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About zwithers

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  1. zwithers

    hoga still questions

    Been working on setting up a small farm distillery for a couple years now and ran across a hoga still that seems like a potentially good fit for what I want to eventually do (brandy mostly) The still appears to have a steam coil in the jacket and the original posting listed the heat source as a steam coil but when I spoke with the owner she said they were planning on bricking it in and running direct flame. Two main questions: is their increased risk with running direct flame under a pot with a jacket and a coil in it? Would it even work? My gut says yes and no, but maybe I'm off. Guess I don't know all that much about steam coils on an alembic. Last place I worked had a steam jacket that covered the bottom as well as the bottom half of the still walls. I would think that the space would insulate against heat transfer from a direct heat source, and could also increase risk of still failure leading to leaks and other bad things by heating air in a confined space and other fun physics stuff. (I do not mean to spark the 'is direct fire safe?' argument all over again. I know there are lots of divisions on the subject. I know the guy in ky got killed running direct heat on an electric still, and was wondering if the same issues would exist with a steam coil?) Second question: Assuming I dont want to try to run a mash tun or anything else and just focus on brandies and fruit or sugar based spirits what kind of steam boiler would I need for a 500l heat up in say 1.5 hrs or 2 hrs? Would guess a minimum of 250,000 btu? If there is a good forum I have not seen on here on this topic please do tell. Thanks z
  2. zwithers

    Smells during aging

    Im not entirely sure but I have heard of something they call mal du bois (wood sickness) in normandy that is a fairly common. Off flavors in young brandies that supposedly fix themselves over time. See Calvados: Spirit of Normandy: http://www.amazon.com/Calvados-Spirit-Normandy-Charles-Neal/dp/061544640X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1438099400&sr=8-1&keywords=calvados Some of the producers I spoke to while i was there said that most of their barrels, especially the younger barrels (and in that region any barrel that was made while you were alive is considered young). They said it can take anywhere from 6 months to 10+ years for it to go away. Hope this helps.
  3. zwithers

    Kentucky's mold issue

    I worked for a company that got sued by a neighbor who claimed our farm distillery would pose an 'exponential threat' to his berry bushes. He used the Kentucky story to get a lot of people riled up and it turned into a huge fight. We had to bring in expert witnesses and all sorts of nonsense. Took almost a year and over 100K. In the end it got thrown out but it was a huge pain and the EPA did get its nose in the middle and make us come up with some pretty intense monitoring regiments for how much ethanol we were putting out with definitive caps on how much we could store, which will eventually be a problem for the company. Its all pretty silly in my opinion.
  4. I worked for Whistle Pig for the first few years they were going, and I have to say as much as I wish that people did, the average consumer does not really care who is making the booze. Even while the rest of the company was avoiding addressing the issue that we were selling canadian rye I was having no problem telling everyone exactly what we were doing, and really no one cared. People got pissed when they had been told that it was made in Vermont and found out it was not later. But as long as I was straight with them from the get go there were zero sh##s given. Now they will actually have a huge distillery on site and be making grain to glass whiskey as well (only a tiny percentage of what they will actually sell) but it doesn't matter. The image is there, the quality is there. They will sell Albertan rye forever and thats just fine with the Japs who are getting the cut at the end. And the truth is that from the perspective of the industrial players the craft movement is just a new marketing force that they have to either buy or supply. And that is not a conspiracy. That is coming directly from the horse of the mouth. And the truth is that they can do it because they are infinitely more efficient in their production, vertically integrated, and incredibly well funded. They actually do keep tabs on who is growing and who is looking strong in the craft sector and actively pursue various methods of bringing everyone into the fold one way or the other. Chip Tate is a good example. Whistle Pig almost went that way, but the owner is even crazier than Chip, so he managed to hold his stake. In all honesty not only would I disagree with any new regulation, but I would like to see the whole industry hugely less regulated. Especially for guys doing grain to glass.
  5. Red Pig, you misunderstood me. Thats liters absolute, not proof liters. 350 liters of 200 proof alcohol out of every metric ton of rye. ADL. I want to know how to do that.
  6. zwithers

    Rice wine??

    I was recently traveling in SE Asia and met a guy from SF who was making some killer absinthe on a small island. He bought rice wine from the locals which came in at over 20%abv and distilled it into a base spirit then infused some of his botanicals and finished through a small finsihing still with a gin basket for another layer of botanicals then did a final infusion for the coloring and the last bit of flavor. It was awesome. Has anyone ever tried fermenting and or distilling rice? I have some friends who have a farm on a river and there is a nice piece of land in the flood plane that they cant do much with cause it floods almost every year. Rice gives crazy good yeilds though (like 5 tons an acre!!) Im trying to convince them to try to grow some rice next season (as well as a concoction of herbs/botanicals to use) and do an all local rice based gin/absinthe. Thing is I need to figure out if I can actually make something good before they go building dikes and buying rice seeds. Ive heard/read that rice needs a particular type of yeast (or at least saki is traditionally made with a particular yeast?). Ive also gotten different estimates on what kind of abv to expect. Does anyone have any experience that they would like to share on working with Rice? Which varieties? Mash protocols? Milling? Yeast types? PH issues? Fermentation temp? Fermentation time? anything else Im not thinking of? I tend to just dive into these things then get stuck and go back later and realize I could have avoided problems by just asking first, so here is me trying to reform my ways. Probably picked a bad one to start with =) cheers
  7. Thanks for all the feed back. I will definitely try shooting for a lower OG and seeing if I can get a dry ferment. Should I still expect a 5-7 day ferment? Ive been doing a half dose at around 150f and holding for 30-60 then adding the rest at 175 (per the instructions on the particular enzyme I have). Really not sure this is the best way to go about it. Lots of extra chilling time and seemingly little better results then just doing a single rest at 150ish. Really any wisdom on the best way to use enzymes would be very welcome. What I know I have pieced together from forums and old chemistry books. Also any good suggestions on where to look for a better understanding of the chemical processes involved with the brewing process would be very helpful. That is close to what I have been shooting for and we are getting about 70% of that, which is why Im banging my head against a wall. It makes sense though that a lower OG with a better ferment would help. So... How to get a full ferment... 1) DADY is rated for upwards of 15% abv and I've heard lots of testimony that you can go up to 20% with it. 2) Im recalibrating my Ph meters to double check and make sure my Ph is ok. I haven't checked in a while. 3) This is the thing that I am most concerned about. I think right now I am effectively breaking up some of the longer starch molecules but not getting full conversion. Is there anything besides dropping temp and adding beta to address this? Any other things that might be throwing me off? If beta amylase is the way to go does anyone have suggestions on an affordable source? Thanks you all again. It is really awesome to be able to get wisdom from so many more experienced people. I've been on the production end for a year now and still feel like a novice in so many respects. Really if anyone has any suggestions on where to look for more advanced information on things like enzyme activity, and fermentation science I would love to hear about it. Everything I have found so far gives a good overview but does not go into the specifics. Like how to effectively use combinations of enzymes or what ideal temperature ranges for enzymatic activity or how the process of fermentation works beyond the rudimentary 'yeast eats sugar and shits alcohol and gas'. And just to throw it out there one last time, does anyone have an informed opinion on what is really involved in getting the same efficiencies as industrial producers? Straight from the horses mouth: Diageo/Beam Global/Brown Foreman and company get 350 liters absolute (liters at 200 proof) off of every metric ton of grain doing 100% un-malted rye. Granted that is with complete control of every step from grain to bottle and unlimited resources but its still a lot. That breaks down to 4.7 proof gallons per 56lb bushel. On 100% RYE!!! Cheers
  8. I've been wrestling with figuring out how efficient we are being on our mash/ferment/strips. According to your average home brew calculator we are doing really well, but compared to industry standards we are doing really poorly. Right now we are getting about 65 pg on the strip from 1280lbs of grain (flaked corn, 6 row malt, and rye), which breaks down to about 2.8 proof gallons/bushel. We get about 1.085-90 OSG and it goes down to around 1.017-18 over 5-7 days. I know that major producers are getting almost twice as much (5 pg/bushel). I've played with longer cook times and different rests along the way and different amounts of alpha-amylase at different stages, played with different pitch temperatures for the yeast (using DADY). The owners are hesitant to spend money on beta amylase or any other enzymes (they were home brewers for a long time and don't see any problem with the yields we are getting. But I think we can do a lot better). I would play with yeasts but at this point I would be concerned about altering the flavor too much. 1)Does anyone have any insights on what a high efficiency would be in terms of proof gallons/bushel for a small distillery? 2) Has anyone played with using an alpha-amylase for the liquification step then cooling and adding a beta-amylase for further saccrification? Does this make a major difference? 3) Any ideas on why there seems to be such a large discrepancy between what home brewers would consider an efficient mash and what industrial spirit manufactures are getting? (besides the lack of demand for 12.5% beer and the lesser consideration for final taste of the beer in a distillery. Im wondering about specific process differences that explain the difference in yields). Forgive me if this is already posted somewhere or if its not entirely clear. Cheers
  9. zwithers

    ideal new equipment sizing?

    I don't have infinite years of wisdom, but we make enough beer for two stripping runs every time we mash (2x250 gal fermenters) which makes life a lot easier. Our still can take 350 but we rarely fill it up all the way cause its a very long day with 350 in. We will fill a 53 gallon ss drum on the stripping run off one 250gal fermenter. Sometimes more than 1. Then we fill a 300gal low wine tank and run it. We use the same portable 53s for collecting hearts and tails (heads go into a cambro and get used to clean the floor). We have a separate 100 gal tank for blending, proofing, and barreling. One nice thing about having smaller fermenters is that you don't have to chill them. We use big open top plastic fermenters and they do the trick. Once you get over 250ish your mash will overheat and kill the yeast during fermentation unless you hook up a chiller. Which is pretty expensive. The one thing I'd say is think about how long you want your days to be, especially if you are going to be doing most of the leg work yourself. I would love to hear from more experienced people then myself on this.
  10. zwithers

    Alembic 500L Charentais Still for sale

    Still available?? Would love more info
  11. zwithers

    Salary for an Assistant Distiller

    Im in pretty much the same boat. I have been working hourly at closet to full time and have been there since the day they fired up the still. We will do about 1000 cases next year. I do have some prior experience but not with the distillation part (sales, aging, etc). They got me going with the basics but I pretty much had to teach myself the rest. Now I run most of their production and they want me to come on full time, salaried. I need to figure out what market value really is for this type of position so I can negotiate either more money or more flexibility or some additional room to experiment and work on developing my own skills and new products. Also, to all of you business owners out there, how would you suggest going about creating a good functioning relationship while not being deceptive about the fact that I want to do branch out on my own, hopefully within the next few years? Any thoughts?