Neutral spirit not 'neutral' enough - Black Maximus

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Neutral spirit not 'neutral' enough - Black Maximus

Postby scottb » Sun Aug 02, 2020 9:40 am

Hi everyone - a newbie to distilling and to this forum...

I have done a few runs using a Black Maximus column still (yes, I see from other posts on this forum that a might cop a bit of flak!) and while the ABV is usually 90%+ the taste isn't very neutral - it has a slightly 'sweet' flavour (maybe a bit of a meth flavour?, even though I do throw out the first 200ml). I am predominantly trying to make gin and without a neutral spirit to start with I'm fighting a losing battle!

Could this be an issue with having some meth in the heads (excuse if I don't get the terminology right -just beginning!) or would double distilling help, or is it something else?

Appreciate any help someone can give. Once I get this issue sorted out I can then focus on getting the flavours right but that might be a topic for another post.

Cheers S
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Re: Neutral spirit not 'neutral' enough - Black Maximus

Postby RC Al » Sun Aug 02, 2020 10:50 am

How fast are you running?

Its a very short column, so running it again after watering down to 40% will certainly help, knocking it back to 20-30% would help even more

Consider a column extension to help with the purity, get it as close to your roof as possible :handgestures-thumbupleft:
Last edited by RC Al on Sun Aug 02, 2020 10:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Neutral spirit not 'neutral' enough - Black Maximus

Postby Carol » Sun Aug 02, 2020 11:10 am

Hi ScottB
I have a FSD 2" boka and pot. I do a stripping run with the pot and then water the low wines down to below 40% and do a very slow spirit run with the boka. I have three fermenters as 3 stripped washes fills the boiler for the spirit run. The resulting neutral (after cuts) is virtually tasteless. Maybe slightly floral if I have used Tomato Paste Wash and slightly wheaty if I have used Teddy's Fast Fementing Vodka.
Maybe water it down and run it slowly a second time and see if that makes a difference.

Cheers
Carol
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Re: Neutral spirit not 'neutral' enough - Black Maximus

Postby scottb » Sun Aug 02, 2020 4:08 pm

Thanks for your insights.
So, if I was to run the mixture through the still a 2nd time I should water it down first rather than run it through again at the higher ABV? I assume the ABV would increase again once run through the 2nd time?
Thanks
S
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Re: Neutral spirit not 'neutral' enough - Black Maximus

Postby RC Al » Sun Aug 02, 2020 4:34 pm

Yes as your starting from a higher base level there is less water to separate out.

For safety reasons its in not recommended to go above 40%, the flash/ignition point of the mixture rises rapidly with both strength and temperature (boom!)
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Re: Neutral spirit not 'neutral' enough - Black Maximus

Postby MartinCash » Mon Aug 03, 2020 9:26 pm

Methanol doesn't have a taste you'd detect, and the concentration is so low that you wouldn't worry about it anyway.

How are you doing your cuts? If cut properly the hearts should be very clean, but not quite neutral. The more distillations, the cleaner it will be, you might consider stripping into low wines first with a pot still, then running the low wines separately on a spirit run. I do this for my neutral, but I use a vapour management column (home made) for the neutral spirit run.
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Re: Neutral spirit not 'neutral' enough - Black Maximus

Postby scottb » Wed Aug 05, 2020 7:12 am

Thanks everyone... hopefully a last question before I try this: when i separate the methanol from the first run does that mean it is fully removed and I don;t need to take off the first 200-odd ml from the 2nd run?
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Re: Neutral spirit not 'neutral' enough - Black Maximus

Postby MartinCash » Wed Aug 05, 2020 9:55 am

You will never separate the methanol. It comes through the whole distillation.

The reason you want to remove foreshots is that they contain nasty concentrations of acetone, ethyl acetate, acetaldehyde and other compounds that will make your product taste awful and give you a nasty hangover. They are most concentrated in the foreshots and continue to come out in the fraction we usually discard called the heads.

If you mean to recycle heads (they have a lot of alcohol), then you're better off tossing a foreshot cut from each distillation. If you don't (I'm currently using mine for hand sanitiser and surface cleaning, for example), then there is no reason to differentiate between heads and foreshots. They're the same thing, only the nasties are more concentrated in the fores.

If all you took out was the first 200 mL and kept everything else, this would explain why your neutral is nowhere near neutral. You need to learn to make cuts properly, not just toss a pre-determined amount of volume. A bit of research on cuts, heads, tails, and making good neutral would help. There are way more factors than we could cover here.

MC
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Re: Neutral spirit not 'neutral' enough - Black Maximus

Postby Sam. » Wed Aug 05, 2020 10:53 am

MartinCash wrote:You will never separate the methanol. It comes through the whole distillation.


Agreed but depending on what you are distilling and what paper you read a vast majority will be removed in the foreshots, but yes they reckon you will still collect "trace" amounts through the run, which you would need a very expensive machine to detect and are well under the required thresholds.
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Re: Neutral spirit not 'neutral' enough - Black Maximus

Postby MartinCash » Wed Aug 05, 2020 11:46 am

Thanks Sam,

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that the methanol story is at least debatable, if not a myth, at least on washes not high in pectin, but there are other very good reasons why you might separate fores, and how you'd go about it.
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Re: Neutral spirit not 'neutral' enough - Black Maximus

Postby Sam. » Wed Aug 05, 2020 1:26 pm

MartinCash wrote:Thanks Sam,

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that the methanol story is at least debatable, if not a myth, at least on washes not high in pectin, but there are other very good reasons why you might separate fores, and how you'd go about it.


Couldnt agree more, the specific chemicals that are in foreshots and heads is fairly irrelevant, either way you really don't want to drink them!

And yes the nastiest/most volatile will be in the foreshots, no good for recycling just use it as cleaner or ditch it :handgestures-thumbupleft:
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Re: Neutral spirit not 'neutral' enough - Black Maximus

Postby scottb » Wed Aug 05, 2020 5:13 pm

Thanks for the additional info.
I was told that the distillate from the Black Maximus still is quite 'constant' throughout the run but maybe that's not the case... I'll do some more on separating the cuts into smaller batches and see how I go.
Thanks agin for your insights.
Scott
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Re: Neutral spirit not 'neutral' enough - Black Maximus

Postby Sam. » Wed Aug 05, 2020 5:50 pm

scottb wrote:I was told that the distillate from the Black Maximus still is quite 'constant' throughout the run but maybe that's not the case.


Every single still works on the same principle the one you have is in no way special.

I can bet whoever told you that was selling it to you along with a heap of other shit ;-)
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Re: Neutral spirit not 'neutral' enough - Black Maximus

Postby Carol » Wed Aug 05, 2020 6:53 pm

Hi ScottB
I take off the distillate in 300ml lots in jugs and then put it in numbered vegemite jars. Once you have all the jars lined up ( and aired for a bit) it is easier to tell the difference between them. With a bit of practice you will notice differences in smell and flavour ( dilute with filtered water to taste it - 95% is rocket fuel!). I have never found the distillate to be "constant" and I have got better at identifying heads, hearts and tails with practice. There are articles about cuts in the newbies section. They are worth reading (more than once). It does take a while to get the hang of it.

Cheers Carol
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Re: Neutral spirit not 'neutral' enough - Black Maximus

Postby MartinCash » Thu Aug 06, 2020 8:39 am

Yeah, no batch distillation is 'constant', and this is what we're doing.

As said, collect your whole run in small jars, taste them and do good cuts. It will end a lot cleaner. I dilute 1 tsp of product with 2 tsp of water to get a proof that showcases the smell and taste of heads and tails.

Pay attention to your recipe, also. I'd recommend something like Ted's Fast Fermenting Vodka. At 90% it won't be truly neutral, but it should produce a lightly flavoured, nice to drink straight product. Plain sugar washes with turbo, as usually sold by your HBS, won't give you the best quality result.
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