View Full Version : Grains: from the truck to the fermenter

03-29-2013, 17:41
In my continuing quest for bourbon knowledge, I have lately become interested in what happens to the grains after they're dropped off at the distillery and before the fermentation starts. I remember reading somewhere (probably here) that most distillers use #2 yellow dent corn. I've seen a video clip on YouTube of whole-kernel corn being unloaded, checked for moisture content and absence of sticks and other junk, and then sent on its way... but I can't find that video right now. Jack Daniels uses #1 yellow dent corn, and then grinds it up quite a bit according to this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfsQEVDxuFI
They mention sifting and blowing, which makes me wonder if they discard part of the corn kernel.
The folks at Belmont Farms also grind up the corn to a cornmeal consistency, but no sifting or blowing is mentioned in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZTdk8lk6ZY

Neither of the above videos is about bourbon, so I'm wondering if bourbon distilleries do pretty much the same thing, or if their process is slightly different. Naturally, I'm also interested in how rye, barley, and wheat are processed before going into the fermenters.

03-30-2013, 07:59
I think Mobourbon is the most qualified person on here to answer your question. The corn is more of a powder than cornmeal cornmeal is more granular. Fred care to chime in here?

03-30-2013, 09:24
Corn selection was a matter of some debate among distillers in the past century. Col. E.H. Taylor only used white Shoepeg corn.

I believe the prevalence of No. 2 yellow Dent corn today is because that is the cheapest, most widely available corn that will get the job done.

03-30-2013, 11:25
The first thing those distilleries do it test the grain upon arrival, and prior to offloading. Usually a sample bag is pulled and the grain is tested for moisture content and weight. One in particular has a process they use to nose the grain from mildew. Once the lot is approved, it's offloaded and then augered to the silo. It will then be ground into each distilleries particular fineness (is that a word?) as it's entering the mash tun/cooker. I think most use a hammer mill, but I believe MM uses a roller mill. I seem to remember that from my visit with them.

I don't know of anyone that sorts part of the grain out, but I could be mistaken. Most of the corn is GMO these days, but FR and one other (I forget) all use non-GMO corn.

This is the best I can remember from my visits, anyway.

03-30-2013, 11:54
On the JW Dant label there are depicted several different colored corn kernals. I read in The Social History Of Bourbon that some distillers used to prefer calico corn for bourbon. It was supposed to make the bourbon beady. That is after pouring, little bubbles would cling around the surface and not pop right away. I think the current Dant is whatever HH uses for most of their brands.

03-30-2013, 15:20
Flint corn (less commonly called calico) is the original pioneer corn indigenous to Kentucky. It contains a bit less starch than dent so the amount of alcohol produced per bushel is less, but it may well make for a more favorable Bourbon. Sounds like a project for one of the micros.