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Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2017 1:23 pm
by spiff
Sorry for bumping this old thread, but der wo referenced it in another thread and man, I wish I saw this one earlier as I had similar issues and think I can contribute to this topic a bit more.

I not too far back had my first (what I thought) was a bad or off fermented wash because the whole spirit run stank powerfully of tails.. i ran it again and same issue. Its all birdwatchers.

I think I fixed it when I found I wasn't cleaning my copper plates good enough in my SS column even though I was using a packed section with copper wadding too. After every run I would soak my plates and packing in vinegar and it would lighten the plates so I thought I was good. But after the problem I had I tried wiping them too and it was amazing how much crap came off. I filled a whole rag with yellow nastiness and after every run now I find I'm able to do the same. Though that first time was real bad.. gave me yellow fingers even.

So I'm not sure if its a difference between using vinegar vs citrix acid (i soak overnight though) but I found that soaking alone isn't enough. I haven't ever read anything about people wiping them, just soaking them. I would be curious to see what other people get if they tried wiping their plates off after a good soaking that they do.

To me it seems its a balancing act for amount of copper exposure.. to little and you get a tailsy run.. too much copper and you get the coppery taste. On my SS rig I need to keep what little copper there is shiny for best effect. I would assume this balance is even more prevalent on an all copper rig..keeping clean vs a patina.

Has anyone else tried wiping off their plates after an acid wash to see how much more crap comes off?

Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2017 1:42 pm
by willee
So a fist size ball of copper mesh in the boiler will help eliminate the problem?
I thought a copper packed column would be enough but from what I read here it might not be as effective as the copper mesh in the boiler.

Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2017 3:16 pm
by thecroweater
Yeah I would question that assumption

Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2017 3:56 pm
by Bagasso
willee wrote:So a fist size ball of copper mesh in the boiler will help eliminate the problem?
I thought a copper packed column would be enough but from what I read here it might not be as effective as the copper mesh in the boiler.

Some people are stuck on the efficiency of copper in the vapor path but if it isn't enough in your case then it just isn't enough. Try one then the other, then both. Then try soaking copper in you wash and/or low wines and then you can decide which worked better.

Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2017 3:57 pm
by Saltbush Bill
Ive always run copper in the boiler, I think it helps.

Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2017 4:00 pm
by Pikey
I break down my copper column every few runs and scrub with oxalic acid and pan scrubbers. I don't know how much shit you need to accumulate before you say "enough is enough" - so I just keep it reasonably clean :)

Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2017 4:30 pm
by thecroweater
Well see how everyone I'd different :lol: . I don't personally think over cleaning your still is a very good idea unless you see a serious issue and even then generally all that means is your early heads will be contaminated with salts or oxides , big whoop. Lots of ppl will say some copper chips will help in a stainless still boiler and there may be some truth to that. Will it do more good than an adequate amount of copper in the vapour path? No don't be obtuse of cause it won't , not even close but that's not to say it does no good at all.

Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2017 5:02 pm
by Saltbush Bill
Id agree with that Crow..my stills done a lot of work in the last 5 years, its been cleaned once in that time, by giving it a good soak in hot dunder then a rinse with the hose. The rest of the time it gets a quick flush out with cold water after each run. Ive never had any of the above issues that people seem to be having.
But then it is all copper.

Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Thu Mar 02, 2017 1:45 am
by der wo
Bagasso and me, we read the study about where copper is effective, added information from the wine makers and made experiments based on that. And now adding copper in the boiler or somewhere before or between distillations has become a regular part of our process.

thecroweater wrote a few times "no, it doesn't work" without contributing any arguments.

Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Thu Mar 02, 2017 7:26 am
by Bagasso
The answer to the question of where copper is better is a two part answer.

The study posted on page 1 of this thread shows that copper works better in the vapor path during the first run and that it works better in the boiler during the spirit run.

ETA: As for the cleanliness of the copper the study says this:
When used for the first time, the laboratory scale copper stills produced a spirit with a relatively sulphury and meaty aroma. Several repeat distillations were required prior to the start of this experiment to reduce this aroma suggesting that some corrosion of the copper may have been required in order to activate it. The actual mechanism of sulphur compound removal, however, remains to be elucidated.

Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2017 1:22 pm
by Wino2Distill
Bagasso, what is your pitching rate? What temperature do you usually ferment at?

Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2017 2:17 pm
by Bagasso
Wino2Distill wrote:Bagasso, what is your pitching rate? What temperature do you usually ferment at?

I go by the parent sites recommendation of 4g per gal. I have done more and less and never noticed a difference in the off smell I get.

Temp is usually 85-90°F. Whatever the room temp is.

Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2017 3:53 pm
by Wino2Distill
Bagasso wrote:
Wino2Distill wrote:Bagasso, what is your pitching rate? What temperature do you usually ferment at?

I go by the parent sites recommendation of 4g per gal. I have done more and less and never noticed a difference in the off smell I get.

Temp is usually 85-90°F. Whatever the room temp is.


With these parameters your ferments will for sure produce many sulfurous compounds. I can go into detail if you'd like, but I would suggest cutting your pitching to 0.5g/gal and reducing your start temperatures to 65f and letting it increase to tops 80f.
This is taking into account that you are following a proper yeast rehydration protocol prior to pitching so that the small amount that you are adding is actually 100% alive, which is pitch yeast in clean water at 95-100f, hold temp for 15 minutes and pitch.
Also I do not think that adding copper to a ferment is helpful. From what I've been reading it simply causes the yeast to pump out sulfurous compounds to bind to the active copper as it is toxic to them. It should be safe to add it toward the very end of the fermentation.
Finally, do not forget to aerate your wort after pitching.

I should mention that my all SS still is giving me the same problems as you albeit not as intense I think. I have recently added copper plumbing parts in my kettle and am experimenting with copper sulphate. So far things appear to be better. Also, sulfury type odours that some of my spirits have seem to vapour off after a few months of sitting.

Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2017 5:09 pm
by Bagasso
Wino2Distill wrote:With these parameters your ferments will for sure produce many sulfurous compounds. I can go into detail if you'd like, but I would suggest cutting your pitching to 0.5g/gal and reducing your start temperatures to 65f and letting it increase to tops 80f.

Thanks but I can't control temp.

I was just reading an article about wines with ferments up to 100°F being a thing now.

People ferment all over the place and some follow the guidelines and others don't and they don't seem to have this problem. Who knows why that is?

ETA: Then again the use of copper sulfate in wines seems to have become a common practice.

Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2017 1:30 am
by Pikey
Bagasso wrote:
.....ETA: Then again the use of copper sulfate in wines seems to have become a common practice.



That's nice - Blue poisonous wine :)

Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2017 2:49 am
by der wo
Pikey wrote:
Bagasso wrote:.....ETA: Then again the use of copper sulfate in wines seems to have become a common practice.

That's nice - Blue poisonous wine :)

The max allowed copper content of wine in the EU is 1mg/l. This limit is twice as strict as for tap water. The usual amount of adding copper sulfate results in 0.25mg/l more copper in the wine. Most wines contain total under 0.5mg/l. The most copper gets into the wine because of fungicides.
For comparision: Rice has 2mg/kg, nuts 8mg/kg, liver even 50mg/kg.

Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2017 6:05 am
by Wino2Distill
Yes, things always need to be put into relative terms.

I'm sure lots of folks are over pitching and fermenting hot... and varying amounts of sulphurous compounds are being created. Afterwards there is a distillation which concentrates the most volatile aromas, of which some are sulphurous compounds. This is done in the presence of varying amounts of copper with varying results. As someone who works in the wine industry I can testify that people's sensitivity to these compounds vary. For example, I have grown to be very sensitive to sulphites over time and cannot drink most entry level white wines.

I should say that the ability to (more or less) control temperature is key for any type of fermentation fi quality is your goal. If your setup does not allow this, I would say that the initial temperature sets the tone for the rest of the fermentation. Unless your vessel is over 50 gallons it shouldn't get carried away.

This may not be your main factor, but can only help.

Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2017 6:40 am
by der wo
Wino2Distill wrote:I'm sure lots of folks are over pitching and fermenting hot... and varying amounts of sulphurous compounds are being created.

Here https://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtop ... 39&t=58005 I did the folowing experimental wash:
360ml water
54g sugar
30°C
in 1l bottle with airlock
18g dried yeast

A huge overpitch. I didn't distill it. But the smell was extreme clean. Never ever any sulfide smell. I don't believe that overpitching results in sulfide smell. I think underpitching is the reason often.

Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2017 7:05 am
by Wino2Distill
Over pitching is not a stand alone factor. This is a simple sugar wash and your nitrogen source is the yeast themselves. The pH is close to 7 (unless you acidified) so reduction is not encouraged. I would not expect a problem with this either.

Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2017 8:25 am
by der wo
This is a point I have often read but never understood. Many sources claim that more yeast helps against sulfide smells (and that's what I have experienced) and many members say more yeast produces sulfide smells...
Similar the diluting question: water to ethanol or ethanol to water. Almost all pros say water to ethanol, but most homedistillers say ethanol to water. Sorry, off-topic.

Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2017 8:41 am
by thecroweater
on yeast both (in extremes) maybe right, that is to say not enough yeast and it is going to struggle to colonize and overcome other bacteria, to much and it will struggle to maintain a colony large than can comfortably be supported at any given time, The word here is struggle.
mixing ethanol and water, what do you think will mix better prior to agitation, gravel tipped on sand or sand tipped on gravel. If you think about the molecule sizes of each component then the correct answer is simple :thumbup:

Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2017 9:19 am
by Wino2Distill
I agree with the crow for the yeast. The benefit of a large initial yeast population is that you are sure that the yeast that is added will be the one to takeover the environment. The secondary benefit is that you are inherently adding nitrogen to your ferment. One reason yeast produce H2S is via the metabolism of sulfur containing amino acids. While breaking down available amino acids to produce others they release the sulfur groups of cystine and methionine. Dead yeasts are also known for absorbing off aromas such as sulfur compounds.

I don't have enough experience with sugar washes, but I know that a fruit ferment (all other parameters being good) would never do better with over pitching.

Not so sure we can compare mixing liquids to solids on the other hand...

My apologies if we are drifting off topic here.

Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2017 10:05 am
by Bagasso
der wo wrote:This limit is twice as strict as for tap water.

This might be a reason why some never see a problem.

I don't know if it is just marketing but breweries and distilleries seem to boast about where they get their water and how it makes a better product. Mineral content?

Remember this thread 8% ABV in 6 hours? That was serious over-pitching, 20g in 400ml.

Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2017 1:38 pm
by Bagasso
Wino2Distill wrote:I don't have enough experience with sugar washes, but I know that a fruit ferment (all other parameters being good) would never do better with over pitching.

It isn't just sugar washes, grains and fruits destined for distillation all seem to be fermented faster and hotter. Some people refill the fermenters on top of the yeast cake.

I have seen people say that over-pitching in wines means less esters that are produced during the aerobic phase and also that the more rigorous off-gassing causes a loss of esters as well. Seems like it is relatively "bad". In the idea of the thread posted above that was seen as a good thing.

Different goals.

My apologies if we are drifting off topic here.

I don't think it is off topic. Fermenting procedures are a part of it. It's just that I have been at this for years and tried all the advice offered, that I could implement (eg I can't get copper pipe over 1" where I live, a copper boiler would be out of the question) and there was always this off note that other people either don't mind or don't get.

This works for me. I soak copper bits in the finished wash.

Years ago I described my runs as having tails coming over before the heads had been depleted. It doesn't seem to be what everyone else was calling tails.

Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2017 3:53 pm
by Wino2Distill
I sure wish I had a gas chromatographer at my side while doing all these experiments!

Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Fri Sep 08, 2017 10:59 pm
by Bagasso
Wino2Distill wrote:I sure wish I had a gas chromatographer at my side while doing all these experiments!

I'm sure there are a lot of us that have that same wish.

I noticed that we have 4 terms pertaining to certain ideas that might be proven wrong by GC.

I don't know if you have seen this thread Methanol concentrate in the tails according an EC study

Traditionally we are told that, in order to be on the safe side (absolutely nothing wrong with that), we should make a fores cut in order to get rid of the majority of methanol. Of course it seems like people just looked at the BP of methanol and assumed it would come off first. At first glance the study posted in the thread above seems to indicate that methanol concentrates in the tails. A closer look reveals that they are in fact talking about the methanol/ethanol ratio changes and in the tails you have a sharp change. That was argued in the thread but what seemed to have been overlooked in all the back and forth is that methanol is coming over throughout the run. It isn't disposed of in the fores cut.

Bringing it back on topic, this got me thinking about tails. If we look at the descriptors for tails we see, wet cardboard, dirty gym socks and wet dog. That to me sounds like mold and mildew. None of the fusels have a smell like that.

There is an old thread about rum oils around here which pretty much says that once you get past the worst of the off putting tails their is a fraction of tails where the rum oils come off which is something you probably want to keep in your rum. Again, it is all tails but that is an oversimplification and there are parts of the tails which you want to cut out and others that you want to keep and, in theory, they should all be higher in fusels than the hearts fraction.

So my latest experiment is a 3L wash made with 500g of sugar (around 10%ABV) and 2 tsp of yeast and nothing else. I soaked three 4 inch pieces of 1/2" copper in 1.5L of the wash for 4 hours. Stripped it til the vapor was 99°C. Added sodium hydroxide to the low wines, pH reached 12.46, and let it sit for 1 hour. I then added citric acid until thee pH fell below 7 and stripped it again up to 98°C. Watered down to around 36%ABV and let it sit overnight.

Tonight I cracked the bottle open and I find a liquor with just a slight hint of cardboard in the nose and the bitterness of a strong cup of tea or coffee with no sugar. There is no lip numbing from the "heads". I am mixing it with some pineapple drink and it seems ok. Not great, mind you, but an acceptable mixer. Taking into account that it was double striped with no cuts, I would say that cutting back a little on the yeast, treating with copper and an alkaline made a significant improvement. If only I had a GC at my side to be able to better tell where that actually was.

Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Sat May 05, 2018 3:23 am
by Mainer7
Bagasso wrote:
NZChris wrote:I've always had copper everywhere and don't let a distillation start in less than 45 minutes to give time for good things to happen. The preheater coil is copper, and that heats the next charge for the whole strip, which is always over an hour.

I don't want to sound rude and maybe it was my fault for naming the thread like I did but the thread isn't about asking "What works for others" because we already know that.

I want to know "Why running tried and true recipes at least twice in a still with copper in the pot, a short copper riser and 10 feet of coil on the down side isn't working for me while it seems to work for everyone else?"

Today I tossed my copper "boiling chips" and wash into my boiler around noon, let sit for 8 hours and fired the still up about 2 hours ago. Now I seem to be getting what others describe.

There is still that one tidbit in the article about a copper part on an SS still not matching an all copper rig. So there seems to be room for improvement but, what if an all copper rig isn't the limit either? What if it could all be cut out in the fermentor?

Once again, interesting stuff Bagasso. I have been saving all my copper cutoffs, w the thought of throwing them in the boiler as what I've now learned to b, "boiling chips". My thought was that the copper pieces would heat up in the wash and just add more uniform heat throughout the wash. I didn't have any idea that they could actually b binding the copper sulfide to them. I soldered a little half loop of copper to the underside of my cap to my boiler, w the future intent of hanging a "gin basket" off of it. What if one were to hang any scrap coils off of that half loop, almost like a mobile. Just a thought which I'm sure has been brought up b4.

Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Sat May 05, 2018 11:25 am
by Bagasso
Mainer7 wrote:What if one were to hang any scrap coils off of that half loop, almost like a mobile. Just a thought which I'm sure has been brought up b4.

The best place for copper is debated. The literature I have seen says that on a stripping run (1st run) it is better in the boiler (like boiling chips)and spirit run (2nd run) it is better in the vapor path (scrubbies in a column or maybe your mobile idea). There is no reason why you can't use both in every run.

Maybe make your "gin basket" out of copper and run with it in place with or without the herbs to always have copper in the vapor path.

Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Sat May 05, 2018 5:16 pm
by Mainer7
Bagasso wrote:
Mainer7 wrote:What if one were to hang any scrap coils off of that half loop, almost like a mobile. Just a thought which I'm sure has been brought up b4.

The best place for copper is debated. The literature I have seen says that on a stripping run (1st run) it is better in the boiler (like boiling chips)and spirit run (2nd run) it is better in the vapor path (scrubbies in a column or maybe your mobile idea). There is no reason why you can't use both in every run.

Maybe make your "gin basket" out of copper and run with it in place with or without the herbs to always have copper in the vapor path.

Yeah, I don't have a column so it would have to b along the lines of a mobile. My intention WAS to make the "gin basket" out of copper for really ANY aromatics I felt like adding to a run, not neccesarily making gin, but in the vapor path as u say. Thank you Bagasso for confirming my thought.

Re: So, the answer was copper

PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2018 12:42 am
by CatCrap
NZChris wrote:
I have a set of wine flavors in an educational kit designed to teach you how to recognize basic wine flavors. A spirit version of the same kit would be the duck's nuts about now, but I've never come across such a thing.



Old post, I know. I took a distillery tour, not a great one, kind of lame frankly to one of us, maybe more interesting to the average bear. Anywho... one of the distillers (not the guy giving the tour.. he was a bartender or some shit.. dumb) had gone to "Moonshine University". Now, I've heard a tiny blip of info about that place before, not much, and i couldn't tell you if it's legit and worthwhile or a waste of time. I know it's a pretty quick course, and learning to distill takes a lot of time and practice. I digress. He had gone to MU, and they had given him (as part of his $XXXXX tuition) a kit, which contained about ten vials, each containing one of the components you'd find in distillate. Methanol, furfurol, ethyl acetate, etc. etc. He let me look at it for a second and smell one or two. So this type of thing, DOES exist, and i very much agree it could be a useful tool. Would be really great for training your sense of smell to identify those specific high and low alcohols so you can better pick them out and improve cuts.

Again, i know this is an older (although interesting) post. It just sparked my mind when you mentioned that, that i had seen such a kit. I wonder if it can be found somewhere for purchase? Other than having to attend MU for some exorbitant sum. Heh.. i guess it's like most college... outrageously expensive, and will be a massive burden for much of the rest of your life. Especially those whom attend college and then go into a field not making much money. For example, people who attend the Culinary Institute of America. It's like 20-40K a SEMESTER. Then you'll make 10 bucks an hour as a line cook for 5-10 years, n maybe if you're lucky and good climb up the ladder and have some shot at ever paying it back before that debt crushes you. Oops.. i started ranting and got off topic agin. Ma bad.