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bostonapothecary

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Everything posted by bostonapothecary

  1. bostonapothecary

    Culture growing in my bottled rum?

    To be honest, I was trying to be a little bit of a humorous troll. Quite a few years back many rum enthusiasts were discussing the myth of raw meat in Guyana rum noted by Peter Valaer in the 1937 IRS survey of rums. Raw meat was very likely responsible for the "micro organism of faulty rum". Quite the strange and improbable rum story. I don't completely believe the saponification idea because I keep surveying spirits with the birectifier that have very significant non acetic volatile acidity. Acidity is far more important to grander sipping spirits than is commonly thought. Turbidity that comes and goes however is very common. I was just given a bottle of Hawaiian rum that has something gnarly floating in it. My guess is that there was a well distributed extremely thin collection of plaque like stuff on the insides of the bottle that was not rinsed and it slowly de-laminated and gathered into a wispy mass. Of course I'll still drink it.
  2. bostonapothecary

    Culture growing in my bottled rum?

    The Micro Organism of Faulty Rum, a cautionary tale.
  3. bostonapothecary

    Re-purposing heads into usable alcohol

    The only thing I'd caution about using this technique is that it may mess up your ability to make optimal heads cuts in full flavored spirits. This is because the technique targets aldehydes but the limiter for most spirits is ethyl acetate. In the opening paragraph he does mention it can reduce ethyl acetate to a degree. You could totally tackle these challenges, but you'd absolutely need an analysis solution to get you there. Every new American spirit I analyze with the birectifier has wacky first fractions relative to established role models. Most are too light on ethyl acetate. The birectifier gives a pretty clear organoleptic way to assess ethyl acetate without performing a titration. You can even take the first fraction where the majority of it collects and perform an exhaustive test of systematic dilutions to weight it. If you could tackle that, the technique may be a meaningful piece of the puzzle of reducing ordinary congeners. A lot of the Arroyo advice adds up to making better spirits if ordinary congeners are reduced in the ferment so you can distill much lower and cut away less.
  4. bostonapothecary

    Re-purposing heads into usable alcohol

    Its really awesome to see this brought to life. I'll be sure to get that second paper in case there is something helpful in it. MIT computers have quick access to anything hosted by the American Chemical Society so if anyone comes across a paper they need, him me up. My understanding is that UC Davis has special collection of Guymon's papers and I always wondered if there was anything especially cool in there. I have his 1970's course syllabus which includes a lot of hand outs. UC Davis uploaded videos of all his distilling course lectures on youtube and I have a bunch annotated somewhere but I never found time to write up a post. It appears the Davis distilling course got high jacked by the petroleum industry. They strayed from fine spirits production and went theory heavy so the petro industry could poach smart students. There are still some absolute gems in the series and I remember a guest lecturer gave a pretty amazing talk on how distillers malts differ from brewers malts. There are some great recollections of just after prohibition as well as the war years, red wood trunk wooden stills, etc.
  5. bostonapothecary

    Odin on Gin

    The birectifier is a good cheap way to analyze small samples if you have 100 ml of absolute alcohol. A gin that louches in the first fraction may not be properly cut and there may be an excess of ordinary terpenes. Proper cutting can create the phenomenon of contrast enhancement and will make all your botanicals pop a little more. The best way to learn this is by deconstructing role models and examining their fractions. The cuts made for gin may also help to clean up the neutral spirit to a degree. I suspect a problem that some distillers may face is that their gin is sharing a still with another product and in the beginning of their gin run they are inheriting tails from the run of a previous spirit.
  6. bostonapothecary

    Re-purposing heads into usable alcohol

    James Guymon - Some results of processing heads by fermentation (PDF) This link is for his original pilot plant article, but there is also another later one published by the American Chemical Society that I'll grab next time I'm at MIT. The Elie Skofis interview is available here where I index the beverage industry parts of the California Oral History Project. Skofis also delivered a really informative James Guymon lecture in 1983 and I've digitized it here. With the birectifier, in the first fraction of finished spirits, you don't really notice acetaldehyde because in spirits that are cut well, ethyl acetate dominates on a sensory level. However, I just started analyzing vermouths and on Noilly Prat, wow was there some nasty acetaldehyde. This was probably because of how they torture their wine by madeirizing it. The interesting thing is how all the other features allow our attention to metabolize it and it is not dissonant and gnarly. Many dessert wines hid scary amounts of acetaldehyde. The oral history of Antonio Perelli-Minetti is a thriller with him even sitting down to have lunch with Poncho Villa. A technique he used as a hustling wine maker was to buy spoiled wines, presumably oxidized with high acetaldehyde, and then to referment them in volumes of new wine which somewhat rehabilitated them. I think that is where Guymon got the idea. There was a known folk wisdom about the concept.
  7. bostonapothecary

    Re-purposing heads into usable alcohol

    I have James Guymon's paper somewhere if you want it. It is a very cool technique and supposedly created a 2% economy on vodka production that may have been worth startling money over the years.
  8. bostonapothecary

    Birectifier for gin development

    The birectifier, which I've resurrected, was the renowned laboratory analysis still of Rafael Arroyo. He died young and the design was lost for the last 60 years so it was never applied to gin production. My pet project within my other birectifier work is successfully applying it to gin development. I also have the lost Seagram botanical assay protocols for precisely standardizing a botanical charge which are quite pragmatic and I think are from the 1930's. I am hoping to fuse the two ideas. The birectifier is typically operated with a charge scaled to 100 ml of absolute alcohol and 8 fractions of 25 ml are collected every 15 minutes. So this is slow incredibly high reflux micro distillation. When collected carefully and faithfully, comparisons can be made, fraction to fraction, across multiple distillations. What is special is how very different all the fractions are from each other. This was well understood with typical spirits from fermented products, but what would happen with gin? Gin surprisingly ended up with well differentiated fractions that we can learn a lot from. A role model gin was carefully analyzed here (there is lots of other great stuff in the post beyond my quote here). A lot of this complements and adds weight to Odin's teachings, but can be used to refine things and create in depth first hand experience. The process can be used to follow along with role models and organoleptically evaluate the quality and consistency of botanicals before graduating to the Seagram protocols. It is easy to create an actionable path to making a new production fit the shape and outline of role model. Incredibly, all the auxiliary botanicals seem to get pushed into fraction 5 which tell us a lot. For starters, we can test funky botancial choices for their potential with the birectifier by where their aroma ends up. If it is in fraction 5, it is on the money. The birectifier is like a scalpel meets magnifying glass so we are cutting away noise and magnifying things. This helps investigate complexity achieved by a botanical formulation. The tool may help elaborate and refine choices so that each batch progressively improves. Eventually, the distilling decisions will be paint by numbers and we'll be able to shift our involvement to the quality of the botanicals themselves and our create linkage concepts. I'm going to keep diving into this and hopefully I can produce some really useful protocols for people.
  9. bostonapothecary

    Birectifier for gin development

    I added a few relevant case studies: The first was birectifier examination of a historic gin. The gin was Hiram Walker 5 0'Clock gin from the early 1940's. This was made under the tenure of Herman Willkie and Paul Kolachov. The second was a look at 1970's Cointreau. A fascinating part of this case study was seeing the auxiliary botanicals show up in fraction 5 very much like gin. You get an idea of how much weight they should have. The orange aroma gets spread out across fractions better than I thought making it practical to assess organoleptically. There was no detectable louching in the first fractoin which shows they took terpene removal seriously. Sugars did not interfere with the process at all if the 8th fraction went uncollected. Next up more gins and green chartreuse?
  10. bostonapothecary

    Canned Cocktails?

    Bomb shelter implies a set of techniques and rules of thumb if you try to learn from classically trained formulators and their textbooks. A lot of doors open when you consider a different shelf life and supply chain. I would consider drinks I've made craft because they overcame the citrus barrier, harnessing a novel de-aeration technique, and consciously incorporated enzymatic bittering as a feature. They also had a pretty amazing shelf life and I was able to age them for over a year. My craft techniques could scale up, but would not be economically viable at wholesale. My drinks were also craft for other reasons. Its probably safer to say that my drinks were fine, and I was getting high fives from the Michelin folk. I had champagne bottles you could saber! I had dissolved gas levels so high they were truly flute worthy and beyond any non-wine product on the market. I often used enchanted spirits like Fortaleza tequila and I had heirloom cultivars of raspberries that hadn't been grown in the U.S. in 90 years (and my product was economically viable). What I guess I would encourage is for producers to maximize what they can do on the small scale at the retail and tasting room level. Startlingly beautiful things are viable and you will enhance the rest of your brand when you transcend craft, hit fine and start running with the Michelin crowd.
  11. bostonapothecary

    Citric vs. Sulfuric Acid For Rum Production

    True, but as they accumulate, they still bleed further into run and shrink your hearts fractions because you can only justify having so many. Increases in ordinary congeners decrease the ability to capture extraordinary congeners. Even at extremely high distillation proof, such as with birectifier distillation, if a spirit is ladden with ethyl acetate you don't exactly get a massive accumulation in fraction 1, where the vast majority is collected, you get a bleeding into fraction 2 and 3. If the distillation proof is much lower, such as with a normal production, you can just imagine how far across the run they spread. The same is true of fusel oil on the other end and desirable aromas such as long chain esters and bizarro terpenes are less volatile than fusel oil so walking that line becomes critical. What I've been observing through analysis is that new distillers don't nail their cuts ideally and are often pretty far off of role models. This all gets complicated by Maturation. Analysis to be better execute cuts would probably improve new American spirits a lot. You'll be able to distill at the maximum potential of your ferments.
  12. bostonapothecary

    Citric vs. Sulfuric Acid For Rum Production

    I'm writing on behalf Louis Fahrasmane regarding the use of citric versus sulfuric acid for rum production in new American distilleries. The improper selection of acids to acidify a ferment could be the biggest, easiest to resolve quality setback to new rum producers. Fahrasmane is probably the last surviving rum micro biologist to survey and investigate productions at the end of the last golden era. He expressed interest in writing an article on the topic of acid options to help the American industry. I have collected many of his team's papers and have translated quite a few from French on the blog (go to the bibliography at the end): https://www.bostonapothecary.com/thirty-years-of-rum-technology-at-inra/ This is the next great set of rum research that comes after the work of Arroyo. The INRA team even discovered the last great rum yeast that most people are using. My understanding is that many new American rum producers acidify their ferment primarily with citric acid, but also sometimes malic, tartaric, or even lactic acid. This is done instead of sulfuric acid possibly because of safe handling concerns and the learning curves of new distillers. I think this originates in a few contemporary books aimed at home distillers and not commercial distillers, but it would be great to hear some anecdotes. A 1985 paper from Fahrasmane (last missing page here), shows how citric acid modifies yeast metabolism and produces an abundance of ordinary congeners that have to be cut away thus shrinking the hearts fraction and forcing distillation at a higher proof. I think Fahrasmane did more earlier work on this and it was part of his PhD thesis. Fahrasmane would love to know what people are currently practicing and where the ideas came from if they are from specific texts. It would be great to hear production anecdotes of anyone switching from citric to sulfuric acid. I'm hoping to get an informal survey so feel free to start a discussion in thread or reply privately. I'll be translating all the replies to French and sending them to Fahrasmane. If you are currently using sulfuric, but are aware of citric acid anecdotes, feel free to share what you know. I would love help making this article by Louis Fahrasmane a success and hopefully we can encourage him to keep writing articles for the new rum industry.
  13. bostonapothecary

    Canned Cocktails?

    Kegged craft cocktails originated on my blog about ten years ago. Crappy margaritas on the gun existed, but no one had done anything with quality ingredients. I continuously learned more and updated a lot of the ideas. One of the big ones is reflux de-aeration to remove oxygen and the idea that you can un-couple enzymatic bittering of citrus from citrus oxidation. I ended up with formulations bottled in champagne magnums for more than 12 months. Reflux de-aeration is a really old imprecise term, but it basically uses the rule of partial pressures to show that dissolves co2 in a liquid can force oxygen out of solution. You can prototype formulate products with pre-bittered citrus (non-oxidized) to predict how they will evolve, but the hole thing is really just a tease. When you get to large scale products sold at wholesale margins, the ideas just aren't that viable. You cannot purchase bulk citrus juice properly processed to my knowledge. For prototyping and work for my restaurant's inhouse sales I developed a Champagne bottle manifold, a manifold style keg to champagne bottle version and then two different very affordable full enclosure systems. One is for small bottles and one is for larger sizes. They use quick disconnects and can be operated in an array of multiple units. The counter pressure designs allow the hitting dissolved gas levels well past 7g/l which is coca cola to 9g/l which is prosecco and beyond where true Champagne is sometimes 12g/l of dissolved gas. These last two products were designed for far flung resorts that needed tools to bottle carbonated products in whatever bottles they could get their hands on because they could not purchase idealized new bottles. I've shipped the tools around the world, from pro formulators to eco hotels and from Michelin starred wine programs to the top bar programs internationally. Adding to the ideas was the concept that you can measure dissolved gas with a kitchen scale so you can rapidly create progressive series for tasting panels. This makes carbonation more independent of the pressure/temp methodology and easier to make comparisons. You can work in reverse with the concept and start analyzing competitors and role models for patterns that may dictate what equipment you need. Weigh things, then de-gas, then measure liquid volume. Another formulation idea to consider is the notion of delle units for stability. Many products will want to be at the minimum of alcohol content for stability. Professor delle's concept states that units of sugar can trade for units of alcohol in contributing to stability and best bets exist. This goes further and dissolved CO2 can also participate. This is used in some really smart products on the market, but formal best bets are not known. For distillers, I recommend people start producing products for their tasting room which becomes a great focus group. A lot can be viable for those retail prices and you can learn a ton of skill sets to scale up. Weddings and general catering can be a not insignificant market. You may be working with distillates, but consider your shelf life to be that of fragile beer with a drink by date. Many formulation ideas are for bomb shelter products. A lot can be learned there, but it is not craft. Dream to make something you're truly proud of. The market is flooded with junk. People are getting paid, but I cannot imagine anyone is truly proud of some of the new carbonated canned cocktail products. Too many compromises get made when fruit juice is forced into the bomb shelter. My personal bunker has nothing but whiskey and rum.
  14. bostonapothecary

    Citric vs. Sulfuric Acid For Rum Production

    I'll ask him to clarify that so we know whether it is accessible or not because of other congeners produced that will need cut away. It is interesting to examine the relationship between micro biologists and the practical work of the distillery.
  15. bostonapothecary

    Citric vs. Sulfuric Acid For Rum Production

    When many of us started investigating rum from a drinkers perspective with little chemistry and biology experience, it was thought for a while that low initial pH ferments were for full flavored rums which just isn't the case at all. Stressfully low pH can make an S. pombe yeast dominant, but not exactly produce a full flavored rum. I suspect the thing to learn about is the size of the buffer and its relationship to quality. Since there is little interest in citric acid, we should probably figure out what else people are curious about that we can get Fahrasmane to answer.
  16. bostonapothecary

    Citric vs. Sulfuric Acid For Rum Production

    It is not the clearest in that paper, and that is the zoomed in perspective a micro biologist and not a distiller concerned with beauty, but I think it is better described in his thesis which I've only seen a couple pages of. I think the problem is that even if those extraordinary congeners are produced, they are inaccessible because of the surplus of ordinary stuff that needs cut away. In the Brazilian papers, citric acid is used as a yeast starter at the beginning of the season because of how it accelerates the creation of yeast biomass.
  17. bostonapothecary

    Citric vs. Sulfuric Acid For Rum Production

    I think the Arroyo idea you are talking about is the Simultaneous production of light and heavy rums (from the same beer...). I would not confuse that with birectifier analysis though it was clearly inspired by it. No one knows anything practical about the simultaneous production idea and it may never have been practiced. It may finally be viable now that we have accessible automation ideas like iStills. The birectifier and distilling slowly at very high reflux just sorts things and in doing that gives a magnified look that allows you to make a useful assessments organoleptically. The significance is how delineated the fractions are. It doesn't matter if you distill a tequila slow and low at 55% or a rum higher at say 75%. If you want to translate any of the fractions to evolving your own production you have to extrapolate and it is not hard to do, but don't confuse it with the above linked Arroyo idea which not much is known about. The way this relates to citric acid and ferments is that we don't know enough about what makes a spirit worth distilling incredibly low versus high. We also don't know enough about comparisons across spirit categories. Tequila and Mezcal producers seem to have a far easier time distilling low than rum producers. Longer chain esters and rum oil may even allow a spirit to contain more of other basic congeners while still being harmonious, but that is just an emerging theory after looking at lots of role models across categories. My other rough theory after looking at tequila and mezcal is that it may not matter that you got the complete ester formed in the still and into the spirit. It may just be enough that you got the fatty acid into the spirit by being able to justify distilling very low. During maturation it may form an ester or it may be valuable by itself.
  18. bostonapothecary

    Citric vs. Sulfuric Acid For Rum Production

    Esters form in the still, but they also break apart to reform later during maturation. I'm starting to see some spirits through birectifier analysis that have very significant volatile acid (non-acetic) in the last fractions and the birectifier stillage. This makes me think the producers figured out how to carefully ferment to justify distilling incredibly low so they could capture all that aroma. Unless esters are splitting apart in the birectifier, free fatty acids that meaningfully lower pH may be a defining part of the character of some spirit categories like mezcal or some fine tequilas. Avoiding the negative effects of citric acid is part of the puzzle to justify distilling as low as possible. I think Fahrasmane is concerned with helping new distillers that use no stillage and rely on citric acid because they are afraid of handling sulfuric acid and not aware of any metabolic phenomena.
  19. bostonapothecary

    Citric vs. Sulfuric Acid For Rum Production

    Thanks for commenting MDH. Is it well known from the rum literature or from general biotech literature? I have not seen it described anywhere but some brazilian cachacha literature and the work of the INRA.
  20. bostonapothecary

    Citric vs. Sulfuric Acid For Rum Production

    Can we assume you are also using a high percentage of stillage/dunder? What were your very early experiences before you arrived at your current methodology? Buffers, and their size, don't seem to be well written about, but I did just come across some nice leads in Arroyo's Circular 106 which I recently translated from Spanish. Apparently via Arroyo, and very cryptically described in the old literature, a carefully constructed buffer via plastering can help unlock rum oil.
  21. bostonapothecary

    Citric vs. Sulfuric Acid For Rum Production

    Excellent. What would the initial pH be? Does it stay steady through alcoholic fermentation then take a dive with bacterial growth to hit 2.9? I'm suspecting you have a fairly long fermentation duration.
  22. 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.
  23. bostonapothecary

    Damson plums

    I suspect that the future of fruit eau-de-vie's and premium fruit liqueurs is extremely bright, but very narrow and exclusive. They are increasingly only going to work for farms with agro tourism programs that can sell pretty much their entire batch capturing the full retail mark up. I bet the opportunities for a lot of regular distillers will just be consulting and equipment lending for the much smaller true farmer-distillers.
  24. bostonapothecary

    Condensation Inside Spirit Bottles

    I've been told this is because of insufficient rinsing of bottles and they should be rinsed with a portion of what they are being bottled with. I've never seen a chemical description of what is happening, like what exactly is condensing.
  25. Hi there, Many of you may know me from the bostonapothecary blog which I've written for the last 10 years about explorations in beverage technology. The blog hosts many significant writings on distillation such as the recovered papers of Rafael Arroyo [2], my many translations of French and German papers on rum production, and a near complete bibliography of journal articles published on gin production. For whiskey, I published a data table from a 1968 document that has the detailed production parameters of 42 American whiskey distillers producing 112 different whiskey mashes (85 Bourbons, 10 rye mashes, and 17 corn mashes). I wrote a series of articles called the distillers workbook to, on the lab scale, teach hard to reach concepts in physics and chemistry. The workbook became the foundation of the cocktail centric hotel bar distillation scene flourishing in the UK. I've advised a lot of people and designed a few products on the market, but there are giant practical holes in my knowledge. I would not even feel comfortable running a distillery until I learned a few more analysis techniques and more about yeast work. I can answer lots of obscure questions by pointing people to the literature, but you have to take a lot of it with a grain of something, because I haven't lived it all yet. My latest project is the revival of Rafael Arroyo's beloved laboratory still, the birectifier, and it is proving truly magical. I guess I'm a vendor. The blog lately has numerous deconstructions of role model spirits [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,]. Arroyo attributed much of his research success to this device. It is sort of like a scalpel meets stethoscope for spirits. Small samples, such as 250 ml of 40% ABV spirit, are very slowly super fractionated into multiple (typically 8), uniform fractions for the sake of counting congeners and making comparisons. Coupled with a few sub-analysis techniques, it allows the progressive development and reverse engineering of spirits. Arroyo used this for yeast selection, fermentation optimization, still tuning, and even for decisions regarding aging. I've recently been applying it to gin analysis with amazing success. I've recently recovered Arroyo's own writings about the still and its operation. I've also translated all of the German companion organoleptic tests and have slowly been bringing them back to life. The birectifier solves a lot of problems for a lot of people and I'd be happy to answer any questions about it. They are available and we have a continuously shrinking lead time. I look forward to participating in the forum. -Stephen
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