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About fa20driver

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  2. Thx guys - all good suggestions. JustAndy - The 4 inch 20 plate is a modular stainless 'still dragon' design with copper pro-caps. Probably not the best out there, but I think that they have a proven concept. I'm still pretty new to the distilling game so I will try re-running my heads a bit slower with a lower ABV charge next time to see if I can clean them up. I am getting decent alcohol without any objectionable odors/flavors, but it just isn't the same as what I am getting from the hearts. That, and it leaves a little bit of burn on the pallet. Perhaps that is the best that I am going to get from the heads. You mentioned that you were able to recover a decent amount of alcohol from your wheat heads, but it wasn't the same as what you would put in your main product. I think that is what I needed to hear. I had assumed that any product run through enough plates should taste the same - but I think that I am finding that is not the case. I also need to just take a sample of my re-run heads and let some other experienced distillers taste them to see what they think. Regarding the economics of running that size still - I can appreciate that concern and that is good advice for anyone investing in this business. I am able to run it at the same time as my stripping still and still brew 600 gallons of beer all at the same time - so time-wise it works. I sell most of the vodka over the counter both in drinks and in bottles to go and locally self distributed - so the numbers work. I certainly wouldn't be sending any to a distributor any time soon though, although even then it is more profitable than sending out tap handles and kegs that might not ever come back... Silk - when you mention cutting down esters for Vodka by dropping the yeast - would you say that those same esters (from yeast) would be beneficial in a malt whiskey? Under pitching yeast usually enhances esters - I have heard (at least in beers like hefeweizen) so I am wondering if my over pitching yeast for whiskey is counter-productive... I am aging the malt whiskey in 30 gallon medium char barrels for probably 2 years..
  3. Thx silk - My current license limits me to using locally produced ingredients. That combined with the existing brewery equipment currently in use is why I am using barley. I was never much of a Vodka drinker, but this vodka is pretty tasty all by itself. It is also pretty time consuming and expensive to make. I will take Tom's suggestion on a lower ferm temp and see if I can't get a bit less congeners in the mix. Regarding doing more runs on the 20 plate with a wider heads cut - I get what you are saying regarding yield vs time. The 4 inch column is slow, so I like to do as quick and small of a heads cut as possible so I don't have to babysit it as diligently. I can run the 20 plate while stripping with my larger still and still make beer in the brewery, so as cumbersome and inefficient as it seems, it actually works. I was hoping I could get more use out of the heads other than as sanitizer in the brewery or fire starter. I'm thinking that the tails might make an interesting malt whiskey, otherwise I will just carbon filter them and re-distill for a gin base -
  4. Quote from my yeast supplier when asked what flavors/aromas I should expect in the beer from fermenting American Ale II at 85F and over-pitching: "I've never tried fermenting that yeast at such a high temp so I couldn't even guess, Generally, in beer wort, dramatic over pitching can lead to decreased flocculation, rapid fermentations, and a higher proportion of mother cells to daughter cells." So, no real insights there... lol.
  5. I'm pitching live yeast slurry from Beer conical fermenters from our brewery. I'm not counting cells but I can tell you that I am overpitching. On my last batch of 14 bbls of wash at 16 plato (434 gallons) I pitched about 20+ gallons of live yeast slurry. I'm guessing that is 2x or 3x what I pitch for beer. I did a quick search on over pitching yeast, and the one thing it may lead to is off flavors from an over abundance of dead yeast cells (autolysis). I sent an email to my yeast supplier to see what flavors they think would result from over pitching this yeast strain and fermenting at a higher than optimal beer fermenting temp. From my limited study, higher than recommended beer fermentation temps = more esters (not so good for beer, but good for whiskey, questionable for vodka), possibly more fusels? Not sure about autolysis, but it's not sitting around long enough for that to happen (5 days ferment, 3-4 days to distill) I taste the resulting wash, and it just tastes like I would expect an unfiltered, unhopped 7% ABV beer would taste - no observable off-flavors.
  6. Thanks Odin, that is an interesting hypothesis - and thx for the posting the diacetyl reference. I suppose it could be diacetyl... I'm pretty much using beer fermentation techniques to produce my wash, including a short pasteurization (boil) prior to chilling/oxygenation, followed by a very healthy pitch of clean house yeast from a beer conical (Americal Ale II). I plate my beer yeast regularly on LMDA to test for acid producing bacteria, so I don't think I am getting diacetyl from spoilers, but I do use an open fermenter for my distillation washes. The only other thing I do differently from my beer making is a higher ferm temp (up to 85 F,) and I also add some gluco-amylase after a few days of fermentation to get the last few points of otherwise un-fermentable sugars from the wash. Usually higher ferm temps with my house yeast result in apple estery aromas/flavors rather than butterscotch. Perhaps what I am separating out as heads may be perfectly drinkable ethanol, but I certainly don't think I want it in my Vodka, especially since it also has something that results in some numbing on the pallet. Perhaps I need to just send a mid to late heads sample to the lab and see what is actually in there...
  7. Thanks guys for the feedback. To be more specific - My basic process is as follows: "Stripping run" through a 200 gallon, 8 inch column with 3 plates - using minimal reflux - no cuts Second run through 3 plates at about 30% ABV charge, cutting heads and tails using a good amount of reflux to end up with about 160 proof "hearts" - Saving heads and tails to process later. (Tossing anything that smells like acetone, and saving as heads anything that has the butterscotch, numbing feel that comes before the hearts cut) Third, I'm taking a small portion of these hearts and running through my 15 gallon, 4 inch, 20 plate column still to achieve 190 proof for Vodka - My process on the 20 plate is to go full reflux for about 30 mins, then slowly adjust dephleg to achieve 190 proof (measured with calibrated instruments.) I then collect and taste to separate. Yes, you are correct Andy, it is still necessary to make a heads and tails cut on this third run. I didn't think I would need to, but after doing this several times, it appears that they are still present in small quantities. They only make up about .05% of charge yield, but they are present. Here is where my confusion arises... When re-processing the second run heads cuts (that are amounting to about 20% of the total collection), I am running them through the 20 plate still at about a 50% ABV charge and not getting much of anything that I would want to include in my vodka. Without much official background in chemistry and distilling, (other than some basic organic chemistry in college,) I had always assumed that anything that the "heads" were comprised of would easily be separated out with 20 plates, and that almost all of the ethanol would be recoverable from these heads as "pure, usable" alcohol. When people speak of tossing out heads, are they really tossing out 15%-20% of their theoretical wash yield combined with a few non-desireable chemicals, or am I being over-selective/doing something wrong...
  8. Just Andy, I'm re-running the heads thru the 20 plate pretty concentrated - around 50%. And most of the original 20% cut comes out unusable - IE, it all has the sweet, butterscotchy, numbing mouthfeel. I suspect that it is mostly ethanol, but essentially unusable I suspect... Seems like a lot of heads to throw out! Perhaps running it at a lower concentration would help?
  9. I'm using a nice clean malted/unmalted barley wash to make vodka, by three distillations - IE - Strip to 30%, combine low wines and run through 3 plates doing a basic heads/tails cut resulting in 160 proof hearts, then running the hearts through my smaller 20 plate still. I do the hearts cut because it is easier to then run the final cuts through the 20 plate without doing any real cuts, since it is all really clean distillate. It amounts to really expensive vodka, but it is really nice. When I then take the heads cut and run it through the 20 plate reflux, I would think that I would be able to really separate out any off flavors/chemicals from the heads, but alas, I can't. After the ethyl acetate smelling initial fores, I get a good portion (20% of the total batch?) of distillate that has a nice smell (vaguely sweet smelling, almost caramel/butterscotch aroma) but leaves a numbing burning sensation on the palate. That is essentially how I'm making the cuts - IE - once the numbing burn is gone, I proceed to the hearts cut. It seems like I should be able to recover a large portion of this ethanol in the heads using 20 plates and somewhat diluted second run low wines. What products are remaining in this ethanol mixture that cause the numbing feeling/sweet aroma and why are they so hard to separate out by refluxing? Will carbon filter some of those out?
  10. Thx! - Next time I think I will just save them up and run them through my almost-spent-vodka charcoal before tossing it, then re-distill them....
  11. Anyone carbon filtering their tails before re-distilling them to get neutral? I read somewhere that carbon really cleans up tails nicely, so I took some really smelly barley tails at 100 proof and mixed in some used carbon and voilla - cleaned the tails right up. Now I have several gallons of black spirit. Could I re-distill this black spirit as is, or will it somehow release some of the crap that was bonded to the carbon? There aren't any chunks per se, but the liquid is opaque. I don't want to run it through my polishing filter because it is currently in use. Otherwise, I will just wait until my carbon filter is about to be changed and then run the tails through it before re-distilling them.
  12. As a new distiller (active brewer), I am trying to wrap my head around heads cuts for various spirits. Perhaps someone with some technical knowledge or experience can help with something I find puzzling. I lautered about 450 gallons of malted barley mash, and brought the wort to a quick boil, so as to eliminate any competitors - so essentially I have a pretty clean beer. I pitched a clean culture of ale yeast. I ran 3 stripping runs thru my 200 gallon still and then combined everything into one spirit run. The still consists of an 8 inch column with 3 plates. I refluxed for about 1/2 hr and then started taking heads. I separated the first six 1/2 gallon containers of heads and measured the ABV and lyne arm temps with the goal of running them through a 20 plate small reflux still to see how much methanol I would pull off. the 1st two 1/2 gallon containers (collected off the 3 plate still at about 170 F and 87ABV) were refluxed in the 20 plate still for 30 mins and I then started very slowly taking off condensate at 190 proof. My lyne arm immediately read 170F collecting the distillate at 190 proof - (no methanol) The first 2 pints of liquid definitely have an acetone like aroma (assumed to be ethyl acetate), After the first two pints the 190 proof distillate cleaned up of ethyl acetate, but the aromas/flavors changed throughout the gallon collected. Assuming I'm only getting a couple pints of Ethyl acetate, what else is in the heads that is undesirable after the ethyl acetate that shouldn't be either recycled back into the next run or saved as new make to be barreled? To rephrase this, as a general target, how much should I be throwing out, and how much should I be recycling back into the next spirit run -assuming about 36 proof gallons or so of product from a batch? If I wait until the distillate has a clean "malt whisky" taste aroma, am I eliminating anything that could contribute to the product? I figure there will be differing opinions on the subject, considering that taste is very subjective. I will be aging in 30 gallon barrels for 2 years. My assumption is that anything with ethyl acetate should be tossed... but what after that... Thx!
  13. Thx Tom - interesting read. I assume that like whiskey, high ester production by yeast when fermenting cider used for distillation would be encouraged? I would also assume that full attenuation and low sulpher production would be a prerequisite... Therefore, lager yeasts would probably not be ideal due to sulpher production - but I would assume that most ale yeasts would attenuate apple cider just as well as a wine yeast in any natural sugar concentration - unless they were prone to pre-flocculation before fermentation is achieved. I assume that is the reason that the English Ale yeast had trouble with attenuation was due to it settling out before fermentation is complete. I would also assume that the phenols in the belgian strains (banana/clove) would carry through and interfere with the fruitiness of the distillate. Again, I have always used champagne style yeasts to ferment cider, but I'm just wondering if I'm missing out on complex ester production by doing this... Also, I once read a different study in which the natural yeasts made a more complex cider, yet, I certainly wouldn't count on that in a production setting. Perhaps start with a natural spontaneous fermentation and then pitch some champagne yeast to finish it off.
  14. What yeast strains are folks using for Apple Brandy? I make hard cider and use VR-44 by fermentis. I'm wondering if there isn't a better yeast for making cider to be used as apple brandy (using just the juice/no solids). Anyone tried using an ale yeast? We throw out gallons of a standard American Ale yeast at our brewery - was thinking of pitching a batch into the cider to be used for distilling, but I only make about 1 barrel of Brandy per year and don't really want to risk it...
  15. Thx bluestar - that is an interesting insight. I had someone recently tell me that it wouldn't make a difference, since the limited amount of heat in drying the malt doesn't really add that much of a toasted flavor and would have very little effect on the process in general other than perhaps a longer conversion during mashing. I guess I will do a batch back to back and compare.