Whisky Mash

I was just winding if I could get some advice off anyone with a bit of experience in making whisky...

I have been working on my mashing techniques making washes for neutral and have been using Alpha Amylase and Glucoamylase, I have been getting around 90% efficiencies in the starch conversion and then close to 1.000 at the end of the fermentation so decent efficiencies. I’m usually getting about 10% ABV without having to add any sugar.

That said I’m starting to think about trying my hand at a whisky and have been reading ‘Alt Whiskeys’ by Derek Bell and notice he doesn’t use any enzymes and appeasers to be using an efficiency of about 70% during the mashing process. In the book he seems to be fermenting to between 5-6%.

I am going to try my first whisky with a Manuka Smoked & Distillers malts and had just assumed I would use the enzymes as I have been in my Neutral recipe. However, now I have started to read this book I am not sure this is the way to go...

If I were to use the enzymes and push for the maximum efficiencies will this remove other characteristics from the final product? Am I better off using lower efficiencies or does it not really matter.

Whilst I will keep experimenting I am keen to get people’s input from their experience before I spend a few months and a couple of hundred bucks making an elementary mistake that could have been avoided.

I also notice some people ferment on the grain and others off, whilst I understand fermenting on the grain will boost yields, I am curious in people’s experience what effects fermenting on and off the grain has on the finished product?

Comments

  • edited July 8

    Raw grain converted with alpha and gluco will result in a cleaner spirit than using malt - this is fact.

    Using alpha and gluco with a malt based wash will boost efficiency with no impact to flavor (all else equal).

    Fermenting grain in, and distilling grain in, will boost efficiency, and will result in significantly stronger grain flavor in the distillate (compared European and American whiskey styles for underlying grain flavor impact).

    Fermenting grain in with gluco (not just alpha) will generally result in maximal efficiencies, as gluco can hydrolyze starch).

    Protease enzymes will impact flavor - making raw grain profiles taste more like malt grain profiles - this is due to the increase in amino acids in the wash. I don’t know that I’d ever want to use a protease enzyme in a high malt wash. Ehrlich pathway - high amounts of aminos will result in high fusels/tails.

  • @grim thanks for that, so am I right in thinking using the Alpha and Gluco enzymes won’t have a significant impact on flavour?

    Whilst I ferment on the grain I haven’t tried distilling on the grain as my still has internal elements and I’m worried about scorching. I did see an agitator on Ali Express but I’m not so sure how well it would work with the internal elements as I don’t think the propellor would sit low enough in the boiler.

  • Alpha and gluco have zero flavor impact.

  • I go through Bell's book every so often and had it open this weekend.

    Save the hassle. Use the enzymes. To me it takes a LOT of the question marks out of the equation and as an example I have been mashing with wheat, oats 50/50 lately and have had zero stuck mashes. Oats and wheat are notorious for getting stuck and I am using insane percentages.

    FC

  • edited July 9

    @FloridaCracker said: I go through Bell's book every so often and had it open this weekend.

    Save the hassle. Use the enzymes. To me it takes a LOT of the question marks out of the equation and as an example I have been mashing with wheat, oats 50/50 lately and have had zero stuck mashes. Oats and wheat are notorious for getting stuck and I am using insane percentages.

    As a matter of interest, are you upping the prescribed measure of enzymes to doubly insure good liquification?

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • Bells book is just great. I made a quinoa whiskey along the lines of what he put down as the recipe and its great. The quinoa bourbon is really good too.

    As for on grain fermentation a little while ago I did two washes exactly the same one on grain and the other off grain. They both tasted more or less the same but the ongrain had a lot more flavor. After that test I do on grain all the time now. More efficient and just a lot more flavor. To answer @Sam comment on agitators I have false floor in my fermenting tanks so when I take off the wash after its fermented it goes straight into my still which has immersion elements. What you will find is the grain bed ( which used to be a grain cap) filters out about 95% of the solids as you pump it out. At the end of most runs there will be a little bit of material stuck to the elements but its very rarely burnt. But my heating elements are about 150mm above the floor of the still. A bain marie boiler would be better but mine is still in my tank guys shop. Anyway @grim knows everything about the differences. I am just a beginner.

    The last few times I have done tastings for some people I have met they taste my whiskeys and some comment that they have a lot more flavor than commercial whiskeys. Now if only I could get my whole grain technique sorted out. Which I will except its too cold to ferment here right now. Anyway good luck @Sam.

  • Thanks everyone for your input, I think I will definitely push on with the enzymes.

    My concern had been that from my understanding of the use of enzymes in making beers results in a lighter bodied beer and I was concerned doing so in a whisky would result in a loss of flavour. I prefer a lighter whisky (Speyside is my favorite) anyway.

    Fermenting on the grain has been working well for me but I hadn't thought of putting a false bottom in the fermenter, instead I have been siphoning off the top and then scooping out the grain bed at the bottom and putting it through a muslin bag. I have a spare false bottom that will fit in my fermenter so will try that next time as it sounds much easier and wont make as much mess.

    I'm interested to try some of Bells whiskys where he uses hops as that sounds a little different. Along this line I'm curious if anyone has tried using hops in gin? It seems to me they could be used to give a bit of a citrus note among other things, obviously you could just use citrus but the bitterness and other flavours from the hops could be interesting. Something I'm starting to think about having a play with anyway.

  • edited July 9

    Pretty sure Jersey Spirits does a gin with hops,,I think?

    He doesn't check in much. He's too busy "killin it".

    I'll see if he'll chime.

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • edited July 10

    We take our own Neutral Grain base made from corn and redistill the spirits through a vapor basket with a secret blend of 6 botanicals and spices and add Equinox. A very interesting balance of citrus with the floral and spice of our traditional Gin and a surprise hoppy finish.

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    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • @sam. I tried a gin with citric hops. It was ok but i would never do it again. It just came out too bitter. I love bitter beers but in a gin it was too much. Not enough sweetness to balance it out. About 4 months ago i tried a gin a couple of kids were trying to get over the line and it had a lot of hops. Not great. But have a go if it flaots your boat. The final conclusion i came about them is if your have 10 gins in a product line up keep the hops there as 1 in 10 guys will love it. But only one in 10.

  • @sam I used to do that too with ongrain. What a pain in the ass. Put in your false floor and let the grain bed be your filter. One other tip is once your fermentation has run pump out the wash into your still and wait. Over about 20 to 30 minutes the liquid and wash inside the grain drains out into the false floor. Then you pump that into your still. Do that twice and you have recovered about 95% of the liquid with very little physical work. When the time comes to dig out the spent grain its almost dry and a lot easier to handle. I did it the hard way about 20times before figuring out the easy way.

  • @Smaug said: As a matter of interest, are you upping the prescribed measure of enzymes to doubly insure good liquification?

    Yes but not a bunch. The recommended 3.9ml per pound of grain comes out to 3.2 oz per 100 lbs. I just round it up to 4 oz because it's easier to use a 1/2 cup measurement.

    FC

  • I have found with the Alpha A the manufacturers dosage is pretty accurate but with the Gluco A a higher dose is required to get a full fermentation.

  • @Sam i do use a little hops in my gin but it’s way down towards the bottom of my ingredient list to only have a hint

  • @Unsensibel from what I have read over doing the hops will make things way to bitter so am curious at what % of hops do you use for your botanical make up?

    I was going to have a chat with a friend of mine who is pretty knowledgeable on brewing and knows a fair bit about hops to try and find a suitable variety. Ideally I want an Australian variety which is fruity without being overly bitter, I have seen some people using Galaxy hops but from what I have read they can be quite bitter. I was thinking about experimenting with Ella & Enigma both individually and a combination as they both seem to be a potential good match for Gin.

  • edited July 14

    I'm yet to try hops - dunno why i haven't played to be honest...

    My thoughts are to work with varieties that add flavour and aroma when added late in the boil or post boil when used in beer. There are dual purpose varieties that would be interesting as you get the flavour / aroma without the bitterness.

    The kiwi's have some great hop varieties too who which I reckon would work well.

    I'd look for dual purpose to start before trying high alpha varieties. Lookup the flavour profiles before choosing & consider what it is you want the resulting spirit to be:

    • Earthy? go with nobles like saaz or english like ekg / fuggles or Topaz
    • floral? wakatu;
    • fruity? topaz; galaxy for citrus and passionfruit; summer is apricot / melon; Raku (tropical fruit - aromas of passionfruit and peach); topaz; enigma; plus many others
    • bitter? too many choices
    • spicy? : Ella; topaz; styrian, nobles; southern cross
    • accentuate the juniper pine? kohatu; Sticklebract; southern cross
    • boost the coriander's citrus? Motueka; Pacifica; Riwaka; southern cross

    this might help:

    image

    As to how much - keep them as a tertiary addition and then go light on - I'd start at 1g/l or less

    Another thought is to put the hops in the GB4 late in the run - just like you would when making beer. That will avoid the potential of strong bitterness coming over.

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  • I’d make my hop distillate separate and add it afterwards as opposed to trying single batch. Suspect you can likely fractionate to extract terpenes separate from any of the bitter components, optimizing flavor profile. Alternatively, small doses of sugar will cut bitterness while preserving the flavor profile pretty well.

    IMHO, this is gimmick, nobody buys a second bottle of any of this stuff. It wouldn’t even have a market if not for the hoppy beer crew...

  • @Sam need to check my recipe from last batch. I’m compounding from individual extractions at the moment. Might take me a while as I’ve moved and my stuff is still in boxes

  • When I did my gin I was about .5g/l and that was a lot. And in my run the hops came out a lot more towards the end of the run. Anyway good luck. I am not a great fan. ( I ended up throwing away about 5 litres of the stuff).

  • edited July 15

    I'm sure there are debittered hop oils like cryo hops and other such products. You could just put a measured amount in with the other botanicals and won't have to worry about bitterness at all.

    YCH HOPS Releases Cryo Hops Product Line with LupuLN2 and Debittered Leaf @ ProBrewer

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

  • Yeah, that seems like a much better approach.

  • Looks like they have new C02 extracted ones that don't add bitterness like the steam extracted ones do, just aroma and flavor.. might be worth experimenting..

    Hop Oils (Bitter and Aroma) @ HopTech

  • Looking to do an all barley malt mash for whiskey.

    Just concerned that I have gone off the page in the set up and have gone to unnecessary extremes in PLC recipe set up.

    Thoughts ??

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  • edited July 20

    And another from one of my other barley malt recipes where I add malt to heated water.

    The prior one was with malt and water being heated together from start.

    The water to malt ratio that I have based this on is 4.2L : 1Kg.

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  • Richard,

    Whilst I’m not the most experienced at this, in my limited experience when using enzymes a two step mash of 63 & 70 degrees seems to work best. I tried the other rests but I didn’t find they increased efficiencies or yields. Potentially it just pushes your energy bills up (it takes more energy to heat the grain and water rather than just the water).

    Additionally I wouldn’t add a rest after you one at 70 Degrees as you risk denigrating some enzymes, if you are adding Glucoamylase and fermenting on the grain you want the enzymes still intact so they can keen converting starch to sugar.

  • Glucoamylase would only be added direct to fermenter at such final temperature target i.e +- 28 deg C and is there for the fermentation process.

    Nothing here is hard and fast. I've thrown it out here for comment especially with the others whom know way better than I.

    My yeast supplier whom has recommended LC021 (a scotch whiskey yeast from the 1950's) has suggested a final ferment of approx. 10% and further with this yeast and barley malt mash that potentially enzymes may not be required. Personally I will be adding some enzymes of which I am still discussing.

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