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  1. #1
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    Proof and heat: A little dab\'ll do ya

    In a posting about Old Potrero Rye (in the Rye topic), Chuck Cowdery wrote, "...Certainly on the frontier, distillers struggled to make proof (i.e., 50% alc/vol). His high wines are like 140 proof. How many distillers in the 18th century could regularly achieve 140 proof?"

    That brings up an intriguing point we tend to overlook, namely, that the trick to getting high proof isn't in "fir'in up thet thar still" but in keeping it from boiling. The idea is that, once the still reaches about 178-180, every degree hotter it gets, the LOWER the proof's going to be.

    It's a little ironic that (at least before modern equipment) you could only get a good, safe, dependable fermentation in the cold months. If you could ferment in the summertime, you could probably get pretty near the right temperature for 140 proof whiskey by just letting the mash sit there in that big ol' all-copper still in the sunlight!

    =John=
    http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

  2. #2
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: Proof and heat: A little dab\'ll do ya

    If you could ferment in the summertime, you could probably get pretty near the right temperature for 140 proof whiskey by just letting the mash sit there in that big ol' all-copper still in the sunlight!

    I find your theory of passive distillation intriguing, swarthy stranger. Please tell me more.


    --Chuck Cowdery

  3. #3
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    Re: Proof and heat: A little dab\'ll do ya

    John,
    Don't forget that the opposite is true as well. In the old days they would let hard cider freeze and skim the alcohol off the top. This would have been extremely high proof as well as having all of the fusel oils that are found in the heads and tails of the distilling process.
    Mike Veach


  4. #4
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    Re: Proof and heat: A little dab\'ll do ya

    Not much to tell. On a good hot summer day, you could fry eggs on a copper pot still if you could find a flat spot to cook 'em on. And the inside just might reach 180 degrees all by itself. Unfortunately, you'd have to refrigerate just about everything else in the process, from the mashtubs to the worm. Unless you had a nice cave spring like Jack Daniel, with constant 45 degree water flowing out of it. Hmmmmm, just imagine -- your own little still on the hill, and not even a column of smoke to give away your location. And a couple over easy with a side of bacon for lunch, too! MMM-mmm Good!

    =John=
    http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

  5. #5
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    Re: Proof and heat: A little dab\'ll do ya

    That was common practice with cider, but I dont' think anyone every did it (more than once, anyway) with whiskey. Is that because there are less fusal oils in fruit cider than in grain mash?

    =John=
    http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

  6. #6
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    Re: Proof and heat: A little dab\'ll do ya

    John,
    I don't know the answer to your question but I will say that people went blind drinking the stuff distilled this way so maybe it depended more upon the strain of wild yeast that took hold. Maybe Linn would know since he is most likely to have tried this type of distilling.
    Mike Veach


  7. #7
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    Re: Proof and heat: A little dab\'ll do ya

    While solar powered distillation is intriguing we us bottled gas. Everything I've been involved with has just made use of wild yeast out of the air that make their home in the mash barrel. More than likely many strains at once.

    Isolating and propogating a single strain as jug yeast is a skill that only advanced distillers know. Which is something that I need to learn.

    Linn Spencer

    Have Shotglass. [IMG]/wwwthreads/images/smile.gif[/IMG] Will Travel.

  8. #8
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: Proof and heat: A little dab\'ll do ya

    Actually, "practical" distillers do exactly as you do. They pull a wild yeast out of the air, propagate it and evaluate its suitability. That evaluation is their special skill, knowing by the look, smell, taste and activity of the yeast if it's a "good one" or not.

    Scientific distillers use a pure culture yeast which is laboratory developed and manufactured. They buy it by the bag. In a pure culture strain, all of the organisms are the same. That's not the goal of the practical distiller. He just wants a yeast that makes good whiskey and somehow knows when he has found one.

    One thing they do look for is a yeast that is robust, that works fast (but not too fast) and propagates fast. One purpose of sour mash is to encourage "good" micro organisms and discourage bad ones by introducing an environment already proven hospitable to the "good" ones.

    --Chuck Cowdery

 

 

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