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bourbonv
10-08-2003, 15:49
The following is a transcript of a sheet of paper dated 1818 in the Catherine Carpenter Family Papers at the Kentucky Historical Society. The first side has -
"Receipt for Distilling Corn Meal Sweet Mash, 1818
To a hundred gallon tub put in a Bushel and a half of hot water then a half bushel of meal Stir it well then one bushel of water & then a half Bushel of meal & so on untill(sic) you have mashed one bushel and a half of corn meal - Stir it all effectively then sprinkle a double handful of meal over the mash let it stand two hours then pour over the mash 2 gallons of warm water put in a half a gallon of malt stir that well into the mash then stir in a half Bushel of Rye or wheat meal. Stir it well for 15 minutes put in another half gallon of malt. Stir it well and very frequently untill (sic) you can bear your hand in the mash up to your wrist then put in three Bushels of cold slop or one gallon of good yeast then fill up with cold water. If you use yeast put in the cold water first and then the yeast. If you have neither yeast nor Slop put in three peck of Beer from the Bottom of a tub."

On back of paper -
"Receipt for Distilling by a Sour Mash
Put into the mash tub Six busheles (sic) of very hot slop then put in one Bushel of corn meal ground pretty course (sic) Stir well then sprinkle a little meal over the mash let it stand 5 days that is 3 full days betwist the Day you mash and the Day you cool off - on the fifth day put in 3 gallons of warm water then put in one gallon of Rye Meal and one gallon of malt work it well into the malt and Stir for 3 quarters of an hour then fill the tub half full of Luke warm water. Stir it well and with a fine sieve or otherwise Break all the lumps fine then let it stand three hours then fill up the tub with luke warm water.
For warm weather - five Bushels of Slop Instead of Six let it stand an hour and a half Instead of three hours and cold water Instead of warm.

A Receipt for Destilling (sic)
By Sweet and Sour Mash May 18, 1818"

Both of these recipes sound more like a modern definition of "sour mash".
Mike Veach

Gillman
10-08-2003, 16:09
Mike, many thanks for posting this historically significant, and revealing, information.

I can't pretend as yet to understand fully what is being said, but am struck by the implicit suggestion that slops have the power to ferment. How can they be an alternative to yeast, as is suggested here? Or can slops (stillage, spent wash) in fact contain living yeast? Maybe they promote fermentation without added yeast; maybe that was its original purpose. Byrn (1875) states that mashes can be fermented without adding yeast, it just takes longer, and results are not as assured. Some of what this lady is saying seems to rely on fermentation proceeding naturally (from yeasts on the cereals or in the atmosphere).

Her reference to the bottom of a tub of beer makes sense; that would be the bottom yeast layer, after the yeast has sunk by gravity to the lower reaches of the vessel. Beer to this day is secondarily fermented (to add sparkle) by adding yeasty new fermenting beer (krausening). Anyway, much to ponder here..

Gary

bourbonv
10-09-2003, 06:07
Gary,
I don't know for sure, but I suspect that the more primative pot stills they were using at the time did not get hot enough to kill all the yeast in the first distillation. This is why they had to double or even triple distill to get the final barrel proof of about 100 proof.
Mike Veach

mickblueeyes
10-09-2003, 07:22
Slop is probably in reference to backset as opposed to spent mash in this paper. Backset has the ability to ferment.

bourbonv
10-09-2003, 07:59
I disagree. At one point she refers to the fact that if you do not have slop then you can use beer from the bottom of the fermenter. I believe that Slop is the distilled mash in this document.
Mike Veach

mickblueeyes
10-09-2003, 08:16
Hmmm. . .I don't see how spent beer could ferment anything. . .

bourbonv
10-09-2003, 08:27
In the modern era i would agree with you. Spent beer is fermented to a point that most yeast die and then distilling kills the rest. Two Hundred years ago though, the methods were probably not as efficient and yeast could have survived the distilling process. At least that is my guess as to what she is decscribing. I could be wrong and maybe she just had enough wild yeast spores in the air to start fermentation.
Mike Veach

Gillman
10-09-2003, 10:04
But many references I have seen to backset use terms like thin stillage as synonyms and state this is the residual liquid in the distilling apparatus after the ethanol has been vaporised. Since that liquid would have to be heated at least to the temperature needed to vaporise alcohol (circa 170 F. I believe), I don't see how yeast culture could survive in such an environment. Flash pasteurisation of beer destroys almost all yeast organisms - again I am not a specialisr but am given to understand - and flash pasteurising does not (again if not mistaken) exceed the temperature needed to make ethanol volatile. But if backset means as you said the beer before it is heated that is different. I have never read that that is what backset means, though.. Your notes on yeast's effect on flavour were most interesting and I welcome further explanation which would show that in truth sour mash methods do in fact replicate the old idea of continuing a culture from the previous ferment!

When you refer to beer yeast (cervesia) I assume you mean top-fermented yeast types, would that be right? Not the later lager-type bottom yeasts.

Gary

Gillman
10-09-2003, 10:14
I read her reference to beer as meaning real (beverage) beer (ale at the time), and she took yeast from the bottom of the vessel where it had sunk down from gravity - even top yeasts will fall down given enough time. An aging vat of beer can contain living yeast for a very long time, sometimes it will interact with wild yeasts and sour the drink (whence the need to filter beer well for bottling and originally to heat pasteurise it). On the other hand, where it is at the bottom out of harm's way, it is less likely so to interact - and here we have the kernel of the story of German (cold) bottom fermentation, but that is indeed another story.. I thought she was saying, just add some yeasty beverage beer from the lees to your mash to ferment it. That is a method still used in some breweries for the secondary fermentation, the krausening, it is called in Bavarian practice originally.

jbutler
10-09-2003, 10:35
Gary,

I just got off the phone with a faculty member of the department of Plant Pathology at UC Davis. He told me that yeast cells are very unlikely to survive temperatures greater than 60 degrees celsius (140 F.) Any still capable of causing a phase transition in ethanol is going to kill the yeast.

"Bottom fermenting" or lager yeast is typically some variant of S. Uvarum.

In brewing, the slurry of predominantly dead yeast cells at the bottom of the primary fermenter is call trub (pronounced "troob"), and contains sufficient numbers of live yeast cells to restart fermentation in a suitable growth environment.

I cultivate my own yeast, but adding 250 ml of trub to a liter of sterile wort will produce an excellent home brew starter in a very short period of time ... say 3 to 24 hours depending on the ambient temperature.

I made a posting some time ago along these same lines, here (http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/showthreaded.php?Cat=&Board=General&Number=5183&Fo rum=All_Forums&Words=yeast%20Parke&Match=And&Searc hpage=0&Limit=25&Old=allposts&Main=4540&Search=tru e#Post5183)

bourbonv
10-09-2003, 10:39
Gary,
I read her reference as (Distillers) Beer. I know that it was is the term being used now and I have a recipe from the Taylor Diary from the same era that refers to distillers beer.
Mike Veach

cowdery
10-09-2003, 12:27
Here's another possibility. The primary benefit of sour mash is to condition the medium so that it is hospitable to the yeast organisms you want and hostile to the yeasts and other microorganisms you don't want. It could be that backset (with no living microorganisms present) was introduced to condition the medium, and nature (i.e., wild yeast) was allowed to do the rest.

bourbonv
10-09-2003, 12:33
Chuck,
I think you may be right. Create the right conditions and let nature do the rest. When you consider that most distillers of the time were using either a wild yeast method or a yeast cultured from a wild yeast, it makes sense.

What do you think of the recipe itself? It looks like a bourbon recipe, but it was interesting that wheat could be used in place of rye.
Mike Veach

Gillman
10-09-2003, 13:34
Hi Jim, many thanks, much appreciated.

Gary

Gillman
10-09-2003, 13:38
Well maybe, Mike, but if she had yeast to make distiller's beer, doesn't that beg the question? Unless perhaps she was using someone's else's distiller's beer.. By referring to the bottom, I think she meant the trub (as Jim noted) of a batch of standing or maturing beer. Maybe it doesn't matter, because in either case the beer clearly is yeasty "live" brew..

Gary

cowdery
10-09-2003, 17:38
You can't help but notice the resemblance.

What's the context of this document? Is there one?

bourbonv
10-10-2003, 06:11
Chuck,
The papers are a collection of correspondence and other papers found in a trunk. This item was a page all to itself so I assume she wrote it down for future reference.
Mike Veach

bourbonv
11-10-2006, 06:22
Moving this forward for Gary and Chuck

Mike Veach

Gillman
11-10-2006, 06:33
By the way note in her sweet mash recipe the casual way wheat is mentioned as an alternative to rye.

Her mash is a traditional bourbon mash and she indifferently suggests wheat or rye for small grains.

This shows that the use of wheat in this way is very old and, I infer, could not have been invented later in the 1800's or 1900's.

Gary

bourbonv
11-10-2006, 06:54
Gary,
I have seen several early mashbills (late 18th/early19th century) that use rye and wheat as interchangable grains. There was "wheated bourbon" from a very early time. I do think it took Pappy Van Winkle to make it a popular recipe that the public wanted to buy on a regular basis.

Mike Veach

Gillman
11-10-2006, 07:09
I fully agree as a commercial, practical matter.

Gary

bourbonv
11-10-2006, 08:06
Gary,
After looking at this recipe again, it strikes me as to how similar it is to what E H Taylor, Jr. was doing in Frankfort and Woodford County. He claimed that the best whiskey was made using the "Old Fashioned, Fire Copper, Small Tub, Sour Mash Method". He stated in an early letter that his "OFC (Old Fashioned Copper) whiskey owed its quality to age old methods of making whiskey". He only used small tubs, white corn and about 25% malted barley for sweetness. Taylor believed in quality, not quantity and that is the main reason for his fallout with Gregory and Stagg.

Mike Veach

cowdery
11-13-2006, 13:53
Skimming back through the whole thread, I still wonder about the implication that "slop" can be an alternative to yeast. Not only is yeast killed by the high temperatures of distillation, but most of it doesn't even survive fermentation. In other words, yeast can't survive a certain alcohol concentration. I've always thought it a good environmentalist metaphor. The yeast are poisoned by their own waste.

Today, distillers use the terms "slop," "backset," "stillage" and "spent mash" interchangeably. Is it possible that in an earlier day, some of those terms had different meanings? Perhaps we are misreading this document.

I still have a great many questions about early distilling. I have theorized that in the days before the adoption of the column still, when mash was made by combining hot water in a small tub (i.e., not in a directly-heated cooker), they may have just let most of the grain solids settle out and transferred mostly liquid -- i.e., a wort -- to the fermenters.

Tom Sherman at Vendome told me that in his lifetime distillers have gone to a much thicker mash because less water means less fuel cost. It used to be 44 gallons of water per bushel, now it's as low as half that. Also they now use yeast strains that tolerate alcohol better.

Gillman
11-13-2006, 15:17
Soon I'll pass along a short extract from M'Harry to show his approach to mashing.

There is no question in my mind that his beer was thick with grain. He does not refer to filtering or settling to reduce the risk of burning in the kettle - never. He refers to stirring and heating.

However other distillers may well have done it differently and probably each had his own trick of the trade or other way to distinguish his products. I don't know for example if it is difficult to strain a corn and rye mash. With malted barley, the husks provide a natural filter.

I wonder about settling since, would there have been time for that without an uncontrolled fermentation setting in? But I don't know.

On the point of slops being a starter, certainly a ferment will kill most yeast as will a boil. However there is residual fermentable sugar in any beer, slops or backset and there would have been more in the old days when fermentation and distillation were less efficient than today.

I infer that wild yeasts started to work on that sugar immediately (as Roger explained too) and that the acid environment of the slops favoured the "good" wild yeasts. Probably though the quality of the wild ferment depended largely on the environment. If it was Jim Beam's porch, that's one thing. If it is near a fetid branch, that is another.

Sweet mash gave more certainty of good results but probably less complexity in the final product and less consistency. But so prized was nature's touch that even the 1818 sweet mash recipe advised to use slops instead of fresh yeast - if was good wild yeast, at any rate (one may infer). Today and for centuries, the wild yeasts of the Senne Valley in Belgium make great lambic beers. Would yeasts anywhere do that? Some would, but not all..

Gary

Gillman
11-14-2006, 05:15
I've mentioned earlier I cannot find in M'Harry's Practical Distiller (1809) any reference to sour mash.

I think however he may refer at one point to the process (although he never uses the term, "sour mash").

In a section of the book called "To make four gallons from the bushel" he speaks of a method which is "very little more trouble than the common method" and may be used with any mix of rye and corn or just the one or the other.

I'll quote the full passage a little later but it involves taking the head off a singling still when it is "run off", adding cool water to the still and then filling half a hogshead with that mixture. I think he is talking backset because he refers to "dipping out" with a "gallon or pail" the liquid from the still after allowing "the thick part to settle to the bottom" (more proof but there is plenty in the book that his beer was unfiltered).

I think he is referring to adding a portion of this mix to either a mashing of the grains or at cooling off stage, I think the latter.

The account is very compressed and I find it hard to follow but I will later today state the full account and ask for interpretations.

Gary

bourbonv
11-14-2006, 08:03
Gary,
M'Harry's remark about letting the solids filter to the bottom does not really imply unfiltered distillation so much as a filtration that was not efficient and still let a lot of solid matter in the still. It could be a filtering as crude as simply taking a bucket to fill the still leaving most of the solids behind. I am still curious about the "Mash Filter" Taylor bought for the rebuilding of the OFC distillery in 1870.

Mike Veach

Gillman
11-14-2006, 08:30
Could be Mike, although he is constantly warning against the risk of the "grain" burning and singieng in the still. Mash is quite thick so maybe he did a kind of rough filtration although he does not mention it.

I will quote later the part where I think he is referring to a sour mash system, which he only mentions once. His main concern in the book is mashing and in most of the discussions under specifc heads like half corn and half rye, he refers only to "water" being added both to scald (hydrolize) and to cool off. Also, his remarks indicate that sour mash is a kind of innovation, it is not the regular way, is the tenor of the remarks. Maybe this passage is evidence that it was slowly entering distilling. I can't tell though what his backset mixture is, it seems to be a mixture of slop, water and yeast only but maybe I am not reading it right. Anyway more to come.

Gary

JeffRenner
11-14-2006, 16:50
On the point of slops being a starter, certainly a ferment will kill most yeast as will a boil. However there is residual fermentable sugar in any beer, slops or backset and there would have been more in the old days when fermentation and distillation were less efficient than today.

I infer that wild yeasts started to work on that sugar immediately (as Roger explained too) and that the acid environment of the slops favoured the "good" wild yeasts.

This is a fascinating subject and one that is near and dear. I wish I had time to research this myself in M'Harry (as well as Byrn's Complete Practical Distiller, which was published in 1875 and so after sour mash was established). I happily have both of these in the high quality reprints from Glenn Raudins (http://www.raudins.com/BrewBooks/default.htm), which I again highly recommend (http://www.raudins.com/BrewBooks/default.htm), as I know Gary does.

Anyway, a few comments. Distillation temperatures will absolutely kill dead any yeast, but fermentation, even at higher alcohol such as 8% (typical of modern distiller's beer, will not. I have often reused yeast from fermentations; although it is better not to use yeast from high alcohol batches, it will work.

So, if slops are unheated fermentation solids strained out from undistilled ferments, they should have lots of viable yeast.

As I think I have posted before, the reason that sour mash is important in Kentucky but not in Scotland is that Kentucky's famous limestone water is alkaline, and it needs the balancing acidity of sour mash to achieve the proper mash pH of 5.3-5.6. Scotland's waters are typically soft and with low alkalinity, so a sweet mash will settle down into the proper mash pH without any additional acid. (The mash pH is important for the activity of the amylase enzymes which convert the starches to fermentable sugars.)

I seem to remember reading in some historic distilling source that wicker baskets were pushed down into the fermented mash and the more or less clear beer was bailed out into the still. I can imagine that the remaining solids were considered the slop. This would certainly turn sour with any time at all, especially if they were resued serially.

I have made a mash of malted barley, corn and rye and allowed it to ferment spontaneously. It smelled pretty funky, but it fermented, and I can imagine this being a useful fermentation. And certainly low pH (high acidity) will kill off many bacteria while leaving yeasts OK. This is the basis of what brewers call an "acid wash," in which they wash their brewers' yeast with (typically) phosphoric acid to kill spoilage bacteria.

Jeff

Gillman
11-14-2006, 17:45
Jeff, thanks.

Here is part of M'Harry from chapter VII on "To Make Four Gallons From The Bushel":

"Mash your grains in the method that you find will yield you most whiskey - the day before you intend mashing, have a clean hogshead set in a convenient part of the distillery; when your singling still is run off, take the head off and fill her up with clean water, let her stand half an hour, to let the thick part settle to the bottom, which it will do when settled, dip out with a gallon or pail, and fill the clean hogshead half-full, let the hogshead stand until it cools a little, so that when you fill it up with cool water, it will be about milk-warm, then yeast it off with the yeast for making 4 gallons to the bushel, then cover it close, and let it work or ferment until the day following, when you are going to cool off; when the cold water is running into your hogshead of mashed stuff, take the one-third of this hogshead to every hogshead (the above being calculated for three hogsheads) to be mashed every day, stirring the hogsheads well before you yeast them off. This process is simple, and I flatter myself will be found worthy of the trouble".

Comments, Jeff or others?

Gary

cowdery
11-14-2006, 19:46
Based on seeing the restored GW distillery in Mt. Vernon and reading these accounts, it seems apparent that pots were both solid (no drain) and fixed (e.g., buried in sand) and that anything which needed to be done inside the pot was done by removing the head. Although this seems like it would be very labor intensive, labor probably was more plentiful than just about anything else.

Presumably one of the reasons a "commercial" distillery like Washington's had 5 stills was because of the cool-down and clean-out cycle that inevitably followed each distillation, particularly the beer run.

A solid copper pot would eventually wear out, the sand would break through, and the whole thing would be torn out and replaced.

Sorry, I know you guys are wrestling with the sour mash question, but it got me thinking about this other stuff.

The same accounts that credit Crow with the introduction of sour mash also credit him with introducing (though not, just to be clear, inventing) the sachrometer and introducing hygene practices, such as thoroughly cleaning the mash tubs and fermenters between batches. It is also claimed that he was the first to sell only aged whiskey. Whether or not all of these individual claims are true, it is perhaps true that he was the first to apply all of these practices systematically.

The result, the accounts tell us, was that his product was consistent and consistently good, so much so that discerning drinkers asked for it by name.

While it's possible that not all of the above is true, it seems equally unlikely that all of it is false.

tdelling
11-14-2006, 19:51
Mike:

Thanks so much for posting these recipes. Absolutely fascinating!

Other enthusiasts:

There's a lot to ponder here. A few quick things I notice right off the bat:

The first recipe has the option of not using slop or backset of any kind, and seems to me very much like it might be derived from a beer (i.e. lager, ale, etc.) recipe. It seems like it would taste "sweet" during the mashing.

What is slop??? My guess is this: slop is what you feed the pigs. I'll have to look around for a recipe for pig slop... it's possible that the remains of a distillation run might not be nutritionally sufficient, so there might be added grains... thus the slop might be capable of supporting living yeast. Or maybe no added grains, but the original fermentation didn't use all the starches/sugars, and so as the slop sits around for a few days it continues to ferment. According the the second recipe, slop can be "very hot". Hmmm. Harder and harder to figure.

The use of wheat OR rye as an adjuct grain: how curious! This leads me to all kinds of elaborate theories.

The second recipe: the mash would certainly taste sour! Why do you wait so long with the corn meal? I guess you're letting the starches dissolve. In this recipe: rye is the only option, not wheat. Whew! At least that lets me keep the Tim Dellinger Theory of Rye as an Adjuct Grain intact.

My feeling is that the second recipe is very much a sourdough-style recipe, with yeast and bacteria fighting it out and reaching equilibrium and doing all kinds of interesting things. The first recipe you pray that bacteria never take hold; in the second you acknowledge and leverage the presence of the bacteria.

It's possible that today's sour mash process bears more resemblance to the first recipe than the second.

Tim Dellinger