Newbie wanting some help on recipes

Hi all.

My name is John, first time on this forum. I live in Wales in the UK. I have a small 50 litre still from StillDragon with a copper pot head. I got from a friend, who said I should join you on here.

My interest is in 2 things really white corn whiskey and single malt.

I have been playing around with both over the last couple of months, most of which has been spent getting the corn whiskey right. I would like to pass my process and some questions by you to see if I am doing it correctly and improve.

I am using flaked maize and malted barley and then either baker's yeast or distillers yeast.

Here is the quantities I am using, and what I am doing.

  • 40 litres of water
  • 7.86kg flaked maize/corn (80%)
  • 1.64kg malted barley (20%)

I heat the water up to 80C and then add in the corn stirring for 10mins and leave to rest till the temp drops to 64C. I give it a stir every so often during this time. When the temp reaches 64C I then add in the malted barley and stir for a couple of mins. I then leave it to rest for 90mins.

After 90mins I then cool the mash down to around pitching temp where I then remove the grain. This then goes into the fermenter buckets. 25litre containers.

I have done starch tests, it seems to not be clear after this process meaning some starch remains.

I then aerate between 2 buckets 10 times and then add the yeast. I have tried baker's, distillers and whiskey yeast, either sprinkled on top or with a starter (mixed in with water and sugar)

My OG can vary between 1.050 - 1.060
My alcohol % at the end of a ferment is usually around 5%.

I then distill twice using the pot still, making the appropriate cuts. The final product seems to be at 80%.

This all seems to feel it might be right, but there are a couple of questions I have.

  1. Are the grain amounts correct, should I be using more or less?
  2. My ferments don't every seem to be active, something is happening as it ferments and I can hear it, but it is nothing like you see from larger distilleries and what I have seen on YouTube from other guys. I have tried using 5g, 10g and 50g of bread yeast. The less I guess the longer it seems to take, but the more I use does speed up, but it does make it anymore vigorous
  3. What is the right amount of yeast to use?
  4. What is the best yeast to use for corn whiskey?
  5. How important are things like pH in distilling, do I need to keep it at a certain level throughout?
  6. Is it worth using amylase enzymes to help break down more starch?
  7. I want to keep to traditions and not over distill, is there a way to reduce some of the flavour? I know the Irish distill 3 times, and some guys in the States either use stills with thumpers or 3-4 plates.

I appreciate any help, and keen to try anything to help me better this recipe.

J

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Comments

  • (1) Sounds about right. You might be able to put some more grain in but at one point you're going to get a giant porridge. How do you remove the grain though? Also, if you're doing a starch test that doesn't show complete, consider upping the barley or leave it at temp longer.

    (2/3/4) Depends on how fresh the yeast is, there's a difference in take-off. Most recommendation is in cell count and on brewing sites there's tons of reading material on what's available. Generally, I think it's better to use a yeast strain that likes alcohol but also had good results with bakers. Talking to commercial guys I got various feedback. Some swear by DADY, others use more specialized yeasts.

    (5) PH & distilling - check out a lot of @grim's posts. Acidity seems to help with flavor generation during distillation. Main point for me to control PH is to keep yeast happy and other nasties in check. Roughly 3-5 is what I'm shooting for.

    (6) Yes. Or more barley

    (7) Read on this site some more. # of distillation is a flawed metric. If you distill 3x over 5 plates, you have vodka. 3x w/ potstill you're having a flavorful product. Again, no straight answer as it truly depends what you're looking for. If it's got too much flavor, distill again. If you like it then it's just right :D

  • Start using backset in your corn whiskey.

  • We do lots of barley malt fermentations, and I've finally settled on Red Star bakers granulated dry yeast. I pitch about a handful in a 22 gallon ferment, at about 1.070, and we are sometimes finished in 2 days, although 4 is more reliable, and dropping clear is nice. I'm not sure what you've seen videos of, but at full ferment, it fizzes just about like a soft drink, even though you have to pull the foam aside to see it.

    As for whiskey flavor, I work hard to maximize it, to our customers' delight. Were you hoping for vodka from a grain wash?

    Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller

    my book, Making Fine Spirits

  • Thanks guys. Some points to look into.

    @Unsensibel At the moment I remove the grain from mash by hand. I may try adjusting the malt amount and try again.

    @grim How much backset would you use, is there a % you would use from the last? Do you think reusing feints is also a good thing with corn whiskey

    @zymurgybob I think my ferments are correct then, it does fizz as you mentioned. It must be the foam I am not getting. I don't get any, i presume that is OK. Starting off at 1.070 seems very good. I hope with some more testing I can drop mine closer to that level. For me 4 days with 50g of bakers yeast seem fine.

    My last ferment started at 1.051 and finished at 0.930. I presume this is too high, and I should have taken it off the ferment sooner.

    J

  • I recently did three simultaneous and exact same recipie ferments side by side. The only variant was the yeast.

    One didn't foam at all

    One formed what I would call an actual krausen with a somewhat crusty appearance on top.

    One had a light but consistent foam.

    They all finished the same time and proceeded otherwise pretty much the same.

    Basically... foam don't seem to matter too much.

  • Yeah there was a definite difference. The wine yeast was more floral. The ec1118 and thermosacc were harsher and more industrial.

    In the end I distilled a couple times and did cuts. Ended up basically combining everything into a generic mid level neutral.

    I'd actually like to run the experiment again as I think I may have gotten a bacterial infection in one or more of the ferments. I'd also choose some warm temp wine yeasts to play with.

    In all honesty it was two years of playing with mixes and bread yeast before I felt I could benefit from a "better" yeast. At low SG and 20-25c temps there seems to be little to gain from "good" yeasts for most home brewers.

    So much to learn with this stuff!! It's like a bottomless well of information to drink in.

  • edited May 19

    @vimia said: How much backset would you use, is there a % you would use from the last? Do you think reusing feints is also a good thing with corn whiskey

    As much as you can realistically save from batch to batch. You can go ahead and freeze it if you aren't cooking often, however it's going to limit the percentage. I think even small amounts like 5% are incredibly beneficial.

    Recycling feints is good for longer-term aged spirits (1yr+), but for short-term, keep it clean with tight cuts.

  • edited May 18

    @Fiji_Spirits - Surprised that you feel ec1118 is harsh, I think it is one of the cleanest yeasts you can find.

    Not only very little flavor contribution, but:

    Killer Factor - Reduces impact of wild-yeast strains or other non-intentional yeast contaminants (other strains of yeast you are using in-house that might be killer-factor sensitive).

    Very low H2S and Sulfur production - especially with proper nutrient levels.

    Fermenting mid 70s with active cooling - I don't know of anything that would be considered cleaner. However, this may not at all be what you are looking for, cleaner doesn't necessarily mean better.

    Very fast fermenter - little bacterial competition if you distill quickly.

    Maybe Red Star Premier Cuvee being a close second (if not the same strain).

  • EC1118 runs best at 18degc. I agree with @grim extremely neutral and very low H2S which is why it is used in wine and champagne. If you are finding it harsh and a bit hot then try fermenting at a lower temperature and doing 2 nutrient additions 1/2 at the start and the other half at 30% through ferment instead of all in one big hit at the start. If it's used properly you will not get a cleaner smoother neutral.

  • That was my assessment only of that single ferment. It was cleaner than the biofuel yeast tho. But not by much. As I mentioned somewhere it may have caught an infection. My skill at fermenting is lacking and undoubtedly contributes from time to time.

    In any event my results with ec1118 at the ferment temps encountered here (25-30c) have not particularly impressed me. I've gone thru 3-4 kg trying to make it work but It has never produced the results for me that i hear from others.

    I am endeavoring to work with some k1v1116 and some high temp wine yeasts when I get a chance.

  • I lie the Red Star (1116) best of all.

    StillDragon Australia & New Zealand - Your StillDragon® Distributor for Australia & New Zealand

  • The Redstar always left a slight fruitiness to it for me and from other winemakers it doesn't do really well past 12% abv. @Fiji_Spirits that temperature is well out of the operating range of the EC1118.

  • Ambient temps of 25-30c mean your fermentation temps are astronomical unless you are actively cooling.

  • @grim Thanks for your thoughts on the backset. Will try it out. Would you add it back to every distillation, for example if i were doing 3 pot distillations would you include the backset into the 2 distillations after the first? And just so i understand properly, this means you would be redistilling everything you originally put into the still after fermenting?

    Re: the yeast conversation, I have heard EC1118 is good and it has been something i wanted to try. I feel the bread yeast is OK and i know some people have had good results with it, but i think i would be more of a fan using a proper purposed yeast such as a distillers, whiskey or champagne yeast.

    I will definitely give it a go and let you know what my thoughts are.

  • If using EC1118, how much would you use for a 40 litre ferment. The packets are 5g, but as previously experienced, using 5g would take about 9 days to ferment, so should i use more?

    Thanks

  • edited May 19

    By backset I mean the liquid remaining in the still after you do the first pot distillation. The yellow, pungent, eye-tearing, yeasty tomato soup liquid that usually makes you gag when you dump it.

    You would take the portion of that remaining liquid in the still, and add it to the next mash. Just replace whatever water you would have used, with backset instead. For example, instead of using 10 gallons of water in the next mash, use 9 gallons water and 1 gallon backset.

    The backset adds a mix of acidity and nutrients to the next mash, which are both beneficial. As a bonus, you now can call your whiskey sour mash (sounds very impressive).

    Don't worry so much about tweaking yeast until you have everything else nailed down, the impact is minor in comparison to other factors. If you are going to spent the money, spend it on fermentables, since there is no substitute for time spent mashing and behind the still.

  • @grim, got ya. Sorry i misunderstood, i thought you meant add it to the next distillation rather than the next mash. I will try that out. I have saved the left overs from the last distillation.

    Thanks for the advise.

  • Do you have a pH meter? Are you acidifying your mash with an acid like citric or lactic?

    If not, you'll find that things generally run a whole lot better when using 5-10% backset.

  • I do have a pH meter. At the moment I am not using anything like citric or lactic. It is something I am looking into, but again, not much experience with it.

    Should I look to use backset and citric?

  • edited May 19

    Shoot for a pH of 5.2-5.5 after you cook your corn and before you add malt.

    Just pour in some backset at the start of your cook - take a pH measurement, pour in more as necessary.

  • Thanks. I will try that in the next mash.

  • @vimia said: If using EC1118, how much would you use for a 40 litre ferment. The packets are 5g, but as previously experienced, using 5g would take about 9 days to ferment, so should i use more?

    Thanks

    Lallemand recommend 25g per 100 litres so 2 packs should do it. If you rush the ferment you will ruin the end product. It usually takes 14 days to make a wash of 14.7% which is what I do, this is perfectly ok for this yeast as long as you keep the temp DOWN DOWN DOWN to under 20 degC, 18 is best. If you really want to do it fast then use more heat or use the dreaded turbo yeast and suffer the consequences. Take it slow and be patient. Follow the Lallemand directions, dont add all your nutrient at once. Please don't use the dreaded tomatoe paste as a nutrient, use DAP and Fermaid AT, its worth the effort.

  • edited May 20

    @Mickiboi I am doing your brew now 180 L and it is at 19 degrees. It is very slow but progressing nicely. Nearly 1.06 so coming up to the additions. It hardly rocks my air trap but when i look inside it is bubbling - all be it small = nicely. Does that sound about right as was slightly surprised how gentle it is. My pH is around 4 which surprised me also being slightly higher than i expected as was looking to ad ph UP soon but dont think i will. Do you measure the pH with an electronic meter or by test kit as i do have a test kit somewhere.

  • 19 Deg is great. It bubbles very slowly, this is what you want. You will never have to add pH up only down. I use a meter, pH56 by Milwaukee Instruments. If you measured the pH before inoculation it would have been around 9 and would have dropped very quickly. How many days has it been running for?

  • It should finish in 14 to 16 days at 18 to 20 degc.

  • @Mickiboi Is there not any issues you encounter when leaving a ferment for so long?

  • I have left batches 6 months plus with no adverse affects after fermentation. I am not sure what issues you would think would be encountered since this is basically the same as a wine ferment with a few other ingredients and wine at 15% will last a couple of years with no preservative added. There is nothing to go off or rancid in this wash, its just raw sugar. However a low abv tomato paste wash I did very early on when i started this journey was absolute shit after a couple of weeks because I forgot about it, basically unusable.

  • Thanks, good to know!

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