Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Distillation methods and improvements.

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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by buflowing » Thu Oct 31, 2013 10:38 am

Poetically stated jimbo.

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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by heartcut » Thu Oct 31, 2013 3:46 pm

You've got a great speechwriter, Jimbo.
I've found that following general and strain specific yeast procedures makes a lot of difference in the "hangover test" results with beer and wine. The results of careless yeast handling can be distilled out up to a point but you can make a good case for not producing them in the first place. However, I do really like the taste that dry pitching gives rum and some whiskeys, but it does seem to produce more heads.
Good thread.
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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Odin » Thu Oct 31, 2013 4:38 pm

Yes, it is a great tread! Good info coming in on how to ferment better.

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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by woodshed » Thu Oct 31, 2013 4:45 pm

heartcut, why do you feel it produces more heads?

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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by emptyglass » Sun Nov 03, 2013 4:13 am

As usual, I find a hot thread after its cooled a little and I usually find them late at night.I have skimmed over it very fast so I apologise if its already been said.

Great discussion point Odin, I see where your coming from, the only way we move forward is moving the bottle neck. I agree whole heartedly on the idea that the better the ferment is, the less heads will be produced. But what is better? How is "better" achieved, and how is "better" repeated?
How is grain based ferments made better? How are fruit based ferments made better?
Only through experimentation and sharing will these answers come.

I can get my heads cut down to just under 10%, and I know if I was paying $26 per litre exise on that 10% like the commercial guys, I'd be including it and letting the aging process take care of it, as some poor sucker is going to end up with the headache, not me.
As it stands, I'd just prefer to cut the unwanted heads out, and live with the loss. I know I can ferment some more stuff relativly cheap.

The problem with monitoring hobby ferments is just that, its a hobby for most guys. The added effort to get a better, or indeed perfect ferment crosses into the point of diminishing returns.

I did like your point you made earlier on about rum ferments and multiple strains of yeast, each doing their own thing was a good point. I think this holds value for a lot of other products. Why work against nature, work with it. When I do my plum brandy/slivovits, I prefer to use the wild yeasts present on the fruit, as they grew together. I can't see how I can do a better job of selecting compatable yeast strains than what nature has already done for me.
You got me thinking about collecting some wild yeast and trying it in some grain ferments.......
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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Odin » Sun Nov 03, 2013 4:22 am

Glad you found it, Empty. Thanks for joining.

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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by nabtastic » Mon Nov 04, 2013 6:50 am

Emptyglass, I like wild yeast ferms myself. Just to play around we did a fresh-press sorghum juice with a wild yeast ferm..turned out amazing. haven't did the hearts run on it yet, but i'm not expecting much off flavor to it. it's definitely a different flavor, but they may be because I'm used to the molasses. I gotta ask though, who is paying $26 a liter in excise taxes!? state and fed here (@190 proof) is just over $30 a gallon.

Odin, you were correct in assuming that I was referring to continuous stills. However, you brought up a good point, the heads would naturally rise to points under the lyne arm, so they would get pushed out with the ethanol provided there was only one lyne arm. I've never looked or asked, but It makes me wonder if the bulk manufactures have multiple collection points. A fractionating column (as I am referring) will have multiple collection points, collecting chemicals that boil at different temperatures. This, to my non-engineering understanding, is how refineries work as well as various other chemical manufacturers. I will have to admit though, I bought a new brand of some canadian whisky (bison ridge) and the heads were unmistakably present even though it had surly been continuously distilled.

Since we are on the topic (now) of wild vs pitched yeast, I'll say this: For ferms that don't require cooking (anything fresh pressed) I'd venture that wild yeast is preferable. Obviously you can't do wild yeast for a cooked product bc then it's just whatever is floating in your garage/shop/backyard/etc. So i'll ask this, has anyone noticed a commercial yeast that is specific for grain types? Beer yeasts are typically used for all barley - maybe they aren't the best for a 70% corn mash?

lastly, I here a lot of bad mouthing on the forum regarding turbo yeast (which i'm sure has it's own thread) but is it worth rehydrating turbo yeast before pitching? because we've had pretty good results using just turbo yeast and refined sugar. [side note: still pushing for ECJ and a propagated yeast strain]...
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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Odin » Mon Nov 04, 2013 9:20 am

Nope, a turbo should always be used as is written on the package.

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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by nabtastic » Mon Nov 04, 2013 7:36 pm

Odin, I ran across some of your old post from 2011 probably talking about ak48 turbo yeast I believe - do you still use it? any problems there?
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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by MitchyBourbon » Mon Nov 04, 2013 9:13 pm

buflowing wrote:

I haven't had issues with anything fermenting out either (well, once I did). Does that mean everything is great? Even though something seems to ferment ok, are off flavors or products being produced that we aren't aware of because the yeast are getting stressed or aren't as healthy as they could be?
You pose some good questions. I believe this happens all the time. As a community we don't practice the best fermentation techniques and yet we all seem to be able to produce something we like. This I believe is achieved by making good cuts. Hence Odin's thread.

Thank you Odin, this is a great thread.
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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Odin » Mon Nov 04, 2013 11:31 pm

Thanks Mitchy! What got me started is that in a raisin fermentation I decided to go by the book on fermenting ... and I got over the cleanest stuff ever. By far. I did cut the smallest portion for heads, but afterwards feel I shouldn't have done that at all.

Nab, I hardly use turbo's anymore. Still in the process of perfecting my own perfect neutral recipe.

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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Ayay » Tue Nov 05, 2013 12:16 am

If your brew has no heads, your cuts will prove it. I prefer to make the cuts every time.

Heads should not be recycled because recycling them slows down the whole run.

I put the foreshots and early heads into the 'Fuel' container. Late heads may be worth stilling again in a reflux column. Heads must be extracted the slowest of all if you wish to separate them in the cuts.
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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Odin » Tue Nov 05, 2013 12:49 am

Good infor, Ayay! I think there is a lot of ethanol in heads. With a fractionating rig you can get that ethanol out. There's actually a lot of ethanol in fores as well, given the fact we cannot take them out at 51 degrees C or 64. Temperature shows fores as well as heads are a mixture of lower BP alcs and (lots of) ethanol.

I actually like to think of heads as just a transitional phase between fores and hearts. Where most lower bp alcs gather in fores, yet some keep on contaminating the next part, thus postponing (and decreasing) our hearts cut.

Via better fermentation protocols the amount of lower bp alcs can be controlled. Less garbage in means less garbage out.

Now, apart from better fermenting protocols, there is another, additional step we can make (in running a fractionating rig, not in a potstill unfortunately) to further "stop cutting for heads".

Anyone any ideas?

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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Ayay » Tue Nov 05, 2013 4:20 am

Extracting the heads in a precice manner is so slow it's not worth doing again...because it was precice the first time, and beacuse it takes so long.

Extracting the heads quickly is quicker, but those heads can be run again because they were not extracted precisely. Doing it twice is false economy.

But I'm off topic here :) Your answer is to not brew heads in the first place. This is a worthy goal!
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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by buflowing » Tue Nov 05, 2013 3:25 pm

Any thoughts on whether fermenting on the grain or distilling on the grain contributes to, or subtracts from, undesirables in our product? I know those practicing these techniques claim flavor enhancement, but at what cost, if any?

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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Usge » Tue Nov 05, 2013 5:18 pm

If you made apple mash ferment to reduce heads as much as possible, then cut with no heads or minimal heads you'd end up with "no (or little) apple flavor" in your distillate. You guys do realize that those "impurities" (ie., congeners, esters) ARE the flavor? And depending upon what you are making and cutting for...sometimes the flavors you are looking for may be more on the heads side. If you are making whitedog to drink right away, that's one thing. But, if you want deep, layered flavor...you gonna need some of those "impurities" in your distillate for the oak to work with over time.

If you are making vodka..or neutral, that's another goal entirely. You want as "little" influence of those flavors as possible. But, if you are making whiskey, brandy, etc...you "want" some of that in your ferment and your cut. The discussion about how to fine tune that in your ferment (ie., how much flavor influence from certain areas for a particular outcome) would be very interesting discussion indeed. But, I submit it would more than likely vary from recipe to recipe..ie., depending upon what you are making

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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Jimbo » Tue Nov 05, 2013 6:03 pm

+1 usge. The apple bomb in brandy comes over early indeed. The fruit character of carefully run good estery beer yeasts in a whiskey mash too.
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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by MitchyBourbon » Tue Nov 05, 2013 6:39 pm

The yeast will make plenty of congeners and esters even under the best of conditions.

My quest to improve my own fermentation processes for distillation began 2 years ago when I first started brewing beer. Astonishingly, my first couple of beer batches turned out really off. I couldn't understand why, I was doing everyything just like I'd always done for distilling. I finally asked the guy that got me started brewing and he gave me a few tips. After that it was smooth sailing. Any how, I got to thinking maybe I should try to apply some of what I learned to fermentation for distillation purposes.

I have made numerous changes since then. Most of which I would call low hanging fruit, easy stuff that don't take money or effort. What I've learned so far is, that my bourbon tastes better and the taste has become very consistent from batch to batch. I would also say that I think I am getting less heads and tails. I say think cuz I haven't actually measured to see if that was happening. It never occurred to me that would be the consequence of my efforts. That said, I can tell you that I have not totally eliminated all the heads and tails and there is still plenty of bourbon flavor.
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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by woodshed » Tue Nov 05, 2013 6:46 pm

Usge, you make some good points. My motivation came from an interest my dad had in the art of reducing heads. He felt you could eliminate them. As previously stated I am close. And I like where I'm at. I as well use a little heads for flavor but get all I want with a minimum original take of heads.
More hearts.

For ferment my take is you do not want too many impurities carrying over. For lack of a better term only the purest of impurities. A house is only as good as it's foundation.

Optimize your grain bill. Really fine tune it. Know your yeast and what you are trying to achieve.
Take notes. Give both your mash and ferment the time it needs. If you think it's clear give it a couple more days. This has always worked for me.
I have ferments that are as short as seven to clear and one that takes most of a month.

As you said it really depends on the spirit.

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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by buflowing » Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:42 am

So what do get or not get when you clear your mash before distilling it? What do you get when you toss it all in and distill on the grain?

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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Jimbo » Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:49 am

I'll chime in on those 2 questions. I've run cleared wash and fresh squeezed uber cloudy yeasty wash. My opinion is doesn't make any difference. Some of my best ag was a 100% barley (20% malt) I ran cloudy as hell. I ferment on the grain based on inputs from BigR. Imo as well its tastier. But also yield is better. The enzymes keep chomping for 7 days during fermentation. Especially on chunky cracked corn in bourbon recipes. Note also bourbons are distilled by the big boys on the grain as well in large continuous stills. Not defending that, no data of my own. Just stating it for the record
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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Odin » Wed Nov 06, 2013 9:08 am

Nice to see BigR take the road of on the grain fermenting!

Fermenting on the grain will give you more taste. My guess is that cuts are better too, because the ferment is much richer in nutrients, with the grain present. Distilling on the grain again augments the taste you get over. More & better. Not sure distilling on the grain makes a difference for heads cut. One might argue that in a grainy wash there is much more yeast present and they won't like the heating up for sure. On the other hand ... the production of alcohol has by then finished, so my guess would be: no influence there on cuts.

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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Prairiepiss » Wed Nov 06, 2013 10:23 am

Jimbo wrote:I'll chime in on those 2 questions. I've run cleared wash and fresh squeezed uber cloudy yeasty wash. My opinion is doesn't make any difference. Some of my best ag was a 100% barley (20% malt) I ran cloudy as hell. I ferment on the grain based on inputs from BigR. Imo as well its tastier. But also yield is better. The enzymes keep chomping for 7 days during fermentation. Especially on chunky cracked corn in bourbon recipes. Note also bourbons are distilled by the big boys on the grain as well in large continuous stills. Not defending that, no data of my own. Just stating it for the record
I would like to add. How you heat your still. And how you run the still. Will influence what you get when running a dirty wash compared to a clean wash. What works for one maynot to another. I have ran both clean and dirty. And had both good and bad results. For both ways. It all depends on how you run it. And what you are making. But if you really know your still. And how to get the most out of it. You should be able to run it any way you want and get good results. And it takes some failures to figure that out.
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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Jimbo » Wed Nov 06, 2013 10:26 am

Prairiepiss wrote:
Jimbo wrote:I'll chime in on those 2 questions. I've run cleared wash and fresh squeezed uber cloudy yeasty wash. My opinion is doesn't make any difference. Some of my best ag was a 100% barley (20% malt) I ran cloudy as hell. I ferment on the grain based on inputs from BigR. Imo as well its tastier. But also yield is better. The enzymes keep chomping for 7 days during fermentation. Especially on chunky cracked corn in bourbon recipes. Note also bourbons are distilled by the big boys on the grain as well in large continuous stills. Not defending that, no data of my own. Just stating it for the record
I would like to add. How you heat your still. And how you run the still. Will influence what you get when running a dirty wash compared to a clean wash. What works for one maynot to another. I have ran both clean and dirty. And had both good and bad results. For both ways. It all depends on how you run it. And what you are making. But if you really know your still. And how to get the most out of it. You should be able to run it any way you want and get good results. And it takes some failures to figure that out.
That's one of my concerns switching to electric. Im guessing an electric element is less tolerant to solids in the wash?
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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Prairiepiss » Wed Nov 06, 2013 10:54 am

It's all in how you run it. Even a gas burner can scorch solids. The only fool proof safe method of heat. Would be steam. When talking scorching.

Truthfully I have never scorched a run. That I can tell. No evidence on the elements or in the boiler. Knock on wood. But I have gotten off flavors by heating to fast. What causes it? Couldn't tell you exactly. My guess would be the destruction of the yeast? But like I said I don't know for sure. It just the only thing left if its not being scorched? Unless there is some chemical reaction to the speed of which it is heated? Your guess is as good as mine.

I will always suggest going electric. I'm a big big fan of electric. The control you have over your still. And the money savings over the long run. (for most people) And the safety aspects. Just make it a great choice. To me anyway. Your mileage may vary.
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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Jimbo » Wed Nov 06, 2013 11:00 am

Thanks. You saw the pair of scr and element Im gonna use, asked you about them in another thread. Im looking forward to going electric. Tired of buying propane, freezing in the winter (with the door open) and suckin CO. I expect Ill join you in the ranks of 'never looked back'
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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by nabtastic » Wed Nov 06, 2013 11:08 am

jimbo, I think I missed part of your last comment. Are you putting the element in the still itself? I'm thinking my next still will be a bain marie/water bath still to avoid all that. you could wrap the still with insulated stainless and run forced air through it - exhaust goes out the roof and you can barely tell when it's running (compared to direct fire). Thats how the local breweries here cook..
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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Jimbo » Wed Nov 06, 2013 11:23 am

Yes that was the plan, all the brew boys run systems RIMS, HERMS etc) with the elements mounted in the boiler. Interesting tho marie's approach, Ill look into that. Forced air? hmmm. I like that idea, sounds like a good way to heat the house in winter while the boilers going haha. Al Gore would be proud.
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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by nabtastic » Wed Nov 06, 2013 11:30 am

http://www.glaciertanks.com/Jet_Burners ... 00BTU.html

Thats what I'm talking about - basically it allows for indirect heating - much like steam heat but without a boiler or pressure. you could retro fit virtually any still/cooker/water tanks you wanted but welding/soldering a jacket to go around it with a vent tub that works the same way a fireplace chimney does. it's pretty sweet and very fuel efficient. much better than direct fire and virtually no risk of scorching.
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Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Jimbo » Wed Nov 06, 2013 11:51 am

Nice! Thanks. Im a macgyver type (read: cheap bastard). Could be great fun to set up one of these with a blower and do the same. Set up the element and blower speed on a PID to maintain whatever temp profile is needed. :) http://www.ebay.com/itm/DE838-for-27983 ... 58a5daf985" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" rel="nofollow

That link showed blowers and regular kettles. But not together or retrofitted kettles. Is it just a matter of encasing them with an inlet and exhaust, or is there more to it? air baffles etc?
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