Sour Corn Starter

Production methods from starch to sugars.

Moderator: Site Moderator

Post Reply
User avatar
Brendan
Rumrunner
Posts: 671
Joined: Sun Nov 20, 2011 2:07 am
Location: Australia

Sour Corn Starter

Post by Brendan » Thu Feb 20, 2014 8:22 pm

Now just thought I'd cover sour corn starters in conjuction with my bourbon thread in case anyone is interested. I'm not claiming it as my own knowledge, but it's all stuff I first saw presented by Pinto, so thought i'd mention it here for those who haven't come across the idea at all.

When making bourbon/american whiskey and following the traditions in the process, you would have come across the sour mashing method. This involves using a portion of the set back/backset/stillage from the previous run to introduce into the new mashing. If anyone doesn't have much experience with this process, it does not have to do with introducing a sour flavour into whiskey...it's main objective is to lower the pH of the mash and be able to maintain some consistency throughout multiple runs. As set back is very acidic it is effective in bringing the mash down to an optimum level for corn mashing, and helps to prevent bacterial infection. The other benefits to sour mash is that the lactic solution can introduce what some would label as "creamy" flavours and supposedly provide a degree of mouth feel. As far as i'm concerned though, it's all about the pH control :thumbup:

When you are doing your first run and don't have any set back, a sour corn starter is a method which can allow replication to some extent of some of the effects of the sour mash. Here's the process...

Fill up a few jars/containers with some corn. I got cracked corn, and chucked it in the blender for 10 seconds just to break it up a little bit. You'll need at least 4 jars, because they don't always work....
01.JPG

Pour filtered/boiled water in the jars to a minimum of half of the height again on the corn on top. Make sure the water is at fermentation temp (maybe 26-32 deg C / 79-90 deg F). The idea here is that we are giving the natural yeast/bacteria a wet environment to start fermenting. You will notice the water cap turn white as some of the starches dissolve into the water. Put some paper towels over the top and leave them sit in a standard fermentation area.
02.JPG

After 24 hours you should notice that some form of fermentation is underway and there will be little bubles all through the corn, some working their way to the top and possibly pushing small particles to the top forming a cap of floating pieces.
03.JPG
05.JPG
06.JPG

There are 3 particular bacteria that we are lookingto take hold, one at a time, the next denaturing the previous one. Once the first fermentation is underway and the bubbles are visible, there should be a creamed corn like smell, which is the first of the three bacteria in action...

User avatar
Brendan
Rumrunner
Posts: 671
Joined: Sun Nov 20, 2011 2:07 am
Location: Australia

Re: Sour Corn Starter

Post by Brendan » Thu Feb 20, 2014 8:24 pm

These pics are after 36 hours...at this point the fermentation becomes a fair bit more vigorous, and you may see a sizeble cap formed from pieces being pushed to the top of the liquid.
08.JPG
09.JPG

You can see those little bubbles all in amongst the pieces of corn...you can also give these a shake around or a stir to get the cap down and release some of the CO2, which will make it fizz a bit but will soon settle.
10.JPG
11.JPG

User avatar
Brendan
Rumrunner
Posts: 671
Joined: Sun Nov 20, 2011 2:07 am
Location: Australia

Re: Sour Corn Starter

Post by Brendan » Thu Feb 20, 2014 8:28 pm

After 48 hours...
13.JPG
14.JPG

The next smell which you can expect to get here, is the smell of vomit :sick: (yes, it actually smells like puke). This is expected, and is not a problem...this is the second bacteria that we are expecting taking hold and taking over the first bacteria...as this process occurs, the pH level of these starters is dropping. The puke smell usually appears after the 48hour mark, but will soon be killed off by the third bacteria.


After 60 hours...definitely hit the vomit smell now :silent:
16.JPG
17.JPG

User avatar
Brendan
Rumrunner
Posts: 671
Joined: Sun Nov 20, 2011 2:07 am
Location: Australia

Re: Sour Corn Starter

Post by Brendan » Thu Feb 20, 2014 8:32 pm

72 hours...
19.JPG

84 hours...at this point the vomit smell has all but gone. The third bacteria, which is the one we want, has destroyed the second one and the smell has taken on a pleasant corn smell...once this smell sets in and everything settles and clears, it's right to use as a sour starter.
21.JPG
22.JPG

This is the end at about the 96 hour mark...the smell is pleasant, and everything has settled out. This starter will be highly acidic, and can be used in a bourbon mashing to replicate the effects of the sour mashing process using backset. A bit of boiled (dead) yeast can also be added with the mash, as that's another compound which would be present in a sour mash set back addition :thumbup:
24.JPG

User avatar
Brendan
Rumrunner
Posts: 671
Joined: Sun Nov 20, 2011 2:07 am
Location: Australia

Re: Sour Corn Starter

Post by Brendan » Fri Feb 21, 2014 5:19 am

Thanks Rock :thumbup:

It's something that's been discussed over the years, but I think it really helps to have a bit of a guide and knowing what to expect over the timeframe. Who would've thought bacteria would be so interesting?!

User avatar
SoMo
Distiller
Posts: 1665
Joined: Sun Dec 29, 2013 8:59 pm
Location: Tom Sauk Mnt

Re: Sour Corn Starter

Post by SoMo » Sun Feb 23, 2014 1:47 pm

Rock, that's awesome man, when I start my sour mashes over that would be great in the absence of backset where previously I was going to just boil of some wash to have back set. I'm gonna get some fresh corn in the morning and try it, two empty fermenters need filled. Thanks Melloman.
Everything's better home made, everything!!
15.5 keg 7.75keg 2"pot still, Gold CM
Never look down on a man unless it's to help him up.

Woodpile
Bootlegger
Posts: 102
Joined: Sun Jul 21, 2013 5:40 pm

Re: Sour Corn Starter

Post by Woodpile » Mon Mar 03, 2014 1:27 pm

I have some sour backset from a scotch (all barley) batch. Do you think it would be ok to use that in the first batch of sour-mash corn?

User avatar
Brendan
Rumrunner
Posts: 671
Joined: Sun Nov 20, 2011 2:07 am
Location: Australia

Re: Sour Corn Starter

Post by Brendan » Mon Mar 03, 2014 3:07 pm

Woodpile wrote:I have some sour backset from a scotch (all barley) batch. Do you think it would be ok to use that in the first batch of sour-mash corn?
You definitely can...it's going to impart different flavours to what you might be expecting though. But it will, of course, serve its purpose in lowering the pH of your mash water.

The question is the difference of flavour...

User avatar
jetkrazee
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 73
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2014 2:50 pm
Location: BFE

Re: Sour Corn Starter

Post by jetkrazee » Fri Mar 14, 2014 1:50 pm

Great info!

mtndewman
Novice
Posts: 22
Joined: Thu Jan 16, 2014 3:59 am
Location: east side of the mountians

Re: Sour Corn Starter

Post by mtndewman » Sat Mar 22, 2014 3:40 pm

well hell fire. wish i had read this before last week.. lmao i use 2 - 30 gl plastic trash cans to ferment in and i did a half boil corn wash.. i heated water to 150 degrees and let my cracked corn sit in it for a few hours stirring with a drill and paddle mixer.. added 25 lbs or sugar and filled with my spring well water... after a few days i started getting the vomit smell ,, so i thought i screwed up something because the smell ALSO i got a very white powdery film over the top of my wash.. it was very cloudy and smelled like vomit so i poured all 30 gl of it out to the deer.. i really couldn't get over that smell.. but i guess it was a good thing..but what was the powdery film??? i used a bakers yeast too..
great read and great info..i was a week late and 30gl short of a great run..
if you let the government run your life you will end up like the rest of the degenerates,,
IT'S NOT A FREE PLACE WHEN YOU CAN'T EVEN SMOKE OR DRINK WHAT EVER YOU WANT TO.

islandgreen1971
Novice
Posts: 51
Joined: Sun Jan 26, 2014 7:08 pm

Re: Sour Corn Starter

Post by islandgreen1971 » Thu Apr 10, 2014 8:38 pm

Im a novice, 4 months in and addressing how to learn Ph problems now, but not to ask a stupid question, but can I do this to Uncle Jesse's sour mash sugar recipe?

RevSpaminator
Swill Maker
Posts: 444
Joined: Fri May 25, 2012 10:53 am

Re: Sour Corn Starter

Post by RevSpaminator » Thu Jun 05, 2014 4:33 pm

I follow a similar idea when starting my UJSSM. If I have to start from scratch, I dump cracked corn in the fermenter and cover with water. Then I let it set a few days. I know it's done when it doesn't smell like puke anymore. Then I add the rest of my ingredients and let it go. I got the idea from an old post i saw around here a few years ago but I can't for the life of me find it.
Snake Oil Whiskey And Miracle Elixir - It'll cure ya or kill ya.

just sayin
Rumrunner
Posts: 657
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2013 2:12 pm

Re: Sour Corn Starter

Post by just sayin » Thu Jun 05, 2014 5:35 pm

Thanks Brendon, I have three mason jars with coffee filters lined up on a shelf. The corn in them has dried to ugly little corn hockey pucks in the past two or three years. I was reading Pint's original post and tried follow his guide but must have let it go too long, I think I got a mold on the surface.
After reading your post, I think it is time to steam those jars and give it another shot.
Thanks for reviving the elements of Pint's tutorial here.
Just Sayin'

stumpjumper
Novice
Posts: 7
Joined: Sat Mar 15, 2014 5:58 am
Location: Cascades of Washington State

Re: Sour Corn Starter

Post by stumpjumper » Wed Jul 16, 2014 11:50 am

I have read this three times and may still have missed it. Is the started added to your corn recipe (the normal bill of goods whatever they may be)? For example if I am building a five gallon batch and it calls for 8 pounds of corn and 2 pounds of crushed barley then add the starter (whole jar?) to the corn and proceed with what ever your process was when you started from scratch.

Do I have this right?
I'm not poor, I'm broke. Poor is a state of mind and broke is a temporary condition!

Bob Loblaw
Swill Maker
Posts: 478
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2014 11:13 am
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Sour Corn Starter

Post by Bob Loblaw » Fri Nov 14, 2014 1:14 pm

Brendan - good info. I read this along with your other post on Bourbon.

Question for you - do you think a sourdough culture could be used as a starter for the sour mash? The starting methodology here seems like the hit or miss type of approach one can take to get a mother culture going for bread baking. But once you've got the culture you want captured and isolated, seems like maybe one could skip a few of the steps (particularly the "smells like vomit" ones)?

I'm sure I can test it out, but I am wondering if you have any thoughts on that approach.
Easiest way to avoid being on a TTB list is to not purchase a boiler, full column, or condensor from a retailer. Build your own.

User avatar
Ted
Novice
Posts: 38
Joined: Wed Nov 19, 2014 8:16 pm
Location: In never-never land..

Re: Sour Corn Starter

Post by Ted » Tue Nov 25, 2014 11:47 am

I have 4 mason jars of this going right now. Only two of them are working, the two that aren't working I cracked the corn too fine. The 2 that are working smell nasty! :sick: you were right about the smell. How many jars do you reckon I use for a 5 gallon mash, 1 jar or 2?

User avatar
Ted
Novice
Posts: 38
Joined: Wed Nov 19, 2014 8:16 pm
Location: In never-never land..

Re: Sour Corn Starter

Post by Ted » Tue Nov 25, 2014 12:23 pm

Oh, also, how long do you think they can be stored for? Let's say they finished souring and I'm not gonna mash for another two weeks. Would they still be ok to use?

User avatar
Brutal
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 1343
Joined: Sat May 18, 2013 6:02 pm

Re: Sour Corn Starter

Post by Brutal » Sun Dec 14, 2014 6:27 pm

All 5 of my jars appear to be molding.. Sucks.
Steam injection rig http://tinyurl.com/kxmz8hy
All grain corn mash with steam injection and enzymes http://tinyurl.com/mp6zdt5
Inner tube condenser http://tinyurl.com/zkp3ps6

User avatar
Ted
Novice
Posts: 38
Joined: Wed Nov 19, 2014 8:16 pm
Location: In never-never land..

Re: Sour Corn Starter

Post by Ted » Sun Dec 14, 2014 8:55 pm

Brutal wrote:All 5 of my jars appear to be molding.. Sucks.
I did four jars and none of them worked, it worked a little bit then it got stuck at the nasty rotten corn barf smell. I think next time I'll try more jars. I've been tempted to get a cultured lacto bacteria and doing it that way..

User avatar
Brutal
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 1343
Joined: Sat May 18, 2013 6:02 pm

Re: Sour Corn Starter

Post by Brutal » Mon Dec 15, 2014 5:33 pm

Is there something we could add to ensure it starts right? Pinch of yeast? Yogurt?
Steam injection rig http://tinyurl.com/kxmz8hy
All grain corn mash with steam injection and enzymes http://tinyurl.com/mp6zdt5
Inner tube condenser http://tinyurl.com/zkp3ps6

User avatar
Ted
Novice
Posts: 38
Joined: Wed Nov 19, 2014 8:16 pm
Location: In never-never land..

Re: Sour Corn Starter

Post by Ted » Tue Dec 16, 2014 11:01 am

Brutal wrote:Is there something we could add to ensure it starts right? Pinch of yeast? Yogurt?
I would think to use the most freshest corn possible and a good amount of jars in a warm area

User avatar
guittarmaster
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 407
Joined: Sat Jul 24, 2010 6:51 pm
Location: Misouri

Re: Sour Corn Starter

Post by guittarmaster » Wed Jul 27, 2016 1:27 pm

Do i understand this correctly, You DO NOT boil the soured corn before adding it or do you sterilize it first?
War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength

dukethebeagle120
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 578
Joined: Wed Jul 27, 2016 11:08 am
Location: french canada with good vermont neighbors

Re: Sour Corn Starter

Post by dukethebeagle120 » Tue Aug 16, 2016 4:28 pm

can u use this as your yeast ,say like a sourdough starter
ive made sourdough starters before and it smells the same
and with sourdough starters you always get a ``hooch`` that forms if left for a bit
its better to think like a fool but keep your mouth shut,then to open ur mouth and have it confirmed

Reverend Newer
Swill Maker
Posts: 171
Joined: Sat Nov 11, 2017 2:41 pm
Location: Q Clearance Patriot

Re: Sour Corn Starter

Post by Reverend Newer » Tue Feb 20, 2018 9:29 pm

This is probably the best explanation of why and how, including awesome pictorial of sour mash starter, awesome work and thank you for your time.
spiritually taxed circa 1791

Appalachian spirits
Novice
Posts: 63
Joined: Sun Feb 25, 2018 8:33 pm

Re: Sour Corn Starter

Post by Appalachian spirits » Wed Mar 28, 2018 7:34 pm

Ill be damned....i wish i had known this 20 years ago. This is one of those moments i wish i paid more attention to the science of this craft instead of using trial and error but thats why i joined this site. To learn. I will use this the next time i mash in a sweet run for damn sure.
Thanks for the great information

zapata
Distiller
Posts: 1416
Joined: Fri Jul 07, 2017 1:06 pm

Re: Sour Corn Starter

Post by zapata » Wed Mar 28, 2018 9:54 pm

If you can incubate the jars at around 120*F, this process goes much faster. Maybe more reliably too, I never had a batch not get a good lacto souring going on when incubating. I used to have a crockpot that would hold right at 120 on low. But I've got another one that needs to be plugged into a power controller to maintain 120. I've done both corn in jars in a water bath in the crockpot, as well as just souring up a crockpot full. Crockpot full is easier, but I guess individual jars gives you more chances in case something doesn't go right.

This works great to start a first gen UJ, or to restart UJ after some time off. A little soured corn, some frozen or canned backset, and it's like you never stopped.

User avatar
8Ball
Rumrunner
Posts: 550
Joined: Tue Nov 27, 2018 9:12 am

Re: Sour Corn Starter

Post by 8Ball » Mon Aug 05, 2019 5:16 am

:thumbup: Great write up! Thanks. Very timely. I’ll be looking more closely at garage sales for a used crockpot now. :)
8B
The struggle is real and this rabbit hole just got interesting.

SmokyMtn
Novice
Posts: 63
Joined: Wed Sep 13, 2017 9:02 pm

Re: Sour Corn Starter

Post by SmokyMtn » Wed Jun 03, 2020 7:26 am

I'm not familiar with this process. However I do know canning. And you don't want to put boiling hot water in cold jars. You need to put them in a wet bath and bring up to a boil. Much safer than shocking the jars.

Look at yard sales or Walmart for this.
Familiarity breeds complacency, Safety First

N8v Whisky
Novice
Posts: 3
Joined: Thu Aug 06, 2020 3:05 pm

Re: Sour Corn Starter

Post by N8v Whisky » Sat Aug 08, 2020 9:32 pm

When I decided to go all in on sour, I cooked my grain bill and left it still Hot in a closed barrel for 5 days. I didn’t cold crash it, Sugar it, or thin it. Closed it and left it. 3 days were intended but yuns know how it is. When I got back to to it, it smelled great!!! I sugared, filled and pitched. 8 days later, best ever! I got the idea off a youtube video of a guy distilling hooch wIth clay and bamboo!! The video is cool for so many reasons but to sum it up, this is how I figured out sour mash.. In the video, the guy adds yeast after cooking to help it sour. I didn’t! Like I said, Sealed it up and walked away. Since then I’ve done it in 3 days. Now I know exactly what to look for. The sweet smell after the puke! Lol! That’s not so hard to remember.
Anyone ever have a vomit flavored jelly bean??

If it all goes to shit and you have no copper or stainless...

Post Reply