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bostonapothecary

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Everything posted by bostonapothecary

  1. bostonapothecary

    Sourcing bacterial strains for rum fermentations

    I wish there was more data on this. The best questions were asked before the GCMS era. We can look at things so easily now which would yield some awesome dissertations. Supposedly, built in water destroys the least esters, but watering high ABV destroys the most. I think it is the final act of getting it to drinking proof that needs to be considered the most. As we all know, challenging economics surrounding building in all that water rather than adding it at the last minute. Isn't ethanol very polor? So what may happen is that higher alcohol esters may break and ethyl esters reform. This would be bad because you're limiting diversity and freeing fusel oil. I don't really understand the higher alcohol esters. Some literature claims they are the weakness of continuous column of stills. Basically higher alcohols get trapped in a zone and increase the chance of ester formation. Problem is that these esters are often plebeian and ordinary, overly diffusive in the top notes, and can make a California brandy or Old Granddad smell cheap like a banana. This problem may assume we are talking about basic ferments that don't have diverse quantities of fatty acids. What do you think of this: many esters formed during distillation are temporary place holders. We hope for ethyl esters to increase the volatility of noble fatty acids even though they will break and not reform. These temporary place holder esters just get them across the cut and in to the hearts defying their typical fate. This may be fine because noble volatile acidity may contribute to quality. However, if a higher alcohol ester breaks this may be very bad. Amyl alcohol is less polar than ethanol so that favors reformation with ethanol and the free amyl alcohol increases fusel oil content. Amyl alcohol is also perceived as the most dissonant of the higher alcohols. But how significant is that number of freed up amyl? Who knows. What I wish we knew more about is, exactly how volatile are all of the higher alcohol esters? The birectifier fractions hint that they are less volatile than fusel oil, but a few are famously more volatile (isoamyl acetate). In many cases, these esters may only function as a temporary place holder for fusel oil, reducing its volatility which is a win and allows you to distill further into the run collecting more of other high value congeners. It is best to reduce fusel oil at fermentation, but to some degree (not well understood), it may be reduced by reactive distillation (mentioned up thread by @Silk City Distillers). Maybe we can't assume all esters are straight forwardly useful?
  2. bostonapothecary

    Sourcing bacterial strains for rum fermentations

    One hunch I have about the subtle flavors isn't that they aren't always from single aroma compounds. Some esters are kind of muted unless they are perceived with an ideal amount of ethyl acetate to pump them up. The EA blows off in the angel's share and that amount must be accounted for. If the congener profile becomes uneven, things can go flat. Are they distilling to a lower ABV and building the water in, or diluting to a lower ABV for entry? Supposedly there is a big difference, due to the water shock of the later scenario, but many esters can reform in as short a time as six months. I think the barrel entry proof is going to make the biggest differences for spirits in newer barrels because more water dissolves more tannin. There is lots of great data points in American Whiskey By The Numbers and approachable mid century research papers from Seagram/Hiram Walker. If I was distilling, I'd be buying Caribbean blending stocks. I'd market it as "hosting" and claim my "access" to the fine examples. I would also be reverse engineering the hell out of those blending stocks.
  3. bostonapothecary

    Sourcing bacterial strains for rum fermentations

    This absolutely seems to be true in practice, but I feel that the 21rst century has accumulated enough science that we can make stand alone "suave" spirits that ring all the bells. I think the question is, if it takes a lot of large fixed costs for analysis and experimentation, how small scale can you do it? Its also very multi disciplinary and larger than one mind, so how small would the team be that was needed to bring it together? Just kind of a thought exercise. I think its too risky to experiment with yeasts blindly. There should be articulate targets like reduced ethyl acetate, reduced fusel oil, or an attempt at unlocking rum oil related congeners. Seeing role models dissected really clarifies the focus. Omg, the lack of time is wild. I do so much paper research and i don't feel I'm wasting my time. I feel like it won't be worth performing certain fermentation experiments until I finish another year's worth of work on paper. I'm bent on bringing the delta acidity concept into the process of managing contribution from bacteria.
  4. bostonapothecary

    Sourcing bacterial strains for rum fermentations

    I have an astoundingly lengthy correspondence chain with the microbiologist I've been working with. I don't know his specific academic background as far as lab or field work, but I suspect he is above average in cleverness. What is blowing my mind is the very significant amount of paper research he is doing to back up positively identifying the organisms and creating successful selection/isolation protocols. It has required quite a lot of books. Whoever he consults for will have a big short cut to success. One interesting thing to throw out there from the collected research on Pombe yeasts is that Africa and Caribbean strains diverged at some point. When the literature describes off aroma and character not fitting for beverage, that may only apply to African strains. One thing I'd like to see is more of the development of a lower skill folk method for working in this territory, sort of like the pied de cuvee procedure. You can create a small scale sterilized must, walk it over to a vine, take your clippers and drop a single grape or fruit right in to capture their yeast/bacteria. Sometimes it is left to ferment right in the field. There are lots of accessible ways to vary selection with this; pH, brix, specific added acids, or even antiseptic botanicals. The very first starter material for sour mash ferments had hops. As this scaled up to the next size footing, the hops were left behind. Certain very specific botanicals have also been known to harbor certain aroma-beneficial micro organisms. They have evolved together. The crude low tech pied de cuvee method could likely help select for them. However, it is probably wise to expect a ton of failures. I wish some universities could be enlisted to back this stuff up.
  5. bostonapothecary

    Sourcing bacterial strains for rum fermentations

    Great points here. It is such exciting territory that hopefully will excite consumers. There are so many fermentation complications that can be explored which creates a lot of room in the market. Analysis is likely the key. We will need to figure out where you start (likely the birectifier) and where you go second (likely automatic titration for acidity). A big hole is understanding the role of noble volatile acids (non-acetic) in spirits. The last fractions of so many great role model spirits are quite tart. It gives them structure, preventing them from being flabby. This possibly makes them more enjoyable to consume neat and while young. There is a fixation on esters, but it may be fruitful to give attention to desirable volatile acidity. It may be key to designing batch distilled spirits that can be brought to market faster. Lactic acid bacteria may seem not too glamorous, but it may be key.
  6. bostonapothecary

    Sourcing bacterial strains for rum fermentations

    Not a lot is known about the difference in the strains in a rum context. Kervegant differentiates a few. We kind of just focused on Arroyo's strain because it was uniquely historical and doable. It may differ because it produces more butyric acid and less acetic acid as well as less higher alcohols. The next step is playing with it to see how practical it is to use and what tools it may take to wield without costly runaway trains. My colleague is also looking at propionibacteria. I've been reading up on catalytic distillation, but my money is on targeting Damascenone and the other rum oil components. I suspect that if you target rum oil, all the esters you want will come along for the ride. I just got a paper from the 1980's that may give practical ideas on hunting for Damascenone all along the production process. Some of these projects need to move from my kitchen to Silk City on a Saturday afternoon.
  7. bostonapothecary

    Sourcing bacterial strains for rum fermentations

    I've been working with a brilliant micro biologist recently. He has isolated Arroyo's specific butyric acid producing bacteria and it may be available soon on a slant. Harnessing it productively, as @Silk City Distillers said, is another story. You may need to invest in more analysis than most small operations are currently using. The birectifier is likely useful and we're about to start using it on some model ferments. The delta acidity concept is likely also very useful, but you may need to invest in a nice automatic titrator.
  8. bostonapothecary

    Distillery Analysis

    Hello all. A very neglected thing in the new arm of the distilling industry is analysis. Lately, I'm trying to make my focus developing a pragmatic best bang for the buck distillery laboratory. I'm hoping to learn what people are currently practicing and what they would like to take on next, even if they're only growing from a hydrometer and pH meter upwards. Lots of people are buying big ticket u-tube densitometers before they buy other tools like automatic titrators, but is that a good idea? One of my projects is trying to add pycnometry to my analysis tool set as a stepping stone before a u-tube densitometer. It is no walk in the park, but I'm getting there. The big tool that is looking like the foundation for any distillery lab is Arroyo's birectifier lab still. It can tell us incredible things about spirits and allow us to intimately compare them. As far as time goes, when manually operated it can take 2.5 hours to operate and then perhaps 20 minutes to assess the output. Is that too long for many people's busy schedules? We are hoping with automation to dramatically slash the active time it takes to operate so it can run twice a day unattended. My consulting work is showing that it can significantly shorten product development time and expense for products like gin, paying for itself quite quickly. The birectifier also allows a priceless education in the inner workings of role models and competitors. Is anyone currently using automatic titration? I'm looking at buying a model that is about $3500 from Hanna Instruments. I want to investigate the concept of Δ acidity for working with ferments that have large buffers. This is an idea first brought to my attention by Michel de Miniac in a French paper I translated. The Δ, as opposed to the pH, can imply how many acids beyond the norm of your yeast were created by bacteria. This can either be used to tell when clean spirits go dirty or perhaps when intentionally dirty products like heavy rums become a run away train. Within anyone's current experiences, would that tool pay for itself quickly? or are the learning curves of integrating the equipment another large barrier? Is there any interest in other titrations such as for fusel oil or esters and has anyone priced them out? It is surprising me that ester obsessed people are not investing in counting esters or perhaps I'm just not aware of it. Some analysis such as ester contents seem like it can be woven into marketing. Has anyone tried the exhaustive test which is a low cost rudimentary alternative to titration that works in a variety of scenarios? The Germans developed a variety of organoleptic techniques that seem really useful before shelling out the money for chemical analysis equipment. Is anyone interested in botanical assay? I have the lost Seagram procedures that I haven't done much with. They cost about $3000-$4000 to fully implement (half of that is an analytical balance). The tools required can also help perform a bunch of other tasks such as measuring barrel solid obscuration by the TTB evaporation method. Seagram used two specialty pieces of lab glass and I may start producing one of them (a modern day optimized Clevenger apparatus). Some gins are getting really successful. I'm suspecting the cost to accurately standardize botanical charges has to becoming viable for many. What are the biggest micros performing? I would love to start some discussion here, but if anyone want to discuss very specific things privately, feel free to DM me.
  9. bostonapothecary

    Distillery Analysis

    Recently, I used the birectifier to look at the tails fraction of a full bodied rum. The results were very cool and quite insightful. Fusel oil was shown blocking a significant portion of high value congeners from entering the spirit. If fusel oil could be reduced, more HVC's could be captured and spirit quality improved. The birectifier made examining and making sense of it fairly easy. We generated great actionable insights with the minimum of hard science.
  10. bostonapothecary

    Distillery Analysis

    I think the other limiter is that temperature is hard to know exactly. It may give you a pretty big margin of error. You're making me feel a lot better about sticking with beverage distilling. Its a lot easier to wrap one's head around.
  11. bostonapothecary

    Distillery Analysis

    I know temperature is an unreliable thing to measure, but could you reflux it and try to measure the temp of the azeotrope to make sure it is in spec? Or are you concerned with measuring what is left behind in the oil? I thought the tax thing would not be that big a deal because you'd be able to reuse the solvent over and over?
  12. bostonapothecary

    Distillery Analysis

    I wrote a post on what to consider when making cuts. A lot of the ideas are based on using the birectifier as an analysis tool to ensure you are distilling at the peak potential of your ferment. This was brought on by a new distiller's questions and by a unique case study where we looked at a tails fraction and found a startling quantity of high value congeners that were just not making it into the hearts. Not many realize that what is high value is less volatile than fusel oil. Something I'm consistently seeing in new American spirits is that they are too light on ethyl acetate. Simple analysis, especially of role models, may help hone in on ideal amounts.
  13. bostonapothecary

    Distillery Analysis

    Oh wow, I would have thought heptane was from the fuel ethanol world and not the cannabis world. Doesn't it have properties that can help dry ethanol?
  14. bostonapothecary

    Distillery Analysis

    This is way over my head. I had to look up heptane. I don't have much formal science background besides reading obsessively and spending a ton of time playing with things. My interest in analysis has been learning the minimum to bring larger dreams to life. The big lesson from the Judgement of Paris in the wine world was that fine wine was born in the lab. What all the wine makers that won had in common (Mike Grgich, Warren Winierski, et. al.) was that they were routine lab work guys from larger operations like Mondavi. To execute their vision of fine wine, they knew it required the lab. They weren't exactly scientists and were only sitting in on night classes at UC Davis. The birectifier stuff tries to parallel that story. When it comes to something like a denaturant, it is way over my head, but I do think I know who to ask.
  15. bostonapothecary

    Distillery Analysis

    Productivity has been a hard lesson to learn. Accurately measuring ABV is such a time suck that the Anton Paar tools keep seeming more attractive. It's been slow progress coming up with an alternative. I've got my glass guy trying to make a jumbo Lang-Levy pipette to replace the really poor quality pycnometers on the market, but its been back to the drawing board a few times.
  16. bostonapothecary

    Distillery Analysis

    Hi Roger, There clearly isn't much interest here, but interest/sales are coming from the Caribbean and the largest new players. There is also interest from university programs and a few PhD projects. There definitely isn't much of a profit motive. Some of these congeners have extremely low thresholds of perception, so very small quantities are surprisingly very meaningful. Best bets are emerging on how to maximize them just through practical operation and nothing exotic. It is kind of like trying to cook the same dish as a chef with modest ingredients. You make something edible while they take the same ingredients, seem to understand a few more variables, and manage to create something far more appealing with no more effort than you. Ingenuity. During maturation, we know what is changing. During distillation we know what is going where and what is being formed. Garbage in, garbage out. Fermentation is the climax of production. The U.S. and other countries conducted decades of public research for entrepreneurs to build sound private enterprises upon. It blows my mind that it is so easily dismissed. The birectifier project aims to give one affordable and practical tool to use to compete against deep pocketed multi-nationals with million dollar labs. To have no tools but a pH pen is kind of crazy especially when people are investing millions. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. Hopefully it should at least be comforting to know tools and ideas are readily available. Good luck.
  17. bostonapothecary

    Distillery Analysis

    I don't know where people are with exploring chromatography based analysis, but I just wrote a fun post about birectifier assisted chromatography. In the fall, I attended a conference in Jamaica where pretty much all the distilleries used chromatography (and ran 3 shifts around the clock!), but all wished they did more with organoleptic analysis and possibly olfactometry. A lot of the compounds producers are missing are derived from carotene and very hard to look at. These turn out to be the highest value components in a spirit, be it rum or bourbon. The birectifier becomes the cheapest way to evaluate them and the smartest way to contextualize them and tie them to decision making during production. This post was in response to three different university labs requesting birectifier samples. They wanted to look at what was in fraction 5 and possibly name the compounds that Arroyo called "rum oil". They keep insisting on 100 ml samples, but I had to explain that traditional birectifier samples are already concentrated 10x! If I sent one to further concentrate for chromatography, it would already be a better than average starting point. We'd also have more context than usual because we know the band of volatility we are looking at and we can repeat the birectifier work on the cheap. I'm making slow progress, but the birectifier is attracting some of the world's great labs and hopefully will be a part of research papers that will be especially useful to craft distillers.
  18. bostonapothecary

    ELI5: The Birectifier

    This is quite exciting then. Any places I can read more about it? Awesome to hear your successes out West.
  19. bostonapothecary

    Gin flowers

    I think the precedent is Hendricks. Don't they blend two different distillates? Compounded gins are typically thought to be inferior, but I wouldn't worry about it if you were stuck in that category. I'd control the language and say "compounded from two distillates to fully realize the potential of the rare botanicals".
  20. bostonapothecary

    Gin flowers

    The higher you go above your fill level, the lower the temperature, relatively, because of the higher alcohol content in that zone. One of the differences between a suspended basket and boiling is also time under heat. Heat up can be quite long, dramatically increasing the time under heat until vapor makes it way to the column. Co-distillation of botanicals may reveal botanicals that are limiters as far as where cuts can be made. Traditional gin botanicals likely all have a lot in common as far as volatile aroma that would influence cutting decisions. If you add odd botanicals that require a unique cutting routine, you may need to produce the gin from at least two distillates which is doable, but increases production complexity and introduces consistency issues. I've developed a birectifier protocol so you can systematically learn where in the distillation run each botanical's characteristics are volatile and where a limitation may appear. Fractions can be faithfully compared across botanicals. This kind of homework can add a lot of insight before you scale up and start investing a lot of money per batch.
  21. bostonapothecary

    ELI5: The Birectifier

    It is sort of like scalpel meets stethoscope meets magnifying glass. When you isolate the congners you can do so much more organoleptically. I'd be skeptical of anyone that could taste a typical spirit and make a hard pronouncement. Spirits have a lot of mystery. I think the first thing needed is to survey exemplary role models so it is known what is normal in each category. Most new American distillers I've surveyed are off on their cuts. When you compare yourself to a realistic role model, you can change distillation parameters to narrow the gap. The precision of the birectifier gives you confidence in the comparisons. Once you're distilling at the peak potential of your ferment, anchored by role models, its time to get into yeasts, nutrients, raw material etc which is some absolutely vast territory. Fine wine makers have pursued nuance and improvement to the ends of the earth and eventually craft distilling will start to make those explorations. Because of practicality, the birectifier is likely the tool that will make the biggest difference.
  22. bostonapothecary

    ELI5: The Birectifier

    I need to take @Foreshot's advice and make it down. I'm about to move to Philadelphia so I'll be much closer. This project hasn't been easy. Reintroducing a still design takes many 100s of hours. I spent an insane amount of time on all the library work and translation. Developing automation has been quite intense and I have a big closet of failed equipment. Processing all the case studies was a big investment. I hoped the initial purchasers would be new American distillers into simple things like making sure they were executing cuts properly and distilling at the peak potential of their ferments or developing a gin from scratch. What has come first is wild boundary pushing projects like aspiring to run 200 ferments with automation for a PhD dissertation (this project is quite beautiful), and of course the infamous "ethanol processors". A major university lab just made contact and they want to do a study about rum oil and possibly restart some of Arroyo's other work. Internationally, a few new projects that look like they're 10+ barrels a day are showing interest because they want a comprehensive analysis solution cheaper than GCMS and that can possibly better target fine spirits. A few of the new blender/bottlers want a tool to reverse engineer blends and learn more blending grammar, especially for rum. I'm spending a lot of time working on yeast stuff with a microbiologist from Chicago. We are trying to crack the Pombe code and learn to collect more strains. It is very preliminary. I also found two historic rum strains theoretically available. One is from 1913 Jamaica, possibly even from Hampden and the other is from 1923 Batavia. Access at the moment is not the clearest, but I do have a plan. The birectifier would be key to testing yeasts.
  23. bostonapothecary

    ELI5: The Birectifier

    Are you selling to all the new "ethanol processors" out west? One of them flew to visit because he wanted a birectifier for lab scale extraction research. I know synthetic ethanol has been known for quite a while, but there was a big industry wide agreement, I think due to prohibition, never to use it. I think they just didn't want to shake public trust in potable alcohol production. I've only ever seen little bits and pieces about it. It was a taboo.
  24. bostonapothecary

    ELI5: The Birectifier

    What happens is vapor goes up the outside of the initial chamber into the air cooled dephlegmator. The liquid then condenses and crosses the vapor trap which looks sort of like a little bridge and then runs back into the inner rectifier. At the bottom of the inner rectifier is another vapor trap and this is important for equalizing the pressure. The vapor then ascends through the bulbs then exists into a condensor not shown. At the top are two thermometer ports which can show quite a differential implying a lot of refluxing. I typically start the voltage regulator at 41 (41% of 115V) and typically end at 76 in the last fractions. Going from 41 to 42 can make a big difference in throughput so high end voltage regulation is very key. The reflux is also incredible to see. A little vapor phantom takes quite a while to creep up the column and a different kind of phantom creeps up again when you exhaust the ethanol and higher boiling point compounds appear. Condensation can tell a lot about how heavy a spirit is in the last fractions. Automation will have a PID correlated to throughput (not temp) so it will be able to operate at a pace even smoother than manual. It will also have really good data logging. Slight pressure aberrations are more prevalent than you'd think. If you had too much energy input, such as when you're cleaning the still by running neutral spirits, you'll see bubbles being blown in the lower inner bulb. We used modern threaded thermometer fittings and the joint for the condensor is a ball-socket style to reduce breakage. It should be at a 45 degree when setup properly or you'll restrict the opening and influence reflux, but I wanted more freedom for inexperienced operators when setting it up so its less likely to break.
  25. bostonapothecary

    ELI5: The Birectifier

    I think a way to sum this up more succinctly is that the design has especially high fractioning power, beyond most designs, but very importantly with a level of repeatable precision that decisions can soundly be based off of. You're not left wondering if there is really more of an isolated congener in sample A versus sample B, or rather, if it is because of how it was fractioned (inconsistent reflux, inconsistent throughput).
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