uncle jesse's simple sour mash method

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uncle jesse's simple sour mash method

Postby Uncle Jesse » Mon Feb 28, 2005 2:47 pm

i'd appreciate any comments on this, especially ways in which i need to simplify things or explain things more clearly.

http://wiki.homedistiller.org/Uncle_Jesse%27s_Simple_Sour_Mash_Method



This method was originally taken from J.W. Walstad's book Simple Sour Mash to Simple Alcohol Fuel! and has been modified according to my experiences.

This method is the most inexpensive I have found for producing Corn Whiskey. It is perfect for beginners because it does not rely on skill for mashing and does not require any cooking which greatly reduces the hassles and expenses.

I used this method for years until I mastered the processes involved in creating a quality sour mash whiskey, at which point I moved on to cooked mashes and more advanced efforts.


Ingredients

For a 5 gallon mash: (~19 liters)
5 gallons soft, filtered water.
7 lbs (3.2kg) cracked corn. 6-8 pieces/kernel is the proper crack. If using bird feed, make sure it is perishable, or in other words is free of preservatives.
7 lbs (3.2kg) of granulated sugar.
1 tbsp yeast (distillers yeast if available.)


Theory

Unlike a cooked mash, a simple mash does not rely on grains for starch. The corn is included for a bit of alcohol, but mainly for flavor while the sugar provides the alcohol. The conversion of starches to sugars is a natural process, accelerated by cooking. An uncooked mash will convert starches to sugars but much more slowly and less efficiently. Your added sugar will ferment rather easily and will provide most of the alcohol in your beer.

Your first distillation run will be a "sweet" run since you will not have any backset to use for sour mashing. I recommend using the spirits you collect in your first run as feints for the next run. Yes, all of them. Your second run will produce your first batch of sour mash, which will be good, but in truth the flavour and consistency will not start to reach their peak until the third or fourth run in my experience.

Practice, practice, practice!


First Fermentation

Put your ingredients into the fermenter in the order listed and close it. You should start to see fermentation of the sugar within 12 hours. It should take 3 or 4 days for the ebullition to end. Siphon your beer out of the fermenter with a racking cane and charge your still.

Siphoning is the best method because it allows you to pull the beer off the top of your lees, leaving them undisturbed. You do not want suspended solids in your still and this method works quite well in keeping the lees at the bottom of your fermenter.

At this point you need to make your first decision. How much backset will you use in your subsequent mashes? The legal minimum for a sour mash is 25%. I do not like to go above 50% in my experience. For the sake of simplicity, let's say you will start with 25% backset. This means that for a 5 gallon mash you will use 1-1/4 gallons (~4.75 liters) of backset and 3-3/4 gallons (~14.25 liters) of water.

Since you will be running your still for hours, you do not want to leave the fermenter empty. Put your 3-3/4 gallons of water back into the fermenter so your yeast won't die while you distill. While you're at it, this is a perfect time to scoop the spent corn off the top and replace with an equal volume of newly cracked corn. Later we'll add the 1-1/4 gallons of backset and 7 more pounds of granulated sugar.


Basics of Pot Distillation

There are two basic types of pot distillation:

The first involves a traditional pot still, which has no cooling in the neck or column. The distillate produced is lower in proof than that produced by a reflux still with a fractionating or splitting column. This is the traditional method of distillation and requires multiple runs. The distiller will save up enough low wines from the first runs or stripping runs to fill the still for a second run. If a triple distillation is desired, the product from second distillations are collected until enough spirit is saved to fill the still for the third spirit run, and so on.

The second type of pot distillation is performed in a reflux still equipped such that the column can be cooled during distillation. This type of still is far more efficient and can produce a high proof, high quality spirit in a single run.


First Run

Pot distill your wash, being careful to keep things running slowly. For beginners, 2-3 drops of distillate exiting the worm every second is just about the perfect speed. As you collect, periodically put 4-5 drops of distillate into a spoon with an equal amount of water and sip it. You will learn to identify the off-taste of the heads very quickly.

For your first run it is best to take very conservative cuts. I recommend very generic whiskey cuts, say 80% down to 70%. As your skills improve you will be able to go deeper into your cuts, tasting periodically for the off-taste of the tails. Once you learn to identify the off-tastes of the heads and tails you will be able to make proper cuts without the use of a hydrometer, a big step toward becoming a competent distiller.

By law any spirits collected above 80% cannot be called whiskey because they are considered too "light" or neutral. In other words, they are too high in proof and thus do not properly imbue the spirit with the flavour of the grain mash. I use anything collected above 80% as feints for the next run. For more information on the legal definitions for whiskies and other spirits check out Title 27 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations.

Remember to discard the first 150ml or 5 fluid ounces collected so you don't get any methanol build up over time and batches.


Second Fermentation

Your fermenter should now contain 3-3/4 gallons of water, your old yeast (barm) and your old corn.

Take 1-1/4 gallons of backset from your previous distillation and add to it another 7 pounds of granulated sugar. This will dissolve the sugar rather easily. Hot backset directly from the still works better at dissolving sugar, but adding hot backset to your fermenter will kill your yeast, so allow the backset to cool if you use this method.

Next, add this mixture of sugar and cooled backset to your fermenter, which already contains 3-3/4 gallons of water. This will bring your total beer volume back to 5 gallons.

Now is the time to make sure you have removed and replaced any spent corn kernels, which float to the top of the fermenter. You only need to do this if you plan on a continual ferment, that is, past 7 or 8 fermentations at which point your corn would otherwise be expended.

Cover the fermenter and let it ferment for another 3-4 days or until the ebullition ends.

Congratulations, if you have done everything properly you are now ready to run your first sour mash!


Second Run

Siphon off your beer and charge your still. Again, replace 3-3/4 gallons of water into your fermenter so your yeast doesn't die while you distill.

Distill your whiskey in the same manner you did during your first run, being conservative with your cuts until you gain more skill. Anything collected under 80% ABV on this run is considered a Sour Mash whiskey. Congratulations! This spirit is a palatable moonshine when collected directly out of the still.

Collect your run down to your stopping point. Again, I recommend 70% ABV for beginners, perhaps a few degrees into the 60's if you are bold. Save all of the spirit run as good sippin' whiskey.

Most moonshiners keep running their stills long after they are finished with the spirit run, collecting down to about 20% ABV before stopping. Together, the heads and tails are reused as feints. I do not normally go as low as 20%, you'll have to find your comfort zone. If you start to get blue or green flecks in your spirit, you've gone too far or run things too hot.


Repeat the Process

After your run, collect 1-1/4 gallons of backset to return to the fermenter for your next batch. Repeat the process starting at the Second Fermentation.

You are now producing a simple sour mash whiskey and with practice you will be able to produce a very high quality moonshine. Age this whiskey in an uncharred oak barrel to produce a traditional Tennessee-style whiskey.


Safety first, Duke boys. Have fun!



So, for 40l wash. Recipe goes like this.

7kg cracked feed corn,
7kg raw or white sugar (I like raw)
Dissolve sugar in hot water, then add enough cold water to make 40 l total.


Strip in potstill discarding 100ml of foreshots down to 20%. Save the strip. While the drum is empty, scrape off 1/3rd of a bucket of corn and add 1/3rd of a bucket of new corn.
Add some water (20l or so) to the yeast bed so you don’t burn the yeast next step.

Use 10l of hot slops (backset from the still run) to dissolve 7 more kg of sugar, stir it up and add to the drum. Add water to bring it up to the level it was before.

Watch it ferment and strip again and again.

When you have 40l of strip saved up, do a slow spirit run in the potstill making careful cuts. Age it on toasted oak sticks.

_
Last edited by Uncle Jesse on Tue Sep 13, 2005 9:40 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Tater » Mon Feb 28, 2005 3:46 pm

you could mix suger in hot backset before you let it cool to dissolve it better
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good one

Postby Uncle Jesse » Mon Feb 28, 2005 3:51 pm

very true, and in fact i usually do that, so i'll add it in

thanks
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Postby Virginia Gentleman » Tue Mar 01, 2005 7:28 am

Great stuff, Jesse. Just a few comments from a total newbie that might clarify for others:

How about a 1 sentence explanation of siphoning? I know it's very simple and basic, but couldn't hurt to describe it.

Under "First Run" maybe clarify that "say 80% down to 70%" refers to ABV.

"so allow the backset to cool if you use this method" cool to room temperature, or happy yeast temp, right?

Under "Second Run" when you talk about heads and tails, if you're reusing those as feints, how does this relate to the use of backset in your frementation? In other words, if you're using your backset for your next fermentation, do you mess with the feints at all? I suppose only if you're doing a second run on what you distilled on your first run? In that case you would do your first run, remove backset for your ferment, put your first distilate in the still and add feints to it, and run again. But I don't think you're reccomending a second run on this sour mash, right?

If you age this product in new oak barrels, how long and how does taste compare to say a Geo. Dickel?

Not asking you to answer all these questions, just bringing them up as possible edits.
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perfect

Postby Uncle Jesse » Tue Mar 01, 2005 9:22 am

thanks i'll make some changes to it soon
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aging

Postby Uncle Jesse » Wed Mar 02, 2005 10:45 am

there is no way to tell. it differs by cask size, spirit proof, environmental conditions where you age...

your product will, after 6 months, have quite a bit of cask character. i've had that tennessee twang after 1 year in a 2 gallon cask, and after a year in a 7 gallon cask i'm still waiting for it to develop fully.
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Postby Virginia Gentleman » Sat Mar 05, 2005 4:14 am

Started this mash last night, Jesse. Bubbling up nicely this morning.

Do you hydrate your yeast before pitching it in a cold mash like this?

Also, you may have answered this elsewhere already, but do you do 2 runs on your sour wash generally, or just one? I'm thinking just one.

If just one run, about what abv do you end up with going through a pot still?

Thanks!
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Postby Virginia Gentleman » Mon Mar 07, 2005 7:59 am

Hi all, VG again. Hope I'm not asking questions that are already answered on forums or site, but I've searched and can't find these.

What's the average % abv you're able to get after 3-4 days with the no-cook sour mash recipe? Finally ordered 2 hydrometers (1 for beer and 1 for spirits) so I'll know on my next ferment what I'm able to get and will post.

Folks are reccomending only a single distill on this mash, right? For flavor.

What's a rough % abv on the hearts of a first run in a pot still one should expect? Can 80 % abv really be achieved as nzbourbonhead asks above?

Finally, in the "Making Corn Whiskey" book, the author says that spent corn on the top of the mash should be scooped out a couple of times a day because after a day or so the spent corn will fall back down and you won't be able to separate it from the good corn (and replace it) at the end of the ferment. Thoughts?

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Postby swpeddle » Mon Mar 07, 2005 8:11 am

[quote="Virginia Gentleman"]Hi all, VG again. Hope I'm not asking questions that are already answered on forums or site, but I've searched and can't find these.

What's the average % abv you're able to get after 3-4 days with the no-cook sour mash recipe? Finally ordered 2 hydrometers (1 for beer and 1 for spirits) so I'll know on my next ferment what I'm able to get and will post.

Folks are reccomending only a single distill on this mash, right? For flavor.

What's a rough % abv on the hearts of a first run in a pot still one should expect? Can 80 % abv really be achieved as nzbourbonhead asks above?

Finally, in the "Making Corn Whiskey" book, the author says that spent corn on the top of the mash should be scooped out a couple of times a day because after a day or so the spent corn will fall back down and you won't be able to separate it from the good corn (and replace it) at the end of the ferment. Thoughts?

Grassy ass![/quote]

I can answer the first question I think.....I sorta did Jesse's recipe and got 12% potential to start, after 36 hours it was down to 3% and then 0% at 48hrs after pitching a packet of EC-1118. (that's with 5kgs of cracked corn and 4kg's of sugar for a 5 gallon wash)
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Postby Virginia Gentleman » Mon Mar 07, 2005 8:56 am

Good deal, swpeddle. So that may answer the third question, which is what's the %abv of the first run (in a pot still). If the graph below is correct, seems like it would be about 61% if you start with a 13% mash. And a second run would up it to 83%, if you're starting 61% low wines, yes? Hmmmm.

http://homedistiller.org/theory/theory/strong
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distillation

Postby Uncle Jesse » Mon Mar 07, 2005 9:09 am

i do single runs through a fractionating column, which is why i can get over 80% on a single run. i didn't make this point clearly enough, but if you single pot distill, your product will not come off impressively strong in proof and you'll need to save up low wines for a 2nd run. i've done this before and i like it, but it's more time consuming.

i use a ten gallon still so i save up 10 gallons of low wines over 3-4 runs and then run them. it takes a long time but you get a lot of product. the most i ever got out of one 10 gallon run was almost 3 gallons of spirit.

i try to get 8-10% in my mash...the book says go for 15%. i don't measure all that closely, but in this case the higher you can go the better up to about 15%.
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Postby swpeddle » Mon Mar 07, 2005 9:18 am

[quote="Virginia Gentleman"]Good deal, swpeddle. So that may answer the third question, which is what's the %abv of the first run (in a pot still). If the graph below is correct, seems like it would be about 61% if you start with a 13% mash. And a second run would up it to 83%, if you're starting 61% low wines, yes? Hmmmm.

http://homedistiller.org/theory/theory/strong[/quote]

I haven;t done my stripping run yet, but that sounds about right from my rum wash experiences.

FYI, I always do a double run through my pot still. The first run is hard and fast with no attention to cuts beyond the methanol, but my second is a nice simmer, with good attention to cuts.

For my cuts, I do the tatse/smell backed up with traille measurements. As a rule of thumb, I stop my collections at around the same ABV as my starting wash abv. ie for stripping, I'll collect until my ABV hits 12%. It's not a perfect rule, but it gives a rough guideline for when to start watching more closely to the quality coming out. I hope that helps.

Steve
PS I have also made a habit of tossing out the first little bit in both runs for safety's sake. You make alot with a 5 gallon wash, so who cares if you throw away a little more?
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Postby Guest » Mon Mar 07, 2005 9:42 am

Virginia Gentleman wrote:Good deal, swpeddle. So that may answer the third question, which is what's the %abv of the first run (in a pot still). If the graph below is correct, seems like it would be about 61% if you start with a 13% mash. And a second run would up it to 83%, if you're starting 61% low wines, yes? Hmmmm.

http://homedistiller.org/theory/theory/strong



I also do my first run fast and dirty and collect until product is coming out of the still around 25% I don't bother discarding the foreshots until my second run.
My second run is usually quite a bit slower and I toss the first 200ml as foreshots, Then I collect in smaller containers until the spirit is coming out at about 40%. Then I speed it up a little bit and collect the tails into a gallon jug until it is coming out at 20%. I save the tails from all my runs until I have enough for an all-tails run, and I collect that down to 40% and toss what is left over.
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Postby Uncle Jesse » Mon Mar 07, 2005 9:47 am

Anonymous wrote:I also do my first run fast and dirty and collect until product is coming out of the still around 25% I don't bother discarding the foreshots until my second run.
My second run is usually quite a bit slower and I toss the first 200ml as foreshots, Then I collect in smaller containers until the spirit is coming out at about 40%. Then I speed it up a little bit and collect the tails into a gallon jug until it is coming out at 20%. I save the tails from all my runs until I have enough for an all-tails run, and I collect that down to 40% and toss what is left over.


this is a nice description of a typical, traditional moonshiners method and it will serve anyone well to try it.
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hmm

Postby Uncle Jesse » Mon Mar 07, 2005 10:07 am

i'm trying to add info for pot distillation vs. fractionating...can you folks read it and tell me where i'm getting too confusing? i don't feel i'm explaining things very well for some reason and the kid is sick so it's hard to concentrate properly.
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Postby swpeddle » Mon Mar 07, 2005 11:01 am

this one;s for Jesse: I was looking over your recipe for sour mash again and then I saw the section on the different pot stills. You mention a pot still with a column that's cooled. Isn;t that a reflux still? If not, is an example of a cooled column pot still on the site? Just curious, that's all.
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Postby Virginia Gentleman » Mon Mar 07, 2005 12:05 pm

OK, now it's all making sense.

Understood about the fractioning column, Jesse, and I think the new paragraph in the Wiki looks pretty clear. Of course I'm full of questions, so will post anything that gets a head scracth. Hope your kid gets better, we had two sick ones last week, no fun.

swpeddle and guest, thanks for the clarifications. I'm running a pot still, and basically did the 2 run procedure on my last run, but will have more experience this time. Will go faster on the first (and toss the foreshots) and slower on the second than I did last time.

What do ya'll think about removing floating spent corn while ferment is going on (daily)?
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Postby swpeddle » Mon Mar 07, 2005 12:41 pm

[quote="Virginia Gentleman"]OK, now it's all making sense.

Understood about the fractioning column, Jesse, and I think the new paragraph in the Wiki looks pretty clear. Of course I'm full of questions, so will post anything that gets a head scracth. Hope your kid gets better, we had two sick ones last week, no fun.

swpeddle and guest, thanks for the clarifications. I'm running a pot still, and basically did the 2 run procedure on my last run, but will have more experience this time. Will go faster on the first (and toss the foreshots) and slower on the second than I did last time.

What do ya'll think about removing floating spent corn [i]while[/i] ferment is going on (daily)?[/quote]

I think that you really run the risk of infecting the wash. I was already leery about taking SG measurements once a day without adding the addtional task of removing corn. Plus I can;t see any real advantage to removing the corn until you run it through the pot.
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more

Postby Uncle Jesse » Mon Mar 07, 2005 12:52 pm

swpeddle wrote:this one;s for Jesse: I was looking over your recipe for sour mash again and then I saw the section on the different pot stills. You mention a pot still with a column that's cooled. Isn;t that a reflux still? If not, is an example of a cooled column pot still on the site? Just curious, that's all.


you're right, many people call it "reflux still", i call it a fractionating column...i think there are technical differences as to the design of the column, but in effect it's the same thing.

mine is a "scrubber" or "fractionating" column as the old time shiners i know call it.
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Postby Virginia Gentleman » Mon Mar 07, 2005 12:54 pm

Good point, hadn't thought about contamination. The book I read said that the reason to do it was because after about 12 hours floating, the spent corn would no longer float and would go back to the bottom. So when you got around to replenishing the spent corn and adding set-back, you wouldn't be able to tell which corn was spent (except for the most recently floating corn). But I'm all for trying it and not scooping corn until the end, as you and Jesse advise.

Can't know but to try.
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right

Postby Uncle Jesse » Mon Mar 07, 2005 12:57 pm

i was going to say the same thing...the more you open the fermenter and prod the mash the more you open yourself up to contamination.
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Postby swpeddle » Tue Mar 08, 2005 5:15 am

ok, last question. I am probably going to run my first corn wash today and I am prepped to put the 2nd wash on, but I want to know how long does a fermented corn wash last in storage? The problem is that while the sour mash method sounds interesting, it would tend to produce WAY too much alcohol for me to deal with. Suggestions?

Thanks
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Postby Virginia Gentleman » Tue Mar 08, 2005 6:23 am

@ swpeddle, I've read that you want to run it within 24 hours of the end ebbulition, otherwise you run the risk of the second phase of fermentation starting, which you don't want. But I think you can also freeze it (after it's fully fermented) and it will last quite a while (months?).

I have the same concerns about a continuous sour mash. One way around it would be to run a smaller wash, maybe 1-3 gallons.

On another note, my sour mash finished this morning, right between 3-4 days as Jesse said. Ebbulition has stopped, and flavor says it's ready to go. Will run it tonight. I did notice that there are 2 layers of corn on the bottom of the contatiner, and a little bit of spent corn floating on the top. On the bottom is the first layer of very yellow, unspent corn, and then a thinner layer of whiter spent corn. At some point will need to figure out how to get that out of there.
Last edited by Virginia Gentleman on Tue Mar 08, 2005 7:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Tater » Tue Mar 08, 2005 7:13 am

i do single runs unless im using a low abv washes. I toss the first pint and taste till sweet tastes start to change and keep till proof drops to 80 proof and keep rest for tails Fruit and rum is what i make most of the time and with a ss keg for a pot still. i usally end up when run and tempered 3 gallons of 1oo to 120 proof sippin likker.
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Postby Virginia Gentleman » Tue Mar 08, 2005 7:43 am

Yeah, I like that method. If I get wash up to high enough abv, should be able to do a single run and keep more flavor.

Hey tater, do you have any copper in your SS keg still? Wondering about SS vs. copper for flavor if I'll mainly be making whiskey, boubon, maybe rum sometimes.
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Postby Tater » Tue Mar 08, 2005 8:01 am

Yes i have a short packed [ copper scrubbers]copper collum . Before lye arm ells off 2 ft in a slight rise then drops through 25 ft or so through coiled copper worm in a barrel. I also toss a hand full of copper fittins into ss keg to help break boil. I built mine this way to replace using a thumper. Its not any better I dont think just a little less running time.My opinion only others im sure feel differnt
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more info

Postby Uncle Jesse » Wed Mar 09, 2005 11:57 am

I'm glad you asked.

This process is continual. You'll have to distill many times a month..I was doing it 2-3x a week when I had it rolling. How do you stop a mash for the time being?

When you drain off your beer, fill the fermenter with cold, clean water. No backset, no sugar, no yeast. Let it sit this way and it will last - I'm not sure how long - but I've let it go a week and had no problems. To reactivate, rinse your grains clean, add more yeast, sugar and your water/backset mixture.

I normally save backset so I can do a sour mash. I put it into a Connie keg and put it into the beer fridge.

Also, another tip for those of you who have decided to read this far - corn silos have a lot of weight which pushes down and crushes some of the corn. As this happens a syrupy juice is created when has traditionally been removed and used to make...corn squeezin's! so there ya have it.
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Postby nzbourbonhead » Fri Mar 11, 2005 2:26 pm

one question. When u do first run 7 lb sugar 7lb corn 5 gallons water. what is all up quantity of mash?
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Postby Virginia Gentleman » Tue Jul 26, 2005 1:02 am

So on a second fermentation of a sour mash, there's no reliable way to get an S.G. reading, right, you just go by what the ingredients should yield?

There's already yeast in the mash from the first fermentation, and lots of particles floating in it from corn and yeast so I would think that would throw the hydrometer off. I did a second fermentation the other night and the S.G. reading was way off, it read about 6% potential alc. for 7 lbs. sugar, 7 lbs. corn, 2.5 gal water, 2 gal. backset, yeast lees, which I know ain't reight because I got 10-11% potential on the first fermentation with the same ingredients (except backset which should have about 2.5% abv still in it).
Lord preserve and protect us, we've been drinkin' whiskey 'fore breakfast.
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Postby Blueraven » Thu Jul 28, 2005 10:48 am

I havent done UJ method yet..I do know that mashing creates the sugars from the corn and barley(if added) or malt(if added) and that creates a real
good corn taste in a pot still run twice. Some of the best many said..

My current wash was done with boiled corn, barley and wheat malt plus 10 lbs sugar and it took off like the space shuttle..Never seen it bubble like a compressor hose leaking fast underwater..Used EC1118 and abt a tspn of Turbo. Also added 2 tspn diff type yeast energizer (4 tspn in all) and I bubbled air thru it 4 over 10 minutes..

Have measured it yet but bet its prety high..

Glad i read this cause I'm gonna try and save the trub(yeast) and see if i can reactivate them in next wash..

Love this site..
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