My All-grain Bourbon Technique
- For Jestah and others considering all-grain,
Here is my recipe and procedure for all-grain bourbon:
Grain Bill (Scale down as necessary for your equipment)
25 pounds cracked corn
5 pounds rye flour
17 pounds crushed 6-row malted barley
32-gallon Rubbermaid trash barrel (fermenter)
20-gallon stockpot mash tun (doubles as my boiler)
Outdoor propane cooker
For the mash-in I use all the corn, all the rye and 8 of the 17
pounds of barley malt for a total of 38 pounds of grain. You want
about 1.25 quarts of water per pound of grain in the mash-in, so that
rounds off to about 12 gallons of water
Pre-heat 12 gallons of water to 162F. This is a little over 1.25
quarts per gallon. You can expect roughly a 13 degree F drop in temp
when the grain is added to the water. It is better to undershoot
than to overshoot since it is easier to heat up than to cool down the
mash. The target mash-in temp is 149F. You can slowly add heat if
you undershoot. If you overshoot by a degree or two, don't worry
about it. If you overshoot by a lot, you will quickly have to add
more cold water to drop the temp before the amylase enzymes become
denatured from the heat. (We are shooting for high fermentability in
Be sure to stir the mash thoroughly with the paddle. 38 pounds of
grain in 12 gallons is THICK, so the sturdy paddle is a necessity!
You want to make sure all the grain is moist, that there are no
pockets or clumps of flour and that the temperature gradient is the
same top to bottom of your mash tun and center to edge as well.
Eventually we are going to boil this mash to gelatinize all the
cracked corn, but if we don't do at least a partial starch
first, it will set up so think and gummy it will be impossible to
stir! (Trust me on this it happened to me!) I like to let the
sit about an hour at this point. With the thermal mass of this size
mash, the temp drop is only about 5 degrees in that period of time
and most of the readily available starch converts. If you scale down
the recipe, you may need to occasionally add heat to maintain the
temp in the 148-149F range. We want full fermentation in order to
maximize the amount of alcohol produced so we want to hold 148-149F
as much as possible. Going higher than this will cause un-
fermentable dextrines in the mash. This is good for beer, but bad
After an hour, light the burner and slowly raise the temp while
stirring constantly. Grain scorching is not a problem unless you
forget to stir every few minutes. We want to bring the mash slowly
to a full rolling boil. The water loss due to steam is about a
gallon an hour. Boil the mash for about 30 minutes to an hour to
gelatinize the corn and release additional starch into the mash.
Don't forget to stir constantly! The mash will start to get real
gooey! Use the blade of the paddle to continually scrape the bottom
to keep the grain from sticking! At the end of that time, add cold
water to make up the volume lost to steam, (one quart per 15 minutes
of boil time) and add an additional 12 quarts of water for the 9
pounds of malted 6-row barley to be used shortly.
Monitor the temp closely. At this point, you will want to rapidly
lower the temperature of the mash to 152F. Do this by using the
immersion chiller. Keep stirring as you chill to assure an even temp
Once 152 F is achieved, remove the chiller and add the remaining 9
pounds of 6-row malted barley. Once again, stir thoroughly! The
temp should fall to the 148-149F range when you add the barley malt.
If it drops below 148F, then slowly bump up the temp by adding heat
and stirring. I usually let the mash rest at this temp for at least
90 minutes. The previous boil will have released a lot of additional
starch into the mash and you want to achieve as much starch
conversion as possible. Only occasional stirring is necessary at
this point. In between stirs, you will start to notice clear syrupy
wort forming on the top of the mash.
After 90 minutes, you will have achieved about as much starch
conversion as you are going to get. Don't worry if you don't
full conversion. Starch haze is a defect in beer, but no starch haze
will come over in your distillate. You are never going to achieve
100% conversion of all available starch. I feel like if I can get 28-
30 points per pound per gallon in my mash that I'm doing pretty
well. Milling the cracked corn even further before the mash would
probably release more starch, but that's an additional step,
a mill set up for milling corn, and is something not worth hassling
with particularly since corn is like $6.00 per 50 pound sack!
Grain is cheap, time is expensive!
After the 90 minute conversion rest, again use the immersion chiller
and chill the mash down to yeast pitching temp. I use a 2 quart
pitcher to ladle the mash into my 8 gallon stock pot and empty the
stock pot into my fermenter 4 gallons at a time (I ain't into
anything heavier than 4 gallons!) Be sure to splash and aerate the
mash thoroughly as you dump it into the fermenter! After all the
mash has been transferred, I usually top off with a bit more water to
bring the gravity of the wort down a bit. I feel like wort in the
1.050 range seems to bring more of the grain flavor across into the
distillate than higher gravity wort, but that may just be my
imagination. It's up to you whether or not to do the dilution.
I don't mess with an air lock; I just put the lid on the garbage
fermenter. It outgases so much co2 that the chance of anything
getting in is nil. Besides, the fermentation is so rapid that the
wild yeasts and bacteria never get a foothold. If the average
ambient temp over 24 hours is going to be less than 70F, I use an
aquarium heater immersed in the fermenter to maintain 70F minimum.
Within 24 hours, there will be a cap of grain husks covering the top
of the liquid in the fermenter. Within a week, (sooner if you've
a turbo yeast) the cap will drop back into the wash. The wash will
taste dry and a bit bitter at this point. It will be a neat looking
light golden color. It's ready to run.
I use a stillmaker type fractionating still for my run. I don't
anything like removing packing to de-tune the still, but I run it
HARD to minimize reflux for this type of run and I seem to achieve
pot still type results. By running hard, I'm talking about
nearly 5 quarts an hour about like I would do a stripping run.
discard about the first 100 ml of heads, then start collecting. I
collect in half-quart increments and label them with a marker as they
come off. I use taste, smell and visual inspection of a sample of
each collection jar mixed with water to determine when I have started
collecting tails. Tails get added to the wash for the next run in
I should note that typically, I wind up with about 30 gallons of wash
after topping up my fermenter which I run in 3 ten gallon
increments. 10 gallons half fills my boiler which is critical since
I distill "on the grains" meaning that a good deal of grain
are scooped up in the process of charging my boiler. There is a real
risk of a clogged column when distilling on grains and I had a narrow
escape from disaster once when this happened to me! Since then, I
never fill my boiler more than half full when distilling on grains to
allow sufficient headspace so as to avoid clogging the column with
I usually time my distillation day to coincide with mash day. I can
get two separate mashes out of a 50 pound sack of corn using my
recipe, so I repeat the mash process the day I do the run-off of the
previous mash. Accordingly, I leave a goodly quantity of spent
grains in my fermenter and add the new mash on top of them. Doing
this, I avoid having to pitch new yeast and maintain good flavor
continuity from batch to batch.
Another trick to flavor continuity is called "slopping back",
use this as well. After my last run, I save 5 or 6 gallons of the
spent liquor remaining in the boiler and use this as a portion of my
initial mash-in water for the next mash. This assures ideal ph for
the new mash, provides good flavor continuity, and eliminates what
would otherwise be a disposal issue.
Once I have determined which of the jars collected are going into my
final mix, I blend them together and take a spirit hydrometer
reading. Usually I find that my taste, smell, visual examination of
the distillate assures that my final mix will be in the 62-63%
alcohol range - which is ideal for aging. If it is higher than this,
I add bottled spring water to dilute it down to 125 proof for aging.
It takes at least 4 runs to accumulate enough 125 proof bourbon to
fill a 5 gallon oak barrel. Consequently, while waiting to
accumulate enough to use in my 5 gallon aging barrel, I have been
keeping the hooch in a 5 gallon stainless soda keg. I have a lot of
white oak lumber available and after heavily charring some chunks and
slivers with a torch, I add the scrap oak to the soda keg to give it
a head start on aging. The bourbon develops a nice golden color and
begins to pick up a nice oaky taste after just a few weeks. I sneak
a soup ladle full on occasion, water it down to 80 proof and enjoy a
mighty fine tasting bourbon that continues to improve with age. The
only problem is, at this rate it's gonna take me more than 4
to accumulate enough reserve to fill my barrel and have enough on
hand to top off the angel's share when necessary.
Oh well! Gives me an excuse to brew more often! J
Wow! This was a long post! (I have a tendency to get a bit
sometimes!) If any of my explanation was unclear, or if anybody has
questions, let me know!
Happy all-grain brewing out there!
- --- In Distillers@yahoogroups.com, "rutger amons" <rutgerr@z...>
>Sorry - I should have specified - they are us gallons.
> > For Jestah and others considering all-grain,
> > Here is my recipe and procedure for all-grain bourbon:
> Are these us or uk gallons?
- Some tricks to help on grains distillation. A mesh around the heating
element (like old sieve) or circle of mesh above the bottom of the
boiler to prevent grains from touching the very hot parts in boiler
is a good idea. For foaming, adding some salt and veggieoil/soap to
the wash helps to keep it under control.
--- In Distillers@yahoogroups.com, "Tarvus" <tarvus33991@y...> wrote:
> I distill "on the grains" meaning that a good deal of grain
> are scooped up in the process of charging my boiler. There is a
> risk of a clogged column when distilling on grains and I had a
> escape from disaster once when this happened to me! Since then, I
> never fill my boiler more than half full when distilling on grains
> allow sufficient headspace so as to avoid clogging the column with
> spent grains.
- Great Post, Tarvus. Thanks for taking the time to write the detailed recipe and method. What sort of wash chiller are you using? What if the diameter of the tubing and what is the diameter of the coils that allow you to stir your mash with the paddle? I've got to give this a try. Rana
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- --- In Distillers@yahoogroups.com, Rana Pipiens <ranah2o@y...> wrote:
> Great Post, Tarvus. Thanks for taking the time to write thedetailed recipe and method. What sort of wash chiller are you using?
What if the diameter of the tubing and what is the diameter of the
coils that allow you to stir your mash with the paddle? I've got to
give this a try. Rana
The wort chiller is made from 50 feet of 5/8" OD soft copper tubing.
This is the same OD as 1/2" rigid copper pipe so the same fittings
will work on both. I've used chillers made from smaller tubing, but
between the greater surface area and the increased throughput volume,
this chiller is far more efficient.
My chiller was formed by winding and gently bending the tubing around
around a co2 tank. It comes coiled up already from the hardware
store so really the only thing required is to tighten the coils a tad
and provide verticle elevation to each sucessive coil. There are 15
coils on my chiller and each coil is about 12 inches in diameter. The
completed chiller stands about 12 inches high. Stainless hoseclamps
hold clear vinyl tubing to both ends of the chiller. The input end
has a hose fitting so a standard garden hose can screw into it. The
output is just a plain vinyl tube which I use to feed the hot water
coming out into my swimming pool. That saves water and helps warm
the pool at the same. time. Since the surface of the mash is the
hottest part of the mash, the chiller works most efficiently by
feeding the cold water into the top coil since the greatest delta T
and hence greatest cooling happens there. The output end comes up
from the bottom of the coil (inside the loops) and exits out the top.
It's a really simple, quick and dirty gadjet to build and it's well
worth the effort if you contemplate all-grain brewing. I even use it
to chill a sugar wash down to pitching temps - so it's useful even
without doing all-grain worts.
My mash tun/boiler is wide enough that I can use my little paddle to
stir both inside and outside the coils of the chiller. Stirring
really speeds the chilling process. Back in the days when I was
brewing lager beers, I would use my RIMS pump to recirculate a 10
gallon GOTT cooler full of ice water through the chiller. I could
take 10 gallons of wort from mashout temps of 170F down to 55F in
about 15 minutes.
- --- In Distillers@yahoogroups.com, SSTOLI123@a... wrote:
> Tar,Yes, I sure do! :)
> Thank you for a great post. Do you live in the US?
- Your grain bill and methods for the corn, rye and barley are similar
to mine, except I use oats instead of barley and I add rice hulls to
keep the mash from burning
It's sure makes a high quality product
--- In Distillers@yahoogroups.com, "Tarvus" <tarvus33991@y...> wrote:
> --- In Distillers@yahoogroups.com, SSTOLI123@a... wrote:
> > Tar,
> > Thank you for a great post. Do you live in the US?
> Yes, I sure do! :)