Water To Maize Mix Ratio

edited August 2020 in General

Was curious for those distilling using malt for whiskeys etc. as to what your mix of water to malt is. What ratios are you using or rather is considered ideal for when preparing distilling mashes.

In addition sparging water, what volumes and ratios are you using.

Below is one of my mixes for when brewing beer, where I use 3.6L water for every Kg of malt.


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  • I did some research on this a while ago and there are some posts on this on the ADI forums. Most guys are around 0.25kg/litre and your at 0.27. I vary between .22kg and 0.25. Over 0.3 there is a lot of grain in the fermenter but you will get between 8 to 10% ABV on the beer.

  • edited August 2020

    Last malt I did was 3.7l/kg, so fairly close. Mashed on Friday. I thought the 30% peated malt was a bit light on the peat, so I mashed again at 60% peated with the intention of blending the barrels.

    Hammer milled malt, fermented and distilled on grain, so I suspect my efficiencies might be higher.

    2000 liters through the still yields me a 53 gallon barrel.

  • edited August 2020

    Many thanks for the info @donmateo and @grim.

    @grim, I am curious of your total water at 3.7L/kg. Would it for the still volume of 2,000L (fermented volume) have come to something like 2,260L water and 248kg malt as below ??


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  • 450 kg malt and ~1700 liters water to 2000 liters total volume.

    Everything in the drink, no lauter, no sparge.

  • @richard. I am not in commercial operation but i am building up stock so to speak. I mash in 200l fermenters but i have 8 of them. I only have a 200l boiler but my tank guy is mak8ng me a thousand litre boiler. Your mashing ratios are spot on as the malt will soak up about 10% of the volume of liquid and its hard to get out. I havent done a lot of large ferments in the last 2 years but i have done about 180 x 200l ferments. I would guess that makes me more than a hobbyist!

  • @grim thanks. It's interesting for me to see different ways of doing it without sparge. The obvious result is an end higher ABV with the quantity of malt used.

    @donmateo thanks. I think the big issue is to look at in two different ways ... making normal beer and then a fermented wash for distilling.

  • @richard. I completely agree. I make a fermented wash for distilling. When beer guys come over and look at my open top fermenters, with a lid but only to keep the flies out, they normally almost have a heart attack because its so different from making beer.

  • edited August 2020

    Look, I realize I do everything in a way that's almost completely opposite to malt whiskey production traditionally.

    Grim - Scotland

    Hammer Mill to Flour - Roller Mill as grist with husk in tact

    No Lauter - Lauter

    Ferment On Grain (including husk) - Ferment Clear Wash

    Temperature controlled fermenters - Uncontrolled washbacks.

    Distill On Grain (including husk) - Distill Wash w. Lees

    Distill single pass column - Double pot still

    I do tend to use UK sourced malt though, Bairds. And I use what would be considered a traditional whiskey yeast, Mauri Blue.

    You don't need to believe me, but my method produces delicious whiskey. If I can vary that dramatically in nearly every process step and still yield a fantastic product, perhaps the process differences are not as dramatic as one would expect.

  • edited August 2020

    In terms of biggest impacts I've ever seen in this process.

    European malt vs. US/Canadian malt - this is especially so for malts produced for distillers.

    Bairds distilling malt was probably the single biggest flavor impact I noticed. I attribute this to European distilling malts being far lower in protein. This should not be confused with US/Can Distillers Malt - which is grown for high enzyme content, and an entirely different animal. The peated malts I believe are grown and malted in Inverness.

    The flavor profile is wildly different from 100% North American pale malt, far lower congeners (due to the higher protein/aminos). Very, very clean distillate requiring far smaller heads/tails cuts on the plated still.

    Very, very traditional malt whiskey flavor profile. I really don't feel that North America malts produced that same traditional flavor.

    So much so, I won't ever use another base malt again for a malt whiskey. This was very very close, but the Bairds was better:

    Pot Still Malt @ Canada Malting Co. Limited

  • edited April 2021

    Ok so now further down the road and getting ready for a whisky mash and then distillation for ageing.

    The intent is to distil on grain and control its / this output to approx. 65% ABV for barrel ageing. ... i.e. without dilution so I intend to distil this slow and in one shot.

    I have used the mash ratio as indicated in my Excel screen shot. I am first looking to do a single malt.

    For OG and FG I have just put some arb figures in. Just curious what figures yourselves achieve. I am shooting ultimately for approx. 8.5%.

    Thoughts on above and below.




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  • @grim. I thought I would follow up on this thread as lately I have been monitoring my production a lot better. I am using 0.25kg per litre, although because in my current setup I cant control temperature very much I have switched over to off grain ferments, although I do prefer ongrain but without active temperature when its 35 degrees C its too easy to for the grain cap to keep the temperature in and cook the yeast. So I am using 50kg per 200l and the final wash is around 7.5 to 8%. I am getting about 45 litres of low wines at about 22% and so in 400l of wash that equates to about 55l at 50% abv. I prefer to barrel on the low side of ABV as you get a better handle on how the barrel is aging. I actually prefer the ongrain, traditional style method you use but where I am at right now I cant do that. With the off grain method I have been getting very consistent results with good productivities. But when I have my distillery building finally bought I will be doing on grain ferments with active temperature control for " distillers reserve" special whiskeys. I once read a book on making bootlegg whiskey in Scotland in the 1700s and it was fascinating but they used very much the same method you are using. If it worked for them and it still works now why not. I think you can get more of a consistent flavor with off grain and it is a lot easier but for more flavor on grain wins everytime, in my opinion.

    @richard. The only thing I would comment on your spreadsheet is your probably going to lose more than 4% of liquid locked up in the grain and you could increase your grain load to .25kg /l which would take your grain bill up to 150kg total in 600l of mash. This is convenient if your buying malt in 25kg bags. You dont end up with lots of half and 1/3 bags of grain around the place. As for water locked up in a mash, after I lauter the wash off the sparge often, because I am lazy at that point. I will leave the grain in place in my mash tun and take the grain out a few days later. For 50kg i will normally have between 8 to 10 litres of liquid in teh bottom of the mash tun after 3 days of free draining and the spent grain will be relatively dry. Slightly moist but not soaking wet. So your locked up water/wash would be close to 25% of the original grain bill. If your distilling on grain then that wont make much of a difference.

  • Thanks. The biggest issue is that I am shooting for max flavour and to derive this, you need to aim for 8.5% at ferment end. Taking the ratio up to 4 L/kg or 0.25 Kg /L I feel will make me overshoot this 8.5% mark. If you were trying to make vodka, then none of this applies and you for simplicity sake can even try for 13% for example.

    On the other side of barrelling at 55% will take you on to the vanilla side of flavour as "vanillans" are more soluble in water i.e. lower ABV. But this also has a lot to do with the wood origin of your barrel.

    Back to the spreadsheet, this spreadsheet is changed / updated all the time. Really what I am trying to do is to make the process as simple and repeatable as possible i.e. monkey see, monkey do.

  • Why are you mashing out? Thats not normal and a bit counterproductive. FG should be below 1.000. If you are not lautering you should hit a liquor to grist ratio below 2.5. Go for as low as possible while still fluid enough not to stress your agitator.
    Then add chilled liquor or basket to get the temp down to pitch. No need for any heat exchangers with porrage running through them. Need to run the numbers in your spreadsheet to see the mass flow.
    I wouldn't get too worked up about hitting exactly 8.5% for flavour either. The bigger impact with inconsistent ABV is just getting consistent mass flow through your pot stills but unless your running for a week or more it's a moot point.
    A typical matched pair of pots relies on specific ABV. Typically a spirit still is 66% vol of the wash still for a 7.5% to 8% wash.

  • We used to run a semi mash/lauter tun and had the efficiency dialled.
    Liquor to grist was 2.5 and the ratio of malt to wort was around 4.2 from memory.
    So for 1 tonne malt, dough in with 2500lt strike water, sparge to get 4200lt wort.

    With the stars aligning that should get an SG of just over 1.060 and FG below .998 hitting around 8.5%. That was heavily dependent on the brewer and the malt though. Was often more like 1.059.

  • Yeah I was thinking the same... Final gravity is too high. Starting gravity too high. Your yield looks a bit too high as well.

  • Many thanks, I have corrected gravity numbers. @grim @jacksonbrown we are not using a lautertun so we do not intend to sparge. All water is intended to be added all in at beginning as part of strike water. I do not intend to use chilled water in the mash. Rather I will be using a shell in tube heat exchanger at end to drop temperature for yeast pitching. This shell in tube allows us to be fermenting on the grain.

    But curious speaking yeast, there are two camps as to when to add yeast. Some say sprinkle dry on top and some say mix it in.

  • In that case, kg's extract to lals is a simple ratio. Just add enough water to get to your target ABV. You are wasting time and energy heating and then cooling excess mass though. Conversion efficiency will be better at lower liquor grist too.

    I just disperse yeast over the surface during transfer. Oxygenation is also not necessary when using dry.

  • edited August 2021

    A follow up on this since last post.

    I finally used a water to malt ratio of 4.67 L : 1 kg.

    So I used 125 kg barley malt to approx. 583 L water.

    @DonMateo and @jacksonbrown indicated that they use a ratio of 4:1 and regularly get 7.5% to 8% and @grim indicated that he uses a bit more at approx. 3.78:1.

    Either way I started with OG of 1.05 and am currently at 1.01. It does not appear to be dropping below this. It is what it is.

    But a question going forward other than changing to 4:1 ratio, whom use enzymes so as to improve sugar conversion and also, which specific enzymes are people using ????

    But another question ....... Does anyone use their agitator during fermentation ??? I ask this so as to get even temperature distribution between grain and liquid.

  • @richard I see you have had some success from another post. The highest I have ever read of a grain to water ration was someone using .33kg/l to get a yield of over 12 % but its very hard to stir such a grain mash. I dont use an agitator just a mixing pale. The beer guys swear by their agitators and mixers but I dont see it adds a lot. I tried using enzymes but never noticed a difference with a malt grain bill. You have to go down to about 20% malt and 80% unmalted grains to have to need additional enzymes. At least that is what I have read and my experience would agree with that.

  • Having an agitator is an absolute must and you will seriously miss it if without. Because I am PLC controlled I communicate with my VSD by HMI and 4-20mA so it's a simple command of what %power I wish to run at

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