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Double distilling vs. short column, single distillation


natbouman

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I've been weighing the pros and cons of both techniques and I can't figure out which way to go. With seasonal fruit, it seems like one needs a huge amount of fermenting capacity in order to make enough product. However, then I'd be concerned that the mash would spoil before I got to distill it all--even with acidification. So, doing quick stripping runs to turn the mash into low wines, then distill at leisure. However, I'm concerned about getting as much fruit flavor and aroma into the final product as possible and I'm under the impression (perhaps erroneous) that distilling once with a short column may preserve the original fruit characteristics better. Any thoughts on the pros and cons here?

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Good point. I'm talking a wash of 8% or lower. More specifically, I'm interested in an apple mash not a wash (so it's not cider, but an apple slurry so to speak) with an expected abv 5-8%. The first priority is as much preservation of original fruit characters as possible. Zipping through stripping runs in order to make a low wine which won't spoil makes a lot of practical sense, but I'm concerned about losing aroma and flavor through this process. I know that Calvados producers (or at least, smaller ones) often use a double distillation method (distilling from cider though) as do Cognac makers.

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Natbouman, if you have the still already, then I would do a direct comparison run each way, because the result might well be dependent on the type of still you use. If you don't have the still, maybe you can arrange demos on appropriate stills with vendors or other distilleries.

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Wish I had the still to be able to do these kinds of tests. Approaching vendors or other distilleries is a good idea, but I thought I'd see if anyone here could weigh in.

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fldme,

Can you elaborate?

It certainly seems more efficient and makes sense to me, but being inexperienced....

I have a bypass and a 5 plate (almost fired up) and am looking forward to experimenting. When scaling up are you concerned with things like replicating vapor speed, etc or just play with the settings and go through some wine?

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This is all in the art of Distilling. In my experience, running it through the column plates closed, pre condenser water on, produces a more flavorful, richer product than Distilling twice in a plain pot still. This goes for all spirits. You will have to load it up and get it running, make a good heads and tails cut and see for yourself, that is the heart in it. Using your senses, mainly smell and sight to judge how fast you run the still, how much precondensor water to use, when to cut it, etc. remember, in double distillation think like this, you are making a less flavorful spirit because you are so far removed from your mash. This is also why continuos distillation can be used to make a more flavorful spirit than a pot will.

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One distillation from a good fruit wine or mash is the best for flavor. If you have a column.

I disagree with fldme on that, but keep in mind that we're just expressing our own personal perceptions of flavor. Everyone's advice is good: experiment and decide for yourself. Even though you don't own a still, you can still do this! Visit distilleries that do single-pass distillation through a column, continuous distillation through one of those fancy new "craft" sized continuous stills, double distillation through an alembic, etc.

I'd also encourage you to note that in Scotland, "flavorful" spirits are produced via double-distillation in batch stills. Same goes for France. Both countries produce more "neutral" spirits via continuous distillation in a column as well. These Scottish and French distillers aren't idiots. They've had access to continuous stills for hundreds of years. Yet they recognize that batch distillation produces more flavorful spirit. Don't even get me started on the Japanese.

And then there are the Germans... I guess the point is: everyone has their own philosophy, so don't be afraid to come up with your own too!

Nick

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everyone has their own philosophy, so don't be afraid to come up with your own too.

I appreciate the art of distilling and that there is no substitute for experience, but I've got to believe that not every philosophy is valid if you have a specific goal. The goal in this case, is to know what process maximizes apple flavor and aroma. The French and Scots do produce intensely flavored products, but a lot of the flavor does not come from the original raw material. I'm not even sure if I'd want to use a process which maximizes apple flavor and aroma, but I'd like to have a very basic, scientific understanding of why one process tends to work better than another for this specific goal.

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sadly the truth of the matter is that science is still chasing after tradition and trying to understand it all. Flavor chemistry is very complicated. The involved aromatic compounds will react with each other at each step of production and therefore they all will impact the final aroma and taste created. if you know the chemical structure of the concerned compounds you can see what fraction will separate from ethanol (basically your heart) more easily. basically figure out your cuts according to your equipment parameters. More complex flavors can be created if you keep larger cuts with less "purity" but that doesn't necessarily mean you get the flavors you want... fermentation and treatments in fermentation itself will have a big contributing factor as well. There is just so many factors to think of...so yia in the end you need to just developed a style and go with it. There is also treatments you can do afterwards (like soaking a small amount of fresh fruit in the liquor to extract the fresh completely un-reacted aroma compounds from there. More research is needed but well quite frankly analytically equipment is very expensive and flavor compounds come in very minute concentrations so detecting them is extremely hard, not to mention being able to correlate what compound causes what fraction of perceived flavor since flavor perception does not necessarily equal to chemical presence in solution...

here is some links to articles.. but no one (that I know of) really has a clear cut answer to all this (I wish I could attache the actual files, I get them through school... its amazing how expensive articles can be...erg free knowledge is key to advancement)

http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/jf047788f

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1745-4530.2005.00377.x/abstract

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12517106

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1745-4530.2008.00251.x/abstract

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1745-4530.2005.00377.x/abstract

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....for practical reasons I think double distilling makes the most sense to a small producer with limited space and that avoids nasty flavors developing in your wines as they wait. (though a little might be nice haha like the sour ales... might add some character to the final product) 5-8% alcohols aren't incredibly stable so the longer you wait the more impact it will have on the flavor chemistry (generally 6months I would think isn't that big of a deal though...but keep an eye on it and keep tasting regularly (as Im sure you do...best part of this field :P )

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Exactly what Mr. Clocher said. Science is still trying to figure out tradition. Some thins in Distilling simply cannot be explained by science. One I have tried to figure out is why two bourbon fermenters set exactly the same way and time, one will have pockets of corn oil in it and one will not. And usually the one with oil makes the best whiskey. No rhyme or reason to it.

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Nat, with regards to apples specifically, fermentation is going to consume most of the fresh fruit aroma. Cider aroma is driven largely (not entirely) by acetylation of fusel oils and certain apple derived higher alcohols (1,3 octanediol, to be specific). Most of the fresh apple aromas turn out to be butyl alcohols and ketones - and I _think_ (but haven't the evidence or research) that those are pretty much yeast-edible. This is in contrast to grapes, where a lot of the varietal character is in terpenes, which I don't believe the yeast metabolize outright. You can get yeast selections that are known to release glucose bound terpene storage molecules, for example.

If you really wanted to goose the fresh aroma profile, I'd consider macerating the low wines in juice/pomace.

My still was selected by budget contraints - not to try to perfectly match process and design to one product (out of about 5 that I make). Luckily, I like the end result.

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Thank you for your considered responses. I really appreciate it. The second part of my original query is more about handling the quantity of fruit. Our planned orchard would be very modest in scale--but fairly conservative estimates put us at about 50,000 Liters pomace or 29,000 Liters cider when the trees start bearing their first decent crops. At the small distilleries I've visited, the fermenting capacity is far below this. I expect that of a distillery that makes grain based products, but brandy producers?

What is the best thing to do with all those apples (aside from selling them to someone else so they can make cider)? In Normandy I think they often just make huge piles of them and leave them outside for extended periods--as the climate kind of allows for this. I can't figure out what to do in the Northeast. Invest in that much fermenting capacity? Rent cold storage space from other producers? Build own cold storage? Budget is a huge concern. I'm not a retired i-banker.

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Here is my two cents. The amount of cider you say you will have is Roughly 8000 gallons. That is not huge. If to had even say a 300 to 400 gallon pot still and a couple or three 1000 gallon fermenters. If all your apples are ready at one time, and I would imagine you to have at least a couple varieties each ripening at different times, if you run let's say a 4 day ferment, you should easily be able to handle that amount of cider. Anything less than that, you will be hard pressed to keep the lights on when sales start anyway. You are only talking about depending on the Brix of the cider 800 proof gallons. If it is good, you will want more than that.

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how far north are you? If temperature isn't a huge concern (because it's cold out anyways) then a storage area might not be that big a deal if you plan to have time to use them all before the end of winter. Big container with thermometers controlling airflow (when colder outside then in swap the air...cooling your apples) It's been a while since i studied this but I don't think ethylene (plant ripening hormone) is a big deal for a apples... but if it is then you will have to consider ways to keep track and reduce it...again air circulation. Do people around you make ice-ciders? if it's anything like where i am you can just put in bins outside (protected from animals of course) and wait to freeze... might even create a great product (concentrating the aromas and sugars before fermentation)

you can do stability tests now using store bought apples (or better straight from orchards) to see how they last with minimal effort in your climat. Maybe ask around orchards to see how they store their apples

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I know a cider producer that faces exactly this problem during pressing season.

He rents a couple of refrigerated containers for two months while he presses all of his crops. I know he makes sure to do at least one fresh pressing of each apple varietal, but refrigerates the rest for a month before getting to them.

I have not done apples on my current still (3 plate column, doubler, shotgun condensor) but with grapes I noticed very little difference between the single distillation and multiples.

If you're really worried, then save enough apples in storage to do additional mashes later on that you can add your low wines to. If you have a 100 gallon still, make a 50 gallon apple mash, add 50 gallons of low wines, and distill off of it slowly. Best of both worlds, and you only have to store 1/5 as many apples.

Good Luck!

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Ethylene is an issue for apple storage. So is patulin - but the fermentation will sort that out. 1-methylcyclopropane will block the ethylene receptors and extend cold storage lifetimes - with several caveats. Likely not worth it for juice grade fruit.

I press everything in season and send juice in 330 gal IBCs to a nearby commercial freezer. It's close enough to make it cheaper than renting a freezer-trailer, and means we don't have to make the mill winter-operable.

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  • 1 year later...

Realizing that this string is a couple of years old...I'm wondering if anyone has any recommendations with regards to still producers that make equipment would be particularly effective at making whiskey or apple brandy in a single distilling run. I know one distiller who has been in the craft distilling space for decades who recommends utilizing a single run and doesn't see much benefit in the stripping run followed by a spirit run model. He said he thinks you can make a quality product with a single run using a Holstein or CARL still. Is this something that is a unique strength/capability of stills designed by those producers? Thanks.

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The heart cut on a single run product is relatively narrow. Using plates one can concentrate the heads and tails cuts, broadening the hearts cut for greater yield. Any correctly designed plated still should be able to accomplish this. Carl and Holstein both make stills that will work but there are others.

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The heart cut on a single run product is relatively narrow. Using plates one can concentrate the heads and tails cuts, broadening the hearts cut for greater yield. Any correctly designed plated still should be able to accomplish this. Carl and Holstein both make stills that will work but there are others.

Thanks for the feedback. When you say "there are others" that will work, any recommendations or advice about who those "others" might be? Thanks!

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