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problems with distilling?


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    • #3399

      I am having issues distilling my mash. I am thinking I am doing something wrong with the mash….

      1st run with mash only produced 1/4 gallon out of 10 gallons of mash. I used 7.5 lbs of cracked corn, 7.5 lbs of of sugar and yeast.

      2nd run was with wine for brandy. I used 4 liters of wine and it produced 1/4 gallon of Brandy.

      3rd run of mash produced NOTHING.

      I found a few air leaks in the still and they are now fixed….

      4th run. I again produced mash from 20 gallons of water, 15 lbs of sugar, 15 lbs of cracked corn and packets of yeast. I let it ferment for 8 days. I only put 10 gallons of the mash into the still and it produced less than 1/4 gallon at only 30 proof. What am I doing wrong?

    • #3400

      what kind of still do you have? Attach a picture if you can.

      Do you take hydrometer readings at the start of the mash and at the end?
      If you don’t have a hydrometer I would recommend getting one- it really helps when trying to troubleshoot a mash. It sounds like you are not adding enough sugar and it is also possible that the fermentation is not finishing 100%.

      1st run: 7.5 pounds of sugar and 7.5 pounds of cracked corn for 10 gallons will give you about a 4.50% ABV mash…That is pretty low. You are not going to any sugar from the cracked corn. I would double the sugar amount to get your starting gravity up a bit. Distilling does not create alcohol is concentrates the alcohol that is available in the mash- the higher the starting ABV the higher the proof of the run.

      Alcohol vapor escaping can be a very dangerous!! Make sure you have no vapor leaks- alcohol vapors are very flammable- a

      3rd run: same thing as run number 1- you need to add more sugar

    • #3408

      My hydrometer will work in mash?

      4th run. I again produced mash from 20 gallons of water, 15 lbs of sugar, 15 lbs of cracked corn and packets of yeast. I let it ferment for 8 days. I only put 10 gallons of the mash into the still and it produced less than 1/4 gallon at only 130 proof. Now, I have 10 gallons in that tub with the 15 lbs of cracked corn for about a week. Is that still good? I was trying to make sour mash. Is that still good? It has been sitting a week.

    • #3409

      I have the 10 gallon still from Clawhammer

    • #3411
      Zymurgy Bob

      First, about the hydrometer. Yes, you can and should use a hydrometer on your mash, or at least some of the liquid from your mash, as long as the hydrometer is a brewer’s/winemaker’s triple-scale hydrometer, designed specifically for fermenting washes and mashes. There is also a different hydrometer, often called an alcoholometer, that is strictly for measuring %ABV in a distillate (not a wash).

      Beverage Commander was pretty clear that the only fermentable sugars in your mash come from the sugar you added. The corn adds nothing but flavor and yeast nutrients, unless you specifically mash it with enzymes at ~150F for an hour or two, and it doesn’t sound as if you did that.

      So that last 20 gallon mash with 15 pounds of sugar was effectively just 12 ounces of sugar per gallon, which (from the table of the following link), if fermented perfectly (and that virtually never happens), would give a wash alcohol percent of about 4.2%, so that in that 10 gallons of wash you distilled, there was maybe .4 gallons. If you had distilled that to a head temperature of 210F, you’d have almost all of the ethanol in you distillate, which, in total might be 50% (ballpark) ethanol, so you’d have maybe .8 gallons of 50% distillate, at the very most. If you distilled until the distillate was 30%, you’d have left some ethanol in the still, but you should still have almost 3 quarts of distillate.

      Without hydrometer readings, it’s hard to say where you’re losing ethanol, but with 2 pounds of sugar (maximum for clean flavor) per gallon of solution, you’d do much better, but it still sounds like you’re losing some, somewhere in the process.

      Oh, and you really don’t need that much corn; it has no effect on your ethanol yield.

    • #3412
      Zymurgy Bob

      Not sure why that link didn’t show. Another try.

    • #3413
      Zymurgy Bob
    • #3422

      I started with 20 gallons of water, 15 lbs of cracked corn, 15 lbs of sugar and 4 packets of yeast (2.25 teaspoons in each).

      I tried to brew 10 gallons of the mash and it produced a small amount of alcohol at 125 proof.

      I dumped the remainder of the liquid from the still back into the mash… (sour mash)

      Yesterday I put 15 lbs of sugar and 3 tablespoons of yeast in the container that had the sour mash…..

      What do you think?

    • #3424
      Zymurgy Bob

      So you’ll have 15 pounds of sugar in something less than 10 gallons of backset (what we call the spent wash in the boiler after distillation)? That should give you a reasonable sugar concentration in your wash, but since backset is often pretty acidic, you may want to check pH to ensure the yeast can do its job. You’re probably ok with anything pH4.0 or greater.

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