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JustAndy

Greenish/Yellow Heads in brandy from Red wine

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We are having a problem which has left me scratching my head a bit. 

The fores, heads, and early parts of the heart are coming over with a pale greenish/yellow tint. It starts most intense at the heads and generally lessens as the run goes on. It looks different than the copper contamination I've seen from other stills, there isn't any blueish and shades more towards yellow. We've done 6 distillations of wine and it has happened the same way each time. 

We are distilling a 14% abv red wine made from Syrah, the wine has no added SO2 and doesn't present as flawed (no obvious VA,brett, infections). Wine pH is ~3.8 

We are running a 4 plate Kothe still; it has a copper boiler, stainless column with copper plates and dephleg, and a stainless steel condenser. The lyne arm to condenser is stainless and has an upward J, so liquid generally drains back to dephleg and not condenser. It is heated very slowly via bain marie and no wine generally boils/foams into the plates. 

We generally distill brandy in a single pass, using the plates and dephleg with a heads cut from 182 to 175, adjust dephleg down and a hearts cut 165-145. The still is cleaned with 80C water after every distillation and receives a citric acid rinse generally when we switch between products or the copper is looking tired. We've distilled probably 300+ runs of wine on this still without encountering this.

I've tried degassing the wine to remove co2, which didn't change anything. I gave the still a through cleaning & citric acid treatment, as well as dissembling the lyne arm to look for corrosion or debris but it looked clean. Adding baking soda to the diluted greenish fraction doesn't alter the color, but after a period of time it appears some of the green drops out and the fraction is clearer when decanted. Today I am going to redistill the greenish portion as well as try filtering it through a .25 micron filter to see what happens but I would appreciate some theories on what's going on.   

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Redistilling the green fraction without any wine in the still didn't produce a different result. It seems unlikely it is copper related, so we are investigating it possibly being diacetyl. There isn't an aroma or flavor component to it that I can detect, but the aroma of heads might just make it hard to seperate out. 

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Diacetyl has a very obvious/unmistakeable aroma and flavor, and the thresholds are very low.  If there was enough diacetyl to impact the color, I would imagine you'd be swimming in cheap buttered popcorn.

 

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That was what I thought as well, but it was suggested by our local pHD in whiskey at Oregon State so we are exploring it. It was also mentioned by Meerkat in another thread who said "The closest I have seen to your experiece was a yellow-green heads stream in a continuous neutral spirit plant. The plant wisdom was that this was diacetyl (butanedione). In this plant the fermenters were steel, the stripper column mostly copper and the rectifier fully stainless steel." 

We didn't ferment this wine, but the winery mentioned the grapes were not in good shape compared to their usual material so perhaps it is a fermentation byproduct issue? 

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Can you show pic of your distillate? Are your dephlegs guts copper? How big is your boiler and can you fit inside of it? We had some similar issues a while back during our commissioning process we got all types of wild colored distillates if you wanna talk through some of our solutions

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Also, if you go deep into tails, it sounds like you're not doing stripping runs but it would also happen very late in a strip if you go low, are you getting black fatty/waxy/ashy residue coming through? Do you run a parrot/spirit safe? 

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The dephleg I believe is all copper. The boiler is about 300L, so too small to get inside but you can reach everypart of it from the manway. 

I will try to post a picture, the color tint is light enough that it is very hard to photograph. 

When running out the tails eventually the spirit is very waxy/oily, but nothing black, ashy, flecky. It looks just like tails from other washes, there is no color in the late hearts or tails. We have a parrot, which actually designed with a sort of phlegm separator which holds back wax and etc which floats at the top.   

I distilled a different wine (chardonnay) and the distillate has no color tint, which leads me to suspect some kind of fermentation/nutrient byproduct from the syrah wine rather than something from the still.   

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