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 fusel oil Fusel alcohols or fuselol, also sometimes called fusel oils in Europe, are mixtures of several higher alcohols (those with more than two carbons, chiefly amyl alcohol) produced as a by-product of alcoholic fermentation.
Fusel alcohol – Wikipedia
and little alcohol at the end of the run.
What to do with tails in a moonshine run?
Collecting the Heart – Once the distiller makes the first cut, the heads are generally either disposed of or redistilled in able to collect more alcohol from them. After the distiller has decided that the quality of the incoming distillate is good enough to keep for drinking purposes, they will cut to “hearts”.
- Hearts are ultimately what become the finished product.
- They contain the bulk of the ethanol we want along with flavors and aromas that make our spirit unique.
- All good things must come to an end, however.
- Eventually the emerging hearts distillate will steadily take on unpleasant aromas and flavors, sometimes even developing some bitterness.
This is when the distiller will make another cut and divert the distillate flow to another container for the remainder of the distillation run. The distillate at this point is called “tails” and it has increasingly lower amounts of alcohol. Additionally, higher amounts of bad aromas due to the growing amount of fusel alcohols come over in the still. Waterford Distillery’s Head Brewer Neil determines when to make the cut / Photo Credit: Waterford Distillery
What is heads or tails used for?
Heads or Tails Ever wondered about the different sides of our coins? Heads or Tails is a great way to let fate make a decision for you. A coin toss tells AFL teams which end of the ground they’re playing, and a flip of a coin can settle family arguments over pizza or Thai while watching the game at home. But of course, each side of the coin tells its own story.
What do tails taste like distilling?
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.
How much of a run is tails?
The Tails – After the run reaches about 205 degrees Fahrenheit or so, there may be more steam that makes its way into your distillate. There may also be other chemicals that burn at a higher temperature than ethanol, which can give this portion of the distillate a flavor that isn’t quite what you’re after.
- This part of the run is called the “tails” and can total as much as 20-30% of your run.
- Set the tails aside to be further distilled.
- At 212 degrees Fahrenheit, water boils.
- When the temperature in the pot of your still reaches 212 degrees, you can go ahead and turn off the heat source for your still.
- The temperature inside should maintain itself for a little while longer, then the temperature at the top of the column (the “onion head”) should suddenly drop, signalling the end of your run.
You can keep collecting whatever distillate comes out of the condenser coil, but it’s not worth boiling the water to get every drop of alcohol out of the alcohol wash. You’ll end up with a lot of water in your tails, which will just be distilled out again anyhow. Mason jars are the traditional containers for moonshine distilling
What alcohols are in tails?
Who’s Afraid of Heads, Hearts, and Tails? Introduction Heads, hearts, and tails. Three simple words. But they inspire awe and fear in the hearts of many beginning distillers. Should we be afraid of heads, hearts, and tails? This iStill Blog post aims to answer that question in a few simple steps.
- First, let’s investigate what heads, hearts, and tails are.
- Then, we’ll research their properties.
- As a third step, let us assess why heads, hearts, and tails are important – and often awe-inspiring.
- The final part of this blog post will propose a framework for you to manage heads, hearts, and tails cuts.
Heads, Hearts, and Tails: what are they? Not al alcohol is ethanol and not all alcohol is created equal. Where ethanol is intoxicating without being toxic, when consumed in moderate amounts, some other alcohols are actually quite toxic, even when consumed in very limited amounts.
- During distillation – especially in the lower power-input and higher-proof finishing runs – the good alcohol we call ethanol comes over in the middle, during the “heart” of the run.
- The other alcohols, with high toxicity, come over at the beginning and end of the finishing run.
- The first part of the run is therefor called “heads”, while the last part is named “tails”.
So basically heads and tails are phases during the distillation run, when overly toxic alcohols come over. Does it start to make sense why they are fear-inducing? Cut too many heads and tails into your hearts and you end up with a toxic spirit. Okay, the bad news is that heads and tails are really bad.
- The good news is that they only come over in the beginning and at the end of the run, and the actual amounts are small.
- But what are their properties? Let’s dive in deeper.
- Heads, Hearts, and Tails: what are their properties? Scientifically, a better name for “heads” is “lower boiling point alcohols”.
The alcohols with low boiling points come over early in the run. Think aceton or methanol. A better name for “tails” is “high boiling point alcohols”. Propanol, butanol, and furfural come over late in the run, because they boil off at very high temperatures.
- Higher than ethanol, and sometimes higher than water.
- In general, low boiling point alcohols cause head-aches.
- High boiling point alcohols create stomach problems.
- Mnemonic? Heads give head-aches, where tails create tail-end issues.
- Floral and fruity flavors come over during the first part of the distillation run.
Floral and fruity flavors associate with heads. Rooty, nutty, and earthy flavors come over during the last part of the run and associate with tails. Do you feel a catch 22 coming? Here it is. If you want to cut out all heads, you’ll cut out all floral and fruity flavors as well.
Do you want to get rid of tails? Great, stills (or run procedures) can do that for you. But you’ll loose all rooty, nutty, and earthy flavors as well. Why are heads, hearts, and tails important – and awe-inspiring? Cut in too many heads and you end up with a spirit that causes head-aches. Cut out too many heads and you end up with a spirit that lost its floral and fruity flavors.
Idem for tails. Do you start to see why cutting for heads, hearts, and tails is important – and awe-inspiring at the same time? Good cuts make great product. Poor cuts destroy your product. In a way a good distiller is someone that knows how to make great cuts.
In a way a great still is a machine that controls the cut-points for heads, hearts, and tails to perfection. In a way distilling comes down to cutting. So far, the industry has seen two approaches on how to deal with this issue. Big Alcohol has often been accused to just cut everything in. It explains the morning-afters.
It makes for a good amount of profit, since the manufacturer doesn’t have to cut out anything and all alcohols produced end up in a bottle. A bottle being sold to you. The second school of thought, that started with the birth of craft distillation, aimed to cut out heads and tails all-together.
The result? You can guess it, right? Uninteresting spirits. Our insight, based on science, brought a third way of looking at heads, hearts, and tails to the forefront: the one we shared above, where heads, hearts, and tails have both positive and negative properties. It’s not about cutting them in or out, it is about the flavor profile you want to high-light as a distiller, when producing a certain spirit! A Framework for Managing Heads, Hearts, and Tails First, decide what spirit you want to make and what the associated flavor profile is.
Some examples? Here you go. Vodka aims for a minimal flavor experience at high purity, so you’ll want to cut out all heads and all tails. Less flavor, more purity, less toxicity. Whisky is flavorful and full bodied. Incorporate late heads and early tails, and only cut out the early heads and late tails.
You’ll get all the flavor, while controlling – to an extend – overall toxicity levels. Fruit brandy? Fruity flavors are found in the heads, so cut out all the tails, and cut out only the very first bit of the heads. Secondly, choose the right type of still. A potstill sucks at compacting heads and tails and is therefor a great tool for whisky making, where you need both the late heads and early tails to smear into hearts.
Bubble cap stills offer great defense against tails smearing, which makes them very well suited for fruit brandy production. iStills, with their elaborate control systems and automated cuts management, can make any spirit to perfection. Thirdly, please understand that low and high boiling point alcohols (and their associated flavors) are developed during fermentation, not during distillation.
Distillation is simply a way to control them. In other words: if you want to create a certain flavor profile, for a certain product, with a certain still, well, it actually all starts with your fermentation protocols! If you ferment in such a way that no flavors and no toxic alcohols are formed, you are already almost at vodka level purity, even before starting-up your still.
That is great if vodka was your goal, but not so good when making whisky. The opposite holds true as well: a flavorful ferment is a great base for whisky making, but not for vodka production. The fourth step should actually be the first step. Learn more about still design, about spirit flavor profiles, about how fermentation influences heads, hearts, and tails production.