Traditional Corn Specifications

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Traditional Corn Specifications

Unread postby gillmang » Tue Mar 09, 2010 1:04 pm

In 1935, Karl M. Herstein wrote a study of distilled spirits manufacture (covering some related areas like wines and cordials).

This is a fascinating book. It spanned both the pre-industrial (so to speak) whiskey-making era and the modern one informed by modern chemical engineering and other science.

In this book, the chapter on whiskey production is essential reading and contains much of interest I believe for craft distillers since Herstein distinguishes between small and large scale production - in his schema the difference is mainly in how the mash is cooked. We've seen though that small tub mashing and variants on sour mashing were earlier distinguishing characteristics of small scale producers (recall that Gallagher article from the late 1800's).

So that chapter, some 45 pages long, is recommended, but here I draw attention to his comments on corn. He states distillers preferred white flint corn, preferably grown along the Kentucky or Ohio Rivers, and he gives a fairly detailed chart on the make-up of such corn (moisture content, proteins, etc.). See pg. 31-32.

I'd be interested in any comments Todd, Tom or others have on his comments on corn (or the whiskey chapter). Does distillers' corn today resemble the corn Herstein is describing?

http://books.google.ca/books?id=Y25d9Ht ... q=&f=false

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Re: Traditional Corn Specifications

Unread postby Leopold » Wed Mar 10, 2010 1:48 am

Corn, like most crops and commodities have become much more homogenized. Decades of pushing yield over flavor has taken its toll as well.

Of particular interest to me is that just how much lower the pitching temperature used to be when compared with modern large scale whisk(e)y distillers. There is no way that this hasn't had a profound effect on the congeners present in finished whisk(e)y. Add this to the entry proof and you have a different beverage altogether.

We pitch as low as the 60's at our distillery, depending on the time of year, mash bill, and yeast strain.
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Re: Traditional Corn Specifications

Unread postby EllenJ » Wed Mar 10, 2010 1:28 pm

Ah-HEM!!!! :lol:
Uh... O-KAY... As I appear to have previously posted in the wrong topic... :oops:

That's a cool book, Gary. I "wasted" much of my evening just glancing though it and I can tell I'm going to spend more time with it.

In fact, I spent so much time perusing it online that I forgot where I was in THIS forum and posted my reply to your other book recommendation. DUH!!!!

Oh, well, in THIS book, I especially enjoyed the comparisons of whiskies (at least as they were in the 1930s). One thing that popped out at me was Herstein's type classification which defines "bourbon" as "...composed of maize and either wheat or barley malt", while rye whiskey (the more predominant type then, and listed first) was "made from a mash composed of unmalted rye and either rye or barley malt". No mention of rye as an ingredient of bourbon at all.

In another topic, I've mentioned the intricacies of the bourbon column still. Herstein goes into exquisite detail in his description, which well illustrate what I meant. In fact, his diagrams clearly (if that's really the correct word for them) show the complexity involved. Reminds me of the valves on a baritone saxophone! Ah yes, Bird Thou Never Wert!

Another very important area for discussion that surfaces (and is well-explored) in this book is the eternal quest for a suitable method of accelerating the very expensive aging process. This is, of course, of prime interest to startup distillers, and Herstein seems to spend much more time addressing the various approaches than one might expect. Except that, at the time he published this book, that was a major issue in the post-Repeal brown spirits industry. Much history has been recounted concerning the Rosenstiels and Bronfmans and Porters and their huge liquor companies, with all those millions of barrels aging in warehouses, but another huge concern -- one which gets very little mention and even less praise -- is Continental Distilling of Philadelphia, the beverage alcohol division of Publiker. And in the 1930s, Continental was a force to be reckoned with -- primarily due to its chief chemist, a genius by the name of Dr. Carl Haner. Haner had formulated a process, so Continental asserted to its potential stockholders, by which newly-distilled whiskey could be matured in very little time, with the resulting spirit indetectable from whiskeys aged for years in oak barrels. Whether Dr. Haner's method was successful is open to discussion; I've never had a chance to sample any of the products to which it may have been applied. I do know that Continental produced some very excellent whiskey, but those I'm familiar with appear to have been aged conventionally in warehouses at Kinsey/Linfield. Perhaps we can get Dave Ziegler to add some of his knowledge here. The important point, however, is that "accelerated aging" was a VERY big deal in the industry at that time. In the end, the straight whiskey folks won out, but that may not really have been "in the end". It will be interesting to see what ideas the new "fine whiskey-makers" might explore. By the way, are you going to attend the ADI conference in May? Love to see you.
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Re: Traditional Corn Specifications

Unread postby Husker » Tue Mar 16, 2010 9:42 pm

I wonder if the speed aging process entailed heat and areation? I heard a story of an old moonshiner who used to bounce his jugs of moonshine in the back of his pickup on a hot day. He claimed the bouncing and heat made his whiskey better.
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Re: Traditional Corn Specifications

Unread postby EllenJ » Wed Mar 17, 2010 11:51 am

Prob'ly not. Raw whiskey in a sealed plastic, glass, or crockery jug won't see much effect from agitation, other than whatever oxygen happened to be trapped in the container. And old moonshiners were not generally noted for spending any more time between the worm head and the point of sale than absolutely necessary.

It's likely just part of the great American myth about "quality moonshine". There really WAS (and still is) fine quality moonshine, but there are two very important points you need to consider:

(1) The "quality" of quality 'shine is entirely from the mash and the distilling process. It's as good right off the still as it's ever expected to be. You either enjoy unaged corn liquor or you don't, regardless of how you feel about aged bourbon. Different set of qualifiers. Even the federal codes make that distinction: straight corn whiskey is defined quite differently from straight "anything-else" whiskey.

(2) If you find a source for moonshine, what you get will be the cheapest, fastest-made, rotgut sugar-likker available. It is, in fact, really a form of rum, not whiskey at all. A very poor form of rum. In order to get a chance to sample REAL CORN MOONSHINE WHISKEY, you need to get yourself invited to the distiller's daughter's wedding. You CAN get a pretty good approximation from LEGAL sources, though. Georgia Moon, at 80 proof, is Heaven Hill's non-aged corn whiskey and it's pretty good. Even better are Tuthilltown's Old Gristmill (also 40 proof), Finger Lakes' Glen Thunder, at 90, and Belmont Farms' Virginia Lightning, at 100. I think you can also get a sample of true bourbon white dog at Buffalo Trace. Good Stuff!!
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Re: Traditional Corn Specifications

Unread postby Husker » Wed Mar 17, 2010 4:03 pm

I have had some moonshine, and I was really impressed. However, it didn't come from a "typical moonshiner" who was selling it - it came from what I would call a "hobby distiller" who was trying to make good stuff just for himself and his friends. He aged it in oak for a year and it was colored nicely. There were four or five of us who passed the bottle, and the consensus was that it resembled Pendleton. I've never had Pendleton, so I took their word for it. I would like to try some of the "factory stuff" that you mentioned for a comparison. However, the selection here in the sticks is a bit thin. Most people drink Crown or other Canadian whiskey - maybe some Jack.
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Re: Traditional Corn Specifications

Unread postby p_elliott » Thu Mar 18, 2010 10:25 am

Markers Mark also gives samples of white dog at the distillery.
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Re: Traditional Corn Specifications

Unread postby cowdery » Thu Mar 18, 2010 11:08 am

The best advice I can give to anyone interested in moonshine is read Max Watman's new book, Chasing the White Dog.
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Re: Traditional Corn Specifications

Unread postby EllenJ » Thu Mar 18, 2010 6:07 pm

+1 Totally agree, Chuck.
I'm reading chapter 8, Beauty and Damnation right now. Or at least I will be next time I go to take a dump. I have to set myself a limit of one chapter per, uh... sitting, or I'll just keep on reading 'til my ass falls asleep. :laughing5:
GREAT BOOK!

How can anyone not respect a writer who can point out how it must feel to live in the mountains and hollows of Virginia where "the horizon" is just an abstract concept you read about in school, but you've never seen anything further away than 400 yards in your whole life?

There are numerous samples of the first chapter online (yes, the Simons and the Schusters sure do know how to market books in the internet age; good for them!), and there are several "moonshine"-related venues (brewing/distillers' clubs, craft distillery/pubs, etc) running promotions and contests with a copy of the book as a prize. Kinda makes you hope Mat's next work might focus on prostitution? :roll:
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Re: Traditional Corn Specifications

Unread postby cowdery » Wed Mar 24, 2010 12:55 pm

Speaking of that horizon thing, I had an experience once in Eastern Kentucky of looking into the distance and being unable to find any level ground to fix on, including where I was standing. It was very disorienting. Good thing the camera tripod had a level in it.
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Re: Traditional Corn Specifications

Unread postby delaware_phoenix » Tue Aug 31, 2010 4:32 pm

This seems as good a place as any to post this.

Johnson's (revised) universal cyclopedia, a scientific and popular treasury of useful knowledge, volume 8, discusses whiskey production circa 1886.

He says 50-60% corn, rest small grains, typically rye, with 10% of the small grains being malt. He mentions initial strike temperature of 150º F. After initial mashing, the liquid is drawn off, and more water is added at 190º F and infuses the residual grains for a couple hours. The second liquid is drawn off and added to the first. Boiling water added to the residual grains, allowed to steep, and that liquid is drawn off and that water when cool is used as the initial mashing water (presumably heated to 150º F) for the next batch.

Interestingly, mentions adding only 4/5th of the yeast initially, the remainder after the 2nd day.

On the removal of fusel oils from the whiskey, mention of adding 1 part bleaching powder to 665 parts spirit, and that this imparts a brandy like flavor to the spirit. The author that much inferior whiskey is made, but lists a couple of the least injurious recipes.

The 1900 version of the cyclopedia gives the same recipes with a little updated information on production by state.
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Re: Traditional Corn Specifications

Unread postby delaware_phoenix » Tue Aug 31, 2010 5:30 pm

I'd also like to draw everyone's attention to New Remedies, Volume 12, by Horatio C. Wood (ed), 1883. beginning on pages 345 and 354 is an article by C. K. Gallagher, on the Mashing, Fermenting, and Distilling of Grain into Whiskey. In this book for pharmaceutical whiskey made using the old sour mash plan and double distilled in copper distills the author gives as his distillation proof as between 112 and 120 proof, and that it is reduced with distilled water to 100 proof.

On page 354 he begins describing the actual mashing, and it has many similarities with the old methods posted previously, such as EH Taylor's. Very interestingly he suggests about 8 gallons per half bushel of meal at a time, and that less water makes more work, but a better mash. He also describes capping the mash with rye meal, which will become a hard crust, and this makes Taylor's description of breaking up the crust more sensible. If his 6-8º on the saccharometer is near Brix/Balling, then this would be considered quite low (about 3.3-4.4% potential alcohol). My guess is that the enzymes remain active during fermentation and bring up these numbers.
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Re: Traditional Corn Specifications

Unread postby gillmang » Tue Aug 31, 2010 9:10 pm

This article has been discussed on the board before and is intriguing.

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Re: Traditional Corn Specifications

Unread postby delaware_phoenix » Wed Sep 01, 2010 5:36 pm

viewtopic.php?f=17&t=5651&p=23698&hilit=gallagher#p23698

It can be found here.

In his description of mashing, in his first mashings, he doesn't have any pot ale (residue from the mash distillation, the first run to produce your low wines, sometimes also called singlings). So the distiller doesn't have anything to "sour" the mash, so the first step of a sour mash process is to produce a sweet mash, distill it, and use the residue from that to start the next batch, your first real sour mash.

Another kind of "sour" is the intentional or accidental addition of a Lactobacillus bacteria to the mash. This process does not effect the pH, but it does produce a bit of a sour flavor. These bacteria are also producing nicines (I think that's the spelling) a chemical family that has anti-bacterial activity. It might be a kind of enzyme. But they don't effect yeast. These bacteria are also producing a bit of lactic acid, which has positive effects on the flavor of the product.

I've been studying up on maintaining yeast cultures. It's simply a labor intensive process, one closer to lab work if you want to maintain the purity of the strain. I imagine it's much cheaper and/or easier for the major distilleries to contract with a lab to produce the quantities of dried yeast that they need.

In the old days, it may have been also a necessity to harvest yeast from an existing fermentation to keep the same strain going. Yeast like other organisms will happily stay the same if under no environmental pressure to change. There's an article over at the Institute of Brewing and Distilling that examined genetic drift and serial repitching, and in their experiment they found no basis for the claim that serial repitching leads to genetic drift. Perhaps some strains are more susceptible than others because there is other literature that suggests that is true (genetic drift). The fermentation profile of Generation 98 was the same as Generation 3. The article is titled "Long Term Serial Repitching and the Genetic and Phenotypic Stability of Brewer's Yeast", Chris D. Powell and Andrew N. Diacetis, J. Inst. Brew. 113(1), 67-74, 2007.

I believe it was from the late 1880's that Emil Christian Hansen, a scientist at the Carlsberg Brewery in Denmark developed methods to isolate a single yeast cell, and use that to propagate a strain. This is the basis for modern yeast cultures certainly used in the brewery industry, the yeast suppliers to homebrewers, the winery industry, and I suspect the distilling industry as well, but each distillery probably has a strain that is comfortable at the Brix, pH, grain bill etc that they typically use.
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Re: Traditional Corn Specifications

Unread postby delaware_phoenix » Wed Sep 01, 2010 8:00 pm

I'm going to add a link here to the book Prokaryotes: A Handook on the Biology of Bacteria : Symbiotic Associations ... By Martin Dworkin, Stanley Falkow, available in preview.

The link takes you to page 284 where there's a brief history of the discovery of yeast as a living organism, beginning in 1837 by Cagnaird-Latour and Schwann (independently), which was rejected by the eminent scientists of the day such as Berzelius and Leibig. Only beginning in 1857 with Pasteur's carefully designed experiments was he able to basically demolish the chemical theory of fermentation with one based on living organisms. Yet Buchner in 1897 accidentally discovered enzymes, and was able to produce an alcoholic fermentation of sugar without the presence of living cells.
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