Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Sugar, and all about sugar washes. Where the primary ingredient is sugar, and other things are just used as nutrients.

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Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by NineInchNails » Sat Oct 03, 2020 8:26 am

My first few sugar washes fermented fast (3-4 days) using Fleischmann's Yeast, invert sugar, other common yeast nutrients (DAP, boiled yeast, epsom salt and vitamin B complex) and relatively high & stable fermentation temps. I even woke the yeast, let it rise then pitched. I stripped fast using a pot still, diluted down to 30%-35% and did a slow spirit run and it came out at 95% across the board. I left it to air out for 2 days. I made good cuts and my vodka exceeded my expectations. It smelled like water, had no flavor at all and had no bite what so ever. I couldn't be happier. I have a 3" VM with a 5' 6" relatively tightly packed copper mesh column. 5500W element.

Following sugar washes have not turned out anywhere near as good with the same process and I can only think of a few variables that could have caused this.
1. I ran out of Fleischmann's Bakers Yeast and picked up bakers yeast from GFS (Gordon's Food Service).
2. Instead of making Invert Sugar, I made Simple Syrup because it is the exact same process, same ingredients, but significantly less water so it uses significantly less energy and time to make.
3. Fermentation temps were not as stable. Low 80s F to mid 80s F in the day to mid-low 70s F at night in an unheated garage. I have read that this can stress the yeast and cause this 'bite', off odor & taste.
4. I substituted the vitamin B complex with tomato paste.

I have taken this Vodka and re-ran it 2 more times, diluted to 30% each time and all that appears to have resulted is a waste of energy, time and compression of heads & tails. No change in this 'bite' at all. You might say I'm including too much heads in my cuts. Fair enough, but I've smelled & tasted every jar and every jar has this bite.

I changed out my packing with 1/2" Ceramic Rings, re-ran it again and no change. Some has said that this bite is inherent in sugar washes and in time some will go away. Fair enough, but then why was my first few fermentations perfect and with zero bite?

I intend to frame a corner in my garage, insulate, line the interior with plastic and use good temp control. I'm hoping someone here may have a better idea of what may have happened and can get me back on track to making impressive Vodka/neutral.

I have quite a bit of Vodka now. I'll drink it, but I wouldn't let anyone taste it. It's nothing I would brag about, but my previous runs were certainly something to brag about. No one could believe it was Vodka! Is it possible to salvage this and make it better? I considered carbon filtering, but I don't want to go down that road if I can just make good product like I did previously.
Last edited by NineInchNails on Sat Oct 03, 2020 11:08 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by Demy » Sat Oct 03, 2020 9:39 am

This question should be for experts more than me but in my opinion the alternation of temperature could be the culprit, even if the candidates are many.

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Re: Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by NineInchNails » Sat Oct 03, 2020 11:06 am

Demy wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 9:39 am
This question should be for experts more than me but in my opinion the alternation of temperature could be the culprit, even if the candidates are many.
I hear ya. I need to try and eliminate variables the best I can and try to reproduce my previous outcomes.

1. Stable & ideal temp control.
2. Fleischmann's Yeast again I guess. Don't know if GFS yeast is lesser quality/performance. For all I know they're exactly the same and just private labeled.
3. Invert sugar vs simple syrup. Don't know if that makes any difference.
4. Maybe try vitamin B complex again and see if that makes a difference.

It has been recommended to try stripping the wash using the VM column to produce a purer and higher ABV low wines prior to a spirit run. That makes sense so I'll try that for sure, but I'm still trying to understand why my initial success which used standard operating procedures (pot strip) are different from my most recent failures.

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Re: Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by kiwi Bruce » Sat Oct 03, 2020 12:20 pm

Here is a way to get rid of that "bit" from your low's or spirit run liquor, for gin or vodka, and not have to redistill it. You'll need a 24-30 inch long piece of 3/4 inch copper pipe, cap one end and drill an 8th inch hole in it. Fill and pack the pipe with activated charcoal (food grade- not aquarium grade) If you smell off flavors in your low-wines then run this though the charcoal, before you run it though the spirit still. Rinse the charcoal with tap water to remove any dust then drip the liquor slowly though the pipe several times, and taste test it until the bad taste is gone. You get to reuse the charcoal many times over, just heat it up in an oven at 375F for 30 minutes, let it cool and reuse.
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Re: Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by Saltbush Bill » Sat Oct 03, 2020 12:27 pm

Exactly what recipe is it that your using for a wash?

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Re: Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by NineInchNails » Sat Oct 03, 2020 12:56 pm

Saltbush Bill wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 12:27 pm
Exactly what recipe is it that your using for a wash?
Essentially a version of Wineo's Plain Ol Sugar Wash, but not exactly.

25 gal wash.
20 gal water
28.4 gal sugar (invert or simple syrup)
.83 cups boiled yeast
7 vitimin B complex pills or 2 cans tomato paste
.4 cups DAP
.4 tsp Epsom Salts
2 oz Calcium Carbonate

The first few ferments used vitamin B and the following used Tomato Paste.
The first few ferments used invert sugar and the following used simple syrup.
The first few had higher fermentation temp (approx 90F) and the following had lower & unstable temps.

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Re: Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by Saltbush Bill » Sat Oct 03, 2020 1:57 pm

Both winos and Shadys sugar shine are at the top of the list of good clean washes imo.
Maybe try changing to Shadys recipe and following it to the letter.....i doubt you will be disapointed.
Ive read quite a few times that stable temp is more important than actual temp for a clean ferment.
Personaly Ive not noticed a huge difference in regard to that theory.

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Re: Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by NineInchNails » Sat Oct 03, 2020 2:13 pm

Saltbush Bill wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 1:57 pm
Both winos and Shadys sugar shine are at the top of the list of good clean washes imo.
Maybe try changing to Shadys recipe and following it to the letter.....i doubt you will be disapointed.
Ive read quite a few times that stable temp is more important than actual temp for a clean ferment.
Personaly Ive not noticed a huge difference in regard to that theory.
The recipe I follow is nearly identical for each ingredient. Withing a fraction of each measurement. I'll definitely control temp from here on out.

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Re: Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by shadylane » Sat Oct 03, 2020 3:41 pm

Get a white cotton sock and fill it halfway with crushed oyster shell.
Tie a string to it, so it's easy to retrieve.
I'm thinking the extra acidity from the tomato paste is adding to the sugar bite.

On a side note
Shine has more of a bite for a couple hours after diluting to drinking strength.
In a day or less the 50% diluted shine will have much less of a bite.

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Re: Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by Saltbush Bill » Sat Oct 03, 2020 3:57 pm

One of the reasons I dont make wash with tomatoe paste is that I always thought it had more "bite"....
There are better things to use imo.

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Re: Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by NineInchNails » Sat Oct 03, 2020 4:28 pm

shadylane wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 3:41 pm
Get a white cotton sock and fill it halfway with crushed oyster shell.
Tie a string to it, so it's easy to retrieve.
I'm thinking the extra acidity from the tomato paste is adding to the sugar bite.

On a side note
Shine has more of a bite for a couple hours after diluting to drinking strength.
In a day or less the 50% diluted shine will have much less of a bite.
I add calcium carbonate, but what I use is more along the lines of a powder. It's so cheap and so plentiful I don't bother to retrieve it. I could get 100% pulverized limestone (calcium carbonate) which is more granulated, but I probably won't get that stuff until after what I have is gone.

I will certainly switch back to using the B vitamin complex because that's what my first few ferments used and ditch the tomato paste. That is one of the variables.

The sugar shine I originally made dates back to August and still had bite throughout the entire run. I re-ran it mid September twice and still has bit today.

I think these suspected variables could be the cause and your input appears to confirm them. I'm pretty systematic about doing things and once I perfect the standard operating procedure & ingredients, I'll follow them from now on.

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Re: Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by NineInchNails » Sat Oct 03, 2020 4:32 pm

Saltbush Bill wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 3:57 pm
One of the reasons I dont make wash with tomatoe paste is that I always thought it had more "bite"....
There are better things to use imo.
Thanks, I'll certainly stop using it. Tomato paste seemed to be nearly inert to my washes while vitamin B complex stunk and made the washes very yellow. I recall my tails stinking & tasting a whole lot worse too. That's why I decided to give paste a try. I'll switch back to B vitamin.

I just weighed out 20 pills and found that mine weigh 1.1 grams per. I then put 2 bottles in a coffee grinder and turned them all to powder. That should be an easy way to weigh out the powder vs crushing them each up manually.

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Re: Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by shadylane » Sat Oct 03, 2020 5:21 pm

I'm lazy
I take a bottle of vitamins and fill it almost full of water.
Give it a little while and all you have to do is give it a shake and pour out what you want

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Re: Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by NineInchNails » Sat Oct 03, 2020 6:17 pm

shadylane wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 5:21 pm
I'm lazy
I take a bottle of vitamins and fill it almost full of water.
Give it a little while and all you have to do is give it a shake and pour out what you want
:lol: And it was recommended that I follow your recipe exactly to the letter. Pour in yay amount :lol:

Just kidding. That's definitely another way to do it. I just weigh or measure by volume or weight based on whatever is more convenient or easier for me depending on how accurate I want to be.

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Re: Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by The Baker » Sat Oct 03, 2020 9:52 pm

Inverting sugar is a physical (chemical ?) process
and that process does not vary according to the amount of sugar, but according to the process.
Same thing, maybe more or less sweet.

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Re: Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by Demy » Sun Oct 04, 2020 6:25 am

Although there are many ways to do the same thing, the post is clear, if the recipe is the same you have to search between the variables between before and after (those listed are excellent candidates) without necessarily changing / complicating things. P.S. I don't think that sugar inversion makes a big difference (I tried), it makes the work of the yeast a little easier but it can also do it without but since the yeast is different from the usual I could be wrong.

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Re: Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by v-child » Sun Oct 04, 2020 7:44 am

Trouble-shooting anything requires "backing up to the last input" before failure. Unfortunately, you have too many "last inputs" or changes. Go back to the stage where everything was OK, and change one item at a time. Follow the "KISS" principle.

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Re: Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by kiwi Bruce » Sun Oct 04, 2020 9:51 am

Demy wrote:
Sun Oct 04, 2020 6:25 am
I don't think that sugar inversion makes a big difference
An easy and very over simplified explanation of the difference (as you would see it, if you were your yeast)...

First inverted sugar...Your SOH places a large slice of Chocolate cake in front of you and smiles...you get stuck in... :clap:

Second Table sugar...Your SOH places a large box of Betty Crocker Chocolate cake mix in front of you and smiles...you get stuck in, Baking the cake , before you can eat it. :wtf:

From the yeasts point of view, this is about it...
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Re: Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by NineInchNails » Sun Oct 04, 2020 10:18 am

I've had invert sugar and simple syrup washes fully ferment in 3 days before when the temp was 90F or so. It makes a pretty big difference. I just wasn't sure if there's any technical difference at all between invert sugar and simple syrup as far as the final distillate is concerned.

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Re: Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by Demy » Sun Oct 04, 2020 12:11 pm

kiwi Bruce wrote:
Sun Oct 04, 2020 9:51 am
Demy wrote:
Sun Oct 04, 2020 6:25 am
I don't think that sugar inversion makes a big difference
An easy and very over simplified explanation of the difference (as you would see it, if you were your yeast)...

First inverted sugar...Your SOH places a large slice of Chocolate cake in front of you and smiles...you get stuck in... :clap:

Second Table sugar...Your SOH places a large box of Betty Crocker Chocolate cake mix in front of you and smiles...you get stuck in, Baking the cake , before you can eat it. :wtf:

From the yeasts point of view, this is about it...
Again, I'm not saying it makes no difference, I'm just saying that yeast with the right nutrients is perfectly capable of "making the cake". This is my experience on neutral washes. There was talk in the post of difference in "aroma" not of fermentation speed or block. But of course it's just my experiences / opinions so I could be wrong, I don't claim to know everything far ...

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Re: Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by kiwi Bruce » Sun Oct 04, 2020 12:30 pm

Table sugar is pure sucrose, in order to "eat" it, the yeast must first "split" the sucrose into it's two major fractions glucose and fructose, no problemo ...however if the yeast is under stress during the digestion and splitting of the sucrose, be that temp, pH, re-hydration etc etc...it could lead to off flavor...I stress COULD, this doesn't happen every time or to every body...it's just one of those things...
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Re: Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by ideasinbeer » Sun Oct 04, 2020 1:26 pm

kiwi bruce is dead on. while sucrose works it is technically easier for the yeast to use inverse.

To build on this, any stressors to yeast will increase off flavours/byproducts. Stressors include pitch rate, ABV (tolerance to high amounts), temperature. Moreover, each strain prefers different fermentation characteristics.

And to make things even less clear, there are factors like killers strains, competition from other biological organisms, Mash characteristics and if you go down the wormhole, output factors that are specific to each strain.

Not to be a pain, but vintners and brewers have only touched the surface of much of this and we would benefit from keepin g up on their work.

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Re: Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by ideasinbeer » Sun Oct 04, 2020 1:28 pm

I forgot to add that while yeast prefer simpler sugars, they can ferment a number of different ones. However, many yeast to struggle to ferment more complex sugars if simpler ones are introduced. Of course this is hardly a factor with sugar wash.

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Re: Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by shadylane » Sun Oct 04, 2020 5:17 pm

NineInchNails wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 4:28 pm
shadylane wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 3:41 pm
Get a white cotton sock and fill it halfway with crushed oyster shell.
Tie a string to it, so it's easy to retrieve.
I'm thinking the extra acidity from the tomato paste is adding to the sugar bite.
I add calcium carbonate, but what I use is more along the lines of a powder
Crushed shell and powder calcium carbonate are pretty much the same thing
One of the reasons I use crushed oyster shell instead of powdered calcium carbonate
Is the crushed shell acts like it's time released. Where the powdered is almost instantly active.

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Re: Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by zapata » Sun Oct 04, 2020 11:48 pm

If you boiled the water to make syrup, you inverted it. Pretty sure inversion has to do with the max temp reached, even for a second, than the ratio of water, or even the acids most inversion recipes call for.

Avowed tomato paste hater here, FWIW.

Temp control is the single largest factor in neutral washes IMHO. Ph is the second (oyster shells).

I think "sugar bite" is a misnomer and it has nothing to do with sugar, it's just sugar washes are otherwise clean enough that we can identify bite. Bite to me sounds most like a non-ethanol alcohol, probably isoamyl. It's also produced more by yeast that are temp stressed and in low pH washes. Hydrosepartion of low wines will reduce it's presence at that point, salt will help separation.

It's a bitch in a column, I've been reading about it a fair bit this week, including some GCMS data on a "bench" sized continuous still (quite similar to our rigs minus the mid column feed) showing it all through a column well over 95% at the top and 2% at the bottom. It's volatility varies with ethanol concentration, it forms azeotropes with water, and it fucks up ethanol's behavior in a column too.

Carbon will pick it up.

Unless "bite" means metallic bitter. That's what I taste from TP, regardless of other congeners, no idea what it is, but it drove me away from TPW's.

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Re: Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by Demy » Mon Oct 05, 2020 12:08 am

I see that many agree with me on the temperature factor and I add that in my opinion especially the strong temperature changes create the yeast itself. I think we can all agree that the factors that could create anomalous flavors in fermentation are many and as mentioned by others, fermentation is a very complex thing that involves several "protagonists", many chemical mechanisms, variable according to the yeast, etc. and sometimes we look for an easy explanation. Returning to the essence of the post, there were many variables for which we can only speculate. Since the discussion has shifted to inverted sugar it would be fun to make the same recipe with the only inverted / non-inverted sugar variable, I bet the difference would be zero (we're always talking about that "bite" not speed or anything). I have already tried this but a single experience does not make sense. however this is a good discussion!

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Re: Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by NineInchNails » Mon Oct 05, 2020 6:20 am

shadylane wrote:
Sun Oct 04, 2020 5:17 pm
NineInchNails wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 4:28 pm
shadylane wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 3:41 pm
Get a white cotton sock and fill it halfway with crushed oyster shell.
Tie a string to it, so it's easy to retrieve.
I'm thinking the extra acidity from the tomato paste is adding to the sugar bite.
I add calcium carbonate, but what I use is more along the lines of a powder
Crushed shell and powder calcium carbonate are pretty much the same thing
One of the reasons I use crushed oyster shell instead of powdered calcium carbonate
Is the crushed shell acts like it's time released. Where the powdered is almost instantly active.
I was of the understanding that Calcium Carbonate only dissolves when the ph drops enough for it to do so and that's how it buffers ph. I figured it wouldn't matter the particulate's size whether it is large like oyster shell, granulated limestone or powder. I figured the primary difference is that large & granulated can be recaptured & reused where powdered would just settle and be disposable. I use powdered Calcium Carbonate for multiple uses/hobbies, I already have it, it's cheap, readily available in my area so I don't mind not reusing it as long as it does the job.

Calcium Hydroxide (Pickling Lime) on the other hand dissolves, raises ph rapidly when added and does not 'buffer' ph at all.

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Re: Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by shadylane » Mon Oct 05, 2020 10:42 am

Towards the end of a sugar wash fermentation, when pH control is needed most.
Powdered Calcium Carbonate would be laying on the bottom covered up with trub
A sock of crushed shell is still working. It even provides it's own stirring action with CO2 bubbles.

On a side note
I've tried reusing the crushed shell and it doesn't work very well.

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Re: Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by shadylane » Mon Oct 05, 2020 10:53 am

Demy wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 9:39 am
This question should be for experts more than me but in my opinion the alternation of temperature could be the culprit, even if the candidates are many.
I'm not an expert, but as usual, I've got an opinion :lol:
I think your right
Fermentation works much better with temp control.
When the temp is a variable, it's difficult to trouble shoot any other problems

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Re: Neutral 'Bite' - Unstable Fermentation Temp, Invert Sugar or Simple Syrup?

Post by zapata » Mon Oct 05, 2020 10:57 am

Demy wrote:
Mon Oct 05, 2020 12:08 am
I Since the discussion has shifted to inverted sugar it would be fun to make the same recipe with the only inverted / non-inverted sugar variable, I bet the difference would be zero (we're always talking about that "bite" not speed or anything).
But speed does matter for flavor too. It reduces the time competing organisms can make acids/esters. It may even prevent acids and esters from reaching equilibrium. It prevents late stage yeast metabolism and autolysis (freeing more acids, esters and other congeners). And probably many other vague processes. The rum world for example is pretty plainly split between cleaner fast ferments and funkier long ferments, with good science going back a century on the subject and unquestionable differences in the glass. Here's an example I read last night that addresses both speed of fermentation and delay before running as simply known factors. If inverted sugar ferments faster, it really may help reduce congeners responsible for the "bite"
fusel 2.png
fusel.png

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