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Jun 08, 2022 View:

Mash with stillage

Today I mashed my grains into the low wines stillage left over from the last spirit run. Usually my strike water has a pH of 6.3 and after mashing I run around 5.1 to 5.3 (depends on grain bill)...today, my strike was 5.15, and remained that way all the way through. I'm guessing that the stillage acts as a pH buffer. I'm very interested to see if the tastes of the mash, low wines, and white spirit are any different. Saved me a lot of time, as the low wines were still well over 120 F left in a tank since yesterday...only took 15 minutes to hit my first rest temp.

Comments?


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Basic sour mash technique. And yes, the stillage will act as a pH buffer - that's one of the purposes, along with imparting some taste to the mash.

Most folks sour the mash, although it's not unusual to sour the ferment. It's a matter of taste, preference, religion and witchcraft.


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I actually always thought the sour mash technique would have been to take stillage from the stripping run, not spirit run (or spirit run if done in 1 run which would be the Kentucky tradition), so maybe not quite "basic sour mash technique"? This sounds much cleaner and you certainly won't have lacto carryover. Am I wrong?


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True - that's one difference, at least as things have "evolved". Bearing in mind that double-run whiskey isn't a rule, so to speak. Back in the old days a lot of the stills had thumpers which negated the need to do separate stripping/spirit runs (because the traditional moonshiners just didn't have time to run stuff twice), while today the use of column stills does the same thing (all of Barton's products, for example, are single-run from a 26 plate column).

I've actually played around with it both ways, along with a 3rd way that includes pulling a high, narrow heart cut of a single run that's been soured with previous low wines, precisely like the OP suggests, then treating the rest of the run as a strip.

In fact, as I'm sitting here writing, it occurs to me that you could do both, in virtually any combination. Pull a little from what's left of a strip, pull some more from your spirit run, mix 'em up and let her fly... You could spend endless hours... hell, you could spend a lifetime... tweaking and refining until you come up with something that's so solid it makes you weep when you drink it.

I mean, isn't that what the passion of our thing, here, is all about?

A lot of this flexibility, IMO, is amplified and accentuated by still design. The uniqueness of the your distillate and the uniqueness of your copper are closely related. For my part - and I know this doesn't work for everybody - I've made a very fundamental decision to avoid factory stills. I found a coppersmith, we've spent many, many hours researching, prototyping, playing around with different things (and just generally having a blast) and he's building our equipment. One of a kind. Or two of a kind, as the case may be.


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Several have told me to do both with the addition of using refrigerated or even frozen stillage to knock down the temperature when transferring from mash tank to the fermenters. Controls ph and gets you to pitching temperatures faster. I haven't tried the frozen route but it sounded interesting.


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All that sounds pretty interesting, I would say that if you use the stillage with the spent grain, you get added nutrients for your yeast, namely, the dead yeast. which would make that a nice way to do it, but the increased shelf life, especially with freezing stripped stillage from a spirit run sounds pretty cool.


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There seems to be confusion as to what we are talking about here.

Traditionally in pot stilling what is left after the spirit run is discarded. Rather I should say in some traditions of pot stilling, it is seen as purely a waste product, or even deleterious to the quality of the spirit if recycled in any way.


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Well, so far it smells just the same as the other mashes, although one of the guys here says it "smelled really sour," during the ferment. Going to strip it this week...I'll let you know what happens.


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I don't sour my mash, but when I think of the big sour mash tradition in KY and think about their stills, it would have to be stillage off one run, not low wines stillage because all the big guys there use a cont. column, not a pot still. So I guess I don't understand what you are talking about Dan. I don't have an opinion as to whether stillage from a pot still would improve the next run or not since I have never do it and I don't sour mash, except with acid additions.


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So I guess I don't understand what you are talking about Dan.


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I gotcha. That was my point actually in doing it his way. He loses the nutrient base for his yeast but gains some shelf life...We are on the same page. I had merely never thought of souring the mash using left over low wines. Sounded nice because I imagine it doesn't spoil as quickly. It just wasn't any sort of means of doing sour mash that I had heard of.

Cheers,

Jeff


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It just wasn't any sort of means of doing sour mash that I had heard of.


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Well, it was because I could find no data on this technique that I decided to try it. I might add that several people who DIDN'T post here felt the need to contact myself or one of the other people here to express their horror, and even recommend dumping the batch :-P

I'm stripping it now, and it tastes beautiful. I'm not sure I'll be adding this to our current production, but I plan to do a bit more experimentation...after I compare the low wines and whites side by side my production whisky.


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What was the reason given for expressing horror? I see no real problem with the idea. I might give it a try myself.


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I'm not sure why...but so far I'm pretty happy with the result, although the other guy here claims he can taste a distinct "sour taste." I just taste yum! I'm not sure why there would be a sour taste...the stillage acted as an excellent buffer, and my pH drop was modest. There were some complaints about a strong "sour" smell during the weekend ferment, but I didn't smell it...so I don't know if it was excess CO2 or something else in the air. Everything smelled and tasted sweet on Monday :-) Most notable was the fact that the sulfur nose on the stripping run was far less pronounced (one of the grains I use tends to make a grassy sulfur note during fermentation) and that it dropped 5 points lower than the exact same mash and grain bill from the day before. I don't have equipment here to plate a sample, but I did take some home and peek under the microscope...nothing unusual.


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Would you think there is a need to try and lower the strike ph now manually or were you happy with the higher pH with the stillage keeping things in better check?

I was considering playing with this with a panela rum, how do you store stillage if it comes up that you would need to do so?

I'll see what I can find about the pH directions in my books on monday when I return home.


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My pH's aren't actually an issue...I see a moderate drop during fermentation, but no more than expected. We aren't going to continue to use low wine stillage for backset, as it isn't really necessary. But I think it's a novel way to buffer your pH if you DO have a problem, and no one has yet pointed out a compelling reason NOT to do it. Using a commercial buffer in the strike water is just as effective.

I may play with this a bit more in the future, especially if I am using grains that warrant extensive modification of my mash water. For now it was just an interesting experiment.

As for storing the stillage, that's up to you. I used hot stillage still in the pot from the spirit run.


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IMHO stillage (backset) is taken from the first distillation and is added to mash ton after liquifaction. a-amylase prefers a slightly higher pH than beta, so sour mashing before the starches have been chopped up into dextrines should result in a bit lower total yield. Ideally you will add the backset before the addition of malted barley or b-amylase enzymes but after sufficient time for liquifaction. The idea is to increase protein/nitrogen levels and to create an environment preferred by yeast but inhibits bacterial contamination.. my 2 cents. The only real concern is that Lacto likes the lower pH as well so quick and sufficient pitch time/rate is needed.

I've sweet mashed and sour mashed and prefer sour, but I also can't boil out my mash prior to Sacc. due to the equipment I have. seems to be a lot more reliable for me.


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What kind of a ratio do any of you use? the way I understand it, and please correct me if I am wrong. Your are adding back to your next ferment batch some of what I have been sending to the pig farmer after a stripping run. This backset helps keep the PH from dropping too much & adds nutriments for the fresh yeast to thrive. Is that is correct?

Some are stirring it in just before pitching yeast and some are adding it around the time you add your malted barley. (155*) how much do you use? All said and done I have 300 gallons of wash when I pitch. Suggestions?

Thank you,