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Lauter & Wort Question

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Hello all. Finally building our distillery this spring, got sidetracked building a cocktail bar but are back at it. This site has been an incredible resource and I thank you all for sharing so freely. I hope to return the favor once we get our stuff together. We are building a french style direct fire brandy setup. We will be doing fruit for sure, but in non-fruit season we will be doing malt and probably no other type of whiskey until we get a second steam jacketed setup in a few years. We are eyeballing an old-school single infusion insulated mash tun with a lauter/false bottom. 500g working capacity. We will be knocking the wort down from mash temp to pitch temp with a tube in tube HX setup. We are considering using a wort grant for the runoff before HX to the ferment tanks. Runoff could be +/-2 hours long and I'm worried about nasties getting into the wort before pitching as I slowly transfer wort to the ferment vessels. In the beer world I would be going straight from the mash/lauter tun into the whirlpool/boiler then crashing through the HX directly to the fermenter much more quickly but in our scenario we are limited by the runoff rate. We can't go grain on because we are direct fire. Any ideas? Maybe dose small amounts of yeast in stages as the wort hits the Fermenter?

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I guess I could HX to a cooler temp than pitch temp and hold it cold in the jacketed fermenter. That is wasted energy and that makes me a little sad. 

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With Malt whisky i  pitch all the yeast into the fermenter as soon as I have a few litres of wort at correct temperature. Some wild "infection" before yeast added can improve the flavour and complexity of whisky. With my Rye or Oat wort I leave it overnight to sour naturally before adding yeast. It really improves the fruity notes. 100% malted grain can be a bit riskier because the kilning of the malt kills off most of the natural bacteria that help protect the grain from nasties.

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Depends - are you boiling or not?  If you are not boiling, your wash will be full of lactobacillus and a number of other bacteria, since grain is microbiologically filthy.  The 2 hour runoff is irrelevant compared to the bacteria that will survive mash temps.  Considering that most malt distillers don't boil, you probably shouldn't be concerned.

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The above two answers are good answers. Pitch early and generously to outcompete, and don’t plan on harvesting and repitching yeast.

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Thanks guys. Silk, I'm not boiling, just going straight from lauter to ferment. Anybody using a wort grant to check for clarity during vorlauf and check SG?

Early on, we can't really budget for a boiler (+/- $150k with room, lines, return, etc) so we are planning on either boiling/treating the mash water in our stills or getting a dedicated hot liquor tank fed by a burly tankless gas heater and dose into it. We could get a dedicated boiler for our mash tun/HLT and save a little cheddar. I think under 300k-400k btu, we can have a boiler out in the open next to the units. Not uncommon to see smaller dedicated boilers in small breweries. We really don't want to do electric heat as we will already have a big 20 ton chiller setup and are putting solar on the roof. I don't want to burn through 80,000 watts heating stuff. Lacking a big boy boiler, anybody have experience with alternative heating?

Pete, I've done some reading/stalking on your process and wow, I am in awe of your operation. Makes me sort of giggle when I see "grain to glass" on people's marketing materials. 

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12 minutes ago, Mixo said:

getting a dedicated hot liquor tank fed by a burly tankless gas heater and dose into it

I'm not sure that you need a hot liquor tank.  This is from a previous post I made.

Happy with our A.O. Smith  https://www.build.com/ao-smith-atio-910-an/s1329791?uid=3167497  Heavy Duty, industrial, really does the job.

Our water temp is 47 now and will get lower.  I guess it all depends on how much you want to mash.  Our tun is 550 gallons and we are 100% barley malt.  We use a grist hydrator and the flow rate from the tankless heater is what we need to match the water flow with the malt flow and prevent clumping.

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Thanks Thatch. Good to know somebody is having good luck with a tankless. We will be all malt too and somewhere close to 550gal. Do you treat or dose the charge water to help PH and nutrient base? On a smaller test batch we watered to just above the false bottom before we mashed in and it worked good. We could potentially dose our water there if needed and forgo a HLT.

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1 hour ago, Mixo said:

Do you treat or dose the charge water to help PH and nutrient base?

We don't treat or dose the water for PH.  We subscribe to the theory that a healthy yeast pitched in sufficient quantity into well aerated wort will likely not need it.  That could be quite different depending on what your yeast provider thinks is "best practice".  We also feel it to be important to manage the fermentation temp.  Our fermenters are closed and jacketed.  We crash with glycol.

To your earlier question on a wort grant.  We used a milk can practice pot still that happens to have the right size fitting for our pump .  This is after collapsing our grain bed more than once.  This works great for us for lautering and sparging

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12 hours ago, Tom Lenerz said:

and don’t plan on harvesting and repitching yeast.

You don't make that mistake twice.  

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9 hours ago, Mixo said:

Anybody using a wort grant to check for clarity during vorlauf and check SG?

What for? Remember we're distilling not making beer.  I do, however, understand clarity is important to you re: direct fire.  We us a home-rolled grant only to control the pump so we don't compact the grain bed to the point of a stuck sparge.

 

 

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Can someone tell me what a "grant" is?

A "home-rolled grant" sounds like something to eat for lunch 😁

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8 minutes ago, PeteB said:

Can someone tell me what a "grant" is?

Lauter grant. When using a pump to move wort from the lauter tun to the kettle, it is easy to pull liquid from the tun faster than the grain bed wants it to flow, compacting the bed and causing a stuck runoff. ... A lauter grant is simply a vessel that collects the wort from the lauter tun.

Sorry, no vegemite here Mate

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Thatch, do you guys agitate/stir or let the grist hydrator do all the work? We want to go really simple, so insulated non-fired mash/lauter combo with sparge arms. Building up our mash scheme and trying to separate our "beer brains" from our "whisky brains". We all have experience in the brew world, but our goals are different now, ie efficient mash, full ferment conversion. We're leaning towards going with an insulated tank in addition to the tankless heater so we can do hot liquor water and capture heat during crash through our HX water for either next batch and/or CIP/cleaning. Hopefully also scavenge heat after distillation and accelerate our stillage cooling to legal 140f drain temps. 

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19 minutes ago, Mixo said:

Thatch, do you guys agitate/stir or let the grist hydrator do all the work?

We stir it in with a mash paddle.  The grist hydrator does a lot of the work.

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7 minutes ago, Thatch said:

We stir it in with a mash paddle.  The grist hydrator does a lot of the work.

Thanks a ton for your input!

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On 3/11/2019 at 8:14 PM, Thatch said:

Lauter grant. When using a pump to move wort from the lauter tun to the kettle, it is easy to pull liquid from the tun faster than the grain bed wants it to flow, compacting the bed and causing a stuck runoff. ... A lauter grant is simply a vessel that collects the wort from the lauter tun.

Sorry, no vegemite here Mate

I am no beer expert, but while this explanation is a good part of the picture it is incomplete. Before you actually start lautering, you must "vorlauf" which is a German word that means, literally, "before run." To be more accurate, we could call it the "pre-run" or, as some beer texts would have it, "recirculation."

The idea is that prior to drawing off the wort, you recirculate it through grant. You are drawing off the bottom of the mash tun and sending the wort back to the top of the tun. The purpose is to draw off all the fine particles that come off the grain bed and send them back to the top of the grain bed, where they will hopefully get trapped before making their way to the bottom. During the vorlauf, the wort turns from cloudy to clear; when it becomes clear, you know you've eliminated the fine particles from the flow and now you're ready to proceed with the runoff, per Thatch's explanation above.

So, during the vorlauf, you can think of the grant as a sort of open-air sight glass.

It's also useful as a sample point for drawing wort samples as the runoff proceeds, to check specific gravity during the course of the runoff.

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On 3/12/2019 at 8:00 AM, Mixo said:

Thatch, do you guys agitate/stir or let the grist hydrator do all the work? We want to go really simple, so insulated non-fired mash/lauter combo with sparge arms. Building up our mash scheme and trying to separate our "beer brains" from our "whisky brains". We all have experience in the brew world, but our goals are different now, ie efficient mash, full ferment conversion. We're leaning towards going with an insulated tank in addition to the tankless heater so we can do hot liquor water and capture heat during crash through our HX water for either next batch and/or CIP/cleaning. Hopefully also scavenge heat after distillation and accelerate our stillage cooling to legal 140f drain temps. 

Will your local just let you dump the wast down the drain?   

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9 hours ago, whiskeytango said:

Will your local just let you dump the wast down the drain?   

Assuming you're talking about stillage, we will need probably to get a PE certification of our process (still working on that), but our prelim plan is to discharge into a holding tank/tote, run stillage through HX to scavenge heat a hot water holding tank or the wash for the next charge, get water to as low a temp as possible, test for PH, treat if needed, dilute and discharge to spec. If we don't have the demand for hot water at the time, scoot the tote outside and let it cool before the above. We have very little solids as we are direct fire and solids are removed either before or after ferment. We are going to try to recover caustics. Open to any and all feedback. Edit: oh and solids to local farmers. 

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You can make fantastic malt whiskey without ever boiling the wort. As long as you are pitching a strong healthy dose of yeast right away the healthy yeast should over come most of the bacteria from the grain. A healthy malt ferment should go from start to dry in under 4 days. Water PH and minerality are an essential part of a good ferment.

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Jedd - Why bother with the vorlauf ? We've run both ways and see no discernible difference in the end distillate. Vorlauf seems to do nothing but tie up the lauter tun for even more time?

Thoughts? 

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11 hours ago, Roger said:

Jedd - Why bother with the vorlauf ? We've run both ways and see no discernible difference in the end distillate. Vorlauf seems to do nothing but tie up the lauter tun for even more time?

Thoughts? 

I do my malt mashing at a brewery, so the vorlauf is part of their standard practice. It also seems to be a good idea to reduce particulates if you have internal elements in the still, as I do. Typical vorlauf time for my mashes is around 15 minutes, so not a tremendous increase in mashing time.

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19 hours ago, captnKB said:

You can make fantastic malt whiskey without ever boiling the wort. As long as you are pitching a strong healthy dose of yeast right away the healthy yeast should over come most of the bacteria from the grain. A healthy malt ferment should go from start to dry in under 4 days. Water PH and minerality are an essential part of a good ferment.

 

Thanks captnKB. We are not planning on a boil of any sort. Do you guys ever use stillage/backset in your ferment like the Bourbon guys? I've never seen it done for single malt. Wondering if anybody has experimented. 

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2 hours ago, Mixo said:

Wondering if anybody has experimented

We did and we stopped.  I tasted bad to us.

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2 hours ago, Thatch said:

We did and we stopped.  I tasted bad to us.

Thanks Thatch. Was wondering given malt's sort of delicate flavor. 

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