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.
- 1 Why do you throw away the head of moonshine?
- 2 What are heads in Moonshining?
- 3 What is the purpose of heads and tails?
- 4 Why is moonshining illegal in the US?
- 5 How can you tell if your moonshine is safe to drink?
- 6 Why do we need tails?
- 7 How much heads do you throw out of moonshine?
- 8 Can you drink moonshine tails?
What do you do with heads and tails for moonshine?
What Happens to Whiskey Heads and Tails? image via Margarett Waterbury Most people know that distillers when they’re making whiskey, which separates the good parts of the spirit from the poisonous and/or unappealingly flavored portions. But have you ever wondered what distillers actually do with the unused heads and tails? First, know that there’s no single, agreed-upon moment to make heads and tails cuts.
- Distillers make cuts differently depending on their equipment and the style of whiskey they’re making.
- A whiskey that’s intended to be bottled and consumed relatively young, like American craft whiskey, might benefit from tighter heads and tails cuts to produce a very clean-tasting distillate.
- A whisky intended for long aging, however, like a Scotch, might benefit from a looser set of cuts, because long oak maturation can transform the heavy, funky flavors in tails into richness, complexity, and a satisfying mouth feel.
There is one style of distilling where traditional cuts aren’t used: column still distillation, which are the stills used to make bourbon and some Canadian whiskies. Column stills, which can be operated continuously, have a continuous takeoff process that sections heads, hearts, and tails simultaneously.
Ultimately, though, most distillers are left with some portion of volatile, methanol-containing heads, and funky, vegetal-tasting tails. Some distilleries discard the whiskey heads and tails but many municipalities require onsite remediation before dumping them down the drain. Many other distilleries recycle the whiskey heads and tails by adding them to the next batch of fermenting mash.
In addition to funky, solventy stuff we don’t want to drink, there’s plenty of desirable ethanol mixed into the heads and tails, so re-distilling them allows distilleries to maximize yield. Some distillers also find this improves the flavor of the final product, particularly if the tails are recycled ( at Scotch distilleries).
Why do you throw away the head of moonshine?
Page 6 – Distillation is used for numerous applications, including the distillation of essential oils and spirits. Our Copper Alembics are perfectly suitable for these applications nevertheless certain should be taken to avoid personal injury as a result of negligence or the continuous consumption of poor results.
Distillation is a basic chemical science which involves the separation of a chemical substance into its different components based on difference in the boiling point of each fraction. This is done by heating a mixture in an alembic pot so the fractions that make up the mixture begin to evaporate, these are conducted via a connecting arm or swan neck into a condenser where they are chilled and revert to their liquid state.
Ethanol alcohol evaporates at 78.3ºC at sea level and water at 100ºC but a mixture of the two components will evaporate between 78.3ºC and 100ºC depending on the ratio of ethanol alcohol and water. The more volatile components or those fractions with a lower boiling point will tend to evaporate first so the resultant vapours will be more enriched with those components with a lower boiling point.
A fermented batch may be composed of ethanol, other higher alcohols such as methanol also acetone, various esters, water and furfurals. The more volatile components such as acetone, methanol and the various esters are undesirable; methanol for instance has been known to cause blindness. It is common practice to throw away the first portion of the distillate, this way you will get rid of the methanol.
Separate and discard the first 50ml If distilling a 25 L wash or mash in a reflux still or 100ml per 20L wash from the rest of the distillate if using a traditional alembic, these fractions are known as foreshots or heads and are distilled first. The result of any distillation is divided into three separate parts in the following order: heads, hearts and tails.
The best and desired portion of the distillation is obtained from the hearts. Cut off points have to be determined between heads, hearts and tails, the art lies in when to start collecting the hearts and when to stop. Experienced distillers use their senses to determine cut off points, they monitor the taste and smell of the heads, these usually have a very sharp taste and are foul smelling.
The hearts portion of the distillate (the ethanol) should be totally transparent and odourless. The tails contain a large amount of compounds with higher boiling points, such as the higher alcohols and furfural. These compounds can spoil the taste of the spirit if the collection is carried on too long.
The cut off point for the tails can be identified by the taste, smell and milky cloudiness of the distillate. This is done by collecting a few drops on the back of a spoon every so often and checking what it tastes or looks like on a regular basis. The tails are usually saved to include in the next batch as a considerable amount of ethanol alcohol can still be recovered.
Cut off points may also be established based on temperature (see our ) or readings. Temperature readings may not determine the cut off point with the greatest accuracy though they may be helpful in determining the end of a complete distillation run. For instance when the vapour temperature nears 98° C most of the alcohol has already been distilled and it becomes unnecessary to continue the distillation process.
- The percentage at which to do the cut may depend on the flavour profile you may want to obtain and the kind of wash distilled.
- As a rule for fruit mashes the cut off point for tails may be 25% alcohol and for grain washes 18%, this is not a hard and fast rule and the distiller has to toggle with these values to obtain the desired flavour profile.
Most distillates are double distilled to further purify the distillation results and raise the alcohol percentage. A second distillation may also concentrate the flavour further. The cut off point for a second distillation in a fruit mash may be as low as 60%.
Can you drink moonshine heads?
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.
What are heads in Moonshining?
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 purpose of heads and tails?
What is it? Heads or tails is a fundraising game of chance where participants pay to play and then compete to guess whether a coin flip will result in heads (put hands on head) or tails (put hands on tail). This keeps going until one person remains standing.
Why don’t you drink the head of moonshine?
Consuming Methanol In Moonshine – Upon first sip, the dangerous potential of methanol is undetectable. It will simply get people drunker. However, after it is metabolized, the methanol can have an extremely harmful effect in someone’s body.10 milliliters (ml) of methanol is all it takes to permanently damage the optic nerve and cause partial, if not complete, blindness.30 ml of methanol is lethal.
- For reference, and standard shot glass in the United States holds 40 ml.
- If less than 10 ml of methanol is consumed then the worst someone will experience is a hangover, (albeit, quite possibly the worst hangover of their life).
- However, if someone consumes 10 ml or more of methanol, even split up among drinks, that can be enough to cause permanent damage or kill them.
While there are processes today to discard the toxic alcohol that is visually indistinguishable from water, some illegal Moonshiners will add methanol back in to provide a stronger potency. Obviously, without regulation, there is no way to know if illicit alcohol contains methanol.
How much of a moonshine run is heads?
In general, roughly 20-30% of the liquid collected during a distillation run will be heads.
Why is moonshining illegal in the US?
You can make your own wine and beer, can’t you? – Moonshine Two Georgia men pleaded guilty on Wednesday to charges of operating a moonshine still in the Chattahoochee National Forest, One of the bootleggers faces up to 35 years in prison for his crimes: making the brew, selling it, and not paying taxes on the proceeds.
- Back in college, the Explainer had friends who brewed their own beer, and that wasn’t against the law.
- So why is moonshine still illegal? Because the liquor is worth more to the government than beer or wine.
- Uncle Sam takes an excise tax of $2.14 for each 750-milliliter bottle of 80-proof spirits, compared with 21 cents for a bottle of wine (of 14 percent alcohol or less) and 5 cents for a can of beer.
No one knows exactly how much money changes hands in the moonshine trade, but it’s certainly enough for the missing taxes to make a difference: In 2000, an ATF investigation busted one Virginia store that sold enough raw materials to moonshiners to make 1.4 million gallons of liquor, worth an estimated $19.6 million in lost government revenue.
- In 2005, almost $5 billion of federal excise taxes on alcohol came from legally produced spirits.
- Until 1978, it was illegal to home-brew liquour or beer—and the rules on wine-making were somewhat ambiguous.
- But a growing number of oenophiles and beer connoisseurs wanted to make their own, and they helped pressure Congress to decriminalize home-brews across the country.
Today, federal rules say a household with two adults can brew up to 200 gallons of wine and the same amount of beer each year. (A few states have their own laws prohibiting the practice.) The 1978 law didn’t legalize moonshining, though; you still can’t brew spirits for private consumption.
- It is kosher, however, to own a still and process alcohol—but only if you’re using the alcohol as fuel and you have a permit from the ATF.
- In some states, you can purchase a legal version of moonshine from commercial distillers.) Despite the Appalachian stereotypes, not everyone swigs moonshine just for fast, cheap intoxication.
Some folks are accustomed to the taste of unaged whiskey, and they prefer the buzz that comes with it. These days, moonshine is even going upscale, as a new breed of amateur distillers in California, New England, and the Northwest are taking an artisanal approach to the hobby.
Government prosecutors point out that moonshine poses serious health risks, including heavy-metal toxicity. So, how dangerous is it? There’s no inspection of the manufacturing process, so quality—and levels of contamination —vary. (There are some informal and imprecise ways to test the purity of hooch: You can light some on fire and check for a blue flame or shake the pint and look for clear liquid drops that dissipate quickly.) Aside from drinking too much and doing something dumb—oh, like attacking somebody with a chain saw and fire extinguisher — the biggest risk is lead poisoning, since a homemade still might consist of car radiators or pipes that were dangerously soldered together.
One study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine in September 2003 found that more than half of moonshine drinkers have enough lead in their bloodstream to exceed what the CDC calls a “level of concern.” Got a question about today’s news? Ask the Explainer,
- Explainer thanks Michael Birdwell of Tennessee Technological University; Brent Morgan of the Georgia Poison Center; Art Resnick of the U.S.
- Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco, Tax and Trade Bureau; and Matthew Rowley, author of Moonshine,
- Correction, Oct.26, 2007: The original version stated that it was illegal to brew any alcoholic beverage at home.
Before 1978, wine-making was effectively permitted by the government. ( Return to the corrected sentence.)
How can you tell if your moonshine is safe to drink?
One way to test the purity of a moonshine liquor is to pour some in a metal spoon and set it on fire. If it burns with a blue flame, it is more likely safe to drink. If it produces a yellow or red flame, it is an indication of the presence of lead.
Why does heads win more than tails?
Basic Math – Probability measures the likelihood that an event will occur, such as how likely a coin will land on heads when you flip it. Probability can be represented as a fraction or a percentage. As a fraction, it is represented as: Desired outcome(s) /# of possible outcomes When you flip a coin, you choose your desired outcome – the side you want it to land on (either heads or tails).
Why do we need tails?
For Balance – A kangaroo uses its tail for balance and to help propel it forward. ©Benny Marty/Shutterstock.com One of the most common reasons land animals evolved tails is that tails help animals balance. In these animals, a tail acts as a sort of counterbalance, allowing them to maintain their balance in precarious positions or move quickly and efficiently over rugged terrain.
For example, cats developed tails to help them balance when walking over thin or uneven ground. In addition, their tails help them balance when running or leaping onto prey. Similarly, a kangaroo uses its tail to balance when hopping at high speed. Finally, squirrels use their bushy tails for balance when leaping from tree to tree.
In these circumstances, the animal’s tail aids them in their movement. Although not essential for navigation, a tail that evolved for balance could mean the difference between a predator catching its prey or prey escaping from a predator.
Why is it always heads?
Probability Versus Physics – The coin toss is not about probability at all, he says. It is about physics, the coin, and how the “tosser” is actually throwing it. The majority of times, if a coin is heads-up when it is flipped, it will remain heads-up when it lands.
Diaconis has even trained himself to flip a coin and make it come up heads 10 out of 10 times. A similar effect is seen if the coin is spun. Because of the way most coins are made, the “heads” side can weigh more, which means it will fall on that side, leaving the other side up more often. Further, some magicians will have coins that are shaved, giving more weight to one side.
The point? It’s not 50/50 at all. “Most people think, ‘This guy’s nuts,'” Diaconis said in an interview with the Numberphile website. “But if pressed, people, when pushed, seem to think that a coin dropping on the floor is fairer when a coin hits the ground, before it dies, often it spins around on its edge.
How much heads do you throw out of moonshine?
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.
How much head do you remove from moonshine?
How to Remove Methanol from Moonshine – One way a commercial distiller would determine the presence of methanol is to monitor still temperature, If anything is produced by the still before wash temperature reaches 174 degrees, it’s methanol. A commercial distiller will discard it.
- Again, methanol boils at a lower temperature than ethanol and will concentrate at the beginning of distillation runs.
- Additionally, commercial distillers have determined that simply discarding a standard amount per batch, based on batch size, is enough to keep things safe.
- The rule of thumb is to discard 1/3 of a pint jar for every 5 gallons of wash being distilled.
How much initial product to discard:
1 gallon batch – discard the first 2/3 of a shot glass 5 gallon batch – discard the first 1/3 of a pint jar 10 gallon batch – discard the first 3/4 of a pint jar
Regardless of still temp, it’s a good idea to always follow this rule of thumb. Methanol or not, the first stuff to come off the still tastes and smells like rubbing alcohol. It’s by far the worst stuff in the entire production run and it isn’t going to impress anyone. Kyle Brown is the owner of Clawhammer Supply, a small scale distillation and brewing equipment company which he founded in 2009. His passion is teaching people about the many uses of distillation equipment as well as how to make beer at home. When he isn’t brewing beer or writing about it, you can find him at his local gym or on the running trail.
Can you drink moonshine tails?
Only fore-shots contain methanol and acetone (bad stuff) it occurs at the beginning of the run. Tails just are the end of the run and don’t contain any bad stuff.