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Hi all, we are distilling cider that was fermented by a local cidery. The cider was made from mostly cultivars (not sure which). It was chapped up to around 18 Brix with sugar and fermented dry using a fruit wine yeast (Scott Lab V1116). No pectic enzyme was used. I'm getting an enormous heads cut, and there is an aggressive headsy astringency pervasive throughout the entire run (pinches the nose). 

The cider was stripped and then run through a pot with a partial dephlegmeter (Slightly open). The charge was 319 Wine Gallons at 99.63 proof. 

Thoughts on roughly what I can expect to collect as heads? 

 

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I'm actually running a very small test batch of apple brandy off of cider at the moment. First time here also. There's a much larger heads cut than I've had to make before, which is exactly what I've heard. The volume of heads may depend on a lot of variables such as varietal of apple, yeast used, ferment temp or phase of the moon for all I know. But it's easily twice as much heads as I'm used to accounting for.

I'll be interested in hearing thoughts on the subject myself.

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 I’m distilling some cider as I write. I always found the heads to be tiny compared to the other products I make, however the foreshots are extremely nasty. I ferment everything myself. 

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 Make sure you compress the foreshots and heads. And actually, much of the flavor that you need for apple brandy comes from late heads. 

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I make a chunk of apple and pear brandy every year, and if the ferment has been clean the heads are not considerable especially compared to wine. You probably need to proof down the charge before redistilling it, with that high an abv charge it is likely difficult to get good separation of head products. Also, if the cider has been chapitalized you cannot label it apple brandy. 

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Chapitalization is when you add sugar to a fruit based fermentation to enhance the alcohol content. Winemakers tend to use the process occasionally.

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10 minutes ago, Glenlyon said:

Chapitalization is when you add sugar to a fruit based fermentation to enhance the alcohol content. Winemakers tend to use the process occasionally.

Thanks Glenllyon, 

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Here is another random thought. A key to getting a good quality fruit based distillate is to look to the Europeans. They will age their musts for six months plus before the distillation process. Apparently, this helps to create a chemical change which really does a number on the flavor and sweetness. I did a test test on a small batch based on this idea, and I must say the results were excellent.

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22 hours ago, Glenlyon said:

Here is another random thought. A key to getting a good quality fruit based distillate is to look to the Europeans. They will age their musts for six months plus before the distillation process. Apparently, this helps to create a chemical change which really does a number on the flavor and sweetness. I did a test test on a small batch based on this idea, and I must say the results were excellent.

Don't you run the chance of spontaneous fermentation? 

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Yes, I suppose that could be a risk. But if you think about it - its done all the time with winemakers, brewers and cider producers who age their products. I suppose it would have a lot to do with environmental conditions and cleanliness.

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On 10/28/2017 at 9:06 AM, Glenlyon said:

Here is another random thought. A key to getting a good quality fruit based distillate is to look to the Europeans. They will age their musts for six months plus before the distillation process. Apparently, this helps to create a chemical change which really does a number on the flavor and sweetness. I did a test test on a small batch based on this idea, and I must say the results were excellent.

Is this a time based thing, or other chemical processes like oxidation, in other words does it age in a fermentation tank or barrel?

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Sadly, I can't put my hands on the original article, but if I recall, it was all about time. I would suggest more research and probably some testing to truly determine if this is myth or reality. Although as I mentioned, I recently distilled some year old cider which I had forgotten about (discovered when I needed the tank) - and I was very pleased with the results.

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On 10/27/2017 at 11:16 PM, JustAndy said:

IAlso, if the cider has been chapitalized you cannot label it apple brandy. 

Hmmm, maybe. If it is truly cider, and can not be characterized as apple wine, you are correct, because it must be from a solely fruit must (like cider). But it can be made from any "fruit wine" as well, and the CFR allows chapitalization of wines.

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If you accept that chapitalization is OK - then push your must ABV up to 16 - 20% using a sherry yeast. That will completely eliminate any potential spoilage problems. The other advantage to this of course, is more alcohol production for the effort. Theoretically, a higher alcohol will also extract more flavor and nuance from the fruit. You can bench test this theory by macerating fruit in different alcohol concentrations. A 40% concentration will extract a better tasting product that a 5 - 8% concentration will. It stands to reason, therefore - your higher ABV mash could potentially deliver a tastier product.

   

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On 10/31/2017 at 1:31 PM, Glenlyon said:

If you accept that chapitalization is OK - then push your must ABV up to 16 - 20% using a sherry yeast. That will completely eliminate any potential spoilage problems. The other advantage to this of course, is more alcohol production for the effort. Theoretically, a higher alcohol will also extract more flavor and nuance from the fruit. You can bench test this theory by macerating fruit in different alcohol concentrations. A 40% concentration will extract a better tasting product that a 5 - 8% concentration will. It stands to reason, therefore - your higher ABV mash could potentially deliver a tastier product.

   

If you make it from a mash, then it probably does have to be solely from fruit. If you make a wine, it can be chaptalized, and then you can distill from that. But maybe not directly from the fermented mash. At least, that is my reading of the CFR. Perhaps someone that has discussed that particular scenario with the TTB could comment. I have not.

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19 hours ago, Glenlyon said:

In our jurisdiction we would not be allowed to do this.

I presume you pointing out you have different rules in Canada than the TTB in USA?

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Yes. Here we can't use cane sugar in the fermentable because cane sugar is not produced in BC. That being said, I suppose one could use honey instead.

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On 10/31/2017 at 11:31 AM, Glenlyon said:

If you accept that chapitalization is OK - then push your must ABV up to 16 - 20% using a sherry yeast. That will completely eliminate any potential spoilage problems. The other advantage to this of course, is more alcohol production for the effort. Theoretically, a higher alcohol will also extract more flavor and nuance from the fruit. You can bench test this theory by macerating fruit in different alcohol concentrations. A 40% concentration will extract a better tasting product that a 5 - 8% concentration will. It stands to reason, therefore - your higher ABV mash could potentially deliver a tastier product.

   

I think you've got the wrong end of the hatchet with everything you propose here. I've visited about a dozen Italian fruit brandy producers, a few of whom are considered among the best in the world, and it's easy for me to imagine that if you told them you brought your fruit must up to 16% abv with sugar they would spit on you. 

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You are probably right. However, I've proposed nothing original - I've merely reiterated a technique I've come across in my research. I would doubt there are very many distillers using this system - I simply put it out there as an idea that may lead to solving a problem.

That being said though, theoretically, it is correct.

 

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On 11/4/2017 at 11:19 AM, bluestar said:

If you make a wine, it can be chaptalized, and then you can distill from that.

I have discussed chaptalizing with the TTB.  They said that it was prohibited for apple brandy. 

The way that I read the sections of the CFR for the production of apple brandy, the text supports what the TTB told me over the telephone.  Chaptalizaion is prohibited for apple brandy.

Yes, chaptalization is permitted for apple wine, but that's under the section of the CFR for wine production. Maybe technically, if you have a winery, you could chaptalize your apple wine  and then transfer it to a distillery.  But you need a winery for that.

If you chaptalize, then the product would be a DSS (distilled spirit specialty) and would require a commodity statement (spirits distilled from apple cider and cane sugar), and also an approved formula.  

We decided very early on not to chaptalize.  Here are the reasons:

1. it hurt quality (yes, we tested it). 

2. it hurt marketing (we promote that our product is entirely made from apples.  no sugar added).

3. it was risky.  We make an aged product.  I don't want the TTB (or a competitor) coming around and telling me that my 6-years of apple brandy inventory can't be labeled apple brandy (because I chaptalized it). 

4. If we chaptalized, and tried to keep it a secret,  and the incorrectly labeled the product "apple brandy," we would be in violation of the CFR.  And, if our "brandy" won a medal, and the truth were revealed, then I would have to give-up the medal for my incorrectly-labeled product.

5. the economics (of chaptalization) did not support the risk and hassle.  Yes, adding sugar can save some money up front, but not that much. 

If you call the TTB today, you might get a different answer, since they can be inconsistent.  However, I would not chaptalize even if an agent said that it "seemed okay" over the telephone.  Or if I had a formula approved for it (an approved formula would not mean that it is apple brandy). 

There is a strong tradition for moonshiners to chaptalize, but that's a different story.

To me, the answer was clear.  If you want to make apple brandy in the USA, don't chaptalize.  

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