Heads – When distilling, you should separate, or cut, the heads, hearts, and tails. The head of the distillate is the first portion of the run. You can recognise it by its smell. It has an unpleasant smell like nail polish or methylated spirits. You throw away the heads or you can keep it to use as a fire starter for your BBQ.
- 0.1 How do you tell moonshine from heads and tails?
- 0.2 Are moonshine heads cloudy?
- 0.3 Are foreshots and heads the same?
- 1 How can you tell the quality of moonshine?
- 2 What should my moonshine mash look like?
- 3 What is the difference between tails and feints?
How do you tell moonshine from heads and tails?
Heads, Hearts, and Tails | Distilling Blog As mentioned in a previous blog post, Heads, Hearts & Tails can be generally defined as the following:
Heads: Spirits from the beginning of the run that contain a high percentage of low boiling point alcohols and other compounds such as aldehydes and ethyl acetate. Hearts: The desirable middle alcohols from your run. Tails: A distillate containing a high percentage of fusel oil and little alcohol at the end of the run.
Let’s take this blog in another direction to further add to the often conflicting advice given to newbie distillers, shall we? You’re welcome. So often the new distiller views their skill level based upon his or her ability to know where to make the exact cut between each (heads, hearts, or tails) part of the run.
To the fledgling distiller, pinpointing the exact transition between each segment of the run can be interpreted as finding the good alcohol vs the bad alcohol. However, collecting distillate based on the most insipid sensory awareness profiles is what actually happens to many newly minted distillers that read and perhaps misinterpret how making cuts should benefit finished spirits? This strategy of exactitude works really well for those who make alcohol with table sugar only.
But soon wears thin with those making an all-grain whiskey or a full-bodied rum/rhum. And so, as the distiller gains more and more experience making cuts, the distiller ends up being quite good at finding the dead center Hearts cut. In doing so he/she becomes quite skilled at making a very “smooth” spirit.
- Yes, very “smooth”.
- So “smooth”.
- The “smoothest”.
- Nobody makes it “smoother”.
- Oy, that sounds suitably forgettable.
- The problem here with this quest for “smooth” is that unless the distiller is trying to render textbook neutral, the finished spirit very much lacks complexity.
- Further downstream, barrel aging then produces a finished spirit that is ever so one-dimensional.
Now if you are the type of consumer that enjoys or prefers a whiskey and coke, or a rum and coke then perhaps this tact suits you just fine? And that’s fine. There is absolutely nothing wrong with liking what you like. Heck, I like ketchup on my eggs, liver & onions and even more, secretly don’t really mind pineapple & Canadian bacon on my pizza.
- The evolution of the distiller’s sensory awareness skills eventually progresses to the point where he/she will start to question why his (or her) spirit seems to be lacking.
- Indeed, nowhere near the tasting notes of whiskey or rums coming out of some of the more well-established distilleries.
- One even starts to realize that some of the lesser established distilleries are making better spirits as well.
That can be a kick in the pills aye? There are a lot of variables to making a good spirit. Mash bill, yeast strain, fermentation temps, distillation technique, barrel aging, and blending. Each of those steps mentioned also has a subset list of variables, but the distillation technique is definitely a major part of the equation.
- The progression continues along, and the distiller slowly starts to gain confidence that dipping his toe into either end of the center cut is ok.
- An incremental move toward the dark side! As with many things, less can be more.
- This is true in cooking, right? Too much sugar.
- Too much salt, too much pepper can be off-putting.
And yet food tastes better when correctly seasoned. The goal here is to install just enough flavor components to not overwhelm. But rather enhance. The same analogy is true for proper cocktails and therefore also true for spirits. Naturally, the above comment is indeed wide open for interpretation since not everyone has the same tolerance for moving too far North or South of insipid.
- Start slowly by adding back small volumes of distillate that typically wouldn’t make the center cut on your old strict way of identifying your keeper, smooth spirit.
- As always, utilize your sensory awareness team for feedback.
- And most importantly it is critical to remember that cut points are not a fixed metric.
Not every distiller determines where cuts are made in the same way. Especially when each is running different types of stills and processing different types of beer or wine. Whether you are making moonshine, vodka, or Armagnac, each process will surely have different cut points according to the interpretation of the distiller.
And finally, you have to be willing to admit to yourself when pushing just a bit too far. Don’t get trapped into sunk cost fallacy thinking because you’ve put in so much work, have grown impatient, and just want to get it in the bottle. Now I know what you all are thinking. In the first blog about making cuts “you told me to cut clean”.
And in this blog “you’re telling me to loosen up and cut a little dirty”. Yes, I know. It can be confusing. But look at it this way, Picasso first learned to draw and paint more anatomically accurate pieces of artwork. As time passed, however, his artwork became less symmetrical, more complex, and more open to interpretation.
What is the head of the moonshine?
Heads – During distillation, the mash is heated in the still, causing the liquids to turn to vapor. Because alcohol evaporates at a lower temperature than water, the first thing that comes off the still is methanol, commonly referred to as the “foreshots” or the “heads.” Back when I worked for a moonshine brand, people would ask me, “Doesn’t moonshine make you go blind?” Like all tall tales, there is a bit of truth there.
The heads portion of the distillate comprises mostly methanol, and consuming methanol can lead to blindness and even death. So inexperienced whiskey makers can indeed create lethal cocktails — albeit unintentionally. We have even heard stories about Prohibition-era bootleggers and moonshiners purposefully sending batches of heads to bars that hadn’t paid for their last shipment.
The concentrated methanol killed every customer in the bar that day, sending a very serious message to the bar owner. In the world of whiskeys you can legally purchase, the heads section is always cut out.
Are moonshine heads cloudy?
Solution #4 – Let your yeast settle – Once the yeast is done fermenting, it will settle down to the bottom of your fermentation pot. If you do not allow sufficient time for the yeast to naturally settle, some of it may get into the still, causing cloudy shine.
- Yeast Selection for Grain, Fruit and Sugar – A great guide for selecting the correct yeast for your fruit or grain mash or sugar wash.
- How to Correct For Temperature When Measuring Proof of Alcohol – This is especially important when diluting alcohol for consumption.
- Still Plans with Gin Basket – If you want to make gin here’s a free set of plans to build your own gin basket and still,
If you’ve got any questions or would like to add something to this article please drop us a comment below. We love it when you guys ask questions we’ll do our best to answer them. Feel free to also join our Facebook group it’s a great place to share ideas and ask questions.
How do I make sure there is no methanol in my moonshine?
If you love your moonshine, you might be curious about the distillation process and want to try it yourself. You’ve probably also heard horror stories about people who get sick and even die from methanol poisoning. To distill moonshine without any methanol, you must discard the first portion of your distillate containing poisonous compounds.
Are foreshots and heads the same?
The Heads – Also known as ‘foreshots’, these are volatile (low boiling point) alcohols given off at the start of distillation and include the following chemical substances: Acetaldehyde (CH3CHO) is an aldehyde produced by plants as part of their normal metabolism.
It is also produced by the oxidation of ethanol. Acetaldehyde has a boiling point of 20.8˚C and is believed to be a major contributor to the severity of hangovers. It has a pungent fruity odor reminiscent of metallic green apple. Acetone ((CH3)2CO) is a colourless, flammable liquid with a boiling point of 56.2˚C.
It is the simplest form of a group of substances known as ketones. Indeed, the word ketone derives its name from Aketon, an old German word for acetone. Acetone commonly used as a cleaning solvent and is the active ingredient in nail polish remover and as paint thinner.
- Thus when you smell nail polish remover in a spirit it is usually Acetone that you are smelling.
- Esters are naturally occurring chemical compounds responsible for the aroma of many fruits, including apples, pears, bananas, pineapples and strawberries.
- Esters are most commonly formed by condensing carboxylic acids with an alcohol and their presence in a distillate can contribute fruity aromas.
Esters have inoffensive, often sweet odours so are considered desirable by most distillers. Esters include ethyl acetate (boiling point 77.1˚C), ethyl butyrate (121˚C), ethyl formate (54˚C), and hexyl acetate (171.5˚C). Although Acetate esters have a low boiling points, Acetate hangs around in the still as its molecules act as if they need a lot of room to escape.
- Methanol (CH3OH often abbreviated MeOH), also known as methyl alcohol, wood alcohol, wood naphtha or wood spirits is a colourless, volatile and highly flammable liquid with a boiling point of 64.7˚C.
- Methanol and ethanol (drinking alcohol) are like brothers and sisters and their molecules cling on to each other so despite their different boiling points they are notoriously hard to separate during distillation.
However, it is imperative that Methanol is separated and discarded as it is very bad for the liver and consumption is likely to lead to blindness. Pot still distilled spirits such as malt whisky may contain 4 to 5 parts per million and at these levels its presence is safe.
How can you tell the quality of moonshine?
If the moonshine has large bubbles that dissolve quickly it indicates the moonshine has a high alcohol content. If the moonshine has smaller bubbles that dissolve slowly, it indicates a lower alcohol content.
What do tails taste like in moonshine?
Distilling Hearts & Tails – Foreshots NOTE: You should only use this alcohol as fuel or cleaner. Do not consume this part of your run! The first 5% or so of your run will consist of the fore shots. This 5% contains methanol. Generally, as a standard practice, you would throw out the first 250 ml per 20 liters as this part of your run will consist of these fore shots.
- However, since we’ll be using this alcohol as a sanitizer/disinfectant product instead of a consumable spirit, you should keep them.
- Good rule of thumb is between 5ml/l wash to 10ml/l of you wash.
- The alcohols found in the fore shots and heads work great as strong cleaning agents, fire starters, de-greasers, and solvents.
Again, DO NOT consume these because they are toxic and will poison you and/or make you blind. Heads Next, comes the part of the distillate known as the heads. The heads make up 30% percent of your alcohol run. As mentioned above, you will find lots of different volatile alcohols in the heads of your run.
- One of the particularly volatile staples of the heads is known as Acetone.
- Acetone has a very distinct and solvent-like smell, making its identification easy to recognize.
- Just like the fore shots, you’ll want to isolate these and use them as strong household cleaning agents and solvents.
- These are NOT for using on your skin.
NOTE: A great way of isolating both the fore shots and heads in your run is to bring your still to around 75 °C and keep it there for around 10 minutes. The alcohol produced during this duration will consist of only fore shots and heads. Once the condenser stops producing at 75 °C, you’ll know that you’ve collected all of the more volatile alcohols that make up the fore shots and heads of the run.
Hearts The next 30% of your run will be the sweet spot of your alcohol run, known as the hearts. You’ll want to raise the temperature of your still to 80 °C to 82 °C range to start collecting this portion of your distillate. As you get into the hearts portion of your run, you should notice that the solvent smell of acetone tapers off and is replaced with a sweet-smelling ethanol alcohol.
This is where practice makes perfect. In order to maximize high-quality hearts, you’ll need to focus. You should be able to recognize the hearts by their sweet and neutral flavor. Taste just a bit of the distillate on your finger. The main giveaway is the sweet/smooth taste of ethanol.
If you can identify where the acetone stops and the ethanol alcohols begin, you will be able to maximize the total amount of viable alcohol that you can use as sanitizer or disinfectant. Tails The last 35% of your alcohol run is made up of the tails. You can recognize the tails by sight, smell, and taste.
You’ll see an oily film start to collect on the top of the distillate and be able to smell/taste a burnt type of flavor. The tails contain protein and carbohydrates from the wash that you don’t want in your final product. Be sure to keep your tails because you can run them again as their own wash in the future to pull out a bit more useful product.
What should my moonshine mash look like?
Download Article Download Article Moonshine mash is a popular way to make an alcoholic beverage using a few basic ingredients. Start by mixing the cornmeal, sugar, water, and yeast together. Then, ferment the mash so it becomes alcoholic and distill it so it tastes great as a drink. You can then sip moonshine mash on its own or add it to cocktails or other drinks for a little kick.
- 2.5 pounds (1.1 kg) ground cornmeal
- 10 pounds (4.5 kg) white granulated sugar
- 10 gallons (38 l) of water (distilled if possible)
- 1 ⁄ 2 ounce (14 g) active dry yeast, preferably Turbo
- 1 to 2 cups (0.24 to 0.47 l) water
- 1-2 bags dried fruit (optional)
- 1 Boil 10 gallons (38 l) of water in a 20 gallons (76 l) stainless steel pot. Allow the water to reach boiling temperature, with large bubbles on the surface of the water.
- Use a pot that has been sterilized and cleaned. Do not use a pot that appears dirty or stained.
- 2 Stir in 2.5 pounds (1.1 kg) of cornmeal and boil for 5-7 minutes. Once the water comes to a boil, pour in the cornmeal and use a wooden spoon to mix it in. Continue to stir it until it becomes thick. Advertisement
- 3 Reduce the heat to 150 °F (66 °C). Turn down the heat so the cornmeal stays warm but is no longer boiling. Use a thermometer in the cornmeal to ensure it stays at the right temperature.
- Cooling down the cornmeal will ensure it interacts properly with the yeast when it is added.
- 4 Add 10 pounds (4.5 kg) of sugar and 1 ⁄ 2 ounce (14 g) of yeast. Pour the sugar and yeast into the cornmeal. Use a wooden spoon to combine. Stir it for 5-10 minutes. The mixture should become soupy and thin.
- Remove the mash from the heat once the sugar and yeast have been mixed in.
- 5 Put in dried fruit mash if you’d like more flavor. If you’d like to give the mash a more fruity flavor, soak 1-2 bags of dried fruit in 1 to 2 cups (0.24 to 0.47 l) of water. Then, mash the dried fruit up in the water so it becomes more of a juice. Pour the dried fruit mash into the cornmeal mixture and mix it in with a spoon.
- Try a fruit mash with bananas, apricots, and pineapple to add flavor. A dried fruit mash with blue berries, cherries, and strawberries can also give the mixture a nice fruity taste.
- 1 Cover the mash and place it in a cool, dark place. You can leave the mash in the pot and place a lid on it or lay a cloth over it. Put the mash in a basement, cellar, or in the back of a closet so it can ferment. The temperature of 60 °F (16 °C) or lower is ideal.
- You can also pour the mash in an empty cooler and put the lid on it so it can ferment.
- 2 Allow it to ferment for 4-5 days. Moonshine mash made with Turbo yeast will ferment within 4-5 days. If you use bread yeast, it may take up to 1 week for the mash to ferment.
- 3 Check the mash for large bubbles on the surface. After 4-5 days, check the mash to see if there are large bubbles that are moving very slowly or sitting on the surface. This is usually a sign the mash is ready to be distilled.
- If the mash still has a lot of smaller bubbles on the surface, it may not be ready to distill and need more time to ferment.
- 1 Distill the mash in a copper still if you have one available. Rent a copper still from your local brewing supply store or buy one. Look for a copper still made for homebrewing, as they will be smaller and more compact. Then, pour the mash in the still and distill it, following the directions attached to the copper still.
- You may want to invest in a copper still if you plan to make moonshine mash, and other home alcoholic beverages, often.
- A 13 gallons (49 l) copper still can range in price from $900-$1,300 USD.
- 2 Use a pressure cooker and a copper pipe as a makeshift still. Bring the mash to 173 °F (78 °C) in the pressure cooker. Attach a coiled copper pipe to the vent of the pressure cooker with electrical tape. Run the copper coil through a bucket of cold water and put the end in a clean container.
- This is a homemade approach to a copper still, so you may need to monitor it to ensure it works correctly. Check that the mash stays at a constant temperature so it can condense into moonshine.
- 3 Allow the mash to cool. Once you have distilled the mash, let it come to room temperature. The mash should look like a clear liquid with impurities still floating in it.
- 4 Filter the mash using cheesecloth and a strainer. Place a large plastic strainer over a large soup pot. Then, drape the cheesecloth over the strainer. Put a smaller strainer over the cheesecloth, holding it over the cheesecloth with your non-dominant hand.
- You can then squeeze the cheesecloth to remove any smaller impurities from the mash. The cheesecloth should get rid of the stuff sitting on the surface of the mash, or the head, so the mash runs clear.
- Repeat this process until you have strained out all the mash. It should appear clear and clean in the soup pot.
- Throw away the impurities once you have strained them out of the mash.
- 5 Store the moonshine mash in airtight glass jars. Make sure the glass jars are sterile and clean. Keep them in a cool, dark place, sealed tight. You can then sip moonshine mash on its own or add it to cocktails and other drinks.
- Moonshine mash should last for at least 6 months-1 year, if stored properly.
Add New Question
- Question How can I add flavor to my moonshine mash? You can buy flavoring or put sliced fruit, like peaches and apples, inside the bottle for a month or two.
- Question Should I stir the corn mash before distilling to make the mash work more if there is still starch? Yes, as results tend to be better when you stir it before distilling, to make the mash work.
- Question Do I strain the mash before putting it into the boiler? Yes indeed. If you allow any solids in your wash, they will settle to the bottom of your cooking pot and burn. If you’ve ever had a few pinto beans burn in the pot, you’ll know what kind of taste you’ll have in your liquor.
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- Producing mash for alcoholic spirits or moonshine, either for private consumption or sale, is illegal in the United States and many other countries without proper licensing and permits.
- Making moonshine with a home still can put you at risk of bacterial contamination and alcohol poisoning. Proceed at your own risk.
- 20 gallons (76 l) stainless steel pot
- Stove top or outdoor stove
- Liquid thermometer
- Long-handled wooden or metal spoon
- A pressure cooker
- A coiled copper pipe
- Electrical tape
- A copper still
Article Summary X To make moonshine mash, boil water in a 20 gallon pot. Add cornmeal and boil for 5-7 minutes. Then, reduce the heat and add sugar and yeast. Stir the mixture for 5-10 minutes, until it becomes soupy, and remove it from the heat. If you want to add more flavor, mash dried fruit in water until it becomes more of a juice and add it to the mash.
What is the difference between tails and feints?
Many refer to feints as being synonymous with ‘Tails’, and while we agree that in principle there is little to separate the two terms, we deliberately use both in different ways. Feints is a term almost always used by Whisky or Rum makers, while Gin use the term Tails.
In the context of Whisky – Feints is the name given to the third fraction of the distillate received from the second distillation in the pot still process. Feints contain many compounds with high boiling points of over 115°C, and these often have undesirable flavours such as Acetic Acid, which has a distinct pungent vinegar aroma.
The second difference between the terms are that for gin makers ‘tails’ are seldom recycled into subsequent batches, while in Whisky, Rum and Brandy ‘feints’ are often returned to the Spirit Still when it is recharged with the next batch of Low Wines.