quadruple distilled gin coming up! :D

A chemical analysis of distillate from different potstill designs would be great. The parent site gives a little information, but it is spread out in anecdotes that are sometimes a little hard to understand.
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