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Allowing finished ferment to clear??


Pour Decisions

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This topic comes up quite a bit in my other distilling forums and groups and I put this in the whiskey forum as that's where i see it most often. It seems everyone says to let your ferment sit and "clear' before distilling to let the suspended particles settle before racking off to the boiler. I've visited many distilleries and have spoken to many distillers in my journey and cannot recall anyone that actually does this on a commercial basis. I assume primarily due to production restraints as it doesn't make much financial sense to leave completed ferments just sitting there, but I'm interested in hearing your thoughts and theories around clearing vs not clearing a ferment prior to distilling.

 

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That sounds like a solution for smaller set ups that are less likely to have steam jackets, and less likely to have agitation. Lack of agitation or immersed electric heating elements will lead to some gnarly scorching when there are solids in there. Scorching like that leads to off flavors and makes an absolute mess of the still. 

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You will occasionally see this in rum or brandy production, where it's fairly easy to rack off the yeast bed, or pump off in a way that doesn't significantly disturb the yeast bed at the bottom of the fermenter.  But, you don't see this with grain-based ferments, as it's near impossible.  While some might separate gross solids prior to distillation (for workflow reasons), they aren't really separating yeast, which is what clearing is all about.

There is a flavor profile difference, yes, absolutely.  Is it always positive?  No, actually it's not.Nyk-nen_et_al-1977-Journal_of_the_Institute_of_Brewing.pdf

The presence of ethyl laurate in the spirit is a good indication of whether or not it was distilled with or without yeast.

So, if you look at rums for example, you can start to see what country styles likely distill with the yeast, and which likely distill without:

ethyllauraterum.png.417c4d4759c21754b0d51fd1f547b2e1.png

Lighter Puerto Rican rums - no yeast, likely distilling with a "clear" wash.  The others - to a varying degree.  Based on something like this, you'll see its absurd to make a generalization like spirits are better distilled on a clear wash.

More likely than not, is that home distillers came to this conclusion like @kleclerc77 says, because they were distilling with direct element stills and scorching.

 

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