Posts Tagged ‘Batch 1’
Posted July 3, 2012 by your friendly neighborhood distillers
So, although we haven’t quite gotten our web presence completely settled just yet, we figure we might as well just dive right in with what we’re up to over here (and then reorganize it down the road and confuse everyone).
We started production last week. We have modest production goals for the time being, since there are a lot of things we still need to iron out, but it still felt fantastic. We spent pretty much all day Sunday milling almost a half ton of grain – mostly corn, but also rye and malted barley. The folks at the Pump Station were kind enough to let us use their roller mill since we’re currently mill-less (reason #3,000,000 that being next to a brewery is awesome), so we carefully dumped 50lb bags through the grinder very slowly so it wouldn’t jam (we were only moderately successful, but we did get good at unclogging it). It took a long time, and made a lot of dust, but we were looked good doing it – sexy AND practical in our hot pink respirators.
On Monday, we made all the final preparations for making a mash: cutting the hoses, finding fittings for everything, figuring out how to operate the pump, sterilization, practicing our high-fives, and so on. Thrilling stuff, really. It was, however, necessary, and we left Monday evening with everything in place for the following day.
Tuesday is when the fun *really* started. Put on your lab coats, nerds. It’s time for some science.
The first step in making mash is cooking the grain (in water), which accomplishes several things. One, it causes the starch molecules to gelatanize, and then explode, releasing the starchy goodness inside. This happens at different temperatures and at different speeds for each type of grain, so since we were doing a mixed mash bill (as opposed to, say, just corn) we had to add different things at different temperatures and cook them for different times.
Corn went in first. Being all by itself, and having plenty of water to work with, it went in quite easily. The agitator in the tank pulled it down and homogenized the mixture without breaking a sweat. The rye was a different story. The milled corn turned to a nice thick porridge pretty quickly, and the rye seemed quite content to just float on top of it. It required some seriously serious stirring to start cooperating. Finally we forced it into the mix and let the temperature drop a bit for part two: fun with enzymes.
The simple version is: beta amylase is the enzyme that breaks down the gelatinized starches into tasty, yeast-friendly sugars (as opposed to alpha amylase, which is active during the gelatinization phase). It is released when seeds begin to germinate – as per the malting process – so our malted barley was just brimming over with the stuff. It’s also very delicate; at high temperatures, it breaks down and we’re stuck with a bunch of unconverted starch. This meant we had to get the mash temperature down to a non-lethal environment for beta amylase enzymes, so we kicked on the cooling jacket until the proper range, at which point we added in the malted barley. Dumping the malt in was like magic. The
gooey slop thick mash turned to a nice easy-to-mix slurry in a matter of seconds.
Science! It works!
Then came the waiting game.
We waited a while, and checked for starch.
There was still starch. So we waited.
Then waited, and checked.
Wait, check. Wait wait check. And so on.
We grew impatient, and added more malt.
And finally…we checked…and there was hardly any starch at all.
So food-wise, it was great for yeast. Heat wise, not so much.
So we turned down the temperature, and waited.
Then came the second stage in making mash. We added a powdered bag of yeast to water, and waited for it to come to life. While that was going on (and smelling just fantastic the whole time, let me tell you), we pumped the mash into three fermentation tanks, made sure that the weather was right in the mash, and dumped millions of little cells into each tank.
And now…stage three. Waiting. The yeast is breeding and eating and dying, and providing us with some good, old-fashioned ethanol in the meantime. If it’s completely tapered off this afternoon, into the still it goes!
Corn – 500 lbs.
Rye – 200 lbs.
Malted barley – 200 lbs.
Want to know more? Here are some fun* things to google:
- beta amylase