edited March 2020 in Recipes

So I thought hot on the tail of getting some good results recently with my Rum & Vodka trials I would give some brandy/cognac a whirl...

My plans are as follows:

Use the last of my neutral white concentrated grape juice and dilute it down to an SG of 1.065, ferment it with Fermentis Safspirits FD-3 at 18 Degrees dropping 14 deg after 1/4 fermentation (based on the OEM's advice). I will also use Fermaid and Go-Ferm as usual. Once primary fermentation is complete I plan to add Lalvin VP41 (Oenococcus oeni Bacteria) to induce maolactic fermentation.

My plan is to ferment 200L, strip it and then ferment another 200L, strip 180L of that and set 20L aside. For the spirit run I was going to throw the 20L in with the low wines based on what a lot of people have discussed on other threads here.

With the ageing I have a 25L barrel (Ex red wine & port, then re-coopered and 1 whisky) I am planning on putting it in. However, I did read in Fermented Beverage Production that it is common for Cognac to be aged for around 6 months in new barrels before being put into older ones for long term ageing (at 55% ABV). My thoughts are to put it on Medium Toast American oak dominoes at 65% for up to six months (to try and get those vanillins in there) before reducing it to 55% and transferring to the barrel.

I was just wondering if anyone has any experience with something similar (especially with the ageing side of things) that they might be able to share or give some pointers? Or any advice on monitoring MLF progress as when I googled it, it got quite detailed, scientific and expensive...


P.S. I was thinking about calling it Corona Cognac...


  • Just a thought .... why bother with Malolactic fermentation. I ask because you are going to distill it immediately after. Malolactic I would have done if I were doing wine etc. When we did cider, we did malolactic fermatation for a rounder mouth feel, but this is distilling.

    Thoughts ??

  • SamSam
    edited March 2020

    @richard to be honest I was basing my process off the Cognac and Brandy chapters in the Fermented Beverage Production book. I was of the same mindset as you in that I'm not sure what the benefits would be, the FBP book makes mention of MLF in both chapters but doesnt really go into detail as to why.

    So I just did some reading and dug into it a bit further... It would appear research shows that MLF increases the quality of the base wine and distillate while reducing the overall frutiness.

    I must admit now I am in two minds about the MLF as I am a fan of a bit of frutiness...

    If you are interested there is a research paper available online which summarises the following...

    Aims: In this study we determined the extent to which lactic acid bacteria (LAB) occurred in brandy base wines, their ability to catalyse the malolactic fermentation (MLF) and the effect of MLF on the quality of the base wine and the brandy distillate.

    Methods and Results: Lactic acid bacteria were isolated and enumerated from grape juice, experimental and commercially produced brandy base wines. Spontaneous MLF occurred in approximately 50% of the commercial base wines. The occurrence of MLF had an influence on the quality of the base wines and the resulting distillates. In samples where MLF occurred there was a loss of fruitiness and in the intensity of aroma. Volatile compounds like iso‐amyl acetate, ethyl acetate, ethyl caproate, 2‐phenethyl acetate and hexyl acetate decreased in samples having undergone MLF, while ethyl lactate, acetic acid and diethyl succinate increased in the same samples.

    Conclusions: Spontaneous malolactic fermentation does occur in commercial brandy base wines and it has an influence on base wine and brandy quality.

    Significance and Impact of the Study: This study showed that MLF influences the quality of the base wine and the resulting distillate and with this in mind commercial base wine producers should be able to produce brandy of higher quality.

    Full paper is available here:

    The occurrence of malolactic fermentation in brandy base wine and its influence on brandy quality @ Wiley Online Library

  • If you want fruity brandies you do not want to do MLF. MLF reduces esters and makes it so they cannot reform. Like it said in the "Menthods and Results" paragraph the esters (acetates) that make the fruity flavors are reduced. That paper you posted goes in to details.

  • Yeah I make brandy with a local organic winemaker each year. I think your plan is sound.

    You don't need to hold back the 20litres of raw wash. Keep the raw wash away and use some ag lime to break up the heads, and it will throw plenty of heads. If you like grappa taste you can't make it like this, you need to cook the skins. If the brandy is unappealing when you finish distilling you have gone OK.

    Age in a keg or staves but finish on staves. Get some French Oak staves to get a deep red brandy colour when you are finishing. Finish with a handful of sultanas for aroma a month before bottling.

    You may need a few goes to make a brandy people are going to want to drink.

    Oh and use a pH buffer to stop the...


  • Thanks for your comments guys, when I wrote the first post I hadn't really thought about the MLF and was just following the process from the book. After reading that paper and thinking about it, I am going to leave the MLF as I don't think this will help get me to where I want to be.

    @rossco, are you able to elaborate a bit more on the ag lime? This is the first time I have heard of it being used for something like this. I'm not after a grappa product so am glad to read your comments.

    With the ageing do you think putting it in the barrel first then into kegs with new french oak staves at the end (instead of the beginning). Also what ABV do you age your brandy at?

  • Yeah put some ag lime in your heads jar and note the difference in output of heads. You need a tablespoon per litre of heads. I just add it at the beginning and leave it in there, others add it the day before they distill the heads. You add it to stripped washes not to raw wash, can't remember why, punkin probably knows. Brandy is such a headsy process it just makes sense to add it between the stripper and spirit runs. This will obviously depend on how you are trying to layer the flavour profile. R

  • SamSam
    edited March 2020

    So I stripped the first 200L last night and it smelt and tasted amazing. I didn't go ahead with the MLF and based on the smells and taste it was the right decision.

    @rossco I'm still a little confused with the ag lime... I was planning on just combining the two stripped washes for the spirit run, are you saying to add the ag lime at that point (well just before distillation). Or are you saying to do a third distillation of the heads and add the ag lime to that?

    I'm sorry if im being slow on the uptake, this is my first attempt at a brandy.


    600 x 800 - 68K
  • Never used lime, i used baking soda.

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

  • @punkin would you add baking soda to the low wines during the spirit run (the talk of adding it to the heads jar has just confused me).

    This is the first I'm hearing of something like this, whats the benefit of adding the baking soda?

  • I recon if it tastes and smells amazing then just proceed without complicating the process. Especially if it is your first go. Make sure you take a wide heads cut.

    Baking soda or ag lime will break up the heads. Only add it to pre-distilled spirits.

  • If using baking soda i only used it for neutrals mate. In brandy you want some late heads.

    My method was 1 tsp per litre and sit for a few days. If using sodium carbonate there's no need to sit. ONLY ADD TO LOW WINES before refluxing.

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

  • @sam are you collecting into plastic?

  • Yes I am for the stripped wash

  • @Sam said: Yes I am for the stripped wash

    With out getting into a debate, from a safety aspect I would highly advise collecting in something else ie Stainless/glass.

    Plastic (depending on type) can leach into alcohol or break down etc especially at high proof/percent.

    There are many threads on multiple distilling forums that outline not to use plastic in any form.

    Silicon gaskets and tubing/hose are ok.

    Hope you take this as a genuine concern and not someone telling you what to do, its just advice, similar to reminding people not to leave stills unattended or to make sure their water is turned on :)

    Happy stilling

  • @Clickeral thanks for the input mate, I'm always open to suggestions and see it as constructive not interfering.

    TBH it was something at the back of my mind, as things have grown in my garage and I upgraded my fermenters etc I just re-purposed the old HDPE ones. I looked on ebay and there are some pretty cheap stainless options so I ordered a few of them.

  • @Sam said: Clickeral thanks for the input mate, I'm always open to suggestions and see it as constructive not interfering.

    TBH it was something at the back of my mind, as things have grown in my garage and I upgraded my fermenters etc I just re-purposed the old HDPE ones. I looked on ebay and there are some pretty cheap stainless options so I ordered a few of them.

    I've always found old plastic fermenters to be great for storaging grain, bottles etc

  • funny, they ship and store 190GNS in hdpe...

  • Tends to be the home distillers that can afford to make the distinction. It's an easy practice when it's a few jugs and kegs. Bit harder when we're talking commercial quantities.

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

  • @CothermanDistilling said: funny, they ship and store 190GNS in hdpe...

    Or epoxy lined steel drums. Most seals in distilleries are EPDM. The corks in spirit bottles are synthetic these days... The Lores of the HD mindset persist.

  • Well in the interest of being thorough I just thought I would update on where I'm up to.

    I completed my spirit run over the weekend and it was definitely unappealing so fingers crossed it will taste good in the long run.

    Following how my rum is going on the various oaks, I decided to put it on some new French Oak dominoes which I charred first. I'm planning to leave it for a few months in the hope it 'cleans' the brandy like it appears to have with the rum before I put it in a barrel for the rest.

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