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  1. #51
    Bourbonian of the Year 2004 and Guru
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    Re: Sweet Mash -vs- Sour Mash

    Mike,

    On very rare occasions...backset is not used...3 days only...Due to holiday shut down and backset is not available...Then, they use water...

    You left out a VanWinkle (claim to fame) history note that should be on this post...VanWikle posted it in public where folks could see it clearly...

    The sign read, NO CHEMISTS ALLOWED...now that one is one for thought ...

    Bettye Jo

  2. #52
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    Re: Sweet Mash -vs- Sour Mash

    Bettye Jo,
    You always shoot it straight! In my opinion "No chemist allowed" is a good philosphy with distillers.
    Mike Veach

  3. #53
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    Re: Sweet Mash -vs- Sour Mash

    "Distillers" and "consensus" in the same sentence? Ed Foote once told me that if you put a half dozen distillers in a room and ask them a question you will get 8 answers and a dozen "could be" replies. I guess we will have to ask Bettye Jo if Ed is right. she is the only one who might be able to put the theory to trial at her family reunion.
    Mike Veach

  4. #54
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    Re: Sweet Mash -vs- Sour Mash

    I have heard VanWinkle's slogan more than once and I tend to agree with it. However, the distillery chemist has played an important role in most bourbons on the market today. Gas chromatography, improved distillation technique and various other contributions by chemists and scientists have lead this industry in a positive direction.

    I am sure the farmers in Scotland scoffed at the Coffey Still initially, too, as a new-fangled technique. However, it is the constant research and pushing of the envelope that has allowed certain distilleries, who do employ chemists, such as Woodford and Buffalo Trace, to be constantly thrust into the limelight. These chemists test new technique, discover what makes bourbon good from the inside out and make sure that the product being produced is of the highest quality, standards and consistency.

    They will never account for the Master Distiller's art, but they can be an extremely useful tool for a distillery.

  5. #55
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    Re: Sweet Mash -vs- Sour Mash

    You are right. Chemist have played and will continue to play an important part in the distilling business. When prohibition was repealed Schenley set up a school to train a new generation of distillers since many of them that were around prior to prohibition were either dead or too old to want to go back to work full time. The school trained them in many different scientific fields, including chemistry. I think it not as important as to whether a distiller is trained as a chemist or a biologist, just as long as he (or she someday) respects the art of distilling. Some parts of the process may simply be too random to ever figure out to the nth degree, but a good distiller will know when its right and when its not.
    Mike Veach

  6. #56
    Bourbonian of the Year 2006
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    Re: Sweet Mash -vs- Sour Mash

    Okay, so now we know that backset isn't used for oxygen (because yeast don't need it)
    Being a semi-scientist, I believe that yeast are facultative anaerobes. They can survive in the absence of oxygen, but don't they require oxygen to actively multiply, ie to produce the sterols necessary for cell membrane production. Oxygen would be critical to early stage fermentation. This is strictly from recollection.
    (I tried staying out of this thread for over a week and now I'm in it. Maybe I won't hit the continue button"
    Where are you Tdelling? You know this stuff cold.
    Ed

  7. #57
    Bourbonian of the Year 2003 and Super Moderator
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    Re: Sweet Mash -vs- Sour Mash

    By saying you are a brewer I take it that is your job, most of us here that do it only claim to be homebrewers. Can you say who you work for? If not , Big brewery will suffice, We'll just guess it's Miller, Busch, or Coors.

    Why do some distilleries use hops in the mash (presumably to keep the yeast viable and control pH (via isoalpha acids), but why if pH can be controlled by backset?)
    Actually as I understand this one, the hops are used in the yeast mash, which is a separate step from the larger mashing sequence.


    What purpose does hops play in brewing, Mick?

    Why do distilleries find it necessary to use lactobacillus if backset causes "souring"?

    This is done to the Yeast Mash.

    As far as" No Chemists Allowed" Which served Pappy VanWinkle well. Jerry Dalton has a Phd in Chemistry, And also is a Taoist mystic. Witness that in Chuck's video while still at Barton he says that whiskey making is a mystical process.

    ( Made and Bottled in Kentucky , Charles K. Cowdery)

    <font color="brown"> Good God give Bill Bruford Some </font>

  8. #58
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
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    Re: Sweet Mash -vs- Sour Mash

    Okay, here is my theory as a non-scientist. Backset was (is?) lightly acid because the residual sugar was being attacked by airborne (wild) yeasts. If backset wasn't heated to a high enough temperature before addition to a new mash, wild yeasts would continue to work - what Byrn calls "the acetic fermentation". Therefore, home distillers by 1818 figured out that using (non-sterile) backset could ferment, or help to ferment, a new mash. It was thus a substitute for fresh yeast or fresh yeasty ale when the latter could not be found. Likely it wasn't an ideal substitute because wild yeast strains might make a mash that might not taste good, but any harbour in a storm.. No doubt home distillers found out too that backset contained unfermented sugar and/or unconverted starches (the two things go together... This was an added bonus but Mike's early 1800's woman distiller seems to have been focusing on fermenting power for the new mash.

    Fast forward to 1875. Here is Byrn again on what clearly is sour mashing. Again he mentions this topic only under the heading of French distilling, not in the sections on domestic practice):

    "In a continuous work the spent wash should be deposited in vats or cisterns constructed for the purpose.... This liquid may be successfully used in subsequent operations to dilute the grain after it has been mashed. In this practice is found the advantage of bringing again to fermentation a liquid containing some fermentable substances which have escaped decomposition. This may be followed up for several successive operations - that is, three, four and even five; and the grain produces thus as much as 60 litres of spirit of 19 [degrees] per metrical quintal, [a] produce very considerable, and which could not be obtained by any other means. The use of spent wash is suspended when, after several successive operations, it is become so sour that instead of offering proper aliments to the fermentation, its acidity would be obnoxious to it."

    This seems rather clear. Spent wash in 1875, in France at any rate, finds its value in its quantity of residual, fermentable sugar (or, convertible starch). More alcohol can be produced for less money from the same stock of new grain if backset is added. Note Byrn does not refer to the fact that backset may have fermenting properties - he ignores that aspect and stresses backset is brought "again" to fermentation. (No need to bring it "again" if it already "is" in fermentation). But clearly, if the backset, as he knew, is acid, and if successive mashes using backset became more sour until it could not be used anymore, he knew there could be a fermented quality to it. Likely in his time they were not heating the backset to sterilize it. But he was in any case interested to get the greatest yield of alcohol from the sugar it still held. He didn't (it seems) care about the wild yeast or acidity factor except to the extent it actually stopped (not assisted) a proper fermentation. The main fermenting power in his system came from fresh yeast - "fresh porter yeast" he calls it at one point; who cares if a few wild spores affected its performance? Today, the "thin" stillage (the solids are taken out) are sterilized before addition to the new mash. Maybe this was not done in 1875 and that is why the backset/mash combination would sour too much after 4 or 5 applications. There must have been some exotic tasting brews and distillates in 1818 and maybe even in his time - maybe some tasted better than today's clean ferments, who knows? Anyway, he seems to have been interested in the additional alcohol that could be produced for "free" from what was otherwise purely a waste product; in this sense, sour mash seesm to have evolved in its meaning from 1818.

    Whether backset is used today mainly as a source of extra fermentables is something I don't know - we need distillery chemists to tell us - they must know the chemistry of the process fairly well. Possibly taste consistency is a factor too when batches are prepared in continuous fashion like this. As many have stated, adding (always sterile) backset seems to adjust the PH level to the desired level. Not that there aren't other ways to adjust the PH. Why then is the old way still used, and why is PH adjustment important anyway? How does this relate if at all to the 1875 idea of backset containing additional fermentable materials?

    In many ways, the Byrn book is sophisticated - his chapters on continuous distillation are complex and compelling - they had full columnar distillation, they knew exactly how to manipulate the columns to get straight whiskey of the traditional type or the most rectified neutral spirit we can get today. His knowledge of organic chemistry and micro-biology was primitive, but anyone reading him (setting aside his priggish literary style) has to be impressed with his methods and practical savvy.

    Gary


  9. #59
    Bourbonian of the Year 2003 and Super Moderator
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    Re: Sweet Mash -vs- Sour Mash

    more alcohol can be produced for less money
    " Because the addition of Backset also helps the yeast produce more alcohol, more whiskey can be made from each batch."
    P.212 Book of Bourbon

    Gary, it appears as though the accountants were there all along!

  10. #60
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
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    Re: Sweet Mash -vs- Sour Mash

    Bobby, you got it.

    Gary

 

 

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