distilling heads & tails

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distilling heads & tails

Post by katzgejm » Mon Feb 09, 2015 5:03 pm

so i've collected a couple gallons of both heads and tails from various runs (molasses, white sugar, wine). my question is: how do i make my cuts if i'm distiling heads and tails? i mean, how can i tell when the good ethanol is coming over? i'm distilling right now and everything's coming over at 74F, but i've got 1.5 gallons of new distillate and surely it can't all be heads?? or can it??
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Re: distilling heads & tails

Post by S-Cackalacky » Mon Feb 09, 2015 5:09 pm

It won't be like a normal spirit run. Yes, it will have a lot of heads and a lot of tails, but you will also be separating out some of the hearts that got lost in your previous spirit run cuts. It won't be much hearts, but it will be some damn good hearts.
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Re: distilling heads & tails

Post by Hound Dog » Mon Feb 09, 2015 5:41 pm

What kind of still you running? If it's a LM, let it equalize a bit longer than usual and it should compact your heads like usual just as bit stronger. The hearts should be good and smooth while the tails stink knock you over. I find feints runs easier to distinguish the cuts.
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Re: distilling heads & tails

Post by katzgejm » Mon Feb 09, 2015 6:54 pm

5 gallon pot with a 3' column. column is packed with copper and stainless steel. running it in reflux, cooling at the top of the column.
vapour's been coming over at about 74F for HOURS. we've collected something like 2 gallons at around 90%abv. smells fairly clean, but is it hearts (ethanol) or is it heads (acetate? methanol??)

if we started with about 5 gallons of heads/tails in the pot, when should i expect hearts and how much should i expect to get?
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Re: distilling heads & tails

Post by shadylane » Mon Feb 09, 2015 7:07 pm

katzgejm wrote:so i've collected a couple gallons of both heads and tails from various runs (molasses, white sugar, wine). my question is: how do i make my cuts if i'm distiling heads and tails? i mean, how can i tell when the good ethanol is coming over? i'm distilling right now and everything's coming over at 74F, but i've got 1.5 gallons of new distillate and surely it can't all be heads?? or can it??
While distilling, divide the shine into many small jars, after a day or two decide what is heads, hearts and tails.
Temperature is low on the totem pole for information needed for cuts.
74 degrees F is illogical.

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Re: distilling heads & tails

Post by katzgejm » Mon Feb 09, 2015 7:20 pm

sorry i meant 74C. too much conversion!
i usually get good hearts at around 78C on a typical spirit run. is so much coming over here at low temps because i'm distilling heads?

i've been dividing it up and so far, 2 gallons in, it all mostly smells clean but i'm having a hard time telling if it's heads or hearts. i just don't have experience distilling heads
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Re: distilling heads & tails

Post by Fastill » Mon Feb 09, 2015 9:15 pm

Here is where your taste, smell and feel are needed to judge what you have. By dividing the distillate in small jars you should be able to tell the difference between heads, hearts and tails.
78 C is where most of my reflux hearts come across. Unfortunatly I get nail polish smell early on, smoothe oderless hearts towards the middle, and doggy smelling tails all at 78 degrees c. in my offset head column. Then when all ethonol is gone, temp jumps up and I get musty water.
Smell for nail polish, bannana smell for heads. When that is gone, you are into hearts until you start to taste the bitter tails , or smell the odor of the tails like wet dog, wet cardboard.
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Re: distilling heads & tails

Post by katzgejm » Mon Feb 09, 2015 9:37 pm

thanks for the answer.

so my heads and hearts are both going to come over at the same temp and abv? that's confusing! i'll have to put the whole lot back through and separate, tasting/smelling as i go.
what kind of proportions should i expect? 2:1 heads:hearts? more, less?
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Re: distilling heads & tails

Post by woodshed » Mon Feb 09, 2015 9:55 pm

If you do not have temp separation you do not have alcohol separation. Not worth saving at least.
Best to put it into another run. Very little heads but pretty deep into tails always goes into another run of the same product.
I find it better to let it breathe for awhile then run it again. Let the water leave the tails. Heads because at the transition to hearts they are very interesting and complex elements great for aging. VERY little is needed for this. Really helps to maintain flavor consistency. Just as backset does at fermentation. True depth in your product is found this way :eugeek:

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Re: distilling heads & tails

Post by Hound Dog » Tue Feb 10, 2015 1:43 am

You usually get 4 degrees C of temp difference between your cuts? I never get that. I am lucky to see .2 F difference and that is just fores. I do cuts by smell and a just running a bit over my finger for a taste. Heads usually burn my nose and eyes a bit. Hearts are just smooth smelling and kind of numbing without a lot of taste when I lick a drop from my finger tip. Everyone has different results though. I would line the jars up when done or the next day when your not tired and start at the middle smelling each one to see when they get stronger.
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Re: distilling heads & tails

Post by Dan P. » Tue Feb 10, 2015 2:21 am

To reiterate woodshed's post, if you are running a pot-still your feints would be much better used put back with your next spirit run of the same or similar recipe. I would say it is positively wastful to mix feints from a hard won or valuable wash (fruit, AG or similar) when they could be recycled to the benefit of the resultant spirit.
Doing an all feints run on a pot is quite possible, however, and depending on what the feints in question are like it can make a very good whisky or brandy or rum, if they are all of the same particular kind of feints.
To mix fruit, sugar, grain or whatever type of feints together will result in a frankenshine, which can be good too, in its own way, but is not something I would do (though I have done it in the past) because my personal belief is that pursuit and understanding of a single recipe or even a single ingredient is the way to grow in this art.

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Re: distilling heads & tails

Post by katzgejm » Tue Feb 10, 2015 7:41 am

great answers all!

when i do a single-distillation spirit run of say rum, i usually do see a noticeable difference in temp from heads to hearts. heads are coming over all the way from about 72C to 78C, i typically begin taking hearts at 78C, and feints begin north of 80C. if i'm single distilling though, i usually run the still really really slow. so maybe that's why i'm getting good separation?

so what i'm hearing is never mix heads and tails? sounds like i got a good separation of heads the first time round which is why there's not a lot of ethanol coming through this time through? should i be tossing heads and only keeping tails for future distillations?
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Re: distilling heads & tails

Post by katzgejm » Sun Jan 19, 2020 1:59 pm

Reviving this topic!

So I've now collected 19L of rum heads & tails @46%abv. I've never done an all heads & tails run.

Assuming it's about 50/50 heads/tails, what do you expect should be my total yields from this run?

I'm thinking:
1L foreshots
7L heads
4L hearts
7L tails

Does this sound about right?
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Re: distilling heads & tails

Post by cayars » Sun Jan 19, 2020 4:09 pm

Going to be hard to say as you didn't tell us how you ran this originally to collect those heads and tails.
Normally you would have a lot more tails than heads.
1L would be very high for foreshots. I'd just take 100mL for foreshots. You should have already takes foreshots off previously anyway.

I'd guess, if this was done on a pot still you could be roughly in the ballpark, but no one will really know. If this was done on a reflux still your hearts could be 1L or less.

Personal choice but I don't save feints up to create a big batch. I mix them in with the next strip run of the same spirit. By that I mean I'll add the feints to the stripped runs and run them again in the next spirit run. I personally feel this helps to carry flavor over from batch to batch for more consistency.
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Re: distilling heads & tails

Post by 8Ball » Sun Jan 19, 2020 5:22 pm

You should wind up with a gallon of good stuff.

Good luck.

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Re: distilling heads & tails

Post by acfixer69 » Mon Jan 20, 2020 6:08 pm

8Ball wrote:
Sun Jan 19, 2020 5:22 pm
You should wind up with a gallon of good stuff.

Good luck.

🎱
I am wondering how you came to the gallon of good stuff? Rum? When I do rum I always kept it to it self and add what has potential to the next rum run. All other grain run heads and tails go to a reflux neutral run. A gallon of good rum from rum heads and tails seams way to optimistic.

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Re: distilling heads & tails

Post by 8Ball » Mon Jan 20, 2020 7:21 pm

acfixer69 wrote:
Mon Jan 20, 2020 6:08 pm
8Ball wrote:
Sun Jan 19, 2020 5:22 pm
You should wind up with a gallon of good stuff.

Good luck.

🎱
I am wondering how you came to the gallon of good stuff? Rum? When I do rum I always kept it to it self and add what has potential to the next rum run. All other grain run heads and tails go to a reflux neutral run. A gallon of good rum from rum heads and tails seams way to optimistic.
I recently did an all feints run on rum and Irish style heads and tails. From 4.5 gallons at 33-35%, I have close to a gallon at 65% that I’m aging in glass on used white oak, peach, and pecan. I like it so far, and in a couple years I’ll probably love it. I guess it depends on what you call “good rum” compared to what I call “good stuff.” Not way too optimistic, I assure you.

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Re: distilling heads & tails

Post by acfixer69 » Mon Jan 20, 2020 7:32 pm

No need to assure me. It is all about assimilation to ones taste.

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Re: distilling heads & tails

Post by 8Ball » Mon Jan 20, 2020 7:40 pm

Yea, size of the cuts involved might have something to do with it as well.

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Re: distilling heads & tails

Post by NZChris » Mon Jan 20, 2020 10:19 pm

Cuts must make a lot of difference to feints collections. There are folks here that say they get away with continually recycling feints, but if I try that with my style of rum cuts, nasty heads & tails components soon start eating into the size of my heart cuts from both ends. That said, from posts I've read here, my heart cut yields are are higher than most, so I have less feints to deal with but they are nastier.

If you treat your rum feints collection like you do your prime heart cut and give it oak, O2 and time, then distil it with the oak in the boiler, you might be in for a pleasant surprise :wink:

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Re: distilling heads & tails

Post by 8Ball » Tue Jan 21, 2020 5:49 am

NZChris wrote:
Mon Jan 20, 2020 10:19 pm
If you treat your rum feints collection like you do your prime heart cut and give it oak, O2 and time, then distil it with the oak in the boiler, you might be in for a pleasant surprise :wink:
NZC, now this is something I will have to add to my to do list, thanks.

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Re: distilling heads & tails

Post by cayars » Tue Jan 21, 2020 1:45 pm

Got a crock pot and any temp probe/thermometer? Add 3 or 4 jars of heads to the stock pot with a water bath and try both medium and high temp settings. Try to target 160F give or take a few degrees. If too hot use a PID to control temp. Hold the OPEN jars at temp for a couple of hours.

160F is conservative. If you know the different boiling points you can adjust as needed.

You can easily heat up your heads like this and "blow off" lots of the volatile stuff you don't want to make them usable out of the jar or just re-distill them in your next batch. I do this all the time and basically reuse 100% of my heads that remain in the jars.

If you loose flavor just save them back for a neutral run.

Just something to think about and possibly try. Works for me.
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Re: distilling heads & tails

Post by NJen » Tue Jan 21, 2020 2:05 pm

That is interesting, I think I'm going to try it. Never thought of doing anything like that before.

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Re: distilling heads & tails

Post by cayars » Tue Jan 21, 2020 2:14 pm

It's kind of like taking off foreshots or early heads, only you don't care about collecting anything. :)
160 to 165F is a pretty good temp to shoot for for a couple of hours. You can go higher but the higher the temp and the longer you do this for the more "forced evaporation" you will have and will loose useful alcohol. So there is a trade off.

This is just a spin on the microwave nuking idea but is far easier to control with the correct equipment or just watching it. Unlike a microwave, you can have metal in the jars like a thermometer or probe which I like.

I do this with jars FRESH off the still as part of my distilling practice with some spirits, not all. Kind of like a reflux of heads after the fact...

Feel free to add oak chips or staves while doing this if the spirit you are making will be oaked.
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Re: distilling heads & tails

Post by katzgejm » Mon Jan 27, 2020 4:05 pm

RESULTS

11.3L @47%abv to start

1.75L collected @95%abv, held aside as foreshots/heads

I collected the rest of the distillate in 400ml volumes. 12.5 jars total.

Jars 1 - 10 all came over at 77.4°C - 77.6°C @95%abv - 88%abv.
Jars 11 - 12 came over at 77.7°C - 80°C @88%abv & 84%abv.
Jar 13 came over at less than 55%abv and was obviously tails.

So here's what I feared: where do I make my cuts? jars 1 - 8 are nearly identical in abv, aroma, and taste. Are they heads, or hearts? I have a relatively good palate, but I have no idea how to distinguish here.

My intuition tells me to keep jars 3 - 12 for 4L total @90%abv. I'll age on oak and spices for a spiced rum. If it gives me a hangover, I'll redistill and toss more heads!
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Re: distilling heads & tails

Post by pope » Mon Jan 27, 2020 4:19 pm

You could've added more water to your pot before you started fyi.

Dilute samples down to 40% and taste/smell the samples. You can't distinguish much at 80-90% abv. Stop looking at the numbers and start trusting your nose. Taste and spit out all your sample sips (maybe you are already), otherwise they're all gonna taste the same after two or three. There are way too many variables for us to look at your numbers and tell you where to cut.

FWIW I feel I can get a so-so cut of pot distilled spirit by nose and a little tasting at still strength, but its much better when I dilute samples and taste them all at the same strength (35-40%). But for me 80-90% liquor all smells and tastes very similar, because its just burning out my senses.
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Re: distilling heads & tails

Post by Saltbush Bill » Mon Jan 27, 2020 5:44 pm

pope wrote:
Mon Jan 27, 2020 4:19 pm
You can't distinguish much at 80-90% abv. Stop looking at the numbers and start trusting your nose.
Two of the best bits of advice your going to get right there :thumbup:
Cut samples of each cut to 40% abv or even less.....then you can smell the differences.
Some people can tell by smell better , others use taste, personally I'm mostly a smeller. Use both sences. A heap of cheap shot glasses are handy for making small low abv samples from your cuts jars. A tea spoon with a bent end is ideal as a "Ladle" for adding water and spirit to shot glasses.
Try a ratio of 2 water 1 spirit in a shot glass .....you should smell the differences easily. Heads are harsh , burn , sweet. Hearts smoother / less harsh and not sweet to my sences. Tails nasty shite, wet dog / wet carpet/ musty. Work from the middle jars out, so as to not burn out your senses early.
Take your time, don't expect it to happen straight off ..it takes practice.
Last edited by Saltbush Bill on Mon Jan 27, 2020 7:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: distilling heads & tails

Post by jonnys_spirit » Mon Jan 27, 2020 7:15 pm

I got about 16 short cheap wine glasses from walmart and use those for assessing my cuts proofed down to under 40%abv. Nice bowl to capture aroma and a swish spit. I like having the same glass for all the fractions to keep the playing field even and will also pour a couple glasses to consume for a couple evenings to get a little more intimate. The cuts end up being close tonwhat I called coming off the pipe. Still a fun process.

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Re: distilling heads & tails

Post by Saltbush Bill » Mon Jan 27, 2020 7:16 pm

jonnys_spirit wrote:
Mon Jan 27, 2020 7:15 pm
I like having the same glass for all the fractions to keep the playing field even
:thumbup: :thumbup:

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Re: distilling heads & tails

Post by NZChris » Tue Jan 28, 2020 12:08 am

My method for most cuts, including feints runs.
viewtopic.php?f=4&t=76069#p7577419

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