Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Distillation methods and improvements.

Moderator: Site Moderator

Dan P.
Distiller
Posts: 1085
Joined: Thu Jul 29, 2010 7:24 am
Location: The Islands

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Dan P. » Wed Dec 11, 2013 12:59 pm

Jimbo wrote:
When ya start talking about flavor congeners, esters (good vs bad) the discussion of heads and cuts gets 100x more complicated. Fruit esters (and fruity yeast esters) come over early, grain character comes over late. The core of what we do here is the art form of either gettin em out if ya makin neutral or vodka, or keeping just the right amount in if ya makin brandy or whiskey. Read all ya can, but it takes a snifter glass and your nose and tastebuds to learn this one. One small change in cuts and your drinkin likker will take on a whole different character one run to the next. Its part of what makes all this so damn fascinating.
I don't like to be negative, but the statement above is very much illustrative of how the premise of this whole thread is quite meaningless.
It also has the capacity to be misleading.

User avatar
Jimbo
Master Distiller
Posts: 8376
Joined: Wed Oct 10, 2012 1:19 pm
Location: Down the road a piece.

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Jimbo » Wed Dec 11, 2013 3:12 pm

Dan, were ya agreeing with my statement or disagreeing? Either way, can you be more specific about your concerns. Its an open discussion on heads, how to minimize them, or at least the bad stuff, so its not all addressed only at distillation time. My statement attempted to bring in the importance of some 'good' heads ( :shock: ), favorable esters and such into the conversation.
In theory there's no difference between theory and practice. But in practice there is.
My Bourbon and Single Malt recipes. Apple Stuff and Electric Conversion

woodshed
Master Distiller
Posts: 2970
Joined: Tue Aug 27, 2013 5:21 pm
Location: Pagosa Springs,CO

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by woodshed » Wed Dec 11, 2013 4:27 pm

I see nothing misleading about this thread. As usual Jimbo makes a good point. Not all heads are bad. Taking advantage of this fact enables one to reduce their heads collection. It all starts with the ferment which I feel has been established. Taste and experience will teach you when to quit collecting heads. At least that is what I have discovered. I think so many people as a matter of protocol collect too much. Lots of flavor to be had in the transition to hearts. Catching it right is key.

I don't deal with sugar washes or neutrals though so this may be misleading to some.
Someone earlier mentioned being able to take any wash/mash and make it good. They were talking about neutrals being produced on a massive scale for resale to wannabe distillers who flavor/age it then call it their own. Probably true in this situation. Adult kool aid makers is how we refer to them here. But we all know a 4 year old can make kool aid. Probably not very well but the job gets done.

Hound Dog
Master Distiller
Posts: 3002
Joined: Wed Jul 31, 2013 4:45 pm
Location: Hounds Hollow, VA

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Hound Dog » Wed Dec 11, 2013 5:34 pm

Not all heads are bad? Hell before I started this distilling hobby I didn't know there was such a thing as bad head..... :P
LM Still Operating Instructions
Cranky's New Distiller's Advice
Using Google Search

Drinking Rum before noon makes you a Pirate not an alcoholic.

lampshade
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 541
Joined: Tue Jan 24, 2012 3:19 pm
Location: Southern California

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by lampshade » Wed Dec 11, 2013 7:24 pm

Prairiepiss wrote: Fermenting practices to lessen fores heads and or tails. And increasing the usable amount of hearts. Will benefit all.
So, what fermentation practices are optimum? I'm lost. I remember Jimbo recommending different yeast types as follows:
  • Use wine yeast -- for fruit wash
  • Use ale or distillers yeast -- for all grain wash
  • Use bakers yeast -- for sugar wash
I can't help wondering if we have the right vocabulary to share optimum practices. I know in cooking, they can use precise terms like broccoli, sirloin, summer beets, whip, puree, bake, 220 degrees, 20 minutes, brown, 1 tablespoon, 1 cup, etc to share recipes that most people can repeat with confidence that they will experience the same finished food. But fermentation seems to me to be plagued with imprecise variables, techniques, and quantities (e.g. well water vs. city water). Maybe the beer guys can chip in and explain how one brewer can learn to repeat the same process/recipe as another brewer to obtain the same tasting beer.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow * Between the crosses, row on row, * We are the Dead. Short days ago * We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, * Loved and were loved, and now we lie * In Flanders fields. -- from a WWI poem

RandyMarshCT
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 713
Joined: Wed Sep 26, 2012 7:46 am
Location: Hopkinton, RI

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by RandyMarshCT » Thu Dec 12, 2013 11:26 am

lampshade wrote: So, what fermentation practices are optimum? I'm lost.

I can't help wondering if we have the right vocabulary to share optimum practices. I know in cooking, they can use precise terms like broccoli, sirloin, summer beets, whip, puree, bake, 220 degrees, 20 minutes, brown, 1 tablespoon, 1 cup, etc to share recipes that most people can repeat with confidence that they will experience the same finished food. But fermentation seems to me to be plagued with imprecise variables, techniques, and quantities (e.g. well water vs. city water). Maybe the beer guys can chip in and explain how one brewer can learn to repeat the same process/recipe as another brewer to obtain the same tasting beer.

The precise terms are difficult to list because we all use different recipes. Your cooking reference would be spot on if we were all using the same ingredients, yeasts, and equipment... but everyone here has a different rig, different recipe, and different favorite yeasts. Also, a different expectation for their final product. I can somewhat answer your question, but only in relation to my current AG recipe and my chosen yeast.


My grain bill is 55% Corn; 25% 6-Row; 15% Wheat; 5% Maris Otter. My yeast for this will be Safale US-05. This yeast performs best between 59 and 71 Degrees F. The ester production, alcohol production, residual sugar, and flocculation properties for this yeast are listed here: http://ebrew.com/pdf/safale_us-05.pdf" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" rel="nofollow

I will be fermenting between 67 and 70 degrees F, using a glycol chiller and electric heater in my fermenter to control temp. I will strictly follow the rehydration and dosage recommendations from Safale. I will pitch at a gravity of 1.055, shooting for 7.0% ABV. My strike water will be at a ph of 5.7 to start, and drop from there with each subsequent run due to 25% backset in each generation up to 4 generations. I will be using local spring water that has optimum minerals for brewing. After the 4th generation all hearts will be combined and I'll add any heads/tails components I determine necessary. I will be distilling on a 4" 4-plate (perforated) flute. My final product will go into a new 20 liter medium char American oak barrel for 7 months.

Even with this specific process, there still are many variables. How I run my still, how I make my cuts, the exact minerals of my brewing water (which I plan to test and optimize) as well as proofing water. The point I'm attempting to make is, paying attention to all these details and recording them accurately is the lesson I took from this thread. I have no idea if any of this will have a substantial impact on my heads quantity and/or quality. However, I'll find out by February when I plan on filling my barrel. Also, I'm open to any suggestions on this process. I hypothesize that I will generate less heads by doing everything in my power to make my yeast happy. I'm not trying to tell anyone else they should use my processes, but giving an example that might be similar to what you are asking about. The attention to detail will be my focal point.
Life member, representative, and proud supporter of the Hobby Distiller's Association.

http://www.hobbydistillersassociation.org

Dan P.
Distiller
Posts: 1085
Joined: Thu Jul 29, 2010 7:24 am
Location: The Islands

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Dan P. » Thu Dec 12, 2013 12:20 pm

Jimbo wrote:Dan, were ya agreeing with my statement or disagreeing? Either way, can you be more specific about your concerns. Its an open discussion on heads, how to minimize them, or at least the bad stuff, so its not all addressed only at distillation time. My statement attempted to bring in the importance of some 'good' heads ( :shock: ), favorable esters and such into the conversation.

Sorry, I failed to express myself clearly. I agree with the statement of yours that I quoted, the part where you explain the importance of making cuts.
That post was not specifically aimed at you, Jimbo, nor is this one.

The reason I posted is that really what we have here is two different subjects that should be treated separately; fermentation practice and distillation practice.
To say that one should "stop cutting for heads" as an opening gambit for a conversation on fermentation is a bit misleading and in the region of being irrelevant.
So, we can discuss ideal fermentation conditions (if it hasn't already been discussed thousands of times before), back and forth, agreeing with each other over and over, until we are blue in the face, but that does not change two very important facts;
1. Not all fermentations are going to be "ideal", even if that is what we want.
2. An "ideal fermentation" may not be what we want. If I am fermenting a barrel of plums... using natural yeast... in late summer? This doesn't exactly fit into the "ideal" paradigm, and, personally, I have never had an ideal ferment, it's not something I really aim for, but even so suggesting that a heads cut need not be made flies in the face of centuries of experience and is frankly misleading.
Better advice, or a better slogan, would be; "Cut heads as necessary and when you get more experienced you will see that you can be more creative with your cuts, and you should also know that optimal fermentation conditions will cause fewer undesirable esters in many or most cases", but it doesn't really trip off the tongue nor is it quite as eye-catching.

Anyway, I have already said all this in a previous post, which was ignored as I expect this one will be. But before I go I would also like to point out the irony that the OP (whose posts and persona I very much enjoy, btw) is now boasting of using a "fully automated rig", which presumably means he makes no cuts himself anyway! Very craft(y)!

User avatar
Jimbo
Master Distiller
Posts: 8376
Joined: Wed Oct 10, 2012 1:19 pm
Location: Down the road a piece.

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Jimbo » Thu Dec 12, 2013 1:12 pm

Haha. Thanks Dan. Does this trip off the tongue any better...

"Cut heads as necessary and when you get more experienced you will see that you can be more creative with your cuts, and you should also know that optimal fermentation conditions will cause fewer undesirable esters in many or most cases,... and non-typical fermentations, such as utilizing estery English beer yeasts with whiskey mashes or natural wild yeasts on fruit mashes may even create a few 'desirable' esters to play with in your cuts. " :wink:

As far as your posts going ignored. No, I dont believe that is the case Dan. My observations around here is that when a sensible statement is made, it is absorbed (by most), and pops up again in other discussions. In practice raising the Distilling expertise of the group as a whole. Which is what we're all striving for, I think. Thanks for your contributions.
In theory there's no difference between theory and practice. But in practice there is.
My Bourbon and Single Malt recipes. Apple Stuff and Electric Conversion

Richard7
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 1858
Joined: Wed Jan 04, 2012 4:13 pm
Location: Central Alabama, Heart of Dixie!

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Richard7 » Thu Dec 12, 2013 7:50 pm

Jimbo wrote: My observations around here is that when a sensible statement is made, it is absorbed (by most), and pops up again in other discussions. In practice raising the Distilling expertise of the group as a whole. Which is what we're all striving for, I think. Thanks for your contributions.
:thumbup: 8)
"yeah? yeah? the maple flavored kind?" A dog on you tube.

googe
retired
Posts: 3735
Joined: Wed Jun 20, 2012 6:53 pm
Location: awwstralian in new zealund

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by googe » Thu Dec 12, 2013 11:54 pm

Would it be better to aim for a low ABV wash, or do a higher ABV wash then water it down to a lower ABV for distilling. I'm guessing start low?.
Here's to alcohol, the cause of, and solution to, all life's problems.
"Homer J Simpson"

User avatar
Odin
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 6844
Joined: Wed Nov 10, 2010 10:20 am
Location: Three feet below sea level

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Odin » Fri Dec 13, 2013 12:04 am

First method will get you over more taste!

Regards, Odin.
"Great art is created only through diligent and painstaking effort to perfect and polish oneself." by Buddhist filosofer Daisaku Ikeda.

googe
retired
Posts: 3735
Joined: Wed Jun 20, 2012 6:53 pm
Location: awwstralian in new zealund

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by googe » Fri Dec 13, 2013 12:31 am

Thanks Odin, even if more water is used in the ferment?.
Here's to alcohol, the cause of, and solution to, all life's problems.
"Homer J Simpson"

User avatar
Jimbo
Master Distiller
Posts: 8376
Joined: Wed Oct 10, 2012 1:19 pm
Location: Down the road a piece.

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Jimbo » Fri Dec 13, 2013 4:21 am

Googe, read this thread for your answers. It's what we've been talking about
In theory there's no difference between theory and practice. But in practice there is.
My Bourbon and Single Malt recipes. Apple Stuff and Electric Conversion

nabtastic
Novice
Posts: 97
Joined: Thu Feb 07, 2013 10:13 am

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by nabtastic » Sun Dec 15, 2013 6:58 am

I think googe might have an interesting and subjective question, even if he doesn't know it.. (no offense - this might be what you were asking anyway)

Regarding heads cut, is there a general rule of thumb that would make concentrated heads [less water added to a redistilled spirit 60% v 30% ABV] better for GNS and a wider spread [25% ABV] better for AG? Or something of that nature? I've never made absinthe, but I've heard there is typically a very tight heads cut due to the typically high alcohol content of redistilled spirit - I've read it's cut to around 95 proof for the second distillation.
I run a small (legal) distillery and I advocate the decriminalization of home distillation. I believe there should be a competency test for distillation (similar to teaching or welding). I also advocate a competency test for parenthood. wear a condom.

User avatar
Odin
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 6844
Joined: Wed Nov 10, 2010 10:20 am
Location: Three feet below sea level

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Odin » Tue Dec 17, 2013 11:57 pm

Does all malt ferments ccreate less off alcohols? I am inclined to think so. Maybe the malting process opens up not just enzymes but also more vits, etc.?

Odin.
"Great art is created only through diligent and painstaking effort to perfect and polish oneself." by Buddhist filosofer Daisaku Ikeda.

woodshed
Master Distiller
Posts: 2970
Joined: Tue Aug 27, 2013 5:21 pm
Location: Pagosa Springs,CO

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by woodshed » Mon Mar 31, 2014 9:50 pm

Since we have so many new people recently I felt it was a good idea to dig this up and put it at the front.
It's a good read that wobbles on it's path a little, as they all do. A great thread to drive home that it really begins with the foundation.
Shit in, Shit out I read here recently. No better way to put it.

Every aspect of the foundation is important. Grain bill, yeast, sanitation, temps etc...

MitchyBourbon touched on it in the first page or two. Yeast is first and foremost. Unhappy yeast are like unhappy children at a fine dining restaurant. Screws up the whole vibe.

Dial in your grain bill, leave nothing on the table. Keep your gear really clean.

As hard as it is maintain the most constant temp you can. Yeast will work within a range but really crave a certain temp.

I realize the temp thing is hard for many but strive to maintain and you will improve your ferments.

To pickup where I left off many posts ago I am still putting Bentfinger in the barrel when I can. But getting heads down to 2% with that protocol is time consuming. I'm ok with that for the Straight Bourbon barrel. My Smoke Shine is a 6% heads cut which I would like to improve upon but flavors and the nature of corn have not let me get by this.

So back to the yeast. I have a new yeast that is allowing me to come in at 4% heads cut. A little research will give you a direction to the yeast. As I like to call it another dirty yeast.

With this we are making a new product out of a slightly modified grain bill to smooth out the assertive nature of the yeast.
Throwin in a bit of barley to add complexity and sweetness.

Sorry to go on like that just really wanted to point out where you really need to start and bring this thread back. It's not just about throwin a bunch of sugar into the mix.

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

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by RevSpaminator » Tue May 20, 2014 1:58 pm

Prairiepiss wrote:Ok I missed this post. And never seen any debate about it. It went right into fermenting discussion.

The big boys say running the still is the easy part. And only make fores hearts and tail cuts.

I just have to say this. Maybe they need to spend a little more time on the still. And maybe they need to make a heads cut. Because I smell what I would consider heads in most all store bought stuff. And if they were doing a good job. I wouldn't get a hangover from drinking their product.

I'm not saying fermentation isn't a big part of it.
+infinity to PP on this...I too taste heads even in "craft" distiller's stuff.

Commercial distillers have a problem most hobby distillers don't, volume. They have to focus on fermentation because they just don't have the storage capacity to lager enough wash to keep their stills running at capacity. They need to ferment as quickly and as much as possible in order to produce enough alcohol to be profitable. In a 500+ gal tank, faster fermentation results in higher heat from yeast activity which can cause some serious off tastes. (Think turbo bad) They don't throw away as much heads as they should, again because of costs and profit. Also, the commercial boys assume that the "angels" will take away all the bad stuff as they age their goods in a warehouse full of oak barrels.
Fermentation is an important element and I urge people to find what works best for their environment, but... You still need to take the time to separate the heads unless you want something on par with bottom shelf gut-rot.

On a side note, lately I've started out stripping runs in "spirit" mode (reflux condenser turned on) just until I get rid of the worst of the fores and heads, then switch back into fast "pot still" mode. The resulting low wines are a lot cleaner and makes the second distillation even smoother. As for fermentation, I don't lager it, baby it, or rush it. I just throw stuff in a bucket, pitch and forget about it for a few weeks (months?) and let the yeast do it's thing. I cannot guarantee there won't be some dog hair in the ferment, but that makes it good for hangovers too. :)
Snake Oil Whiskey And Miracle Elixir - It'll cure ya or kill ya.

User avatar
Odin
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 6844
Joined: Wed Nov 10, 2010 10:20 am
Location: Three feet below sea level

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Odin » Sun Sep 07, 2014 3:11 am

Sorry for reviving this thread! Or actually, not sorry for reviving this thread! I think we found some great answers in another thread that could help us out in making better ferments (and thus narrowing heads cuts ...).

Here's the thread that inspires me: http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopi ... 0&start=30

Please look it up, if you want to, and zoom in on what NZChris has to say about chicken grit. Chicken grit? Yes, really! It is mostly calcium carbonate and counterbalances the souring process that takes place during fermentation.

I use it for the first time now, and I like it. Quantitative measurements show that it has the capability to neutralize (excessive) sourness. And as far as quality is concerned: my wash smells and tastes better than before. Much better!

Here's some more thinking:

SG of my beer was at a very low 0.995, yesterday. Fermentation was still going on. PH was 3.05. Very low, but the good news is, it is just as sour now as my previous ferment that did not have backset added.

Today, SG (on a target abv "beer" of 8.5%) dropped to 0.991. Fermentation, allthough slower, is still taking place. PH got upped to 3.15. Still to low, but that's not the point.

The point is that PH is rising. This means that the CC from the chicken grit is counteracting the formation of sours (carbon accid). Now, I used 0.5 grams of chicken grit per liter of ferment. It seems this is enough to neutralize the accidity formed at a relatively slow fermentation process. It is not enough to deal with the excessive carbon accid formation during a fast (part of the) fermentation (process). I think upping the amount of chicken grit to around a gram per liter of ferment might do that. I will try in my next fermentation and let you know.

Now, back to the "stopping cutting for heads while distillilng" part.

The thing that strikes me is that my distilling beer smells and tastes SO much better, with the chicken grit added. It made me wonder what's going on.

Here are a few things I think help explain it. A summary to begin with? Esterification.

Esterification is the chemical processes where esters are being formed. Esters are tasty and not so tasty compounds. Some taste like apple, banana, citrus, or pear (actually, it is the other way around: the fruit fermentation - even in a fresh apple, etc. - creates certain esters that make you think "apple!"). Fruity notes? Reminds you of heads? It does to me. Other esters, like ethyl acetate, taste like nail polish remover. Right, what we smell in our Fores.

My thinking: the more esterification takes place during fermentation, the more will come over during distillation. Hence either a bigger heads cut and/or more fruity notes in your drink. Now, don't get me wrong, I like fruitiness in my brandy. But in my whiskey, I'd love to get over as much grain taste!

Okay, where does this all add up to? Not 100% sure, but this is my line of thought:

Esters form where accids meet sugars and/or alcohols. In a fermentation there is plenty of sugar (at the beginning) and alcohol (at the end of the fermentation process). Also, the faster the ferment, the more carbon accid is formed. Now that's an accid in itsself. Anything missing from the equasion? Maybe. The carbon accids are a soure substance in itsself and an abbundancy of them turns the complete fermentation in a more sour environment.

Esterification takes place where accids meet sugar and/or alcohol especially in a sour environment!

If we control PH better, for instance via chicken grit or other sources of calcium carbonate (etc.), more of the carbon accid is neutralized. Less chances of ester formation. Also, if the grit helps up the total PH of the was from - say - 3 to 4.5 or 5, the fermentation as a whole is less accid. Again: this will slow down the formation of esters significantly.

Can this be why my fermentation taste and smells so much better now? I am thinking "yes". Also, the fact that chicken grit/oyster shells have like magnesium, etc. in them may give the yeast a better nutrient balance to feast upon.

If my thinking is correct, there are two directions in which this can go:
1. My whiskey will need a smaller heads cut and give a cleaner, more grainy product (with all them fruit tastes not taking up space);
2. My whiskey will be loosing character, since the esters (even the fruity ones) somehow play a positive role in the ageing process.

I will be distilling in a few days time and let you know my first findings!

Odin.
"Great art is created only through diligent and painstaking effort to perfect and polish oneself." by Buddhist filosofer Daisaku Ikeda.

warp1
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 199
Joined: Sat Aug 18, 2012 8:21 am

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by warp1 » Sun Sep 07, 2014 1:55 pm

Glad you guys brought this up...interesting read.

Woodshed...never guessed you used a form of reflux head. Would love to know what type and still make high quality whisky....detuned LM or packed pot? If it's proprietary.....no problem, totally understand.

I originally start this hobby with what I'd consider a detuned boka....shorter column, minimal reflux. Think the added reflux would help compress heads and tails over a pot still....but still bring plenty of flavor. After reading lately and switching to AG's...I went with a straight pot still head. Now...after re-reading some of MR's old posts combined with Odin's discussions on "pure corn whisky"....I keep thinking I was on the right track in the beginning.

Fidget
Novice
Posts: 88
Joined: Fri Oct 17, 2014 10:29 am

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Fidget » Sun Nov 02, 2014 2:36 pm

Odin, how did things pan out? I've read this whole thread a(mong others too) and am interested to hear regarding the calcium carbonate and magnesium etc......about to do a mash myself so let us know. ;)

User avatar
T-Pee
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 4354
Joined: Mon Feb 18, 2013 9:20 pm
Location: The wilds of rural California

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by T-Pee » Sun Nov 02, 2014 3:19 pm

Prairiepiss wrote:Ok I missed this post. And never seen any debate about it. It went right into fermenting discussion.

The big boys say running the still is the easy part. And only make fores hearts and tail cuts.

I just have to say this. Maybe they need to spend a little more time on the still. And maybe they need to make a heads cut. Because I smell what I would consider heads in most all store bought stuff. And if they were doing a good job. I wouldn't get a hangover from drinking their product.

I'm not saying fermentation isn't a big part of it.
BOOM!

tp

jackfiasco
Bootlegger
Posts: 108
Joined: Sun Jul 14, 2013 12:06 pm

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by jackfiasco » Mon Jan 19, 2015 11:07 am

pounsfos wrote: the 3 noted alcohols in a wash when distilling
Acetone 56.5C (134F)
Methanol (wood alcohol) 64C (147F)
Ethyl acetate 77.1C (171F)

acetone and methanbol beeing the foreshots
methanol and ethyl acetate and ethanol as heads.
I have to say when I first saw this thread It made so much sense to me and I completely agree with Odin, for the most part. I don't think I'm an amazing fermenter by a long shot. But I don't go for super high ABVs, and I give my ferments plenty of time to run and clear and on most of my runs I feel like I have very little heads. I still make big conservative heads cuts, mostly by volume, because that's what I've been trained to do, but I've always been skeptical. For one thing, I rarely ever start to get product out at a temp lower than about 163F. And it usually goes up to around 174F pretty quickly and slowly increases from there throughout the run. I seem to get very little foreshots (certainly much less than the volume recommended on HD) and heads, but again, I cut them conservatively just the same cause I figure better safe than sorry, and I'm gonna get that alcohol back in future runs anyway, so it doesn't hurt to cut it.

User avatar
MichiganCornhusker
Master Distiller
Posts: 4411
Joined: Mon Jun 23, 2014 9:24 am

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by MichiganCornhusker » Mon Jan 19, 2015 11:18 am

I haven't read this whole thread yet, but jumping in so I don't lose track of it. I get lots of heads with corn, very little with my rum, and almost nothing with Woodshed's S3 recipe that I just ran. Thanks for all the info here, looking forward to checking it out!
Shouting and shooting, I can't let them catch me...

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

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Brutal » Wed Feb 04, 2015 7:29 pm

MichiganCornhusker wrote:I haven't read this whole thread yet, but jumping in so I don't lose track of it. I get lots of heads with corn, very little with my rum, and almost nothing with Woodshed's S3 recipe that I just ran. Thanks for all the info here, looking forward to checking it out!
This thread is awesome!! Read this over a year ago and now it makes so much more sense.

You know what doesn't make sense?? Why anyone would ever fail to cut heads but then turn around and cut tails??? I'd rather drink pure tails and think of a wet dog panting in a wet card board box sleeping in the gutter on a rainy day/night than to smell, taste, or otherwise experience heads of about any kind.
Steam injection rig http://tinyurl.com/kxmz8hy
All grain corn mash with steam injection and enzymes http://tinyurl.com/mp6zdt5
Inner tube condenser http://tinyurl.com/zkp3ps6

RandyMarshCT
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 713
Joined: Wed Sep 26, 2012 7:46 am
Location: Hopkinton, RI

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by RandyMarshCT » Thu Feb 05, 2015 1:27 pm

Brutal, to me this is more of 2 things:
1. make a slightly bigger fores cut, and go straight to hearts
2. Control your ferment variables much better, reducing total heads generated

Heads, cut this way, are about worthless... even recycled as feints, whereas tails are best kept to be recycled.

But we each learn something different from good threads like this.
Life member, representative, and proud supporter of the Hobby Distiller's Association.

http://www.hobbydistillersassociation.org

User avatar
Odin
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 6844
Joined: Wed Nov 10, 2010 10:20 am
Location: Three feet below sea level

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Odin » Thu Feb 05, 2015 10:02 pm

RandyMarshCT wrote:Brutal, to me this is more of 2 things:
1. make a slightly bigger fores cut, and go straight to hearts
2. Control your ferment variables much better, reducing total heads generated

Heads, cut this way, are about worthless... even recycled as feints, whereas tails are best kept to be recycled.
Lovely summary, Randy!
"Great art is created only through diligent and painstaking effort to perfect and polish oneself." by Buddhist filosofer Daisaku Ikeda.

User avatar
goinbroke2
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 2145
Joined: Mon Mar 24, 2008 6:55 pm
Location: In the garage, either stilling or working on a dragster

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by goinbroke2 » Mon Feb 09, 2015 3:07 pm

I started reading this thread today...hooboy, where to start...

Everybody has their own opinions so I guess this is mine;
Regardless of what you're doing, fermenting in a crusty horse bucket or a pristine SS fermenter, pitching yeast and walking away or practicing anal levels by keeping temp variation within +-1*...no matter WHAT you do, it's all about the end product.
But even THAT can be broken down to "I like it" and "everybody likes it".
Go farther, once you have established your product, and everybody likes it, then what does it matter what the fermenting process is? EFFICIENCY! So, now you can make a quart of "good" stuff for $10.00 or you can refine your procedures and make it for $2.00.
What about fermenting to a particular ABV so when it comes out of the still it's at barrel strength (if you even know what you want, 45%-65%-80%??) instead of watering it down or running multiple times?

I'm all for the science of it, but in the end, either you like it and can afford it, or you don't/can't.

I like to be sanitary, but am not anal like beer/wine. Am I leaving something on the table? Possibly but I'm content with the taste and efficiency. If I was a business that might be an area to look into...on the other hand, there are diminishing return when it comes to effort. If it takes twice as long or twice the cleaners to get the same product...a distillery won't waste money, if it's a matter of changing recipe or procedures, they just might.

Think of this, when one of the whiskey's were running short, a distiller decided to cut the ABV and there was a huge backlash, they went back to the original ABV knowing they would run out of stock. (I forget who, this was a year or so at the most and is probably in the news section or whatever) Point is, keeping current customers satisfied was more important than being able to offer a bit more stock.

Another point, a micro in SC I believe wanted to "make the same shine his gran pappy did way back when" A couple of whiskey writers showed up and made comments both good and bad..he looked right at them and said "don't really care if anybody likes it, I just wanted to make the same recipe my gran pappy did".

So take everything with a grain of salt, can you be more efficient? GREAT, implement it if you want. But for the same reason people like brand "A" of whiskey but not brand "B", there is room for all. I went from sugarhead to all-grain corn to all-grain malted barley...when I had the "scotch" finished a couple of scotch drinkers tried it and freaked out how good it was. This is a balvinnie, no it's a laphroag, no it's..guys I made it myself then showed them a 5 gal carboy full of 68%. They went crazy....but, the wife doesn't like scotch..in fact she doesn't even much like corn...so I make all-grain corn and sugarhead and keep them seperate, one for me and one for her. Even if the scotch is better and more refined and on and on better than a sugarhead, if mama don't like it, I don't make it for her.

And for the record, I throw the fores, do a head/heart/tail cut. I use 500ml jars for the most part but have had some success with cutting by ABV I just don't like to chance it. Oh, and if the barometer is low the heads will be larger than normal, I try not to still in a storm or if one is coming.


EDIT: found the distillery who wanted to cut the ABV, makers mark
http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopi ... 44&t=36490

I went back 10 pages in the "news" section and can't find the thread on the guy making his grandfathers recipe. :?
Last edited by goinbroke2 on Mon Feb 09, 2015 3:36 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Numerous 57L kegs, some propane, one 220v electric with stilldragon controller. Keggle for all-Grain, two pot still tops for whisky, a 3" reflux with deflag for vodka. Coming up, a 4" perf plate column. Life is short, make whisky and drag race!

Dan P.
Distiller
Posts: 1085
Joined: Thu Jul 29, 2010 7:24 am
Location: The Islands

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Dan P. » Mon Feb 09, 2015 3:13 pm

I chuck the worst of the fores/early heads, but some middle-later heads can and should be recycled.

User avatar
CR33G3R
Swill Maker
Posts: 333
Joined: Mon Oct 01, 2012 5:29 pm
Location: The Buckeye State

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by CR33G3R » Tue Feb 10, 2015 6:17 pm

First let me say that I consider myself a novice.
There are a few things however that I have noticed over time that have made a difference for me.
I always ferment in my basement where it is a steady 65 68F year around. I am lucky and have a fully insulated basement.
I keep things clean. Not beer anal clean but I do wash my buckets and tools when starting a new ferment that is not a sour mash like a UJ
I usually use a yeast starter and have lately been racking to a secondary to clear my wash.
I use bakers yeast.
I cannot comment on AG because I haven't done any as of yet, but it is a road I plan on traveling down in the future.
This is a good thread and because of it I will be paying even closer attention on future ferments and taking notes on my process.
Like most I want to make the best product that I can and this is an area that I feel gains can be made in my product.
Still learnin...
MY CCVM

User avatar
Rrmuf
Bootlegger
Posts: 115
Joined: Tue Jun 09, 2020 3:07 pm
Location: Canada

Re: Stop cutting for heads while distilling!

Post by Rrmuf » Thu Sep 10, 2020 9:04 am

I am glad I ran into this thread! I also found myself wondering why I am cutting heads since they always seemed fine! I am new to distilling and read ALOT in this forum per posted advice but I just felt I was not seeing that much off-odour in my early cuts.

I am running turbo (sorry guys! It's where I started), wineo and birdwatcher washs, keeping the ABV reasonable @8-12%, keeping the yeast in a happy place, and during distillation (pot still with a gin basket) I always get rid of 250ml of foreshots. But when it comes to cutting out heads, I find that is where the flavour comes through! I am not detecting off-odours or tastes. When I blend with other cuts, I find the distilate quality has been very good. We have tried it out, and we have had zero headaches reported so I feel like I am not doing anything TOO wrong. I have no such troubles singling out the tails -- at all -- so I feel like my senses are ok. I even resorted to flame testing the different jars and where I DO see a clear difference between my foreshots and my 'hearts' I see very little difference between my hearts and heads.

I started to wonder "WHat am I missing?" ... and then I run into this thread. I will continue to be careful with the heads, and my early jars are kept very small (max 250ml) but curious if anyone has any extra advice when dealing with heads.
Cheers, rrmuf
-- Rrmuf

Post Reply