Novice Guide for Cuts (Pot Still)

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kiwistiller
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Novice Guide for Cuts (Pot Still)

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

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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 - Fractions illustrated
4 - Cuts and blending the easy way
5 - What about double and triple distillations?
6 - What to do with feints?


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. More discussion of this follows in section 6.

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 - Fractions illustrated
To give you a visual idea of what is going on in a pot still run, Ayay has knocked up these awesome illustrations. (from http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopi ... 15&t=11913)

One of the biggest things to get your head around with a pot still is that fractions do not separate out cleanly (reflux columns are better at it but still imperfect). The different components in the product tend to get smeared across a run. If each bottle of a run was divided up into components, it would 'look like this':
Colour Guide to Cuts 2.jpg


However, the components are all mixed up (and appear that way to our senses) so what the distiller is really faced with is better visualised like this:
Colour Guide to Cuts 1.jpg
The hearts cut in the first diagram is shown as completely pure. This is not normally the case. The following two diagrams present a somewhat more realistic scenario. First of all, most distillers chose to do a stripping run.
Run%20colours%206%20strip.jpg
The key thing to notice here is the amount of water in each bottle increasing as ABV drops. Stripping runs are blasted out faster than a spirit run (the last run, when most make their cuts), so the separation between fractions is bad. This is of no concern at this stage, and no cuts are made. The decreasing yield of alcohol also illustrates why we normally stop our stripping runs at 20% or so - after a time, it is simply not worth the bother / heat input for such a small return. Now lets assume that the product from this stripping run was added to the product of say two more stripping runs, and dumped back in the boiler at 40%. Then a slower spirit run is performed, so get better separation between fractions. For clarity, the water content is omitted from this diagram.
Run%20colours%205%20pot.jpg
The key thing to notice here is that there is some overlap of heads and tails with the indicated hearts cut. This is because there are desirable (and strong) flavours in heads and tails, and with too narrow a hearts cut, the end product will lack character and flavour. Also, aging can smooth out the harsher compounds that come with those flavours, but that is another discussion in itself. Deciding how much of the late heads and early tails end up in your product is what I consider to be the hardest part of the production process. Get it wrong and your product is either boring, or harsh with painful hangovers. Fortunately, there are a few tricks to help out the beginner in this.

4 - Cuts and blending the easy way

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 practising!

5 - What about double and triple distillations?
One very common question is how to handle cuts when doing multiple distillations. While this is a matter of personal preference, it is only strictly necessary to perform cuts on the final run (spirit run). Some distillers may however prefer to discard some foreshots on each run, and while the practical benefit of this is unclear, it certainly doesn't hurt.

6 - What to do with feints?

As you can see from the diagrams above, you'll end up with a lot of 'feints' (parts of the run that are not hearts or foreshots - you're drinking the hearts, and foreshots MUST be discarded). Some distillers simply just save the hearts cut for drinking, and recycle all the feints back into the next spirit run. 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, but be careful with heads lest you end up with a raging hangover 8)

The other common option (for those with reflux columns) is to feed your feints to the column still to strip out the remaining ethanol as neutral.

Alternatively, if storage is not an issue for you, you can save up your feints until you have enough to charge your still, then do an 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. 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. Cuts may also need to be slightly more conservative than usual (i.e. a narrower hearts cut). The feints of this run will be pretty strong, and probably best to throw them out or turn them into neutral with the column.

A workflow example from my own process:
Lets say I was producing rum. I will do three stripping runs, with no cuts. dilute that to 40%, and do one slow spirit run. discard foreshots, The hearts cut goes onto oak for aging, and the feints go to the rum feints container. Repeat several times. After enough feints are generated, do an all feints run. Keep hearts cut separate as a special product, discard foreshots, and add feints to the neutral container for the next column distillation.

After you are fully set up and so on it is quite easy to get yourself in to a routine like this with the minimum of wastage, despite taking only a small hearts cut of each run.

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Further Reading:
http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopi ... nding+tips" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" rel="nofollow
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 Ayay and Usge have put up some great info lately. Credit to Ayay for the awesome diagrams!

Cheers,
Kiwi

Mod Edit: Original Post: http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopi ... 15&t=11640
Last edited by kiwistiller on Wed Sep 16, 2009 11:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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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.
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Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

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

skyline wrote:Could this guide be used for a reflux still. ....
Sort of... not really... what type of still are you running?
skyline wrote:I'm running a still spirits reflux still. ....
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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" rel="nofollow
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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
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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.

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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.
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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.
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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.

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.

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Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by Usge » Mon Nov 16, 2009 7:39 pm

Ive done much deeper cuts too for ageing. I think initially I named one bottle I did that way "skank" because it had a thick tails smell to it and I was "sure" I had ruined it. But, it oaked out ok...just took a long time. Actually ended up with a pretty interesting flavor..sort of like scotch and bourbon mix. So, I called it Scurbon. Or B'otch.

Those cuts, mentioned above, were done from a triple run (ie., Harry's method), where you do a strip, save that add wash/mash to capacity and strip again, save that and add wash/mash to capacity and do a final spirit run on that. Proofs out a lot lower cause it starts lower, (my blend came out somewhere in the high 130s instead of 160 or 170)) and it contains single runs, double, and triple all in the same batch. It made a nice flavor, but blending it out was a little harder cause there was less overall yield (as opposed to double running all low-wines/feints to capacity) and some of it was dirtier because of the singlins. So, I had to pick my way around it.

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Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by Usge » Sun Dec 06, 2009 5:02 pm

Ok boys and girls...going out on a limb here yet again with my latest testing to add another bit of info. Here it is in a nutshell, ....the size of the glass/jar you are collecting in...can make a difference in how you detect or perceive cuts. I had 2 pint jars..each had notable problems. Combined them together in a quart...all of sudden....wha' happened? It's smooth, taste ok.etc. BUT..if you water it down...whamo...same old objectionable offtastes, burn, stinging on the tongue..salty smell/taste.

So, another thing to add...is after you've separated everything out to the 'nth" degree..is start recombining it it various ways to see what holds up..and what doesn't.

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Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by bstinga » Sun Dec 06, 2009 8:03 pm

Usage wrote
going out on a limb here yet again with my latest testing to add another bit of info...
Spirit tasters/reviewers (commercial spirits that is) often will taste i.e. rum straight, then add some water and re-taste to reveal the different profiles. Check out some well know spirit reviewers and writers methodology for the exact process. Also see the Rum University website free program which is worth a read and really helps with 'ones' thought process when making cuts IMO.

So what you are saying isn't that far out along the limb.

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Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (pot still)

Post by Usge » Tue Dec 08, 2009 8:21 am

I think I was more talking about the size of the collection glass/container/sample of raw spirit...prior to dilution. And how that could/may have an impact on the initial raw spirit sample. (ie., stuff that actually tastes/smells ok...in a larger jar...that would not if collected in smaller lots/jars). Dilution as a test method was already covered earlier in the thread (as well as elsewhere). But, I appreciate the vote of confidence :)

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Re: Notes from the cutting bench...

Post by Runt » Sat Dec 07, 2019 3:17 pm

kiwistiller wrote:
Wed Nov 11, 2009 7:17 pm
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.
At what point do You turn up the power?

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Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (Pot Still)

Post by OtisT » Sat Dec 07, 2019 3:24 pm

On a pot still run I wait until I am into tails, past my cut point, before turning up the power. That is assuming I am saving tails for later use. Otherwise, I leave the power alone for the entire run and simply shut down once past my tails cut. A sure way to know when you are well into tails is to watch for a noticeable drop in production rate.

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Re: Notes from the cutting bench...

Post by NZChris » Sat Dec 07, 2019 3:26 pm

Runt wrote:
Sat Dec 07, 2019 3:17 pm
At what point do You turn up the power?
If I intend to adjust the power, I turn it up after smelling a jar that is obviously good enough to be hearts.

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Re: Notes from the cutting bench...

Post by cayars » Mon Dec 09, 2019 4:44 am

NZChris wrote:
Sat Dec 07, 2019 3:26 pm
Runt wrote:
Sat Dec 07, 2019 3:17 pm
At what point do You turn up the power?
If I intend to adjust the power, I turn it up after smelling a jar that is obviously good enough to be hearts.
But by turning up the power you likely are causing more smearing to take place bringing in more tails that could have fractioned off better had you left it running at the same speed. Your overall amount of useful product can go down like this because when later making cuts you've brought over more tails faster. You'll have a smaller true hearts section and your tails will be smeared more as well making selection of those jars harder to use.

But this is relative to what the flow rate was before that.

I'll try and put it in perspective. On a 5 gallon pot still filled 3.5 gallons with 30%ish low wines running batches I'm familiar with. I'll bring it up to temp slowly.
I'll go for drip, drip, drip about a drip per second and take off foreshots and very early heads and discard them.
Same drip speed for heads and I'll run this way until I'm producing 75% ABV. I'll collect these heads in a big jar and set them aside.
From about 76% to 74% I'll collect in 100 mL sizes.

At 74% I'll be in hearts and again collect in big containers. I'll turn up the heat a smidge so that I'm getting something like drip, drip, spurt, drip, drip, spurt and run my hearts this way. I'll run my hearts down to 61% and then collect in small sizes again of around 100 mL until I'm at about 58% ABV.
Through these early tails I'll taste and decide when I'm into tails that won't make my cut.

Then I turn up the heat and run it as fast as it will run properly collecting into large containers until I'm done.

Now I can set aside the heads/tails jars as I already know I don't want them. I've got my big collection of jars for hearts and only have to go through some small jars of transition period heads and tails. Since I've collected them in small samples I can be very choosy. Even in 100 mL sizes the smells/taste change quickly. This is why I prefer these transition jars in small amounts for fine grained cuts control.

But hopefully that helps to understand speed/flow vs boiler charge and ABV at least the way I run most batches. On my keg still it's roughly the same speed approach but it produces faster. My Hearts run on the keg still will be a thin stream. Just thin enough it doesn't spurt.

To me finding the proper flow rate for hearts is just a matter of trial and error while testing. Make up a large ferment and strip it so you have enough for 3 spirit runs. Run them each at slightly different speeds noting the flow as observed and how long it takes to fill specific amounts in each and every jar. After the run search out for hearts or the transition jars. Check the proof so you know roughly where this will start. Same with the transition to tails so you know roughly at what ABV tails start. Note how the proof of each jar changes based on speed of each run and how pure each jar is taste wise. Then it's just a matter of determining the optimal speed to run for the most hearts and energy use. You then just dial it in and become one with your still. LOL

This way you can fine tune your own system which will likely be different in some way to most other peoples setups and can dial it in yourself knowing the sweet spot to run for hearts.
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Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (Pot Still)

Post by StillerBoy » Mon Dec 09, 2019 5:37 am

cayars wrote:
Mon Dec 09, 2019 4:44 am
I'll try and put it in perspective. On a 5 gallon pot still filled 3.5 gallons with 30%ish low wines running batches I'm familiar with. I'll bring it up to temp slowly.
I'll go for drip, drip, drip about a drip per second and take off foreshots and very early heads and discard them.
Same drip speed for heads and I'll run this way until I'm producing 75% ABV. I'll collect these heads in a big jar and set them aside.
From about 76% to 74% I'll collect in 100 mL sizes.

At 74% I'll be in hearts and again collect in big containers. I'll turn up the heat a smidge so that I'm getting something like drip, drip, spurt, drip, drip, spurt and run my hearts this way. I'll run my hearts down to 61% and then collect in small sizes again of around 100 mL until I'm at about 58% ABV.

Through these early tails I'll taste and decide when I'm into tails that won't make my cut.
Pretty much the same for me for pot still run.. what has to be remember here are the numbers for the ABV will be different.. why.. it will all depend on the loads ABV overall average.. if the boiler load in 30%, the take off proof will start at a lower proof, than a load at 35 or 40%.. and the load size will effect the length of the run time.. a larger boiler load, longer running time..

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Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (Pot Still)

Post by outdoorplay » Sat Jan 04, 2020 10:45 am

just a FYI 2 of the links do not work

Further Reading:
viewtopic.php?f=15&t=10381&hilit=blending+tips
this one works
http://homedistiller.org/dtw.htm#toss" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" rel="nofollow
this one does not work
http://homedistiller.org/theory.htm#strong" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" rel="nofollow
this one does not work
Last edited by outdoorplay on Sat Jan 04, 2020 12:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (Pot Still)

Post by outdoorplay » Sat Jan 04, 2020 10:49 am

went back and reviews and found this link that does not work either

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
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Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (Pot Still)

Post by outdoorplay » Sat Jan 04, 2020 10:51 am

what a great article and thank you for your knowledge :clap:
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Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (Pot Still)

Post by outdoorplay » Sat Jan 04, 2020 12:25 pm

sorry for the newbie question,
I have done one run as of now and getting ready for my second

In reference to turning up the heat a little.
I have a temperature gauge at the top of my column and I ran my first run between 175F and 190F degrees (180F was 80% of my run). how many degrees would you say is a little bit more heat? a high and a low,
this way I can play with it and see which produces better results.

thank you for your advice it is really narrowing the learning curve.

ODP
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Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (Pot Still)

Post by OtisT » Sat Jan 04, 2020 12:37 pm

outdoorplay wrote:
Sat Jan 04, 2020 12:25 pm
sorry for the newbie question,
I have done one run as of now and getting ready for my second

In reference to turning up the heat a little.
I have a temperature gauge at the top of my column and I ran my first run between 175F and 190F degrees (180F was 80% of my run). how many degrees would you say is a little bit more heat? a high and a low,
this way I can play with it and see which produces better results.

thank you for your advice it is really narrowing the learning curve.

ODP
There is a lot wrong with that question. Before answering, I’m curious what kind of column you have? VM, CM, LM, etc. Or is this possibly a pot still? This is a thread for pot stilling, but you said column so I want to be sure before answering. Otis
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Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (Pot Still):No measuring instruments

Post by Royco » Tue May 12, 2020 2:25 am

I have read and searched. Having brewed beer for 5 years (but no longer) I understand a fair bit of the science here, but in Lockdown cannot purchase instruments particularly hydrometer and alcohol-meter. All I still have is a pH meter and refractometer.
My 11L pressure cooker has only a temp probe in the wash, not in the vapour.
Is there a rough guide somewhere here to estimate the ABV coming out of the pot, given a 9L molasses wash as per SBB recipe?

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Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (Pot Still)

Post by Saltbush Bill » Tue May 12, 2020 3:53 am

ABV and temp mean nothing when it comes to making cuts, especially with a pot still which yours is in theory. Your going to have to use your taste buds and nose like everyone else does. The sooner you learn to make cuts that way , the sooner you will make something worth drinking.
In my opinion Rum is probably one of the harder things to make cuts on, it would have been easier to learn on something like a neutral wash I think.

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Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (Pot Still)

Post by Yummyrum » Tue May 12, 2020 4:02 am

Does it really matter what the ABV coming out of the still is ?

If its a stripping run , you might want yo collect about a 1/5 of what you strip . Say you put 5 liters in your boiler , if you collect about 1 liter of low wines , that’ll put you in the ball park .

Now repeat that about 4 times .

Now you should have enough low wines to do a spirit run .

Again , it matters not what the AVB coming off the still is . What matters is when you taste all the jars you should have collected the spirit run in , which ones taste good .

Forget temps and AVB ... your pallet doesn’t give a rats arse about numbers .... at the end of the day , it’s what tastes good.

Edit : posted with SBB

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Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (Pot Still)

Post by Royco » Tue May 12, 2020 6:21 am

Thanks SBB and yummyrum, that's useful info. My son and I have done about 10 runs so far and can definitely start telling where the different cuts are.
We chuck the fores then collect the heads for re-distilling, tasting every 50ml or so. Then after hearts collect all tails to keep for second (spirit?) run.
Did the first spirit run this morning and it came out "yummy" (yummyrum!). Problem is, with an 11L pot we drink the damn stuff quicker than we build stock. Why did no-one warn me about this hobby?
Re ABV, my main concern is after second distillation the posts mention adding water to get to 40% or so. We haven't a clue what the pre-dilution ABV is, excepting for "Strong" ;O)

And Saltbush Bill that's a great recipe. I love Capt Morgan and want to try replicate it. BS Molasses is cheap here and I bought 25L for 12 of your Dollars.

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Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (Pot Still)

Post by Saltbush Bill » Tue May 12, 2020 2:10 pm

That's a good price.....I have to buy 200L at a time to get it that cheap.
Rum really gets much better with time and oak.

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Re: Novice Guide for Cuts (Pot Still)

Post by Royco » Tue May 12, 2020 11:19 pm

SBB in South Africa sugar cane grows wild, so we're lucky in that regard. One "forced" mistake was we could only get an ally pressure cooker, not ss.
OK for learning as we have no choice until this #@$%&ng lockdown is lifted. What I read here is that the main problem is pitting and possible taste of metal. I see mixed opinions on the health risk?

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