In our previous distilling episode we built a basic pot still. Today we’re going to distill a batch of fermented wash and learn how to make the cuts or separations between the foreshots, heads, heats and tails during the run.
If you have followed this series, you will remember that sugar wash does not produce methanol, and also only insignificant quantities of acetones and aldehydes. For this reason, if you’re distilling sugar wash, the only thing you really need to remove is the foreshot, and even this is not absolutely necessary, but will improve the flavor of your product.
Although I am using sugar wash, I am going to demonstrate the cuts as if I were using a fermented mash. By mash, I mean and fermented wash that contains bio-matter, whether this be raisins, grain, spices or even unrefined sugar. As soon as a wash contains biomass, it becomes a mash, and we have larger quantities of acetone, methanol and aldehyde. These need to be removed during the distillation to ensure a safe and pleasant tasting product.
Starting with the foreshots, or acetone. The acetone starts emerging from the still when the head temperature reaches 50c or 122f. This is when you turn on the cooling pump.
The calculation is simple. For every 5 liters of mash, you will collect 30ml of foreshot. If you’re distilling a 25 liter batch, you will collect 150ml of foreshot. This acetone cannot be used for anything and is discarded.
From here onwards, the distillate is collected in 100ml fractions. These are measured using your alcohol meter as you go.
The heads will contain alcohol levels of over 80%, with a percentage of this comprising methanol, or wood alcohol.
When the alcohol reading drops below 80%, your collection of heads is complete. Keep the 100ml heads samples separate and put them aside.
Continue distilling and collecting 100ml samples until the alcohol reading drops below 65%. This lot of samples is the good stuff, and is called the hearts. These can be combined and put aside.
The next lot of samples is called the tails. You will continue to collect 100ml samples until the acohol level drops below 20%.
By this stage the head temperature of the still will be approaching 95c or 203f. Turn the off the heat but leave the cooling system running until the still cools down.
Keep the 100ml samples from tails separate and put these aside.
Cover all of the distillate with lint free towels and allow this stand ovenrnight. This allows any unpleasant tasting volatiles to evaporate.
The following day, sniff and taste each sample of heads, and blend the decent samples with hearts in quantities that you see fit.
Repeat this with tails. Any samples that don’t get blended into the finished product can be saved and added to your next distilling run.
It is important to note that the head temperature of the still must not exceed 95c or 203f. This is how we cut the aldehyde out of the mix. Aldehydes smell and taste terrible and will ruin your blend.
As far as the blending process is concerned, this is very much a matter of personal taste… there is no right or wrong blend.
After a few batches, your nose and taste will become more adept and your blends will become more and more refined.
Most impotantly, have fun, and feel to send any questions through to me via our Youtube Channel.