Char Check

Treatment and handling of your distillate.

Moderator: Site Moderator

Post Reply
OtisT
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 2335
Joined: Sat Oct 24, 2015 11:59 am
Location: Pacific Northwest

Char Check

Post by OtisT » Wed Aug 16, 2017 9:22 am

Howdy. I've read about and done a little charing, and know that the "correct char" is subjective and the correct process is also subjective. I simply want to share some pics and get any feedback on my process of level of charring. The few specific questions are below..

For these toasts, I am using a propane torch adjusted down to a 1" long, 2.5cm, blue flame.
My sticks are 3/4" x 3/4" x 6" (2cm x 2cm x 15 cm)
To toast, I run the toarch down one side with a small zig-zag pattern, and the torch was touching each side of the stick for 10 seconds. I finish with a little char to the ends.

The result is a thin char, and I can see small hints of un-charred wood through the char.
Char set
Char set
Char up close, shaved corner
Char up close, shaved corner
I am wondering if this char is enough for a Bourbon? This last pic includes a stick on the right with a bit more char on it. About 16 seconds per side. I can no longer see any un- charred wood through the surface.
Heavier char on right
Heavier char on right
So in your opinion, is the thin char enough for jar aging, or perhaps the second deeper char? Maybe you think I should go even deeper? Just looking for opinions from those who have done much more of this than me.

Thanks. Otis
Otis’ Pot and Thumper, Dimroth Condenser: Pot-n-Thumper/Dimroth
Learning to Toast: Toasting Wood
Polishing Spirits with Fruitwood: Fruitwood
Badmotivator’s Barrels: Badmo Barrels

User avatar
der wo
Master Distiller
Posts: 3817
Joined: Mon Apr 13, 2015 2:40 am
Location: Rote Flora, Hamburg

Re: Char Check

Post by der wo » Wed Aug 16, 2017 9:54 am

Both chars look all right.
The shorter the oaking time is, the better will taste the light char. More and finer taste from the oak, although perhaps the color of the Whiskey is lighter. The dark char will taste more unclear musty and will have the astringent dryness of wine. After a year both will be similar. Perhaps later the darker char will win. I am not sure.
In this way, imperialism brings catastrophe as a mode of existence back from the periphery of capitalist development to its point of departure. - Rosa Luxemburg

Pikey
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 2434
Joined: Sun Oct 16, 2016 3:29 pm
Location: At the edge of the Wild Wood

Re: Char Check

Post by Pikey » Wed Aug 16, 2017 10:59 am

I just accidentally did a light char on my oak and put it in malt whisky(ish) I find it has pulled through rather more vanilla taste than I was expecting. It has a mild taste and has put the correct character into the product in a short time. I shall continue with light toasts for the next few runs 8)

boda getta
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 1248
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2011 12:39 pm

Re: Char Check

Post by boda getta » Wed Aug 16, 2017 1:17 pm

I tend to replicate a #3 char on my charred white oak sticks. I believe a #3 char is what most Bourbon distilleries use. IMHO, a #3 is closer to a "alligator" char than any pictured. I have good luck with this level char, but have learned it is best to wash well after charring and the wood used is important as well. I get mine from a fire wood guy and only well seasoned white oak and I remove all sap wood before I char. I have also been playing around using a combination of well toasted sticks and #3'ish char sticks. I also just split my sticks to size and suspect that rough and un-even surface gives better results than the neatly sawn (I even seen guys plane them) pieces.

Good luck
BG

OtisT
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 2335
Joined: Sat Oct 24, 2015 11:59 am
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Char Check

Post by OtisT » Wed Aug 16, 2017 3:23 pm

Pikey wrote:I just accidentally did a light char on my oak and put it in malt whisky(ish) I find it has pulled through rather more vanilla taste than I was expecting. It has a mild taste and has put the correct character into the product in a short time. I shall continue with light toasts for the next few runs 8)
So was the accidental char from toasting a little longer/hotter than you planned? I'm leaning toward a Med Toast, light char myself for my next sugar head. One of my concerns is that I get enough char to be considered a light char, but not so light it is really just darkened wood. I thought my lighter of the two examples may be too light, but early feedback is that it's in the ballpark.

Thanks
Otis’ Pot and Thumper, Dimroth Condenser: Pot-n-Thumper/Dimroth
Learning to Toast: Toasting Wood
Polishing Spirits with Fruitwood: Fruitwood
Badmotivator’s Barrels: Badmo Barrels

OtisT
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 2335
Joined: Sat Oct 24, 2015 11:59 am
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Char Check

Post by OtisT » Wed Aug 16, 2017 3:47 pm

boda getta wrote:I tend to replicate a #3 char on my charred white oak sticks. I believe a #3 char is what most Bourbon distilleries use. IMHO, a #3 is closer to a "alligator" char than any pictured. I have good luck with this level char, but have learned it is best to wash well after charring and the wood used is important as well. I get mine from a fire wood guy and only well seasoned white oak and I remove all sap wood before I char. I have also been playing around using a combination of well toasted sticks and #3'ish char sticks. I also just split my sticks to size and suspect that rough and un-even surface gives better results than the neatly sawn (I even seen guys plane them) pieces.

Good luck
BG
Thanks for the feedback. I'll have to look up what a #3 is. :-)

Unfortunately, I only have kiln dried wood at this time. Have read that natural dried heartwood, aged outside (covered) for two years is the good stuff. I will be looking for some of this good stuff in the near future.

RE: Splitting wood.
I know the increased surface area will give it's color and some flavor quicker. I see people selling toast and char sticks for major $$ with laser cut holes and 100s of micro groves, claiming to age product in days. I have to believe that not all aspects of aging can be speed up through more surface contact, or we would all simply be tossing a liberal pinch of toast/char dust into our bottles and calling it good. (Hey! has anyone tried this? I'm not serious. ;-)
Otis’ Pot and Thumper, Dimroth Condenser: Pot-n-Thumper/Dimroth
Learning to Toast: Toasting Wood
Polishing Spirits with Fruitwood: Fruitwood
Badmotivator’s Barrels: Badmo Barrels

User avatar
HDNB
Site Mod
Posts: 6610
Joined: Mon Feb 17, 2014 10:04 am
Location: the f-f-fu frozen north

Re: Char Check

Post by HDNB » Wed Aug 16, 2017 3:52 pm

i char for a simulation of #4 char. i have barrels charred to #4 and they have 1" square chunks about 1/16 thick of char that have fallen off and roll around in the barrel. i leave them in.

Talked to Jay Gibbs from Gibbs bros. cooperage today. he said (on top of being one of, if not the, oldest continuously run cooperages in the USA) all of their barrels are #4 char and was quick to point out that of the distilleries he services they have won many, many awards with his barrels.
I finally quit drinking for good.

now i drink for evil.

User avatar
Cu29er
Bootlegger
Posts: 104
Joined: Tue Jun 27, 2017 6:21 am
Location: Midwest

Re: Char Check

Post by Cu29er » Wed Aug 16, 2017 4:27 pm

OtisT wrote:
boda getta wrote:... I have to believe that not all aspects of aging can be speed up through more surface contact, or we would all simply be tossing a liberal pinch of toast/char dust into our bottles and calling it good. (Hey! has anyone tried this? I'm not serious. ;-)

Check the wine industry. Barrels, paddles, blocks, chips, and dust get used. All about surface area and level of toast.

I've been experimenting with oak charring and to get the color takes more char and to up the vanilla-sweet notes takes less char. Or so it seems so far.

From fish tank charcoal filters, the 'activated' charcoal works as a filter because the charing process results in huge surface area inside the wood that filter the fish water. Which seems like it matches in a way the pictures of the Jack Daniels charcoal bed filtering system I've seen. I've wondered how fast they get benefits from that process over the barrel aging systems?

.

User avatar
Oldvine Zin
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 2022
Joined: Sat Jun 06, 2015 9:16 pm
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Char Check

Post by Oldvine Zin » Mon Aug 21, 2017 9:35 pm

Cu29er wrote:
Check the wine industry. Barrels, paddles, blocks, chips, and dust get used. All about surface area and level of toast.

I've been experimenting with oak charring and to get the color takes more char and to up the vanilla-sweet notes takes less char. Or so it seems so far.


.
For most of us in the wine industry it's about toast not char in our barrels. I recently tasted a wine that spent some time in a used charred bourbon barrel, guess what it tasted like? .... A used and spent barrel - not so pleasant :(

OVZ

Pikey
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 2434
Joined: Sun Oct 16, 2016 3:29 pm
Location: At the edge of the Wild Wood

Re: Char Check

Post by Pikey » Mon Aug 21, 2017 10:08 pm

OtisT wrote:
Pikey wrote:I just accidentally did a light char on my oak and put it in malt whisky(ish) I find it has pulled through rather more vanilla taste than I was expecting. It has a mild taste and has put the correct character into the product in a short time. I shall continue with light toasts for the next few runs 8)
So was the accidental char from toasting a little longer/hotter than you planned? I'm leaning toward a Med Toast, light char myself for my next sugar head. One of my concerns is that I get enough char to be considered a light char, but not so light it is really just darkened wood. I thought my lighter of the two examples may be too light, but early feedback is that it's in the ballpark.

Thanks
I usually toast about 2 hours at 380. These sticks had been stored in airtight for a few months after that and were charred with propane torch immediately prior to use. The sticks had just about turned black and just caught fire. The fire was put out with water and they were used straight away.

User avatar
Swedish Pride
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 2474
Joined: Tue Aug 26, 2014 2:16 am
Location: Emerald Isle

Re: Char Check

Post by Swedish Pride » Mon Aug 21, 2017 11:05 pm

i think heavy char for bourbon and lighter char for Irish and scotch is just about right.
or even better use heavy char for a bourbon, then take it out and use it for Irish ( not that I've ever heeded my own advice)
Don't be a dick

User avatar
Single Malt Yinzer
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 855
Joined: Fri Sep 23, 2016 3:20 pm

Re: Char Check

Post by Single Malt Yinzer » Tue Aug 22, 2017 7:52 am

Image


Sorry for the big pic, but it is needed to see the char levels. Legal Bourbon must use Char 3(Edit: This is wrong, see below). Looks like you're closer to 1 or 2. Article below has good info near the bottom on charring.

http://www.distillerytrail.com/blog/und ... s-not-age/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" rel="nofollow
Last edited by Single Malt Yinzer on Tue Aug 22, 2017 10:20 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
shadylane
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 7072
Joined: Sat Oct 27, 2007 11:54 pm
Location: Hiding In the Boiler room of the Insane asylum

Re: Char Check

Post by shadylane » Tue Aug 22, 2017 8:44 am

OtisT wrote:So in your opinion, is the thin char enough for jar aging, or perhaps the second deeper char? Maybe you think I should go even deeper?
How long are you going to age the spirits?

OtisT
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 2335
Joined: Sat Oct 24, 2015 11:59 am
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Char Check

Post by OtisT » Tue Aug 22, 2017 9:27 am

shadylane wrote:
OtisT wrote:So in your opinion, is the thin char enough for jar aging, or perhaps the second deeper char? Maybe you think I should go even deeper?
How long are you going to age the spirits?
I guess the two likely answers are as long as it takes and as long as I can stand letting them sit before I can't wait any longer and crack them open. ;-)

Seriously, I would like somewhere between 6 to 9 months for pint jars, but I'm patient and don't mind going a year or longer when necessary.

Reading comments here and on other threads, I'm thinking the heavier the char, the longer the aging before the char smell/flavor is tamed by the spirits.
Otis’ Pot and Thumper, Dimroth Condenser: Pot-n-Thumper/Dimroth
Learning to Toast: Toasting Wood
Polishing Spirits with Fruitwood: Fruitwood
Badmotivator’s Barrels: Badmo Barrels

User avatar
ShineonCrazyDiamond
Site Mod
Posts: 2867
Joined: Thu Feb 27, 2014 6:14 pm
Location: Look Up

Re: Char Check

Post by ShineonCrazyDiamond » Tue Aug 22, 2017 9:29 am

Single Malt Yinzer wrote:
Legal Bourbon must use Char 3.
According to who?
"Come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine!
You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon.
Shine on you crazy diamond."

User avatar
ShineonCrazyDiamond
Site Mod
Posts: 2867
Joined: Thu Feb 27, 2014 6:14 pm
Location: Look Up

Re: Char Check

Post by ShineonCrazyDiamond » Tue Aug 22, 2017 9:37 am

The Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits (27 C.F.R. 5) state that bourbon made for U.S. consumption must be:
  • Produced in the United States

    Made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn

    Aged in new, charred oak containers

    Distilled to no more than 160 (U.S.) proof (80% alcohol by volume)

    Entered into the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof (62.5% alcohol by volume)

    Bottled (like other whiskeys) at 80 proof or more (40% alcohol by volume)

    Bourbon has no minimum specified duration for its aging period. Products aged for as little as three months are sold as bourbon. The exception is straight bourbon, which has a minimum aging requirement of two years. In addition, any bourbon aged less than four years must include an age statement on its label.
"Come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine!
You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon.
Shine on you crazy diamond."

User avatar
shadylane
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 7072
Joined: Sat Oct 27, 2007 11:54 pm
Location: Hiding In the Boiler room of the Insane asylum

Re: Char Check

Post by shadylane » Tue Aug 22, 2017 9:44 am

OtisT wrote:
shadylane wrote:
OtisT wrote:I'm thinking the heavier the char, the longer the aging before the char smell/flavor is tamed by the spirits.
That's true, also time is needed for the char to color the whiskey
Correct me if I'm wrong :lol:
You want to age whiskey for 6 -9 months in pint jars :?:
Edited thanks for the post, those chared sticks look like a pro did them :thumbup:

User avatar
Single Malt Yinzer
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 855
Joined: Fri Sep 23, 2016 3:20 pm

Re: Char Check

Post by Single Malt Yinzer » Tue Aug 22, 2017 9:58 am

ShineonCrazyDiamond wrote:
Single Malt Yinzer wrote:
Legal Bourbon must use Char 3.
According to who?
Yup - I was wrong, any char will do. Not sure what I thought it had to be #3.

OtisT
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 2335
Joined: Sat Oct 24, 2015 11:59 am
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Char Check

Post by OtisT » Tue Aug 22, 2017 10:52 am

shadylane wrote: Correct me if I'm wrong :lol:
You want to age whiskey for 6 -9 months in pint jars :?:
Is that an issue? The 6-9 months would be nice, but I will let them sit as long as needed. My original plan for needing charred sticks is on hold. I was recently gifted my first barrels, three new American oak Med Toast/Heavy Char barrels (one 5l and two 2l, Best Brother in the World) so first I will be filling at least the big one before I have a chance to try out any new sticks. I'm doing my last HBB ferment now that will give me enough to fill it. So close. :-)

I am also planning to play with various toasts and chars with other bases, like some sugar heads and rums. I make a molasses head rum using spent HBB grains that I think may be good with a light toast/char. Time will tell. :-)
Otis’ Pot and Thumper, Dimroth Condenser: Pot-n-Thumper/Dimroth
Learning to Toast: Toasting Wood
Polishing Spirits with Fruitwood: Fruitwood
Badmotivator’s Barrels: Badmo Barrels

User avatar
shadylane
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 7072
Joined: Sat Oct 27, 2007 11:54 pm
Location: Hiding In the Boiler room of the Insane asylum

Re: Char Check

Post by shadylane » Tue Aug 22, 2017 1:27 pm

OtisT wrote:
shadylane wrote: Correct me if I'm wrong :lol:
You want to age whiskey for 6 -9 months in pint jars :?:
Is that an issue? The 6-9 months would be nice, but I will let them sit as long as needed.
Not really an issue, it will be a little different than say gallon jugs.
A problem I've had ageing in small containers is it's real easy to get carried away with the char :oops:

Pikey
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 2434
Joined: Sun Oct 16, 2016 3:29 pm
Location: At the edge of the Wild Wood

Re: Char Check

Post by Pikey » Tue Aug 22, 2017 2:33 pm

shadylane wrote:
............A problem I've had ageing in small containers is it's real easy to get carried away with the char :oops:
A bigger problem in my experience is that it's easy to get carried away in the "testing" and end up with empty jars :shock:

User avatar
Durhommer
Distiller
Posts: 1633
Joined: Tue Mar 12, 2019 11:23 am

Re: Char Check

Post by Durhommer » Sun Nov 24, 2019 7:49 am

A bigger problem in my experience is that it's easy to get carried away in the "testing" and end up with empty jars :shock:
thats so funny
You have two ears and one mouth for a reason....

User avatar
Durhommer
Distiller
Posts: 1633
Joined: Tue Mar 12, 2019 11:23 am

Re: Char Check

Post by Durhommer » Sun Nov 24, 2019 1:59 pm

tonight is a white(gin) night ....trying to keep out of my aging stock cant wait till spring already to get back at all grain so very much is learned here...i can still smell the sweet smells of the oak i charred today
You have two ears and one mouth for a reason....

User avatar
Durhommer
Distiller
Posts: 1633
Joined: Tue Mar 12, 2019 11:23 am

Re: Char Check

Post by Durhommer » Mon Nov 25, 2019 1:14 pm

one day after adding char oak i see color just barely coming on but the smell already sweet vanilla smoky im liking my other two uj gallons are store bought in color already after two days 1 french med toast 1 med toast amer oak... ill have to do this on the all bran recipe too
You have two ears and one mouth for a reason....

OtisT
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 2335
Joined: Sat Oct 24, 2015 11:59 am
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Char Check

Post by OtisT » Mon Nov 25, 2019 1:34 pm

My OP showed a pretty light charring. Figured I would add something more in line with what I have been using more recently. 25 seconds under the propane flame thrower.

This is some chunks of toasted Apple I did a few months back for some rum and other future spirits.
Freshly charred hunks of toasted apple.
Freshly charred hunks of toasted apple.
I put these on a wire screen to get the flames to wrap around the sides. After charring one side I doused them in water then flipped them over for a char on the back side.

After soaking The toasted/charred apple in rum for 4 months, I pulled the chunks and split them to be put in proofed down bottles of rum. This is a nice view showing the depth of this char.
Split toasted and charred apple
Split toasted and charred apple
Otis
Last edited by OtisT on Mon Nov 25, 2019 1:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Otis’ Pot and Thumper, Dimroth Condenser: Pot-n-Thumper/Dimroth
Learning to Toast: Toasting Wood
Polishing Spirits with Fruitwood: Fruitwood
Badmotivator’s Barrels: Badmo Barrels

User avatar
Durhommer
Distiller
Posts: 1633
Joined: Tue Mar 12, 2019 11:23 am

Re: Char Check

Post by Durhommer » Mon Nov 25, 2019 1:40 pm

nice stuff youre doing there otis
You have two ears and one mouth for a reason....

User avatar
Durhommer
Distiller
Posts: 1633
Joined: Tue Mar 12, 2019 11:23 am

Re: Char Check

Post by Durhommer » Mon Dec 02, 2019 6:15 am

so just a little update my 3 uj gallons are colored up nice the charoak looks like a honey color
You have two ears and one mouth for a reason....

Post Reply