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Jun 08, 2022 View:

Small Scale Grain Liquid Separation

Looking for any helpful tips or DIY equipment to separate liquid from a corn & malt mash. We have been doing this by hand using filter bags at about 3 gallons at a time but this is very inefficient and doesn't always work when doing a 50 gallon wash.

Saw that King's County uses a machine that does solid/liquid separation very well but it costs about $25K, so that's not going to happen.

Any help would be greatly appreciated, thanks in advance.


For separation of grains from our stillage we have a rectangular tank with an hdpe (puckboard used in rinks...its pretty much what we make our walls of up here in Canada). It has false bottom with a lot of drilled 1/16" holes drilled in it and a drain in the base. It works for cool stillage and it sounds like you are dealing with  cold mash. Raised with a 55 gallon drum under and it may work for you. The big plus is that hdpe is not only good for slapshots but is food grade and stands up to shovels really well.

It is great for hammermilled oat/wheat combination but the holes would have to be smaller for wheat. I can't speak to malt.


Scrap that, we leave it overnight to drain and it's likely preferment you are asking about which would mean bacteria/yeast would make their home before you pitch.


at what stage in the proccess are you dewatering , preferment , post ferment , or post distilling . why i ask is that has a major role to play in the type of equiptment needed . preferment can be as elaborate as a good lauter tun , post distillation can be as simple as pump it into a mini bulk bag and let it drain on it own .  depends what your proccess is . 


Preferment, our 50 gallon still has heating elements and so we can't have any solids hitting it and we would rather separate before going into the fermenter.


You'll want more of a brewery style mash tun with a false bottom. Your best bet is to separate the grain before fermentation.


Reply:1 hour ago, Skaalvenn said:

Sloping screen? What's the thread?




Luater tuns do not work for corn.  You cannot sparge corn mashes because you cannot get any penetration due to the consistency.  I suggest one of my combination mash tun stripping stills.  You can cook the mash grain in.  Then pump out into a fermenter grain in.  Then pump the grain in mash back into the mash tun still and do a fast stripping run.  Then run the 25% to 35% low wines in the spirit still. 

If the solids are separated from the liquid after fermentation you are loosing 15% to 20% of the alcohol with the grain.    If you are separating after cooking and before fermentation you are loosing some of the sugars with the grain.  If you have a mash tun for corn,  i can sell you a kit to add a stripping still feature to that tun.  The best way to do barley based mashes is off the grain, but the absolute best way to do corn mashes is on the grain.  Which is why 99% or more of bourbon is distilled on the grain. 417-778-6100  [email protected]



im no expert when it comes to corn , but lots of members are . i have to agree with pete if your runing corn and want to dewater before you ferment your going to have a project on your hands . pauls idea is probably your best yet . 

Reply:2 hours ago, thebottle said:
Reply:2 hours ago, PeteB said:

If you can get jacketed equipment like Highlander said absolutely best way for corn.

If your in my boat and need to use the equipment you have, here is my process. I am currently draining a 200 gal 100% corn mash for off grain fermentation and distilling.  I get about 220 gal 5% alcohol mash from 350lbs of corn.  I curse basically the entire time and can barely feel my hands from stirring.  I'm using a stainless false screen bottom with round holes. I use a combination of sweet mash with overnight soak, sour mash, long cook and commercial enzymes makes it drain ok most times - did I mention lots of stirring.  After the first drain, I add a second hot water on top of the collapsed grain bed let it sit for 45 minutes then stir it for a while and re-drain.  Then let it sit till morning and get the residual 20 gal or so out.

Counting down the days till I can afford a jacketed still.  Good luck!


curious whats your mash tun look like 


Corn CAN be lautered, even 100%. The key is to use cracked corn, nutrients and a good amount to rice hulls. Pay attention to temperatures, take care of your mash and take your time on the sparge. The key is to not stir (as most people say), but instead cut the mash. The only problem you may have is efficiency, but assuming since you said that it is a "corn & malt mash" you will make up for it with the malt. As far as what you need it would best be answered if I know what you are working with as your mash tun. It could be as simple as a screen at the bottom or a copper pipe with slits cut into the bottom of it that fits into the exit port at the bottom of your mash tun form the inside. If you need more insight on this feel free to PM me and we can discuss over a phone call. 


I will definitely be eyeing a jacketed system, something that will allow fermenting and distilling on grain. This will be high on the upgrade list.

For now I guess I just need to be more patient and diligent with the process like Still_Holler posted. 

I can'tr complain about the taste of the end product, very smooth with a subtle sweetness and not too much of a corn taste, just wish I was getting more sooner.

Here is a link to the mash tun we use, there is a false bottom but grain is getting past the sides and some corn through the holes.

Reply:13 hours ago, Ironton said:
Reply:2 hours ago, thebottle said:
Reply:33 minutes ago, Southernhighlander said:

I am wondering if I took a 55 gallon plastic barrel barrel and drill a ton of small holes in it...would this work to drain the water off spent grain?



I've known about using rice hulls and cracked corn for years and I have given that advice to some customers with breweries that already had luater Tuns who wanted to distill from corn off of the grain , but I did not think about that when I said that Luater tuns don't work for corn.  I should have said lauter tuns don't work well for corn, in the conventional manner.  The biggest draw back to your method is that rice hulls don't yield any alcohol.  Also you get less flavor and body, but some people may want that.    Typically people only distill corn off of the grain because they lack the means to do it any other way.  If you want to do it that way and that is the flavor profile that you like, than I certainly don't have a problem with it, as I am a very unconventional, out of the box thinker myself, who likes to do things differently.  I believe that there are many different ways to do the many different things distillers do and that none of them are necessarily the wrong way but some methods are more time consuming and are harder to upscale, than others.  Also, a  few people who start out having to deal with distilling from corn in little 8 gallon and 13 gallon non jacketed stills, become inflexible and do not want to try other more conventional methods.  I am not saying that you are one of those as I am sure that you must have distilled on the grain at some point and decided that you didn't like it, as I am certain that you would want to try it, before you discounted it.    Again, I do understand where you are coming from.  I have a method for distilling Barley on the grain that produces something that I really like, but most traditional  single malt distillers will tell you that good barley spirits cannot be produced by on the grain distillation.

I am very sorry that I offended you.  99% of the customers that I deal with love my approach and the fact that I give them all of the time, information and incite that I can, while most other vendors are not willing to do that.  Please keep in mind that when I am working with a customer, I always try to put myself in their shoes and I try to steer them towards equipment that will work best for the inputs that they want to use, to produce the spirits that they want to produce.  I never up sell and I am always willing to spend the amount of time that it takes to help the customer the best that I can to give them the equipment that will make their processes easier.  I will always work hard for my customers,both before the sale and after the sale is complete.  Also I am very passionate about distilling and have been known to get a little excited when I talk about it.

I will always make my best recommendations, especially to people who tell me that they don't really know exactly what they need, however I will certainly sell anyone whatever equipment that they want.  My methods must be sound.  I started ADE 6 years ago with $1,000.00 We grew very slowly the first 2 years.  I never added anymore of my own money, nor anyone else's money and ADE is debt free.  Last year ADE grossed over $4,000,000.00  Of coarse the greatest sign of ADEs success are the many happy customers that we have.  Also I could not have done it without my employees, especially Susan Knapp who has been with ADE since day one.


As real distillers, let's at least try to all get along when we are talking about process. There's plenty of time to argue with the bartenders

For the corn issue, we have tried dewatering / lautering a variety of ways. One of the things that gets lost in the translation when talking about if you can or not can do it, is the actual yield and additional cost.

We have tried everything from shaker table concept, to screens over barrels, to our real screen bottom commercial mash tun, to slits in the bottom of copper pipes in bulk milk tanks. They all "work" to some degree, but the one constant is that unlike for example a barley which allows you to sparge down through, the corn has a tendency to "back up" the sparge water, and then slowly drain through. You essentially re-float the sugars in solution, where it then re-adheres to the protiens (ground husk). It's like taking a bath in dirty water. You never really get clean. 

The example given above by Still Holler makes the point. His laborious process is yielding roughly 22 proof gallons for 350# of lautered corn. The TTB and USDA expect between 5-5.1 proof gallons per bushel (56#) which means that if he did not lauter, he could expect 31.25 proof gallons from that 350# +/-.  We encountered those same form of horrible numbers, which is why we stopped doing it. 

In the end it's not really about if it can or can't be done, it's about what the cost will be if you chose to do it. 

As for Paul at AFD i believe he, like Joe Dehner has always tried to take the "long view" to suggest equipment that fits a real production facility and process, vs the hobby shop set up.


Reply:15 hours ago, Roger said:

I was trying to continue the conversation in a forward thinking way to address what the OP was experiencing and try to help him get through it while still using his current process, as well as leaving a paper trail so others that may experience this same issue will have a walkthrough to help them as well. After all that is what forums are for. 

As I said before, anyone that wishes to learn about how to lauter corn successfully with minimal added work and equally cost effective as on grain fermentation, feel free to PM me and we can discuss further. This thread does not seem to be the place to discuss a different approach. 


Reply:On 1/28/2018 at 3:40 AM, Southernhighlander said: