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