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tmckenzie

another reason for the sour mash process

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Bourbonmakesmepoop

would it be possible to use some sort of perforated baffle/screen to make it harder for the foam to rise yet still allow liquids and gases to pass through?

surely there's a mechanical way to fix this problem without having to use an anti foam additive.

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Gillman

Tom, Todd and others, I've been posting on my blog at www.beeretseq.com for the last few weeks on sour mashing in the 1800s and early 1900s.

 

In a nutshell, they were doing wild ferments - EH Taylor and James Crow/Oscar Pepper/James Pepper did. Another version of sour mashing then was to yeast-back - collect top yeast off the active fermenters and place in the next one to ferment the beer. This is amply documented (see my posts). By about 1910, almost all the old small tub operations were gone. A mash yeast (made with hops) became popular from the 1870s and finally single cell cultures  were selected for their results (yield) and reliability.

 

Also, in the early 1900s, rye mashes were sweet not sour, at least, that's what the books say that I read. How that ties in with Tom's experience or what Todd said about effect of low pH on foaming, I can't say. Could it be using high amounts of raw rye created a mash that was acid enough? Reason I say that is, one source says, add backset if your (rye) mash isn't acid enough. Maybe the type of rye used then, or organisms in wood vessels (lactic acid bacteria) doing the souring?

 

Anyway, just an update for some guys I respect.

 

Gary

Edited by Gillman

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flahute
4 hours ago, Gillman said:

Tom, Todd and others, I've been posting on my blog at www.beeretseq.com for the last few weeks on sour mashing in the 1800s and early 1900s.

 

In a nutshell, they were doing wild ferments - EH Taylor and James Crow/Oscar Pepper/James Pepper did. Another version of sour mashing then was to yeast-back - collect top yeast off the active fermenters and place in the next one to ferment the beer. This is amply documented (see my posts). By about 1910, almost all the old small tub operations were gone. A mash yeast (made with hops) became popular from the 1870s and finally single cell cultures  were selected for their results (yield) and reliability.

 

Also, in the early 1900s, rye mashes were sweet not sour, at least, that's what the books say that I read. How that ties in with Tom's experience or what Todd said about effect of low pH on foaming, I can't say. Could it be using high amounts of raw rye created a mash that was acid enough? Reason I say that is, one source says, add backset if your (rye) mash isn't acid enough. Maybe the type of rye used then, or organisms in wood vessels (lactic acid bacteria) doing the souring?

 

Anyway, just an update for some guys I respect.

 

Gary

Gary, you may find this interesting. (Apologies if this is obvious info or if you already knew). 

Last week at the Bourbon Affair I was speaking to Dan Gardner of Four Roses and told a group of us that Jim was once asked how much backset they used. The answer was: it depends. Each of the wood fermenters they have has a different pH level so the amount of backset used varies from tub to tub in order to arrive at the desired optimal pH range.

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Gillman
On June 21, 2016 at 4:22 PM, flahute said:

Gary, you may find this interesting. (Apologies if this is obvious info or if you already knew). 

Last week at the Bourbon Affair I was speaking to Dan Gardner of Four Roses and told a group of us that Jim was once asked how much backset they used. The answer was: it depends. Each of the wood fermenters they have has a different pH level so the amount of backset used varies from tub to tub in order to arrive at the desired optimal pH range.

 

 

Yes thanks, very interesting. Good to know some wood still being used in the industry.

 

Gary

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tanstaafl2
On ‎6‎/‎21‎/‎2016 at 4:22 PM, flahute said:

Gary, you may find this interesting. (Apologies if this is obvious info or if you already knew). 

Last week at the Bourbon Affair I was speaking to Dan Gardner of Four Roses and told a group of us that Jim was once asked how much backset they used. The answer was: it depends. Each of the wood fermenters they have has a different pH level so the amount of backset used varies from tub to tub in order to arrive at the desired optimal pH range.

 

I don't know who else still uses them but those cypress wood fermenters at Four Roses are pretty uncommon these days and I have to think they play some role in the final quality of the spirit that has helped make FR be such a consistent reliable whiskey.

 

I wonder how long it will be before the new management rips them out in favor of stainless steel...

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VAGentleman

I know Makers and Woodford still use the cypress fermenters as well

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tanstaafl2
1 hour ago, VAGentleman said:

I know Makers and Woodford still use the cypress fermenters as well

 

At MM they have some but I believe they have added a lot of new ones recently and they are all stainless steel as I recall when I peeked behind the curtain...

 

Can't remember about Woodford.

Edited by tanstaafl2

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Leopold
On June 21, 2016 at 10:06 AM, Gillman said:

Tom, Todd and others, I've been posting on my blog at www.beeretseq.com for the last few weeks on sour mashing in the 1800s and early 1900s.

 

In a nutshell, they were doing wild ferments - EH Taylor and James Crow/Oscar Pepper/James Pepper did. Another version of sour mashing then was to yeast-back - collect top yeast off the active fermenters and place in the next one to ferment the beer. This is amply documented (see my posts). By about 1910, almost all the old small tub operations were gone. A mash yeast (made with hops) became popular from the 1870s and finally single cell cultures  were selected for their results (yield) and reliability.

 

Also, in the early 1900s, rye mashes were sweet not sour, at least, that's what the books say that I read. How that ties in with Tom's experience or what Todd said about effect of low pH on foaming, I can't say. Could it be using high amounts of raw rye created a mash that was acid enough? Reason I say that is, one source says, add backset if your (rye) mash isn't acid enough. Maybe the type of rye used then, or organisms in wood vessels (lactic acid bacteria) doing the souring?

 

Anyway, just an update for some guys I respect.

 

Gary

I'm familiar with all of these readings----but I'm having a heck of a time believing some of the claims made.  It's why I've never tried it.

 

Taking a mash from 12 plato down to 3 plato in a matter of days simply from spontaneous fermentation is, from my experience, technically impossible.  And then you add in the temperature of fermentation-----in the 60's F------and that makes the claims even more dubious, in my opinion.  

 

We mash as low as 10.5 Plato, and even at that low of a sugar content, it takes about 72 hours to completely end ferment....and that's when we're directly adding 7 millions cells per ml of health fresh yeast.

 

Many other spirits are fermented spontaneously.... Calvados, some Armagnac, some Pisco.....using the yeast that occurs naturally on the skins of fruits.  But these fermentations take weeks, and in some cases, months.  

 

Grain, and malt in particular, is rife with lactobacillus.  I'm having a difficult time picturing these smaller tubs not being overwhelmed with lactobacillus at far higher counts than any Saccharmyces strains.  In addition, using wild yeast and lactobacillus that you'd get from those tubs would make it next to impossible to get the Plato to stop at 3.....it would drop to 0 in a matter of hours, as the bacteria and yeast feasted on any dextrins or any other sugars in solution.

 

We do everything mentioned here.  We ferment in the 60's.  We use wooden fermenters.  We enter the barrel at 100 proof or lower.  But we add fresh yeast to get the starting Plato of 11 to move to 0 in less than 72 hours.  We then allow for a spontaneous secondary fermentation, and let the lactobacillus and acetobacter go to work.

 

The purpose of this secondary fermentation is to fill the barrels with dozens and dozens of organic acids that will slowly oxidize in to more complex congeners as the years roll by.  Same purpose that Pepper and others who supposedly fermented spontaneously had in mind.

 

I have to re-read what you've posted again.  Maybe I missed something.  This is all my opinion, of course. 

 

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Gillman

Thanks Todd, good to speak with you again. The thing is there are so many sources saying the same thing, from Harrison Hall's books (1813-1818) to the Internal Revenue's 1912 summary of distilling techniques which was evidently written by a technical expert  (of the day) and isn't therefore subject to advertising boosterism as some ads might be.  Why too would they invent a story like this? If they only got results from yeasting-back, I'd think they would claim that, but the 1912 document mentions yeasting back as separate from natural fermentation. Is it possible some of the wild yeasts were "turbo" or very active yeasts, I don't know.

 

Anyway, appreciate your remarks.

 

Gary

Edited by Gillman

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Leopold
33 minutes ago, Gillman said:

Thanks Todd, good to speak with you again. The thing is there are so many sources saying the same thing, from Harrison Hall's books (1813-1818) to the Internal Revenue's 1912 summary of distilling techniques which was evidently written by a technical expert  (of the day) and isn't therefore subject to advertising boosterism as some ads might be.  Why too would they invent a story like this? If they only got results from yeasting-back, I'd think they would claim that, but the 1912 document mentions yeasting back as separate from natural fermentation. Is it possible some of the wild yeasts were "turbo" or very active yeasts

Yes.  Certainly anything is possible.   I should have spent more time on my post...... I sound far too skeptical. The idea that what they claim to happen actually works  is an exciting idea.   The one thing I can say with complete certainty is that if a whiskey was made in the manner they describe----totally spontaneously----the depth of flavors in the finished whiskies would make modern whiskey taste, well, boring by comparison.

 

These old writings, whether they discuss absinthe production, cordial production, always have mistakes.  This could mean something as simple as confusing a thumper for a doubler, or mistaking grand wormwood for roman wormwood.  I have seen this happen quite a bit.

 

So for me, the only part that doesn't square is the time of fermentation, and the finished Plato.  This is something that would easily be a mistake in transcription.   Set that aside, and you, as I think you put it, have a mix between a lambic and a bourbon.  The resulting bourbon would have a depth of flavor unseen in any modern whiskey produced at a large distillery. 

 

Our little distillery is one step away from making such a bourbon, so perhaps I should shelve my skepticism, and try and make one, eh?

 

Good to speak with you again, Mr. Gillman.  

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flahute
30 minutes ago, Leopold said:

Our little distillery is one step away from making such a bourbon, so perhaps I should shelve my skepticism, and try and make one, eh?

 

If you do, you will have a lot of buyers from these here pages of sb.com

 

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Gillman
15 hours ago, Leopold said:

Yes.  Certainly anything is possible.   I should have spent more time on my post...... I sound far too skeptical. The idea that what they claim to happen actually works  is an exciting idea.   The one thing I can say with complete certainty is that if a whiskey was made in the manner they describe----totally spontaneously----the depth of flavors in the finished whiskies would make modern whiskey taste, well, boring by comparison.

 

These old writings, whether they discuss absinthe production, cordial production, always have mistakes.  This could mean something as simple as confusing a thumper for a doubler, or mistaking grand wormwood for roman wormwood.  I have seen this happen quite a bit.

 

So for me, the only part that doesn't square is the time of fermentation, and the finished Plato.  This is something that would easily be a mistake in transcription.   Set that aside, and you, as I think you put it, have a mix between a lambic and a bourbon.  The resulting bourbon would have a depth of flavor unseen in any modern whiskey produced at a large distillery. 

 

Our little distillery is one step away from making such a bourbon, so perhaps I should shelve my skepticism, and try and make one, eh?

 

Good to speak with you again, Mr. Gillman.  

 

 

Try it Todd, and call me Gary! If anyone can and should do it, it is you. Remember the C.K. Gallagher instructions... ?

 

Gary

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VT Mike
On 6/24/2016 at 4:32 PM, tanstaafl2 said:

 

At MM they have some but I believe they have added a lot of new ones recently and they are all stainless steel as I recall when I peeked behind the curtain...

 

Can't remember about Woodford.

I toured Maker's Mark back in February, not too long after the third still went online. The Fermentation room that they bring the tourists into has 8 Cypress fermenters. When I asked, the guide admitted that there were 50 more fermenters that were all stainless.

At Four Roses the original 9 fermenters are Cypress. Further back from those are 14 more from when the distillery expanded in the 1940's. The three that I could see through the openings in the wall were stainless and I'm assuming the rest were too.

I've toured 14 distilleries in Scotland; the wooden fermenters over there are either Douglas Fir (they call it Oregon Pine) or Larch. It seemed like everyone that used wood said it made a big difference in the flavor and everyone that used stainless said there was no difference.

Edited by VT Mike

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