Corn Fermentation

Production methods from starch to sugars.

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Corn Fermentation

Postby dis-still-in » Sun Jun 26, 2011 11:29 am

Hey all,

I have been browsing the forums for anything on corn fermentation and found posts but am looking for some clarification on a couple questions.

1. Could someone explain the conversion process? That is, how does the sugar become accessible? If it's boiling, how effective is it and is there a more precise boil time than "about 2 hours?"

2. On feed corn and deer corn: The label on the deer corn at my local feed store reads: "Less than 10 ppm fumonisin and 20ppb aflotoxin." According to the FDA's website, the aflotoxin is right at spec for safe human consumption. The fumonisin is well over as it looks like the FDA recommends 4ppm or less. Anybody have any clarification on this? Are there brands that process these out entirely?

3. I assume milling the corn would decrease boil time? Any idea on how much?

4. I assume it varies on corn type, but what is the expected sugar yield pound-per-pound

5. The last whisky I made utilized flaked corn from the brew store which was expensive. The feed corn seems the better way to go. Anyone have any experience with the difference in final taste between the two? That is, has anyone done the exact (as much as possible) recipe but subbing the the feed corn for the expensive corn to see what, if any, difference there is?

Thanks, you all are always a great help.
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Re: Corn Fermentation

Postby Tater » Sun Jun 26, 2011 11:35 am

PLEASE READ THIS FORUMS RULES AND THESES Links: http://homedistiller.org and New Distiller Reading Lounge I use a pot still
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Re: Corn Fermentation

Postby rtalbigr » Sun Jun 26, 2011 12:06 pm

1. Ya, boil the S*** outa it. Times can vary
2. Just buy cracked corn.
3.Yes, to a certain extent, to fine and ya got mush.
4.Well cooked, then w/good sacriffication ya can get an OG from 1.050-1.070.
5.All I use is cracked corn.

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Re: Corn Fermentation

Postby dis-still-in » Sun Jun 26, 2011 12:12 pm

@Big R-

Where do you source your cracked corn?
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Re: Corn Fermentation

Postby rtalbigr » Sun Jun 26, 2011 3:29 pm

Well, I don't know your locale, but where I am some pet supplies will have it and any farmer's co-op will have more than you'll ever need, well they'll at least have several hundred bags. If ur in a big city ya may have to range out some to a more rural area. Cracked corn is pretty common.

Cracked corn is busted up pretty good but you'll still have to cook it pretty good to get the starches. Pre-soakin' over nite or even 24 hrs helps a lot. When ur cookin' ya got really stir and stir and stir, ur arms'll get tired. A good SS long handle stirin' spatula helps cuz ya can keep the bottom and edges scraped. Ur gettin' there when it starts to get creamy, sticky, and thickens up. Don't boil it too hard cuz the boils can come up outa the pot and splatter all over and rite in ur face, and believe me that ain't fun. Corn's a real bitch but a nice corn whisky is well worth it.

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Re: Corn Fermentation

Postby rubber duck » Sun Jun 26, 2011 4:59 pm

The answer to your first question. Boiling the corn releases the starch, the grain must be cracked or milled. After the starch is released you add malted grain, malted grain contains enzymes, most folks use barley. Depending on what kind of grain you use, you may or may not need to boil the grain. For corn it needs to be boiled and the finer the milling the faster it will cook, although you don't want to go to fine as it will be a pain to deal with.

Starch is made up of long chains of glucose, the enzymes chop up these chains into manageable fermentable sugar for the yeast to consume. Malted grains contain a lot of different enzymes but the two that are most important are alpha and beta.

Alpha enzymes work very fast at a high temperature, taking that starch chain and breaking it up into shorter chains of non fermentabe sugars called dextrose.

Beta enzymes work much slower and denature at a lower temp then alpha enzymes do. Beta enzymes take the dextrose sugar and break it up into even smaller chains of 2 molecules called maltose, and into single molecules of glucose. These sugars are very fermentable by yeast.

So for the conversion of starch you want an adequate supply of enzymes, a proper mash temp for your desired product, and enough time at that temp to get complete conversion. Higher temps means faster conversion and less fementable sugar. Lowers temps give slower conversion and more fermentable sugar. For corn whiskey I like a temp of 145f for 3 hours, but you may have to modify that depending on if your equipped to hold a stable temp for 3 hours. I use a minimum diastatic/ enzyme power of 30 deg linter, linter is a measurement of the amount enzymatic power a grain contains.

There's also a lot of good info on the parent site, if you need some help in understanding it just holler, it can get a little confusing.
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Re: Corn Fermentation

Postby Bull Rider » Sun Jun 26, 2011 7:48 pm

Damn RD, that's one of the better posts on corn and the process of converting. Well said.

Too bad that it can be marked for future reference. And here I thought you were just a gear jammer. 8)


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Re: Corn Fermentation

Postby dis-still-in » Sun Jun 26, 2011 8:06 pm

Any input on using a grain bag to mash the corn vs. not using a grain bag? I would assume conversion might be less with the grain bag than without, but don't know whether the difference is statistically significant....

Also, are you recommending using both alpha and beta enzymes or picking one and holding temp in it's particular range?
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Re: Corn Fermentation

Postby Dnderhead » Sun Jun 26, 2011 8:38 pm

if you boil the corn then starch will be released, and a grain bag wont do much good.
a grain bag houlds the halls.and lets the starch out.but iv never seen as it works with corn.
you need both enzymes, hould temp. between 140-150f this covers both.
best at a PH of 5.4.
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Re: Corn Fermentation

Postby dis-still-in » Sun Jun 26, 2011 8:44 pm

Hmmm..

I guess what I have been reading here was leading me to:

1. soak the corn for up to 24hrs prior to boil to soften and thus reduce the final boil time and
2. boil the corn within a grain bag which is itself suspended in the mash tun in order to eliminate the chance for burning the corn

If this method doesn't reduce the conversion rate, and allows for some amount of sparging, then it seems like a go, right?

Thanks for all your input!
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Re: Corn Fermentation

Postby Dnderhead » Sun Jun 26, 2011 8:51 pm

it will work just I fiend a bag a pain in the ass with corn..
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Re: Corn Fermentation

Postby rubber duck » Sun Jun 26, 2011 9:14 pm

dis-still-in wrote:Any input on using a grain bag to mash the corn vs. not using a grain bag? I would assume conversion might be less with the grain bag than without, but don't know whether the difference is statistically significant....

Also, are you recommending using both alpha and beta enzymes or picking one and holding temp in it's particular range?


I don't recommend that you use powdered enzymes alone. They should be used as a supplement, not a substitute. For a guy in your situation I would home malt some grain and use the enzymes to ensure you have enough diastatic power to get a good conversion. Enzymes are a good thing to use in something like a all corn mash where diastatic power is a problem. With malted grain you have a lot more going on then just alpha and bete, there are also enzymes that break protein down into amino acids, this is really important for a fast healthy ferment and it also seems to help give the lowest possible FG, in the shortest time.

I don't use the boil in a bag system but it's and interesting idea to prevent scorching while you cook it. I do my corn ferments on grain, I've never been able to get corn to sparge well even with a lot of rice hulls.
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Re: Corn Fermentation

Postby rubber duck » Sun Jun 26, 2011 9:20 pm

Bull Rider wrote:Damn RD, that's one of the better posts on corn and the process of converting. Well said.

Too bad that it can be marked for future reference. And here I thought you were just a gear jammer. 8)


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Thanks man but I actually kinda half assed it. :lol: To really get into it you need a whole page but if I did that no one would read it, heck I can't even get anyone to read the parent site.
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Re: Corn Fermentation

Postby Dnderhead » Sun Jun 26, 2011 9:25 pm

Enzyme Groups and FunctionsEnzyme
Optimum
Temperature
Range Working pH Range
Function

Phytase
86-126°F
5.0-5.5
Lowers the mash pH. No longer used.

Debranching (var.)
95-113°F
5.0-5.8
Solubilization of starches.

Beta Glucanase
95-113°F
4.5-5.5
Best gum breaking rest.

Peptidase
113-131°F
4.6-5.3
Produces Free Amino Nitrogen (FAN).

Protease
113-131°F
4.6-5.3
Breaks up large proteins that form haze.

Beta Amylase
131-150°F
5.0-5.5
Produces maltose.

Alpha Amylase
154-162°F
5.3-5.7
Produces a variety of sugars, including maltose.
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Re: Corn Fermentation

Postby dis-still-in » Sun Jun 26, 2011 9:40 pm

@Rubber Duck:

My current project (I have done rum (oak aged and silver), pumpkin brandy, vodka, and one whisky so far) is a gin. I am using the following grain bill, which I found on the parent site, in order to create the base which I will then redistill via the gin head method on my column still in the presence of as yet undecided botanical concoction...:

25 pounds cracked corn
5 pounds rye flour
17 pounds crushed 6-row malted barley

Thus, I think I will have the enzymes to to convert the corn starches to sugars due to the presence of the natural enzymes in the grains. In reading the parent site and the forums over the past two days it seems people have been successful in adding enzymes at different points in the boil to 'thin' the heavy corn mash.. I have the enzymes already so I was thinking of just adding them to help out.

I am using generic baker's yeast and the H2O is rainwater that I collect and filter/purify. I think I need to pay some more attention to PH and mineral content of the water to really get into it, but haven't gotten there yet.

Ultimately, I wonder about the difference between a corn/grain base for a gin (where you are really making a neutral spirit) and a pure sugar based wash. I have an itch that says a 'whisky' base would add that touch of sweetness to the spicy final gin run that might create a really effective balance. All my research points to the 'whisky' base (be it corn heavy or other grain heavy) is what the big boys do.....
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Re: Corn Fermentation

Postby dis-still-in » Sun Jun 26, 2011 10:02 pm

Dnderhead wrote:Enzyme Groups and FunctionsEnzyme
Optimum
Temperature
Range Working pH Range
Function

Phytase
86-126°F
5.0-5.5
Lowers the mash pH. No longer used.

Debranching (var.)
95-113°F
5.0-5.8
Solubilization of starches.

Beta Glucanase
95-113°F
4.5-5.5
Best gum breaking rest.

Peptidase
113-131°F
4.6-5.3
Produces Free Amino Nitrogen (FAN).

Protease
113-131°F
4.6-5.3
Breaks up large proteins that form haze.

Beta Amylase
131-150°F
5.0-5.5
Produces maltose.

Alpha Amylase
154-162°F
5.3-5.7
Produces a variety of sugars, including maltose.



@Dnderhead:

So according to the chart you provided, and correct me if my read is wrong, the full frontal attack on the starch would be:

1. Mash corn in the presence of grains with natural enzyme content (see my grain bill in last post) and
2. After the boil is complete (meaning the corn starch has become present for possible conversion), reduce mash temp to, say, 160F and add Alpha Amlyase, and
3. After the temp drops to, say, 149F to be safe, add Beta Amylase, and
4. Let temp drop through the Beta's range, while
5. Maintaining a PH of, say, 5.5 to 5.4 on the safe side for the entire process...

Is this your read?
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Re: Corn Fermentation

Postby rubber duck » Sun Jun 26, 2011 11:59 pm

You can't go wrong with a grain based neutral, it will add a little mouth feel and character. For gin I really don't know how much difference it will make. The big boys use neutral grain spirits for gin, not because it's good but because it's cheep. NGS are dirt cheep something like 7 dollars a gallon before taxes, I deliver the stuff to wineries all the time and it costs as much to ship as it does to buy the stuff. Most all gin distillers don't distill their own base alcohol, they buy it.

You have the right idea on the conversion but you need to cook the corn and then add the malted barley. If you cook the 6row malted barley you will denature the enzymes, once you denature the enzymes you can't un denature them. With a grain bill like that there is no need to add powdered enzymes, that grain bill will get it done. Just cook the corn and rye, cool it and the add the malt, stabilize the temp and hold it at 145f for 3 hours.

If you want to use the enzymes also add a little alpha during the cooking to loosen it up, then cool to 165f and add some more and wait 15 minutes. add your malt and you should drop to an acceptable mash temp of around 144-148f, it actually might be a little low so you may have to add some hot water. Once the temp is stable add your beta. Mash for 3 hours.

Mash ph should be 5.2 for best results, fermentation ph is a different mater. Your mineral content is really only going to be important if your trying to replicate something like another distillery's whiskey or whiskey from a certain region. As long as the water tastes good it will make good whiskey.
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Re: Corn Fermentation

Postby Dnderhead » Mon Jun 27, 2011 6:35 am

best use iv found for the powdered enzymes is to add to the cook this provides some conversion and then grains like corn does not thicken as much,less chance of burning,easier to stir etc..
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Re: Corn Fermentation

Postby dis-still-in » Thu Jun 30, 2011 4:15 pm

Disaster Strikes!

So, after reading everyone's sage words, I soaked 50# corn for about 30hrs. Fired it up today and cooked it and 10#Rye for a little over two hours. Of course have to chill it all down to 145F to add the 34#Barley...Only problem is my ice delivery for my wort chilling apparatus didn't get delivered. So I'm sitting on this wort at 212F with an ambient air temp of 105F. Needless to say it is still not cool enough to handle even 3.5hrs later.

Went to get ice, but since I'm in nowhersville, by the time I returned it I lost my window for the 3hr barley soak...Lidded it up and will run it first thing in the morning....

Nothing left to do but pour a little bit of Hook's rum recipe that I have aging and review the day.

Did learn the pros/cons of the grain bag. Decided to use it and am pretty certain there was no burning, although I'll have to empty the stock pots to verify. Smells good. because of the large amount of corn some of it was suspended outside the water. Kept adjusting my suspension but in the end I figure a few cups of corn that didn't get fully boiled won't matter that much...There is precious little stirring room with that much corn though. Hoping some of the starch didn't settle and burn because of it. On the other hand, stirring two 20gallon stock pots for two hours in the 105F heat probably has its downside as well...

Will finish it in the morning. Definitely learning mashing raw corn is...challenging....

Thanks all.
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Re: Corn Fermentation

Postby rtalbigr » Thu Jun 30, 2011 6:02 pm

Distilling as a hobby can at time be challenging :shock:

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Re: Corn Fermentation

Postby dis-still-in » Thu Jun 30, 2011 7:14 pm

No doubt Big R, and the litmus test is whether we go back in the morning to reassess. I'll be there.

Thanks again for everyone's wisdom.
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