Grappa Advice

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Polenta
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Grappa Advice

Post by Polenta » Sat Jun 11, 2005 5:02 pm

I have an Italian family reunion coming up in late Sept. On Aug 15 I will have a traditional Italian copper pot still delivered to me. I want to make 4-5 liters of grappy for the reunion. Can I make a decent grappa in that amount by simply distilling a few gallons of good quality zinfandel? Any grappa makers out there? Gratzie! Ciao!

Grayson_Stewart
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Post by Grayson_Stewart » Sat Jun 11, 2005 5:53 pm

Oh wow...where to begin....

Technically the distilled wine will be a brandy...so yes you can distill the zinfandel, but you will have a brandy. Grappa is the distillation of the leftover pulp and skins from making the wine.

Depending on where you are located, sounds like the date of your little shin-dig is not going to allow you to find local grapes that are vine ripened. Might have to purchase grapes from elsewhewere.

Also....its gonna take WAY MORE than a few gallons of spent pulp and grape hulls to make 4 to 5 liters of decent Grappa.

Have you ever distilled anything before? If you haven't, I'm not trying to dicourage you, but you do NOT want to give your family members what you distill in your first 30 days of learning this hobby :lol:
Light travels faster than sound. That is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

Polenta
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Brandy Will Do

Post by Polenta » Sat Jun 11, 2005 6:15 pm

Thanks for the advice, much appreciated. Well, I knew that making grappa from pomace was tricky, but I thought (probably naively) that I could pull off a couple bottles of brandy for the reunion by simply distilling the wine. Are the first few distillations pretty much doomed to failure? I have made wine a couple times with good luck. And I am making wine (Zin) again this fall---50 gallons for family---and will try to make some grappa from the pomace, but that won't be in time for the reunion. I'll rephrase the question: How can I improve my odds of making a small quantity of decent brandy within the first 30 days of receiving my still---just enough to make our Italian reunion feel a little more traditional? We need a new book for the community: Grappa for Dummies. Advice?


Grayson_Stewart wrote:Oh wow...where to begin....

Technically the distilled wine will be a brandy...so yes you can distill the zinfandel, but you will have a brandy. Grappa is the distillation of the leftover pulp and skins from making the wine.

Depending on where you are located, sounds like the date of your little shin-dig is not going to allow you to find local grapes that are vine ripened. Might have to purchase grapes from elsewhewere.

Also....its gonna take WAY MORE than a few gallons of spent pulp and grape hulls to make 4 to 5 liters of decent Grappa.

Have you ever distilled anything before? If you haven't, I'm not trying to dicourage you, but you do NOT want to give your family members what you distill in your first 30 days of learning this hobby :lol:

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Tater
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Post by Tater » Sat Jun 11, 2005 6:31 pm

what size still ya gettin?if your planning to use grapes and no sugar heres a sight that tell ya sugar content of grapes.but 20 lbs grapes crushed 10 lbs sugar and enough water to make 5 to 6 gallons total wash with a good yeast like ec-1118 should give ya a gallon or so of decent single run likker. http://www.nutritiondata.com/foods-0090 ... 000-3.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" rel="nofollow
Last edited by Tater on Sat Jun 11, 2005 6:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
I use a pot still.Sometimes with a thumper

Polenta
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ITALIAN BRANDY/GRAPPA

Post by Polenta » Sat Jun 11, 2005 6:43 pm

Tater. . .it's about 15 liters. It's a cool design---traditional, except it has a double copper bottom with a space in between the two layers of copper for oil. There is a little port where you add the oil. Having the layer of oil between the two layers of copper helps prevent burning the pomace.
tater wrote:what size still ya gettin?

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Post by Grayson_Stewart » Sat Jun 11, 2005 7:14 pm

Thats a about 3.5 gallons...I would think with a 12% abv wine you could expect about 0.6 gallons of decent 80 proof (all total) out of that volume in a single distillation. This accounts for loss due to heads, tails and the amount of alcohol that would be left in the still.

Assuming you are not generating relux back to a column, the best advice I could give if you know you won't have alot of time to practice is to use a thermometer and collect only what comes across between 193 F and 203 F. This is a temperature taken in the vapor path, and discard the rest. Run the heat slow. At 202 F you will be collecting distillate arounf 100 proof. It will have some flavor, but not alot. Once you reach 202 F start collecting in a seperate jar to about 205 proof. This will have alot more flavor and you will use this to add back, to what was earlier collected, for flavor.
Light travels faster than sound. That is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

Polenta
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BRANDY/GRAPPA

Post by Polenta » Sat Jun 11, 2005 7:35 pm

I love the way you guys convert and benchmark---those are the signposts I need to guide me. Thanks, too, for the temperature advice, I'll use that. Problem is, I don't think the still I'm getting has a thermometer built into it or even a port for one. When you say that the temperature needs to be taken in the vapor path, do you mean with the thermometer on the outside of the copper on the vapor path, or actually on the inside of the copper? I have to get this thermometer thing figured out---the still I'm getting is made by old world people in my family's village, but I've never yet seen these guys use a thermometer. Any suggestions about best way to hook a thermometer to a pot still? Also, when you wrote 205 proof, did you mean 205F?
Grayson_Stewart wrote:Thats a about 3.5 gallons...I would think with a 12% abv wine you could expect about 0.6 gallons of decent 80 proof (all total) out of that volume in a single distillation. This accounts for loss due to heads, tails and the amount of alcohol that would be left in the still.

Assuming you are not generating relux back to a column, the best advice I could give if you know you won't have alot of time to practice is to use a thermometer and collect only what comes across between 193 F and 203 F. This is a temperature taken in the vapor path, and discard the rest. Run the heat slow. At 202 F you will be collecting distillate arounf 100 proof. It will have some flavor, but not alot. Once you reach 202 F start collecting in a seperate jar to about 205 proof. This will have alot more flavor and you will use this to add back, to what was earlier collected, for flavor.

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Post by Grayson_Stewart » Sun Jun 12, 2005 2:40 am

Are you seriously askin me if the temperature probe goes inside the copper in the vapor path or on the outside of the copper in the ambient air where you are standing?

If the still is made by the "old timers" then it probably won't have a temperature port. They do it by taste, touch, smell, and site.

You are correct, I made a typo, that should be 205 F because there is no such thing as 205 proof.
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Polenta
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POTSTILL TEMPERATURE

Post by Polenta » Sun Jun 12, 2005 6:53 am

Thanks Grayson. The reason I asked about the possibility of using an "outside" thermometer to estimate temperature with a potstill is that I saw two previous notes on this site in which the guys mentioned attaching a regular stove thermometer to the outside of the copper when there is no port. Not sure what they mean or how that kind of a set-up might work. I think you're right about old timers doing it by taste, touch, smell and sight. We had one old guy in our neighborhood who made everyone's grappa (you would just haul your pomace over to his house and sit in the basement with him while he did his thing with his pot still). He took a percentage of everyone's run for his trouble. Did it all without a thermometer, as far as I know, and his grappa was yummy.
Grayson_Stewart wrote:Are you seriously askin me if the temperature probe goes inside the copper in the vapor path or on the outside of the copper in the ambient air where you are standing?

If the still is made by the "old timers" then it probably won't have a temperature port. They do it by taste, touch, smell, and site.

You are correct, I made a typo, that should be 205 F because there is no such thing as 205 proof.

Polenta
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BRANDY HYDROMETER

Post by Polenta » Sun Jun 12, 2005 7:11 am

Thanks for making things so clear! When you're just starting out, it really helps when you have more experienced people who are patient and willing to go to "ground zero" on the advice. Thanks. I'll go look at hydrometers this afternoon. Another rookie question: As a short-term measure (just to have a little home-made Italian brandy for my family reunion) my plan is to simply distill store-bought wine to make the brandy.
Suppose I distill a decent but inexpensive jug wine versus a more expensive dinner wine? Seems like a double distillation of wine is going to remove most of the flavor anyway. . .so I might as well go with the cheaper wine. Any experience with that? Thanks!!

theholymackerel wrote:Polenta, the traditional grappa still you mention is a potstill. Potstills don't need thermometers.

The best way to know how to make yer "cuts" is by smell, taste, and experience. For folks that don't have that experience yet a hydrometer will allow you to make good cuts.

Run yer batch through the first time makin' no cuts... collect the first runnin's till the distillate runs off at 10 or 20 %abv. Empty yer still and load the distillate for it's second run. This is where ya make "cuts". Collect and dump down the drain the first 200 ml per 5 gal of original; batch. That is the "heads". Collect and save as the "body" everythin' untill the abv% dropps to 100proof. Below 100 proof is the "tails" which can be dumped down the drain or be saved for later re-distillation.




Feel free to ask if ya have more questions.

I wish ya luck.

Guest

Re: BRANDY HYDROMETER

Post by Guest » Sun Jun 12, 2005 7:39 am

Polenta wrote: Another rookie question: As a short-term measure (just to have a little home-made Italian brandy for my family reunion) my plan is to simply distill store-bought wine to make the brandy.
Suppose I distill a decent but inexpensive jug wine versus a more expensive dinner wine? Seems like a double distillation of wine is going to remove most of the flavor anyway. . .so I might as well go with the cheaper wine. Any experience with that? Thanks!!
Cheap storebought wine will make decent brandy. Don't use good wine. Good wine distilled into brandy will be bland and not interestin' at all. Cheap harsh crappy wine makes much better brandy.




I wish ya luck.

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Post by Virginia Gentleman » Mon Jul 18, 2005 1:25 pm

Grayson_Stewart wrote:Thats a about 3.5 gallons...I would think with a 12% abv wine you could expect about 0.6 gallons of decent 80 proof (all total) out of that volume in a single distillation. This accounts for loss due to heads, tails and the amount of alcohol that would be left in the still.

Assuming you are not generating relux back to a column, the best advice I could give if you know you won't have alot of time to practice is to use a thermometer and collect only what comes across between 193 F and 203 F. This is a temperature taken in the vapor path, and discard the rest. Run the heat slow. At 202 F you will be collecting distillate arounf 100 proof. It will have some flavor, but not alot. Once you reach 202 F start collecting in a seperate jar to about 205 proof. This will have alot more flavor and you will use this to add back, to what was earlier collected, for flavor.
Hey Grayson, are these temps specific to distilling brandy, using a pot still, both or neither? :lol:

I'm working with my new copper pot still and did a brandy/congac run (cheap champagne) to start while I wait for my sour mash to ferment, and collected most of the run at around 202, 50% abv (4 gal. wash at 7% -- added water for volume). From running sour mashes in smaller pot stills in the past, I was expecting to collect closer to 180 or even 172. Thanks for any advice, just trying to get the hang of the new still.
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Post by Grayson_Stewart » Mon Jul 18, 2005 7:02 pm

Those temps will work with any wash of any type.....they are specific to the amount of alcohol in the vapor coming off the still head. You can get the numbers off the chart on homedistiller.org.

Like I said though...its only a guage for a beginner to use....there is no substitute for experience and using your senses.
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Post by Virginia Gentleman » Tue Jul 19, 2005 1:59 am

Thanks Grayson, I should probably be going more by proof and taste and smell anyway. Still learning, and this was my first run with this still.


I've looked at the numbers on the graph at the bottom of this page: http://homedistiller.org/theory.htm if that's the one you meant, and the numbers match up with what I saw in my run and what you're saying, so hopefully I'm in the ballpark. If I have a 7% wash, the liquid will boil at 94C (201F) and produce a vapor that's about 50% abv.
Lord preserve and protect us, we've been drinkin' whiskey 'fore breakfast.

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Post by Grayson_Stewart » Tue Jul 19, 2005 4:26 am

Virginia Gentleman wrote:If I have a 7% wash, the liquid will boil at 94C (201F) and produce a vapor that's about 50% abv.
By jove, I think he's got it! :wink: Your 100% correct now. That chart has never varied more than 2% from my hydrometer readings and thats saying alot for interpreting a small chart that has been blown up to the point of being fuzzy when printed.

As you make your next several runs, you may want to have a chart like that printed out. Make points along the graph at a given time intervals and also when you notice distinct changes with your senses. Record vapor temperature, time, and proof you measure with the hydromter. Three or four runs while recording info like this showed me the consistencies in my still and helped me to develop my senses better. Practice is the only thing that helps, nobody on this site can write a paragraph to exactly tell you how to use your senses.
Light travels faster than sound. That is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

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Post by Virginia Gentleman » Tue Jul 19, 2005 6:47 am

Cool, that's a very useful tool, thanks for pointing it out. I actually have a ton of data from my last run with time, temp, %abv, collection rate and notes. About 30-40 data points for the run, so I'll plot some of those onto the graph and see how they match up. And definitely put the graph up for my next runs.

One thing that threw me off was advice from the guy who made the still saying I should try to hold temp at 180 for most of the run and collect fast drops or a thin stream at that temp, which now seems would be impossible using a 7% wash in a pot still given the data on the graph. I don't think he factored in the abv of the wash when he gave that advice.
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Post by Grayson_Stewart » Tue Jul 19, 2005 9:33 am

Don't know who the "guy" was but I hope it wasn't me giving out misleading information due to a possible confusion of what type still is being used. Just like said before, a pot still's vapor temperature will gradually increase as the alcohol is boiled off. A reflux still can maintain a given temperature at the top of the still head for a period of time through reflux adjustments.

No matter what type still you use, if you take the temperature of a vapor combined of alcohol and water, you can determine the alcohol % in that vapor with the use of those charts.
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Post by Virginia Gentleman » Tue Jul 19, 2005 1:02 pm

Grayson_Stewart wrote:Don't know who the "guy" was but I hope it wasn't me giving out misleading information due to a possible confusion of what type still is being used.
Not at all Grayson, it was the guy who made the still for me, otherwise known as the Colonel.

The basic concept we're discussing has done worlds for my understanding of the process. Don't know how I missed it in reading Ian Smiley's book twice, and most of this site many times. Probably just too much information at once, and reading about too many types of stills.
Lord preserve and protect us, we've been drinkin' whiskey 'fore breakfast.

goschmil

Post by goschmil » Tue Jul 19, 2005 3:54 pm

Hey Polenta,
Did I hear you say that you are going to cook the pomace itself? that's interesting because in my still(which is heated by an electrical element) I can't do that, so I re-ferment the grape skins and seeds with sugar and water to top back to where my level was before they were squeezed to make my annual 25 gallons of Cabernet and when the referment is done I press it out again and distill just the liquid portion of the wash. I've only done it twice, but I have gotten rave reviews from both folks who know grappa and ones who have never tasted it, I too am Italian( dad was from the province of Piemonte).

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Post by AkCoyote » Thu Jul 21, 2005 7:22 pm

I make a lot of brandy and yes I still use a thermometer in the top of the column. I collect from 173F to 205F on the first run then 173F to 185F on the second. Everything over 185F is collected to be stripped later. This is really good with a little carmelized sugar added and aged on a bit of oak.

AkCoyote

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Post by Virginia Gentleman » Thu Jul 21, 2005 11:28 pm

Yeah, I bet the sugar and oak works well. I'll have to try that on some of the batch, AK.
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