How long can a wash sit before distilling?
It depends on what type of wash you have but as a general rule of thumb, it is best to distil within 2-3 days after fermentation is complete.
How much heads should you throw out when distilling?
Are you planning on doing stripping runs or only spirit runs? Stripping Run A stripping run is the best way to remove water from within the wash. Simply fill the still with wash and run the still hot and fast. Collect everything into one large collection container.
- Once there are multiple stripping runs saved, they can be added to a still and run as a spirit run.
- Think of the stripping run as nothing more than an alcohol concentration step: you can get a larger, more refined spirit if you do a stripping run.
- Stripping is usually achieved via the use of a pot still, but can be done with a de-tuned reflux still.
Running a pot still as quickly as possible will extract as much alcohol from your wash as possible. The distillate collected is called low wines. The low wines of several stripping runs are then collected and a spirit run is done. Spirit Run Spirit runs are used to distill low wines produced from a stripping run or from a single run in a pot still.
- A spirit run is used to separate the heads, hearts and tails for the final spirit, called the spirit run.
- A spirit run takes a lot more time than a stripping run.
- Foreshots Foreshots are the first vapors to boil off during distillation.
- They should not be ingested as they contain methanol and other volatile alcohols.
Always discard the foreshots — they make up around 5% or less of the product collected during a run. Throw out the first 30 ml on a 1 gallon run, the first 150 ml on a 5 gallon run, or the first 300 ml on a 10 gallon run. Heads Heads come off of the still directly after the foreshots.
- Simply put, they taste and smell bad.
- Heads smell like paint thinner or solvent.
- They are not worth drinking and are said to be the main culprit in hangovers.
- Hearts Hearts come off the still after the heads.
- The hearts are the sweet spot during the run: This is the good stuff.
- The easiest way to tell when you’ve reached the hearts is simple: The harshness of the heads is replaced with a mellow, sweet-tasting flavor.
Once that harshness of the heads fades away, you know you are in the hearts. The heart cut is very important and this is where the skill of the distiller comes into play, because they must recognize the end of the heads, and the beginning of the tails.
Tails Tails come off the still following the hearts. The tails start once all of the lower boiling point alcohols have evaporated. The tails contain a lot of fusel oil and other alcohols that are not desirable in a finished product. The tails are mostly water, proteins, and carbohydrates and do not taste very good.
The tails start once the rich full flavors from the hearts taper off and start tasting thin. The tails make up between 20-30% of the run.
At what percentage should you stop distilling?
Learning how to take cuts during distillation may seem like a daunting process to begin with but by following some basic steps and getting some practice, you’ll be a pro in no time! Taking cuts refers to the process where spirit is collected in small portions of similar sizes during distillation as opposed to allowing the distillate to collect in just one large vessel.
- This process gives you more control over the flavours and aromas that make it into your final product, allowing you to create something truly unique and to your taste.
- During fermentation, many compounds are produced along with alcohol such as acetaldehyde, esters, and ethyl acetate.
- By taking cuts, we can minimise how many of these by-products make it into our final spirit.
Some of these by-products appear earlier on in the distillation, and others come out later or towards the end of the distillation – this depends entirely on the compound itself. Not all these by-products are bad. Some do not taste wonderful on their own, however, it can be beneficial to introduce them in small amounts to contribute different attributes to your final spirit.
The foreshots are the first part of the distillate (usually 50-200 mL depending on what is being distilled) which are discarded as these can contain harmful compounds and off-flavours. The heads are the distillate collected immediately after the first 50-200 mL of discarded foreshots. They can contain some undesirable, but not harmful, compounds and off-flavours. Some of these are blended into your final spirit, however, most will be discarded or retained in a separate container for redistilling in future batches. The hearts are the middle part of a run and are the cleanest and most flavoursome part of the distillate. A minimal amount of undesirable compounds come through into the spirit. They make up the bulk of your final spirit. The tails are the final part of the distillation and contain some vegetal off-flavours. These are also typically discarded, however, like the heads they can also be kept in a separate container for redistilling.
The Stripping Run The stripping run is done first and ‘strips’ the wash down to a cleaner, more concentrated low wine. This distillation is usually done hot and fast, meaning temperature control isn’t as important as the aim is to strip the wash quickly.
Just be sure to take care not to run it too hot to avoid the loss of vapour from the condenser. The purpose of a stripping run is to capture as much distillate from the wash as possible, therefore, there is no need to remove the foreshots (50-200mL) as these can be removed during the spirit run. The Spirit Run Once you’ve completed the stripping run, it is then diluted with water to 40% ABV or lower and then distilled again – this is where cuts are taken.
During this distillation run, the flow of the still should be kept slower than on the stripping run, and ideally, the voltage going to the boiler should be controlled to ensure a nice gentle boil – the Grainfather G30 is a great example of a boiler that can double as a brewing system to make Whiskey and Bourbon washes, and then control the voltage during distillation.
How to Take Cuts During Distillation There are a few different methods to work out how to split and collect the different cuts from a spirit run, some people base it on temperature or ABV, while others evenly split the whole run and then taste and smell later. Either way can work but to simplify things, we’re going to talk through splitting the entire run.
To do this, you will need an adequate number of glass jars, preferably 300-500 mL in size, that will be able to collect the entire run – this amount will depend on how many stripping runs have been done, if it is only one, then approx.24 x 400 mL jars should suffice.
For best results, number these so you know where exactly the cut was made. The next step is to fire up your pot still and get ready to start the process. You will need to discard the foreshots as usual. Depending on how many stripping runs you have done this could be anything from 50 to 200 mL. Once the foreshots are discarded, you can start collecting the remaining distillate into the jars.
Ensure you collect the same volume into each jar (250 mL – 300 mL is usually a good figure – you can test and adjust this to suit your still later) and then set the jar aside. Depending on what you wish to do, and what you’re making, you can stop collecting the distillate once the ABV drops to 10% or below, although some stop it even higher.
You may start to notice some more visible by-products forming in the last number of jars – this could be an oily looking substance or off-colours coming through. We then suggest you let the jars air out for 24 hours for the more volatile aroma compounds to dissipate. This can be done by covering them with a thin type of material, such as muslin cloth, being careful it does not dip into the jars.
Now that you’ve taken your cuts and have allowed the jars to aerate for 24 hours, you’re ready to blend them together. To find out how to do this, check out our article How to Blend Cuts,
What percentage of foreshots do you discard?
1- Foreshots – The foreshots are the first vapors to boil off during distillation. These contain the most volatile alcohols and should not be ingested, as they contain methanol and other undesirables. Commercial distillers always discard the foreshots and never consume them.