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Distillation trouble


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    • #2638

      Hello all. I have been having some trouble with my distillation. I have had my last two batches of shine produce very little drinkable product. The last batch had gravity reading of 1.1 before i added the distillers yeast. I got maybe 4 pints and most of it is heads or tails. Almost no clean tasting hearts. Only 1 pint tasted clean. I monitored vapor temps and kept it around 190. What am i doing wrong? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    • #2639

      The initial gravity was 1.100
      do you know what the final gravity was?

      what was the starting proof of the shine?
      what was the ending proof on the sine?

      what was your recipe?

    • #2641

      Recipe was 8.5 lbs of flaked corn, 4 lbs. cane sugar, 2 lbs malted barley. I don’t recall the exact final gravity but the final percent was around 7 %. I have not taken the time to check the proof of what I produced. Should I check the jars that seemed to be heads as well?

    • #2642

      If you starting gravity was 1.100 and the final abv was around 7%- then the final gravity was around 1.046.

      What size batch was this? 5 gallons?

    • #2643

      Yessir, 5 gallons. Sorr for forgetting to provide you with the basic info. So was there just very little fermentation?

    • #2644

      It sounds like there was an issue with the fermentation.
      A mash with a starting gravity 1.110 fermented down to 1.010 would have an ABV of almost 12%

      I would try and shoot for a SG of 1.075 and try and ferment it down to 1.010. The yeast will have an easier time fermenting a lower starting gravity. You will still start with around 8.5% ABV going into the still.

      What is your fermenting process?
      What yeast?
      What type of fermenter?
      What temperature?
      Are you using an airlock?
      Are you straining the grains before fermenting or after?

    • #2645

      Fermentating process: I cook the mash then let it cool down to about 70 degrees. I have done one batch strained before I fermented and one after but I had similar problems with both. I bottled it into a glass carboy and used distillers yeast, this batch was strained before I added it to the carboy. it was kept in my basement which stays at a pretty constant temp of 70-75. I used an airlock as well. I let it go until the bubbling in the airlock has stopped.

    • #2646

      I’d start the next batch around 1.075- it is way easier for the yeast to ferment this lower starting gravity.

      On the next bath you make- take a hydrometer reading before you add the sugar- keep it under 1.075
      Take a hydrometer reading once the bubbles stop- you want it to be around 1.010 or lower
      Don’t run the wash until it has not changed for 3 days in row-

      keep us posted.

    • #2647

      I am very new to this whole game. What is the best way to get a batch at that gravity? I added the sugar to the corn to try to boost the sugar content in hopes of getting more final product. Am I misunderstanding? and you would continue with the distillers yeast?

    • #2648

      Adding sugar to the corn will boost the starting gravity— if the yeast is able to ferment the high starting gravity you will end up with a higher starting gravity which will yield more final product….
      The issue is yeast starts to get stressed with a SG over 1.075 and often it won’t finish fermenting properly.

      I personally don’t push my mash above 8.5%- I feel the flavor is compromised with higher starting gravities

      I have had great luck with the whiskey distillers yeast, US05,

      feel free to use any yeast.. I’m a fan of US05, BRY 97, Bread yeast, Whiskey Distillers yeast,

    • #2944
      Zymurgy Bob

      A couple of things occur to me. When you say ” I cook the mash then let it cool down to about 70 degrees” did you really boil all the grains, or did you actually mash the grains, heating the water and grain to 150-155F to allow the enzymes in the barley malt to convert the starches in both the barley and the flaked corn to fermentable sugars? Simply boiling the grain will “kill” the enzymes, so that the only sugar in your wash will be that 4 pounds of sugar, plus whatever small amout of starch got converted to sugar before the temperature hit ~160F. That could give you enough sugar for a 7% wash, but with entirely different SG numbers. All that corn will be for almost nothing.

      By the way, how did you measure that 7% ethanol in the wash. Without OG and FG, most distillers or brewers do not have any way to measure the ethanol % at end of ferment.

      If your SG really was 1.110, as Richard pointed out, yeast can have problems surviving that wash, and in the process, can make some nasty-tasting distillate, and that may be what you’re seeing. For best flavors, especially at first, I’d stay below 1.085. Often washes that give you the most ethanol will give you the worst-tasting distillate.

      You also say the head temperatures “kept it around 190”. That tells me that either you were operating a reflux still, with its reflux condenser at the top of the column, or you were operating a potstill, and have an imperfect understanding of what happens with potstill head temperatures.

      In a potstill, as you apply heat to the wash, the wash rises to its boiling point, which is only determined by its ethanol content, and is in no way controllable by the operator. When the wash boils, the vapor leaving the wash is at exactly the temperature of the boiling wash, and therefore also not operator-controllable. As the ethanol-rich vapor boils off, the ethanol content of the wash decreases, and the head temperature follows a very predictable slowly increasing curve limited by the boiling point of water. At no point can the operator change the head temperature from where physics is taking it. Ok, if you stop the boiling, you can reduce the head temperature, but you’ve also stopped distillation.

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