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Slow Sugar Wash


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I know this topic has been posted a bunch of times.... and I have read just about everything I can find on the forums.  I am currently making a pure sugar was at around 1.075 OG.  I have done just about everything I can think of, or have read about to try to make this a happy place for my yeast, but they are SLOOOOOOOWWWWW.  

1.) I have sterilized my fermenter with 190 Deg. F hot water prior to fermentation

2.) I have added the suggested amount of yeast per spec sheet's requirements

3.) I have added the appropriate amount of nutrient as per the instructions (BSG Superfood)

4.) My fermentation temp is between 70 F and 76 F

5.) I am managing the pH to keep it up above 4.0 or as close as possible based on my daily sample pH readings

I am getting bubbles and am definitely fermenting, just extremely slowly....  I am now on day 7 of this ferment and have only dropped to about a 1.055 S.G.  

Yesterday evening I added a bit more yeast and a bit more nutrient to try to help nudge things along, and definitely got a better overnight drop than previously, but am still confused at why this is SOOOO damn slow.  This is my second large scale sugar wash, and the last one did the same thing, but I thought it was due to yeast that was too old.  I expected this ferment to go MUCH faster, but so far it is actually slower.  

I appreciate any help or advice anyone can give me on what I might be doing wrong.

Thanks in advance!

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13 hours ago, Silk City Distillers said:

What’s your nutrient dosage?



With sugar washes I have found a lower starting gravity with incremental feeding seems to be more successful.

As Silk suggests, post your actual protocol: saying appropriate per spec sheet is not helpful for diagnosis. What kind of water are you using, what yeast strain, how are you prepping it, what is the nutrient addition regime, what is your starting pH, how are you managing pH and with what additive. 


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Plain sugar washes are notoriously difficult.  Problem 1 - They are completely devoid of nutrient. Problem 2 - Sucrose in the presence of acid in warm/hot water will begin to invert and turn into glucose and fructose - of which fructose is a notoriously difficult fermenter.  In high brix fermentations, this residual fructose can be a reason for stalling, as it's typically the last sugar consumed, and it coincides with when yeast stress is highest.  Problem 3 - Because of problems 1+2, they are very prone to infections, which will crash pH like no other (as there is little to buffer the acid) and further stress yeast.

The amount of nutrient needed in zero-FAN/YAN washes is absurd, most people think it can't possibly be correct, and they are downright shocked by the amounts recommended.  In the case of BSG Superfood, it is 5 pounds of Superfood PLUS an additional 5.5 pounds of DAP, per 1000 gallon (as staged additions), arguably even more than this is needed with a 0 fan starting point.


What @justandy suggests is a good approach, staging sugar and nutrient additions is far easier to manage, and in many cases gives you an off-ramp to distillation if you need it.

Trying to chase the pH on an all-sugar wash?  You need to accept the fact that you have already lost the battle.   Your goal for a clean sugar wash ferment should be 3 days, maybe 4 or 5 if you are pushing it with staged feeding.

Lower your gravity, get the right nutrient additions, add acid to 4.8-5.2 pH, and let 'er rip.  Usually hotter is badder, but in this case, hotter is probably better, as time is the enemy for plain sugar fermentation.

The fact that plain sugar is so difficult is also the reason why plain sugar washes have a bad rep ("Tastes like burning"), when chemically you would expect a relatively clean, low congener, fermentation, especially with low-amino nutrients.  These simple sugar fermentation challenges are also why you commonly see antibiotics used in fuel ethanol production.

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59 minutes ago, Silk City Distillers said:

The fact that plain sugar is so difficult is also the reason why plain sugar washes have a bad rep ("Tastes like burning"), when chemically you would expect a relatively clean, low congener, fermentation, especially with low-amino nutrients.

All that babysitting, and best case scenario is something completely forgettable. Only sugar washes I've done was for hand sanitizer, and ill never do it again. Great synopsis though. Using at least some molasses sure simplifies things.

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Thanks for the advice so far, and sorry for not providing more specifics, it's that whole beginner thing.

Fermentation Protocol:

Using C-70 yeast at a pitch rate of ~378g / 250 gallon mash, hydrated in 85 degree water for ~15 minutes prior to pitching

Superfood Nutrient added in 3 stages at a rate of 4 lbs/gal or ~114g of superfood for a 250 gallon mash

Stage 1 ~68g added a few minutes prior to yeast pitch

Stage 2 ~23g added ~12-18 hrs after yeast pitch

Stage 3 ~23g added ~24-36 hrs after yeast pitch

Sugar is dissolved in hot city water with cold water then added to bring to pitching temp (targeting 75 Deg. F, which I know see seems to be low)

Taking daily samples for pH, SG, and Tank Temp and managing pH with KOH in solution to bring pH up.

Any additional help, or input on how I can make these sugar washes run better, faster, and more repeatable would be really appreciated.  My reason for making wash is that it is made from locally sourced beet sugar, so I would really like to do all I can to get this "perfected" so that it is commercially reliable.  If there are other components/ingredients that I could add in small amounts that would make this a better fermentation, I'm WIDE open to suggestions.

Thanks again for your guys help!


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Someone will hopefully chime in with more detailed calculations but the yeast pitch is about half what I would target and the yeast nutrient in your protocol is pretty low. You'll also likely want additional DAP and some kind of water additive to provide some pH buffering. 


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  • 2 weeks later...

I don't understand your difficulties :)
In Ukraine, the main way to eat is sugar mixture + yeast.
You can either boil water and dissolve sugar in it (invert sugar, right?) Or use just sugar diluted in water heated to 25-28 Celsius.
Sugar blends work very well and give a good yield of alcohol.
If you don't have turbo yeast, there is a simple recipe for making a simple yeast supplement (we buy bread-baking yeast if no other yeast is available) to turn the process into a turbo.

If you need more information, I can put together a recipe for you.
I need input: your mix volume, how fast do you want to ferment? What is the capacity of your heater? What type of yeast are you going to use?

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