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tmckenzie

another reason for the sour mash process

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tmckenzie

In learning how to operate our new beer still I have found yet another reason you have to make sour mash whiskey. And this could be yet another reason it was started and is still in use today. Sweet mash does not like a beer still. Foams up too bad on the trays, I ran a sweet mash yesterday starting up on a product so I had no backset for it. Never will I do that again, it ran but gace me fits the entire time. In all of the old tech books I have read, and in talking to some retired distillers, they say especially on rye you want plenty of backset. Will keep it from foaming and what I term bucking in the still. But I never knew just how true it was till yesterday. Intersting note I learned recently, MGP or the old Seagrams plant always alternates or used to rye mash with a bourbon mash. This lets the backset from the bourbon mash be used in the rye mash, the corn oils reduce foaming better than rye. And no doubt the bourbon backset adds flavor to the rye and the rye backset adds flavor to the bourbon. Whiskey making is an amazing process, learn something everyday. Jim Rutledge always says, remember you are still learning. He is right.

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p_elliott

Would that maybe be the reason Woodford Reserve was willing to do a sweet mash is because they use pot stills? Also by a beer still are you referring to a column still or a combination still like the experimental use still at BT? It's now called the Col E H Taylor still.

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mosugoji64

Thanks for the info, Tom. I had always read that the primary reason for sour mash was to regulate the acidity of each batch. Maybe that was a fortunate outcome of just trying to control distillation. Either way, we get to benefit from that discovery and it sounds like you're having an interesting time rediscovering it!

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squire

That is amazing stuff Tom, thanks.

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Ejmharris

Tom, one of the reasons I like this forum is getting info like yours on the actual process. Keep up the reports.

Mike

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sutton

Tom, thanks for your posts - I love to hear the details from someone practicing the art.

There are anti-foaming agents that can be used in wine fermentations for yeasts that produce high levels of polysaccharides (which contribute to the foaming - but you want these polysaccharides as they contribute to mouthfeel, but they can "foam over" if not controlled). I think they basically reduce the surface tension to reduce the amount of foam. Is a product like this allowed when distilling the beer?

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Alphanumeric

Great info! Thanks, Tom.

Also by a beer still are you referring to a column still or a combination still like the experimental use still at BT?

This has me curious as well.

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p_elliott

There was a great article in a past issue of Whisky Advocate magazine about the sour mash process. There is a whole lot more to it than just keeping the PH level down. Fascinating read if you can find it.

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tmckenzie
Great info! Thanks, Tom

This has me curious as well.

It is a twelve inch column with a thumper. Great vidoe on YouTube we put up last week, my dumbass cannot link it though. Look it up, unlike the big ones in Kentucky, ours has windows, so you can see the mash flow in the still. Very bourbon nerdy. We are the only micro running one, makes fine white dog, no computers either. The weather gives it fits, it is basically a big barometer, so if barometric pressure changes, you have to adjust stuff to keep it running right. I am told the old still operators' before computers, could tell you a day ahead what the weather would be. Amazing art bass been lost to computers and flavor. You can use anti foam, but I disdain anything like that in our products. I will say, the bourbon white dog at 106 proof off the still you can drink like water.

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squire

For the benefit of our readers Tom would you elaborate a bit on anti form?

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smokinghole

Antifoam can be a number of products. Some are silicone used and there are newly approved Antifoam for the beer brewing industry that are hop derived. They all basically have an effect on surface tension, and more specifically protein stability. In brewing beer the fermentation foam is of concern and becomes loss in primary fermentation. I think for the whiskey mashes its a combo of heating the mash and residual dissolved co2 coming out of solution as it comes to temp in the boiler. Also as the mash is further heated more mash proteins are precipating out of solution from the temp increase and we see that as frothy foam. Just like bringing pasta up to boil really. Antifoam allows for increased efficiency of vessels. You can fit more, lose less to foaming, and gain more control. However like mentioned, why not make it without Antifoam and use techniques already in existence that are proven and do not adulterate the mash?

Sent from my C771 using Tapatalk 2

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squire

Why not indeed . . . . . .

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bllygthrd

Love the info and insight ... wish I could find the youtube video referenced.

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smokinghole

I'm wondering if tmckenzie would disclose the average pH of the sour mash at the time of boiling. If its even measured. Only reason I ask if that in the brewing world sour fermented beers have little to no foam stability after their lengthy fermentation. Either the proteins responsible for foam are utilized by the souring bacteria as a carbon source, or the just simply become denatured because the mash/ beer pH is outside their range for stability. Some beers made by homebrewers and a couple craft breweries have done it too, are sour mashed after starch conversion. This is done to get a sour beer like berliner weisse, in a very short amount of time, and because the wort is boiled post mash it doesn't transfer bacteria to any fermentors, keeping everything as the brewing equipment clean. The pH of these styles of beer range from 3.0-3.5 pH and I have not found one with great foam stability. Though the mash is treated differently, much translates at that stage between brewing and distilling.

I am only a brewer (not just homebrewer), tMcKenzie will have to chime in on the distilling specifics.

Sent from my C771 using Tapatalk 2

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TheNovaMan

It's interesting that you should mention that, because I just recently read that homebrewers typically want the pH of their mash to be about 5.5 (just going by recollection, so I may be slightly off). I don't remember if that was pre- or post-boil, though.

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tmckenzie
I'm wondering if tmckenzie would disclose the average pH of the sour mash at the time of boiling. If its even measured. Only reason I ask if that in the brewing world sour fermented beers have little to no foam stability after their lengthy fermentation. Either the proteins responsible for foam are utilized by the souring bacteria as a carbon source' date=' or the just simply become denatured because the mash/ beer pH is outside their range for stability. Some beers made by homebrewers and a couple craft breweries have done it too, are sour mashed after starch conversion. This is done to get a sour beer like berliner weisse, in a very short amount of time, and because the wort is boiled post mash it doesn't transfer bacteria to any fermentors, keeping everything as the brewing equipment clean. The pH of these styles of beer range from 3.0-3.5 pH and I have not found one with great foam stability. Though the mash is treated differently, much translates at that stage between brewing and distilling.

I am only a brewer (not just homebrewer), tMcKenzie will have to chime in on the distilling specifics.

Sent from my C771 using Tapatalk 2[/quote']

I will check today, i only check it when I set the fermenter. I like to be from 3.8 to 4.2, which is pretty sour.

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smokinghole

A mash for brewing beer is generally good at 5.2-5.4 with outliers being acceptable. Mash pH is responsible for many regional beer styles because of water. I am sure the same can be said for distilling. Post boil the pH will be closer to 4.9ish and post fermentation you will typically end up 4.1-4.8 dependent on alcohol and residual malt sugars.

Sent from my C771 using Tapatalk 2

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SmoothAmbler

I know we finish our mash at 5.2-5.5 and finish fermentation right around 4. We adjust with food grade citric as we don't employ the sour mash process.

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cowdery

That's an excellent theory, Tom, and one I had not heard before. Historically, the adoption of sour mash and the adoption of the column still occur in Kentucky at about the same time.

I hear wheat is a bad foamer too. Bill Samuels told me that one bit of wisdom his dad got from Pappy Van Winkle was never to cook a wheated mash under pressure. Fred Noe also once mentioned foaming as a problem with rye whiskey. Also rye balls.

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Leopold
Either the proteins responsible for foam are utilized by the souring bacteria as a carbon source

It's this. A lower pH range actually stabilizes foam.

The bacteria in sour beer consumes high molecular weight proteins, leading to very low terminal gravities, and poor foam and foam stability.

The reason that sour mash helps with foaming is that these same proteins as well as beta glucans are broken up (not denatured) from the intense heat. When you're talking about a column still, you're talking about direct steam injection, which means very high temperatures coming in direct contact with mash--- higher than what you get from a simple pot still with a jacket. If you're running a pot still or a beer kettle, you can throttle back the heat to a very low level, giving the heat a chance to break up the proteins, and thereby settling down the foam. A continuous still does not allow for such a luxury----therefore, you want to add sour mash----mash that has ALREADY undergone this intense heating process, breaking down (not denaturing) proteins and beta glucans that lead to foam.

More than you want to know. IMHO, of course.

Edited by Leopold

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squire

Not really Todd, this is precisely the sort of information I want to read. Thanks for taking the time to post.

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Stones
There was a great article in a past issue of Whisky Advocate magazine about the sour mash process. There is a whole lot more to it than just keeping the PH level down. Fascinating read if you can find it.

Will have to source that one, it sounds like some fascinating reading.

PS Not sure how long your avatar baseplate has been revised but I love it and the movie its from. Its a personal favourite of mine, nice reference.

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Leopold
Not really Todd, this is precisely the sort of information I want to read. Thanks for taking the time to post.

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squire

Yes, I understand, not looking for instruction so much as information. The more I know about your product and how you make it the more interested I am in your's rather than your competitor's.

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Fangzilla
It's this. A lower pH range actually stabilizes foam.

The bacteria in sour beer consumes high molecular weight proteins, leading to very low terminal gravities, and poor foam and foam stability.

The reason that sour mash helps with foaming is that these same proteins as well as beta glucans are broken up (not denatured) from the intense heat. When you're talking about a column still, you're talking about direct steam injection, which means very high temperatures coming in direct contact with mash--- higher than what you get from a simple pot still with a jacket. If you're running a pot still or a beer kettle, you can throttle back the heat to a very low level, giving the heat a chance to break up the proteins, and thereby settling down the foam. A continuous still does not allow for such a luxury----therefore, you want to add sour mash----mash that has ALREADY undergone this intense heating process, breaking down (not denaturing) proteins and beta glucans that lead to foam.

More than you want to know. IMHO, of course.

It's awesome that we've been able to get this down to a science and actually understand the why and the how of what the original inventors of bourbon just learned through practical experience. Travel back in time and talk to the founding distillers, if you spoke that paragraph to them, they'd look at you like you had three heads. But they were the ones who figured out what works. Today we finally know why.

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