5 gallon mash, but low yeild/ poor quality.

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Kaleb

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Hey im just getting into brewing at home, and found a few different mash recipes online for a corn whisky and a strawberry brandy. Both of which started with a jar or 2 of high quality clear liquor. Then quickly became weak and cloudy.
My corn mash was 5lbs corn meal 5 lbs sugar with 3 small packets of yeast all in 5 gal of water where it fermented for a week
My strawberry brandy was 5 lbs sugar, 6 lbs mashed strawberries, and only 1 small packet of yeast in only 4 gallons of water because of the space the strawberry juice took. It then fermented for a week
When i brewed the strawberry shine i made sure to regulate temp thinking that i had boiled water and that contaminated my corn whisky, but temps never got above 190 and i still have ehh product
I just ordered a hydrometer that way im able to be more precise in the future but for now i guess my question is what is an average yeild and quality of a 5 gallon run because i feel as if im doing something wrong.
 

Bobby_M

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5 pounds of sugar in 5 gallons of water will get you about 5% alcohol by volume. Yield has a lot to do with the proof output of your still. If you collect an average ABV of 50% (100 proof), you'd get half a gallon at most.

Corn meal added to a mash without amylase is mostly wasted. Adding amylase will turn that into more sugar.
 

bernardsmith

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hi Kaleb - and welcome. Not a distiller but I think Bobby M may have hit the target.
Two or three quick thoughts.
You need an hydrometer. Without one you are driving at midnight on a moonless night across the country without headlights. Basically you had a mash with about 1 lb of fermentable sugar per gallon and if that finished brut dry you would have had an ABV of about 5.25%. The corn meal might have added some flavor to your mash but the sugars in corn are unavailable to yeast unless you find some way to make them less complex - which is one of the purposes of using barley which contains enzymes to do just that. Corn does not have these enzymes in any useful amount.
A mash with an ABV of 5.25 % means that for every 1000 ml (about 1 quart) you have about 50 ml of 100% alcohol (and 50 ml is about a quarter of a cup) . In one gallon you have then about 1 cup of 100% alcohol and so in 5 gallons you have about 5 cups and 5 cups is about ... 2.5 pints , so perhaps you might pull about a quart of spirits. If your starting gravity was twice as large (say, 1.080 then that would have produced a mash at about 10% ABV and you would have pulled about a half a gallon at the same proof as you got with the batch you made.
And all that I am saying has nothing to do with your set up or how you make cuts or whatever... This is simply a statement about the maximum amount of alcohol you made fermenting the sugar. Remember - distilling simply removes water . it does not create a molecule of alcohol so the better your undersatnding of brewing or wine making - all other things being equal - the more alcohol you can make in your mash or wash.
 

Toxxyc

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Remember what you can actually drink is just the hearts. That's even less than the actual alcohol content. I also discovered this with a shock, and as a result I'm now doubling up (actually tripling) on my stripping run liquid that I can use for a spirit run before actually doing a spirit run. It's not worth it for me to make a single bottle after 3 weeks of work, mashing, fermenting, clearing a bit, stripping and then doing a spirit run.
 

Snickers

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5 pounds of sugar in 5 gallons of water will get you about 5% alcohol by volume. Yield has a lot to do with the proof output of your still. If you collect an average ABV of 50% (100 proof), you'd get half a gallon at most.

Corn meal added to a mash without amylase is mostly wasted. Adding amylase will turn that into more sugar.
Not sure where this caculstion comes from, but for 20 years I've never come to that result. Though you are absolutely correct on the waste of cornmeal. As another matter , not converting the starches to sugars before fermentation will actually stress the yeast and lower the potential of any ABV.

Kaleb, you'll need to cook your cornmeal, like grits. It will be thick, and I mean thick. At this point you need to allow the grits to cool to 150f, and add Alpha Amylase while holding 150f for 60-90 min. What you will see happen is amazing, it will be very soupy and thin like you never cooked it. From here you want to strain out the remaining solids, this will leave you with the fermentable portion of the cornmeal. Get that hydrometet and check your specific gravity before adding your sugar to the mash. At this point I target my SG to become 1.100. Start adding your sugar slowly allowing it to desolve completely until you reach your targetted SG. Keep in mind that yemp affects SG readings. Try this calculator link, use 60f as you calibration temp.
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And to calculate ABV I target my final SG to become .990. Here you could use this calculator:
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As for fermentation I would recommend a good distillers yeast, something like Red Star DADY (Distillers active dry yeast). It can take as much as 7-14 days to completely ferment depending on temps. But be sure to do so in a sealed tub with an air lock. When the air lock stops bubbling, open and stir your mash, check you SG again, reseal and allow to rest 2 more days to be sure , watching your air lock for signs of activity. If no activity open and check SG again. If you have hit your targetted final SG then you're ready for your stripping run. Be sure to eithet siphon your mash off the spent yeast or strain you mash going into the boiler/still. I made the mistake on my first run by not straing it. Talk about a foul taste of afteryeast! But I was able to recover most of it by carbon filtering. Anyway, you should be set for distilling.

When I run a 5gal batch I can expect to get an average of 1 1/2 to 2 gal between foreshots, heads, hearts, and tails. This allows me to some what calculate how many containers to have on hand for cuts. I preffer using 16oz mason jars here because they are small enough to allow for eadier cuts. I set up with no less than 16 jars. A 2 gal finish would fill all 16 jars. The first jar gets pitched, those are the foreshots( methanol vaporizes between 160 and 173f. Once you reach 174f you will be developing heads). From there I fill as many jars I can and divide the numbet of jars in thirds. If I get 15 jars from this point tje first 5 I label heads, the next 5 jars hearts, and the last 5 tails. Check your hearts with an alcohol proof meter, my first run produced 138 proof. To me that's as far ad I need to go because I'm going to temper it down to 100 proof anyway. The heads and tails go back in on my next batch and the fun begins again. But you may also chose to collect several batches of hearts and re-run them as a final spirit run trying to increase you proofing.

Good luck and happy distilling.
 

Toxxyc

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Kaleb, you'll need to cook your cornmeal, like grits. It will be thick, and I mean thick. At this point you need to allow the grits to cool to 150f, and add Alpha Amylase while holding 150f for 60-90 min. What you will see happen is amazing, it will be very soupy and thin like you never cooked it.
On this (great post, by the way), there's a way to make it easier. When the corn is cooking and you see it thickens too much, you can add regular malted barley, milled/crushed really fine. The enzymes in there helps to break down the starch during the cook as well (called sacrificial malt), and actually loosens up the mash to almost OK levels.

But if you ask me, cooking corn, not in a hurry again. It was a pain in the neck, took forever (overnight, actually) and while it made an awesome spirit, I ended up blending it with regular all-malt spirit anyway.
 

jseyfert3

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Not sure where this caculstion comes from, but for 20 years I've never come to that result. Though you are absolutely correct on the waste of cornmeal. As another matter , not converting the starches to sugars before fermentation will actually stress the yeast and lower the potential of any ABV.
It’s not that far off, close enough for a ballpark estimate. A pound of table sugar in a gallon of water adds about 0.046 points. 1.046 - 1.000 = 0.046*131.25 = 6.04% ABV.

If you assume a lower final gravity then the calculation is somewhat higher, but still within the range of a ballpark estimate.
 

Bobby_M

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Not sure where this caculstion comes from, but for 20 years I've never come to that result.
Table sugar has a PPG of 1.045 so 5 pounds in 5 gallons is also 1.045 OG. Even in a moderately healthy fermentation, that should ferment down to 1.000 which is about 5.9% ABV.
 

Snickers

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Table sugar has a PPG of 1.045 so 5 pounds in 5 gallons is also 1.045 OG. Even in a moderately healthy fermentation, that should ferment down to 1.000 which is about 5.9% ABV.
Funny thing here is, your calculations are definitely text book. But for a qualified sigar wash, atleast the recipe I've used from day 1, gives me an SG of 1.100 and after fermentation an SG of .990 which tesults in 13.48 ABV. That calls for 1kg per gal. When distilling low ABV's aren't worth the time. Get your ABV up for success.
 

jseyfert3

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Funny thing here is, your calculations are definitely text book. But for a qualified sigar wash, atleast the recipe I've used from day 1, gives me an SG of 1.100 and after fermentation an SG of .990 which tesults in 13.48 ABV. That calls for 1kg per gal. When distilling low ABV's aren't worth the time. Get your ABV up for success.
In other words your experience equates to exactly 6.1% ABV per pound of sugar per gallon, which is extremely close to the 5.9% ABV textbook calculation done by @Bobby_M, so I’m not sure why you’re saying that this calculation doesn’t match your experience. ;)
 

Bobby_M

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It's possible Snickers thought I was suggesting someone SHOULD only use 5 pounds of sugar. I was just stating a rough rule of thumb for how much alcohol would be made at a certain ratio. You want to go nuts and ferment 15 or 20%, go for it.
 

Toxxyc

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I wouldn't ferment to 20%, or even 15%, really. It stresses the yeast, it's going to take a long time to complete and you're likely going to end up with a lot of off flavours. I'd rather split a 20% batch into two 10% batches, TBH.
 
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1 pound of sugar in 1 gallon of water will give a specific gravity of 1.039. multiply 0.039 X 131.12 and you get your "potential" ABV of 5.114% alcohol content. Keep in mind this is "potential" in a perfect run with perfect temperature and nutrition with perfect yeast growth and perfect oxygen you will get 5.114% ABV.

Everything that is less than perfect "may" reduce your final ABV or it may just take longer to reach the 5.114% ABV.

If you are trying for "moonshine" or "sugarshine" you can get a turbo yeast capable of high alcohol content up to as high as 18% to 20% ABV along with a good nutritional supplement and use about 2.67 pounds of sugar per gallon. Keep in mind the more sugar you use the less dissolved O2 the wash can hold in suspension which reduces yeast production and the less water is available to the yeast for yeast production as the yeast are in direct competition with the sugar for available water. It is a double edged sword or a catch 22 if you will.

You also have to watch for acidity sugar washes drop Ph fast, you can combat this with some calcium carbonate added to the fermenter which will help buffer Ph, I use some crushed eggshell.

Low oxygen can mess you up as well so I use aeration it is a simple and easy solution for me.

If you want actual moonshine though you need to learn to malt corn, which isn't actually that hard. Lots of people malting popping corn even to make moonshine. I malt field corn/feed corn that I get locally from a fellow farmer. You have to malt the corn though to get moonshine, corn meal cannot be used by yeast no matter how much sugar you put in with it.

If you use corn keep in mind methanol production, when heating the still up hold it about 145F then at 155F for a little while and distill out the methanol tossing the first couple ounces of distillate out to remove any methanol. Use the flame test, methanol burns yellow and ethanol burns blue or invisible.

Good luck on your brewing...

P.S... I didn't go look at the 131.12 I know the 131 is correct it is possible I could be off on the .12 but it is close enough for the girls I go with...
 
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Toxxyc

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You don't HAVE to malt corn. You can also just cook it (gelatinize it) and then convert to sugar using the correct enzymes. That's what I'm planning with a next batch, after my rum is done and I'm progressing with my all-grain whisky. Can't wait!
 
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