Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Re: [Distillers] My quest for good whiskey

Expand Messages
  • Shot Man
    Good morning all. Is there a better place to put your thermometer than at the top of the riser where it turns into your lyne arm? My old 3/4 riser had a
    Message 1 of 18 , Jun 8, 2010
    • 0 Attachment
      Good morning all.
      Is there a better place to put your thermometer than at the top of the riser where it turns into your lyne arm? My old 3/4" riser had a thermometer but I didn't put one in my new 1 1/2" one on my small pot still. I want to but if there is a better place I'll put a small tube in it for the thermometer there. Does putting it thru a cork with no metal contact help with more accurite readings?
       Welcome to the status of moderator Z Bob. I know you'll be an exceptionally good one just like our other moderators are.
      Have a great day,
      shotman
       
      ----- Original Message -----
      Sent: Monday, June 07, 2010 11:37 PM
      Subject: RE: [Distillers] My quest for good whiskey

       

      Ok, Gavin, I'll try again; the software gods ate my last reply.

      First, it appears you are laboring under a very common mis-apprehension, that you can control the boiling of a mixture of liquids by fiddling with the heat input. Unfortunately, this is entirely untrue. For a given atmospheric pressure (like for instance the Earth's average surface pressure), the temperature at which a liquid boils is *entirely* determined by what, and in what concentrations, is in that liquid.

      For instance, according to my old Handbook of Chemistry and Physics (wrinkled from dew exposure during long evening distilling in my backyard) if you put a 16%/84% mixture of ethanol and water (by weight) in your potstill (which I'm assuming from your flavored spirits efforts), when you bring it to a boil, the liquid temperature will be 87.5C, and so will the temperature of the vapor, at least until something cools it down. When that 16%ABW liquid boils, the vapor will be 69%ABW ethanol. If you turn up the heat, the liquid will still boil at 87.5C and the liquid will still be 69%ABW. If you turn the heat down some, still 87.5C and 69%ABW. If you turn the heat down even more, the liquid will stop boiling, and will cool to God-knows-what temperature, vapor will stop coming off (or close enough) and distillation stops in any real sense.

      You will see head temperature changes as your distillation batch progresses. You can see that if you have 16%ABW ethanol in the wash, and 69%ABW ethanol is coming off in the vapor, that you are decreasing the amount of ethanol in the liquid (and also in the vapor) with each drop from the still. Soon your liquid will be at 15%ABW, and the Handbook tells me the temperature of the boiling wash is now 88C, and the vapor is now 68%ABW. This process of temperature and ethanol ABW will continue from start to finish of your potstill run.

      A further complication: because most postills do not have their head temperature thermometers thermally insulated from the copper still head, and because the cool-water-filled condenser is part of that copper still head, it's not uncommon to see rate and temperature of cooling water reduce head temperature a bit, perhaps as much as 1.5 degreesC. For this reason, using head temp is a very crude way to make your cuts.

      If your condenser keeps the distillate fairly cool, a parrot's beak measuring density is a much better instrument for determining cuts. Better yet, if you collect distillate in relatively small containers (I use 1/2-pints/60ml where it's critical, pints-120ml for less-critical separation, quarts-240ml when I'm solidly in heads, and gallons-3.8L for when I'm certain I'm in tails), labeling each with beginning and ending head temp and ABV, you can make your cuts using taste and smell, and then duplicate it later (with an identical wash) from your instruments.

      Applying this to your potstill run, load the boiler and turn the heat on full. When sufficient hot vapor makes it to the head thermometer, maybe at 40C or 50C, turn the heat down to perhaps 1/3 and sneak up on the boil. You'll get a few drops at lower temps, but head temp will very soon settle from 81C to 92C, depending on what you put in your still, and the first real spirit will come across at from 80% to 50%, very roughly. Collect the distillate, numbering and labeling each fraction, until the head temp is 99C (some stop way sooner), which tells you there's no ethanol left in the wash, and damned little in the vapor. When you taste the fraction that ended at 99C, I guarantee you'll taste wet cardboard (or something musty anyway).

      Taste a drop of that first fraction, so you know why we throw away foreshots. For each succeding fraction, in the order they came out of the still, dilute a small sample to about 80 proof (40%ABV) and using friends and snifters, taste and snort each sample and record your impressions. When you've finished, take all the fractions you think are good, and mix and dilute them to aging or drinking strength. Toss the tails in your feints carboy for making junkahol, put the heads in a plastic spray bottle for fruit flies (I just learned this, and I love it), and be very happy.

      I hope this helps.

      Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller




      To: Distillers@yahoogro ups.com
      From: gavin_flett@ hotmail.com
      Date: Mon, 7 Jun 2010 22:42:29 +0000
      Subject: [Distillers] My quest for good whiskey

       
      Hello, I have only been distilling for about 6 months now. I have decided to move into the flavoured spirits such as Whiskey and Rum. my question about Whiskey is though, if ethanol is collected between 78C and 82C, does that mean that I have to keep my still temperature regulated so that the vapours are between those two marks?

      The Whiskey I collected from my last run was all collected between those two temps and it turned out well (at least from my point of view). It is very sweet and no peat taste which I am a bit disappointed in. My question is how close to the taste of of a bottle for sale, (lets say of Glenlivet 15 yr) does the product come out of the still?

      Methanol is produced at 64C, does that mean if my still temperature drops down to that temperature again (after the initial discarding of the first 50ml) will I be collecting methanol again?

      How can I tell the difference between heads, hearts and tails? I have never smelled the wet cardboard or the metallic taste I have read about.

      Should I be more concerned with vapour temperature, ABV % of my collected product or the taste of the product when collecting? I have ran my still for 48hrs trying to keep it between the 78C - 82C mark and I think I may be running a little inefficiently.

      I have read people collecting when the temperature is up to the 90'sC. Isn't that just Isopropynol? Is that even drinkable?

      Please someone give me some giudance, I have read all of Tony's site and can only piece together part of the puzzle. I just want to make sure that I am doing this correctly.




      The New Busy is not the old busy. Search, chat and e-mail from your inbox. Get started.

    • Robert Hubble
      Sorry to have been hard on you Gavin, but on the surface, this appeared to be simply an age-old distillation misconception about being able to control vapor
      Message 2 of 18 , Jun 8, 2010
      • 0 Attachment
        Sorry to have been hard on you Gavin, but on the surface, this appeared to be simply an age-old distillation misconception about being able to control vapor temperature of boiling/distillation by manipulating heat input. True, that is part of your problem, but the solution is not necessarily simple. I've put comments inline.

        Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller




        To: distillers@yahoogroups.com
        From: gavin_flett@...
        Date: Tue, 8 Jun 2010 05:27:50 +0000
        Subject: RE: [Distillers] My quest for good whiskey

         
        Yes actually a lot of it helps, but I still have some unanswered questions. I will explain how I do my runs and maybe you can further pick up some mistakes. I run a 30L pot still (copper alembic from Portugal) with the thermometer on the peak of the gooseneck.

        I first heat the mash at full 1200W until it hits 50C (which is when I begin getting drops). Then I back off power to 600W and fiddle with it between 600W and 800W. At this point I am able to keep the vapour temperature mostly below the 78C mark. The stuff that comes out first (10ml-25ml) is maybe a bit sharp, but overall it smells pretty good and not an overtly bad taste (not that I actually drink it, but I do put a dab on the tongue). I huck the first 50ml anyways because I'm too scarred to use it. at the 78C mark is when I actually collect, but it happens sloooowwww. I'm talking about 100ml every 3 hrs. But damn is it ever delicious, I'm not kidding I can't get enough of this stuff, even as young as it is (only been on oak for a week). So my question here is, how am I able to control the vapour temperature? Or is this an illusion? Is the vapour temperature readings I am getting at the gooseneck accurate or has it cooled down some at this juncture? At this point should I turn up the power and collect more product per second?

        For the sake of calculation, I assumed your wash was about 13% ABV, a reasonable number and translates to about 10% alcohol by weight (ABW) which is way easier to calculate with. At that wash concentration, it takes 1410 Joules to vaporize 1 gram of vapor. Because 1 Watt is 1 Joule per second, your heat source at 1200W, that's 1200 Joules per second. If all of the heat output from your source went to vaporizing your wash, and every bit of that vapor was condensed in your condenser to make spirit, you should get 1410/1200 grams per second, or .85g/s. That's more than 9 liters in 3 hours, way different from what you are getting, by a factor of about 90!.

        Here are the possibilities that might cause the difference: Your heat source may not be putting out at rated value, you may have a vapor leak, or you may be losing so much heat from all that copper boiler that very little makes it to the condenser, and I suspect much of the time your wash is not really boiling because of the low net heat input. I'm going to vote for that last possibility, which is good from your standpoint because it's easy to test, and not hard to deal with.


        First, you are driving a 30-liter uninsulated copper pot with between 600W and 800W. A long time ago, I had a 19-liter potstill with an aluminum pot, and drove it with an 1100W hotplate. It took way long to get to boiling, and was terribly slow. When I wrapped a towel around it for insulation, performance picked right up, although by most standards, output was slow, just the way I like it. I think that slow output makes for the best spirit, but 100ml in 3 hours is way way too slow.

        This collecting and fiddling between 600W and 800W will go on for hours. I can even leave it over night at 82C (on the first night) and the next morning it will only be at 78C or 77C. is this wrong to do? Should I be leaving on one power setting once I begin collection and just let the science of atmospheric conditions dictate the rest (ie the slow and gradual rise in temperature coupled with the slow and gradual drop in ABV%)? And end collection at a certain vapour temperature?

        I think your fixation on controlling vapor temperature is leading you to turn the heat down to where the wash is not boiling, and you're more condensing "dew" than vapor. Wrap the boiler in a towel or 2, turn the heat to at least 1000W, and watch the temperature control itself. Until you get a good feel for making the cuts, collect the fractions in small containers, and determine what you keep for drinking by whether that fractions tastes wonderful or not.

        I stop my collection when the ABV% reaches 65% (as per what I have read of fine Whiskeys and Scotches). Can I beat a dead horse for a little longer on this one? Have I wasted good remaining ethanol in the mash I threw out?

        Yes, you have wasted good ethanol by discarding tails. Save it for distilling junkahol.

        Lastly, a bigger issue I have is making the distinction between the heads, hearts and tails. Should it be just personal preference? Or is there a taste I should be striving to achieve? Perhaps my method of fermentation produces so little off flavours that I just can't taste anything overly bad? I ask these questions because on one hand I am collecting so little product, on the other, I am afraid to 'wring the neck of beast' as they say and input a flavour that will irreperably taint the entire batch.

        Since the whole point of all this is to make something that tastes good, I make my cuts by simply tasting, rather than use someone else's numbers. Chucking foreshots is a given, although it doesn't hurt to taste a finger-dip of then to know why you are pitching it. Heads is anything at the first part of a run that tastes hot, or harsh, or anything else that you won't enjoy drinking. If you don't like it, why put it in your hard-earned whisk(e)y? You'll know you're tasting hearts when the clouds part, the sunbeam strikes you, and you hear a lot of ladies singing, "OOOHAAH". Save that part for aging and drinking.

        After all the excellent hearts, you'll come to a fraction that has more flavor than what went before, but it also has a hint of something "off", the beginning of tails. In some rums, the flavor of this "between" fraction is vital, prized, and it's included in the cut. This is usually for me the only fraction I have to think about, and it can go either way, although my 'stillin' friends tell me I'm a cut-Nazi, banging my riding crop on the table yelling, "Nein Nein Nein, das geht nicht!!!"

        A point I should stress here, if you taste only samples that have been diluted to 40%ABV, or so, you will not have to mentally compensate for the differences in sensation between harsh hot heads at 80% and sweet hearts that will take all the saliva out of your mouth at 70%.

        The tails is where I am confused as well. If people can save the tails to later distill the ethanol from. Why couldn't the ethanol be distilled from the tails during the initial run? Isn't the tails an off flavoured component of the mash? And if so wouldn't that just double the amount of tails in the next batch? Or is tails the off flavoured result of the mash undergoing a chemical composition change due to the prolonged exposure to heat ( just as when remaining sugar in the mash is caramelized, now it's caramelized for good. It can never go back to regular sugar)

        Tails, which are distilled and collected separately, come by their wet-cardboard taste quite naturally, as they concentrate all the higher-temperature-distilling compounds that are always present. Tails are not a mistake, they are just a fact of life. There's a lot of ethanol in them, collectively, and they can be use to make "neutral" ethanol for  all those fun macerations.

        I realize these are a lot of questions, I hope they aren't too complicated and I hope I have gotten all of the terms and wording correct so as not to confuse you. Please, when you get the chance send me a reply, I am a sponge and want to soak up all the information I can get.

        Sorry again about seeming scornful.

        Kind regards: Gavin

        P.S. What happens to the fruit flies with the heads? Does it kill 'em?

        Drops them right out of the air (from a pistol bottle)! And if you get some on your still, in your fermenter, on the fruit in the wine press, or even on your tongue, it don't matter!


        ----snip----


        The New Busy is not the too busy. Combine all your e-mail accounts with Hotmail. Get busy.
      • Robert Hubble
        Awww...thanks for the kind word, shotman. I ve always had my thermometer at the top of the riser at the entry to the lyne arm, but up until the last still, it
        Message 3 of 18 , Jun 8, 2010
        • 0 Attachment
          Awww...thanks for the kind word, shotman.

          I've always had my thermometer at the top of the riser at the entry to the lyne arm, but up until the last still, it was always in a soldered-on and drilled-out compression fitting with teflon tape as compression ring. After I noticed heat conduction to the Liebig cooling the thermometer just a wee, this last design comes up with a 2" riser, with a simple 2" copper coupling soldered on the top. The lyne arm comes out of the bottom half of the coupling (threaded and soldered though the coupling and the riser) but the temperature probe (I use a Polder digital) is just stuck in a big 2" cork that fits in the top part of the coupling.

          It's thermal insulation AND an over-pressure blowout. So far, so good, and it's maybe a year and a half old.

          Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller




          To: Distillers@yahoogroups.com
          From: shotman@...
          Date: Tue, 8 Jun 2010 09:05:23 -0400
          Subject: Re: [Distillers] My quest for good whiskey

           

          Good morning all.
          Is there a better place to put your thermometer than at the top of the riser where it turns into your lyne arm? My old 3/4" riser had a thermometer but I didn't put one in my new 1 1/2" one on my small pot still. I want to but if there is a better place I'll put a small tube in it for the thermometer there. Does putting it thru a cork with no metal contact help with more accurite readings?
           Welcome to the status of moderator Z Bob. I know you'll be an exceptionally good one just like our other moderators are.
          Have a great day,
          shotman
           
          ----- Original Message -----
          Sent: Monday, June 07, 2010 11:37 PM
          Subject: RE: [Distillers] My quest for good whiskey

           
          Ok, Gavin, I'll try again; the software gods ate my last reply.

          First, it appears you are laboring under a very common mis-apprehension, that you can control the boiling of a mixture of liquids by fiddling with the heat input. Unfortunately, this is entirely untrue. For a given atmospheric pressure (like for instance the Earth's average surface pressure), the temperature at which a liquid boils is *entirely* determined by what, and in what concentrations, is in that liquid.

          For instance, according to my old Handbook of Chemistry and Physics (wrinkled from dew exposure during long evening distilling in my backyard) if you put a 16%/84% mixture of ethanol and water (by weight) in your potstill (which I'm assuming from your flavored spirits efforts), when you bring it to a boil, the liquid temperature will be 87.5C, and so will the temperature of the vapor, at least until something cools it down. When that 16%ABW liquid boils, the vapor will be 69%ABW ethanol. If you turn up the heat, the liquid will still boil at 87.5C and the liquid will still be 69%ABW. If you turn the heat down some, still 87.5C and 69%ABW. If you turn the heat down even more, the liquid will stop boiling, and will cool to God-knows-what temperature, vapor will stop coming off (or close enough) and distillation stops in any real sense.

          You will see head temperature changes as your distillation batch progresses. You can see that if you have 16%ABW ethanol in the wash, and 69%ABW ethanol is coming off in the vapor, that you are decreasing the amount of ethanol in the liquid (and also in the vapor) with each drop from the still. Soon your liquid will be at 15%ABW, and the Handbook tells me the temperature of the boiling wash is now 88C, and the vapor is now 68%ABW. This process of temperature and ethanol ABW will continue from start to finish of your potstill run.

          A further complication: because most postills do not have their head temperature thermometers thermally insulated from the copper still head, and because the cool-water-filled condenser is part of that copper still head, it's not uncommon to see rate and temperature of cooling water reduce head temperature a bit, perhaps as much as 1.5 degreesC. For this reason, using head temp is a very crude way to make your cuts.

          If your condenser keeps the distillate fairly cool, a parrot's beak measuring density is a much better instrument for determining cuts. Better yet, if you collect distillate in relatively small containers (I use 1/2-pints/60ml where it's critical, pints-120ml for less-critical separation, quarts-240ml when I'm solidly in heads, and gallons-3.8L for when I'm certain I'm in tails), labeling each with beginning and ending head temp and ABV, you can make your cuts using taste and smell, and then duplicate it later (with an identical wash) from your instruments.

          Applying this to your potstill run, load the boiler and turn the heat on full. When sufficient hot vapor makes it to the head thermometer, maybe at 40C or 50C, turn the heat down to perhaps 1/3 and sneak up on the boil. You'll get a few drops at lower temps, but head temp will very soon settle from 81C to 92C, depending on what you put in your still, and the first real spirit will come across at from 80% to 50%, very roughly. Collect the distillate, numbering and labeling each fraction, until the head temp is 99C (some stop way sooner), which tells you there's no ethanol left in the wash, and damned little in the vapor. When you taste the fraction that ended at 99C, I guarantee you'll taste wet cardboard (or something musty anyway).

          Taste a drop of that first fraction, so you know why we throw away foreshots. For each succeding fraction, in the order they came out of the still, dilute a small sample to about 80 proof (40%ABV) and using friends and snifters, taste and snort each sample and record your impressions. When you've finished, take all the fractions you think are good, and mix and dilute them to aging or drinking strength. Toss the tails in your feints carboy for making junkahol, put the heads in a plastic spray bottle for fruit flies (I just learned this, and I love it), and be very happy.

          I hope this helps.

          Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller





          To: Distillers@yahoogro ups.com
          From: gavin_flett@ hotmail.com
          Date: Mon, 7 Jun 2010 22:42:29 +0000
          Subject: [Distillers] My quest for good whiskey

           
          Hello, I have only been distilling for about 6 months now. I have decided to move into the flavoured spirits such as Whiskey and Rum. my question about Whiskey is though, if ethanol is collected between 78C and 82C, does that mean that I have to keep my still temperature regulated so that the vapours are between those two marks?

          The Whiskey I collected from my last run was all collected between those two temps and it turned out well (at least from my point of view). It is very sweet and no peat taste which I am a bit disappointed in. My question is how close to the taste of of a bottle for sale, (lets say of Glenlivet 15 yr) does the product come out of the still?

          Methanol is produced at 64C, does that mean if my still temperature drops down to that temperature again (after the initial discarding of the first 50ml) will I be collecting methanol again?

          How can I tell the difference between heads, hearts and tails? I have never smelled the wet cardboard or the metallic taste I have read about.

          Should I be more concerned with vapour temperature, ABV % of my collected product or the taste of the product when collecting? I have ran my still for 48hrs trying to keep it between the 78C - 82C mark and I think I may be running a little inefficiently.

          I have read people collecting when the temperature is up to the 90'sC. Isn't that just Isopropynol? Is that even drinkable?

          Please someone give me some giudance, I have read all of Tony's site and can only piece together part of the puzzle. I just want to make sure that I am doing this correctly.




          The New Busy is not the old busy. Search, chat and e-mail from your inbox. Get started.




          Hotmail is redefining busy with tools for the New Busy. Get more from your inbox. See how.
        • Shot Man
          Thank you Z Bob. I ll cruise thru the photos section and pay closer attention to your section. See you, shotman ... From: Robert Hubble To:
          Message 4 of 18 , Jun 8, 2010
          • 0 Attachment
            Thank you Z Bob.
            I'll cruise thru the photos section and pay closer attention to your section.
            See you,
            shotman
             
            ----- Original Message -----
            Sent: Tuesday, June 08, 2010 10:40 AM
            Subject: RE: [Distillers] My quest for good whiskey

             

            Awww...thanks for the kind word, shotman.

            I've always had my thermometer at the top of the riser at the entry to the lyne arm, but up until the last still, it was always in a soldered-on and drilled-out compression fitting with teflon tape as compression ring. After I noticed heat conduction to the Liebig cooling the thermometer just a wee, this last design comes up with a 2" riser, with a simple 2" copper coupling soldered on the top. The lyne arm comes out of the bottom half of the coupling (threaded and soldered though the coupling and the riser) but the temperature probe (I use a Polder digital) is just stuck in a big 2" cork that fits in the top part of the coupling.

            It's thermal insulation AND an over-pressure blowout. So far, so good, and it's maybe a year and a half old.

            Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller



          • Robert Hubble
            You re welcome, Shotman, but I don t think I have pictures up that still up yet. Give me a day or so? Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller To:
            Message 5 of 18 , Jun 8, 2010
            • 0 Attachment
              You're welcome, Shotman, but I don't think I have pictures up that still up yet. Give me a day or so?

              Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller




              To: Distillers@yahoogroups.com
              From: shotman@...
              Date: Tue, 8 Jun 2010 11:22:40 -0400
              Subject: Re: [Distillers] My quest for good whiskey

               

              Thank you Z Bob.
              I'll cruise thru the photos section and pay closer attention to your section.
              See you,
              shotman
               


              The New Busy is not the too busy. Combine all your e-mail accounts with Hotmail. Get busy.
            • Gavin Flett
              No no no, you weren t scornful at all. I was joking around about all my FNG questions, with you guys being so experienced and me being the new guy I was
              Message 6 of 18 , Jun 8, 2010
              • 0 Attachment
                No no no, you weren't scornful at all. I was joking around about all my FNG questions, with you guys being so experienced and me being the new guy I was expecting to get a bit of flack. Great info I got from you down there. And yet another question on the tails... When I collect what I would call 'the good stuff', it only amounts to about a litre or less of what I would consider to be good tasting whiskey from a 15L mash. There is no sudden change in taste with the pot still (at least none that I have noticed). Instead there is a gradual decline in flavour quality. Is this normal? And if so would you recommend tasting the combined product as a whole to make the determination in cuts, or would you taste the individual collection jars to determine what is foul tasting. 

                I did taste the individual collected jars, and found that my tails seemed to be an awfully large amount in comparison to the hearts portion of the collection. So I second guessed myself as to what exactly tails were. What have been your experiences with tails and the percentage amount you collect vs the hearts?

                You spoke of the higher temperature distilling compounds, I'm guessing that's all the higher alcohols such as isopropynol etc.. Is this why the tails tastes bad? And if they are all the higher distilling compounds, how is there ethanol? Shouldn't it have all distilled out at this point?

                I am doing a molasses wash now, with no recipe mind you so who knows how this'll turn out. It'll be good experiment to see just how much I've picked up about the fundamentals of fermentation.

                P.S. What is junkahol??


                To: distillers@yahoogroups.com
                From: zymurgybob@...
                Date: Tue, 8 Jun 2010 07:27:01 -0700
                Subject: RE: [Distillers] My quest for good whiskey

                 
                Sorry to have been hard on you Gavin, but on the surface, this appeared to be simply an age-old distillation misconception about being able to control vapor temperature of boiling/distillatio n by manipulating heat input. True, that is part of your problem, but the solution is not necessarily simple. I've put comments inline.

                Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller





                To: distillers@yahoogro ups.com
                From: gavin_flett@ hotmail.com
                Date: Tue, 8 Jun 2010 05:27:50 +0000
                Subject: RE: [Distillers] My quest for good whiskey

                 
                Yes actually a lot of it helps, but I still have some unanswered questions. I will explain how I do my runs and maybe you can further pick up some mistakes. I run a 30L pot still (copper alembic from Portugal) with the thermometer on the peak of the gooseneck.

                I first heat the mash at full 1200W until it hits 50C (which is when I begin getting drops). Then I back off power to 600W and fiddle with it between 600W and 800W. At this point I am able to keep the vapour temperature mostly below the 78C mark. The stuff that comes out first (10ml-25ml) is maybe a bit sharp, but overall it smells pretty good and not an overtly bad taste (not that I actually drink it, but I do put a dab on the tongue). I huck the first 50ml anyways because I'm too scarred to use it. at the 78C mark is when I actually collect, but it happens sloooowwww. I'm talking about 100ml every 3 hrs. But damn is it ever delicious, I'm not kidding I can't get enough of this stuff, even as young as it is (only been on oak for a week). So my question here is, how am I able to control the vapour temperature? Or is this an illusion? Is the vapour temperature readings I am getting at the gooseneck accurate or has it cooled down some at this juncture? At this point should I turn up the power and collect more product per second?

                For the sake of calculation, I assumed your wash was about 13% ABV, a reasonable number and translates to about 10% alcohol by weight (ABW) which is way easier to calculate with. At that wash concentration, it takes 1410 Joules to vaporize 1 gram of vapor. Because 1 Watt is 1 Joule per second, your heat source at 1200W, that's 1200 Joules per second. If all of the heat output from your source went to vaporizing your wash, and every bit of that vapor was condensed in your condenser to make spirit, you should get 1410/1200 grams per second, or .85g/s. That's more than 9 liters in 3 hours, way different from what you are getting, by a factor of about 90!.

                Here are the possibilities that might cause the difference: Your heat source may not be putting out at rated value, you may have a vapor leak, or you may be losing so much heat from all that copper boiler that very little makes it to the condenser, and I suspect much of the time your wash is not really boiling because of the low net heat input. I'm going to vote for that last possibility, which is good from your standpoint because it's easy to test, and not hard to deal with.


                First, you are driving a 30-liter uninsulated copper pot with between 600W and 800W. A long time ago, I had a 19-liter potstill with an aluminum pot, and drove it with an 1100W hotplate. It took way long to get to boiling, and was terribly slow. When I wrapped a towel around it for insulation, performance picked right up, although by most standards, output was slow, just the way I like it. I think that slow output makes for the best spirit, but 100ml in 3 hours is way way too slow.

                This collecting and fiddling between 600W and 800W will go on for hours. I can even leave it over night at 82C (on the first night) and the next morning it will only be at 78C or 77C. is this wrong to do? Should I be leaving on one power setting once I begin collection and just let the science of atmospheric conditions dictate the rest (ie the slow and gradual rise in temperature coupled with the slow and gradual drop in ABV%)? And end collection at a certain vapour temperature?

                I think your fixation on controlling vapor temperature is leading you to turn the heat down to where the wash is not boiling, and you're more condensing "dew" than vapor. Wrap the boiler in a towel or 2, turn the heat to at least 1000W, and watch the temperature control itself. Until you get a good feel for making the cuts, collect the fractions in small containers, and determine what you keep for drinking by whether that fractions tastes wonderful or not.

                I stop my collection when the ABV% reaches 65% (as per what I have read of fine Whiskeys and Scotches). Can I beat a dead horse for a little longer on this one? Have I wasted good remaining ethanol in the mash I threw out?

                Yes, you have wasted good ethanol by discarding tails. Save it for distilling junkahol.

                Lastly, a bigger issue I have is making the distinction between the heads, hearts and tails. Should it be just personal preference? Or is there a taste I should be striving to achieve? Perhaps my method of fermentation produces so little off flavours that I just can't taste anything overly bad? I ask these questions because on one hand I am collecting so little product, on the other, I am afraid to 'wring the neck of beast' as they say and input a flavour that will irreperably taint the entire batch.

                Since the whole point of all this is to make something that tastes good, I make my cuts by simply tasting, rather than use someone else's numbers. Chucking foreshots is a given, although it doesn't hurt to taste a finger-dip of then to know why you are pitching it. Heads is anything at the first part of a run that tastes hot, or harsh, or anything else that you won't enjoy drinking. If you don't like it, why put it in your hard-earned whisk(e)y? You'll know you're tasting hearts when the clouds part, the sunbeam strikes you, and you hear a lot of ladies singing, "OOOHAAH". Save that part for aging and drinking.

                After all the excellent hearts, you'll come to a fraction that has more flavor than what went before, but it also has a hint of something "off", the beginning of tails. In some rums, the flavor of this "between" fraction is vital, prized, and it's included in the cut. This is usually for me the only fraction I have to think about, and it can go either way, although my 'stillin' friends tell me I'm a cut-Nazi, banging my riding crop on the table yelling, "Nein Nein Nein, das geht nicht!!!"

                A point I should stress here, if you taste only samples that have been diluted to 40%ABV, or so, you will not have to mentally compensate for the differences in sensation between harsh hot heads at 80% and sweet hearts that will take all the saliva out of your mouth at 70%.

                The tails is where I am confused as well. If people can save the tails to later distill the ethanol from. Why couldn't the ethanol be distilled from the tails during the initial run? Isn't the tails an off flavoured component of the mash? And if so wouldn't that just double the amount of tails in the next batch? Or is tails the off flavoured result of the mash undergoing a chemical composition change due to the prolonged exposure to heat ( just as when remaining sugar in the mash is caramelized, now it's caramelized for good. It can never go back to regular sugar)

                Tails, which are distilled and collected separately, come by their wet-cardboard taste quite naturally, as they concentrate all the higher-temperature- distilling compounds that are always present. Tails are not a mistake, they are just a fact of life. There's a lot of ethanol in them, collectively, and they can be use to make "neutral" ethanol for  all those fun macerations.

                I realize these are a lot of questions, I hope they aren't too complicated and I hope I have gotten all of the terms and wording correct so as not to confuse you. Please, when you get the chance send me a reply, I am a sponge and want to soak up all the information I can get.

                Sorry again about seeming scornful.

                Kind regards: Gavin

                P.S. What happens to the fruit flies with the heads? Does it kill 'em?

                Drops them right out of the air (from a pistol bottle)! And if you get some on your still, in your fermenter, on the fruit in the wine press, or even on your tongue, it don't matter!


                ----snip----


                The New Busy is not the too busy. Combine all your e-mail accounts with Hotmail. Get busy.


                Enter for a chance to get your town photo on Bing.ca! Submit a Photo Now!
              • Robert Hubble
                hey, Gavin Replies inline. Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller To: distillers@yahoogroups.com From: gavin_flett@hotmail.com Date: Wed, 9 Jun 2010 00:27:59 +0000
                Message 7 of 18 , Jun 8, 2010
                • 0 Attachment
                  hey, Gavin

                  Replies inline.

                  Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller




                  To: distillers@yahoogroups.com
                  From: gavin_flett@...
                  Date: Wed, 9 Jun 2010 00:27:59 +0000
                  Subject: RE: [Distillers] My quest for good whiskey

                   
                  No no no, you weren't scornful at all. I was joking around about all my FNG questions, with you guys being so experienced and me being the new guy I was expecting to get a bit of flack.



                  Don't worry about it. I think we all enjoy helping, and it forces me to think more clearly about the principles when I'm trying to tell someone else.


                  Great info I got from you down there. And yet another question on the tails... When I collect what I would call 'the good stuff', it only amounts to about a litre or less of what I would consider to be good tasting whiskey from a 15L mash.



                  Using very rough numbers, when I do a beer-stripping run to 99C, I expect to get virtually all of the ethanol and end up with a total, for all the distillate, of about 50%ABV. That means that if you started 10%ABV wash, and put all the ethanol in a 50%ABV solution, you'll have a final volume of 10/50 times the original wash volume, or very roughly 3 liters distillate from a 15 liter wash. Of that, again very roughly, if you had separated the fractions and then made the cut by tasting, you'd find that about 1/3 would be heads, 1/3 would be hearts, and 1/3 would be tails, so about 1 liter of hearts for 15 liters of 10%ABV wash, very roughly what you got.


                  Understand that I make the cuts by purely subjective taste, so I'm pretty cavalier about those numbers. I don't use them as a guide to making cuts, and you shouldn't either.



                  There is no sudden change in taste with the pot still (at least none that I have noticed). Instead there is a gradual decline in flavour quality. Is this normal? And if so would you recommend tasting the combined product as a whole to make the determination in cuts, or would you taste the individual collection jars to determine what is foul tasting.


                  What makes potstillin' amazing, and confusing at the same time is this: the first drop out of the still and the last drop out of the still all contain exactly the same compounds, but in hugely varying concentrations. There is ethanol in the first and the last drops, and water, and acetone, and ethyl acetate, and all the flavoring alcohols and esters. A potstill does not separate; it just changes concentrations a lot, and it does it gradually, so that each drop is just slightly different from the drop before, or the drop after. Don't expect to taste abrupt changes, and learn to taste for the subtle changes. Yes, taste the individual collection jars.


                  After a while. you will start to see how the cheap whiskey distiller can make money. They do it by including all the heads and tails in their spirit that they think they can get away with, because anything they throw away costs them money. You can taste all that corner-cutting and cost-saving in their booze, and it ain't pretty. Resist that temptation.


                  I did taste the individual collected jars, and found that my tails seemed to be an awfully large amount in comparison to the hearts portion of the collection. So I second guessed myself as to what exactly tails were. What have been your experiences with tails and the percentage amount you collect vs the hearts?

                  See above. It sounds like you are in the ballpark, all very roughly speaking, of course.

                  You spoke of the higher temperature distilling compounds, I'm guessing that's all the higher alcohols such as isopropynol etc.. Is this why the tails tastes bad? And if they are all the higher distilling compounds, how is there ethanol? Shouldn't it have all distilled out at this point?

                  Tails are just stronger in the higher-boiling point (or lower vapor pressure) volatile compounds. Depending on your wash, these will be some assortment of higher alcohols, esters, ketones, and aldehydes, and some other junk I can't identify. In some cases, there are important flavoring compounds that are stronger in some parts of the tails. Rum is an obvious example, with a couple of good flavoring esters with concentration "peaks" in the tails.

                  Actually that's probably the best way to describe potstillin'. Although every drop of distillate has every volatile compound from the wash, each compound will have a temperature (and therefore wash concentration) at which the output of that compound "peaks" in concentration. Think of the total continuum of the batch output as  the superposition, a summing, of all the concentration curves of all the volatile compounds, with places where the yummies are more concentrated, and other places where the ookies predominate. It's your job to save the yummies and pitch the ookies.

                  If that sounds complicated, from a concentration standpoint it is, tremendously. That's why potstillin' is an art as much as a science, but that's how you produce a Lagavulin or a Talisker .

                  I am doing a molasses wash now, with no recipe mind you so who knows how this'll turn out. It'll be good experiment to see just how much I've picked up about the fundamentals of fermentation.

                  P.S. What is junkahol??

                  Junkahol is just the name someone here coined for low wines that you don't want in your best booze, but that still has plenty of ethanol in it which can be cleaned up, by further distillation and other means, to make a flavorless, characterless, "neutral" spirit. If you make liqueurs, or gins, or any of the other un-naturally-flavored boozes, you'll have need of this, and why waste good ethanol?




                  The New Busy think 9 to 5 is a cute idea. Combine multiple calendars with Hotmail. Get busy.
                • Gavin Flett
                  Wow, that s the information I have been looking for. At least now I have a benchmark that I can expect the heads, hearts and tails to be at and go from there.
                  Message 8 of 18 , Jun 9, 2010
                  • 0 Attachment
                    Wow, that's the information I have been looking for. At least now I have a benchmark that I can expect the heads, hearts and tails to be at and go from there. I'm going to keep your contact info in my contacts list, because you seem to be a bit of a fountain of knowledge that I can tap into when needed. Thanks so much for the effort in answering all my questions.


                    To: distillers@yahoogroups.com
                    From: zymurgybob@...
                    Date: Tue, 8 Jun 2010 23:56:11 -0700
                    Subject: RE: [Distillers] My quest for good whiskey

                     
                    hey, Gavin

                    Replies inline.

                    Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller





                    To: distillers@yahoogro ups.com
                    From: gavin_flett@ hotmail.com
                    Date: Wed, 9 Jun 2010 00:27:59 +0000
                    Subject: RE: [Distillers] My quest for good whiskey

                     
                    No no no, you weren't scornful at all. I was joking around about all my FNG questions, with you guys being so experienced and me being the new guy I was expecting to get a bit of flack.



                    Don't worry about it. I think we all enjoy helping, and it forces me to think more clearly about the principles when I'm trying to tell someone else.


                    Great info I got from you down there. And yet another question on the tails... When I collect what I would call 'the good stuff', it only amounts to about a litre or less of what I would consider to be good tasting whiskey from a 15L mash.



                    Using very rough numbers, when I do a beer-stripping run to 99C, I expect to get virtually all of the ethanol and end up with a total, for all the distillate, of about 50%ABV. That means that if you started 10%ABV wash, and put all the ethanol in a 50%ABV solution, you'll have a final volume of 10/50 times the original wash volume, or very roughly 3 liters distillate from a 15 liter wash. Of that, again very roughly, if you had separated the fractions and then made the cut by tasting, you'd find that about 1/3 would be heads, 1/3 would be hearts, and 1/3 would be tails, so about 1 liter of hearts for 15 liters of 10%ABV wash, very roughly what you got.


                    Understand that I make the cuts by purely subjective taste, so I'm pretty cavalier about those numbers. I don't use them as a guide to making cuts, and you shouldn't either.



                    There is no sudden change in taste with the pot still (at least none that I have noticed). Instead there is a gradual decline in flavour quality. Is this normal? And if so would you recommend tasting the combined product as a whole to make the determination in cuts, or would you taste the individual collection jars to determine what is foul tasting.


                    What makes potstillin' amazing, and confusing at the same time is this: the first drop out of the still and the last drop out of the still all contain exactly the same compounds, but in hugely varying concentrations. There is ethanol in the first and the last drops, and water, and acetone, and ethyl acetate, and all the flavoring alcohols and esters. A potstill does not separate; it just changes concentrations a lot, and it does it gradually, so that each drop is just slightly different from the drop before, or the drop after. Don't expect to taste abrupt changes, and learn to taste for the subtle changes. Yes, taste the individual collection jars.


                    After a while. you will start to see how the cheap whiskey distiller can make money. They do it by including all the heads and tails in their spirit that they think they can get away with, because anything they throw away costs them money. You can taste all that corner-cutting and cost-saving in their booze, and it ain't pretty. Resist that temptation.


                    I did taste the individual collected jars, and found that my tails seemed to be an awfully large amount in comparison to the hearts portion of the collection. So I second guessed myself as to what exactly tails were. What have been your experiences with tails and the percentage amount you collect vs the hearts?

                    See above. It sounds like you are in the ballpark, all very roughly speaking, of course.

                    You spoke of the higher temperature distilling compounds, I'm guessing that's all the higher alcohols such as isopropynol etc.. Is this why the tails tastes bad? And if they are all the higher distilling compounds, how is there ethanol? Shouldn't it have all distilled out at this point?

                    Tails are just stronger in the higher-boiling point (or lower vapor pressure) volatile compounds. Depending on your wash, these will be some assortment of higher alcohols, esters, ketones, and aldehydes, and some other junk I can't identify. In some cases, there are important flavoring compounds that are stronger in some parts of the tails. Rum is an obvious example, with a couple of good flavoring esters with concentration "peaks" in the tails.

                    Actually that's probably the best way to describe potstillin'. Although every drop of distillate has every volatile compound from the wash, each compound will have a temperature (and therefore wash concentration) at which the output of that compound "peaks" in concentration. Think of the total continuum of the batch output as  the superposition, a summing, of all the concentration curves of all the volatile compounds, with places where the yummies are more concentrated, and other places where the ookies predominate. It's your job to save the yummies and pitch the ookies.

                    If that sounds complicated, from a concentration standpoint it is, tremendously. That's why potstillin' is an art as much as a science, but that's how you produce a Lagavulin or a Talisker .

                    I am doing a molasses wash now, with no recipe mind you so who knows how this'll turn out. It'll be good experiment to see just how much I've picked up about the fundamentals of fermentation.

                    P.S. What is junkahol??

                    Junkahol is just the name someone here coined for low wines that you don't want in your best booze, but that still has plenty of ethanol in it which can be cleaned up, by further distillation and other means, to make a flavorless, characterless, "neutral" spirit. If you make liqueurs, or gins, or any of the other un-naturally- flavored boozes, you'll have need of this, and why waste good ethanol?




                    The New Busy think 9 to 5 is a cute idea. Combine multiple calendars with Hotmail. Get busy.


                    Your Photo on Bing.ca: You Could WIN on Canada Day! Submit a Photo Now!
                  • tgfoitwoods
                    Shot man, I finally got the photos of my (sorta) new head design up in my distillers album (Zymurgy Bob). I ve got a closeup of the cork and probe.
                    Message 9 of 18 , Jun 10, 2010
                    • 0 Attachment
                      Shot man,

                      I finally got the photos of my (sorta) new head design up in my distillers album (Zymurgy Bob). I've got a closeup of the cork and probe.

                      --- In Distillers@yahoogroups.com, "Shot Man" <shotman@...> wrote:
                      >
                      > Thank you Z Bob.
                      > I'll cruise thru the photos section and pay closer attention to your section.
                      > See you,
                      > shotman
                      >
                      > ----- Original Message -----
                      > From: Robert Hubble
                      > To: distillers@yahoogroups.com
                      > Sent: Tuesday, June 08, 2010 10:40 AM
                      > Subject: RE: [Distillers] My quest for good whiskey
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      > Awww...thanks for the kind word, shotman.
                      >
                      > I've always had my thermometer at the top of the riser at the entry to the lyne arm, but up until the last still, it was always in a soldered-on and drilled-out compression fitting with teflon tape as compression ring. After I noticed heat conduction to the Liebig cooling the thermometer just a wee, this last design comes up with a 2" riser, with a simple 2" copper coupling soldered on the top. The lyne arm comes out of the bottom half of the coupling (threaded and soldered though the coupling and the riser) but the temperature probe (I use a Polder digital) is just stuck in a big 2" cork that fits in the top part of the coupling.
                      >
                      > It's thermal insulation AND an over-pressure blowout. So far, so good, and it's maybe a year and a half old.
                      >
                      > Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller
                      >
                    • shotman
                      Thank you Z Bob, Have a great day, shotman ... From: tgfoitwoods To: Distillers@yahoogroups.com Sent: Thursday, June 10, 2010 6:06 PM Subject: [Distillers] Re:
                      Message 10 of 18 , Jun 12, 2010
                      • 0 Attachment
                        Thank you Z Bob,
                        Have a great day,
                        shotman
                         
                        ----- Original Message -----
                        Sent: Thursday, June 10, 2010 6:06 PM
                        Subject: [Distillers] Re: My quest for good whiskey

                         

                        Shot man,

                        I finally got the photos of my (sorta) new head design up in my distillers album (Zymurgy Bob). I've got a closeup of the cork and probe.


                         

                      Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.