The GrainFather Distilling Kit
The GrainFather is for more than just beer! Utilize the amazing all-grain brewing capabilities of the GrainFather to help create and distill your very own homemade whiskey and other spirits. Mash and boil your grain-based wash using the GrainFather, then add the alembic dome and condenser to distill your grain-based wash to create phenomenal, flavorful spirits.
Using a GrainFather with an Alembic Dome & Condenser will help you craft spirits with more robust, full flavors. Unlike reflux condensing, which strips away flavors, the Alembic system enhances flavors, letting them shine through and making this a great choice for creating homemade whiskeys. The Alembic system is comprised of two parts, the copper dome top and alembic arm, or lyne arm, which your thermometer and tubing connections will attach to. Copper wraps around the alembic arm, creating an exterior shell for cool water to run against your hot spirit vapor to cool the condensate back into a (delectable) liquid. The copper dome helps trap and enhance the flavor of your wash.
The GrainFather Distilling Kit Includes:
- GrainFather with Connect Controller
- Copper Alembic Dome & Copper Condenser
Craft Distilling: Follow along as we go through the steps of creating your own homemade whiskey!
A very popular and simple way of distilling is to use a dextrose or sugar wash. This constitutes using dextrose and water to create your fermenting mash, creating a plain, unflavored alcohol that can be used to make a variety of flavored spirits when using spirit flavors (Available Here!)
. However, we want to make whiskey, which is packed full great, grainy, malty flavors! Using an all grain brewing process and an alembic distilling system, we can capture those fantastic flavors in our whiskey. This process works great for creating brandy from grapes or rum from molasses as well.
Steps for Crafting Homemade Whiskey:
- Mashing: convert your grains to fermentable sugars
- Fermenting: yeast transforms your wash/wort into alcohol
- Distilling: distill your wash to intensify flavors and remove excess water
- Aging: age your whiskey in oak to enhance and balance out the flavors of your whiskey
This stage produces the sugars that will eventually turn into alcohol. It also includes a sparging period and a boiling period. Traditionally you want to mash your grains from 60 minutes at around 150Â° F, and depending on your recipe a mash out at around 170Â° F for 10 minutes (if you are using 1.5-2 Q per pound of grain, mash out is not necessary). After mashing, you need to slowly sparge (or wash) your grains with 170Âº F water to effectively remove the sugars from the grains. After sparging, bring your mash to a boil for 30 minutes.
Fermentation transforms your wort into whiskey, the yeast consuming the sugars in your wort and converting it to alcohol. After boiling, you will need to chill your wort before pitching your yeast. Once cooled, transfer your wort to your fermenter and pitch your yeast. Optimum fermentation temperature is between 64-73Â° F and should last for approximately 10 days. Your final gravity reading should be 1.012. Next clear your wash using a fining agent, or you can use a liquid or powdered carbon before pitching your yeast to similarly clear your wash. Once it has been cleared, add your wash back to the GrainFather and begin distilling!
For flavorful spirits such as whiskey, the flavors that are present in the wash will factor in heavily to outcome in the final wash. Achieving a balance between a spirit with nice flavor and one that drinks smoothly is the goal, and a pot still with two distillations is the perfect way to accomplish this. The two runs made are called the Stripping Run and the Spirit Run. The Stripping Run is intended to remove the alcohol from your wash, and to remove (or strip) some of the harsher flavors. The Spirit Run is for collecting the spirit itself using what is called 'cuts.'
Stripping Run - Connect your copper dome to the top of the GrainFather and make sure the alembic condenser arm is connected to the water supply. The boiler typically takes around an hour to reach temperature, depending on how cold it is where you live. Ethanol condensation occurs at 172Â° F. As your wash begins to boil and create steam, it will begin refluxing inside the copper dome collecting the flavors from your wash. The steam then proceeds through the "swan neck" or alembic arm. This specifically designed arm sends the steam to the condenser, where cold water is pushed around and against the steam tube. This cools the spirit vapor and returns it to liquid state for it to run down the outlet into your collection vessel. Collect all the distillate until the ABV in your collection vessel reaches 20%. Now, clean your distilling area and prepare for your Spirit Run!
Spirit Run - This run will enhance the flavor of your whiskey by making cuts, or separate fractions collected during distillation. Three cuts will be made at each end of the distilling process, collecting the "heads" and "tails" in containers (we recommend multiple 150 mL containers) with a larger cut in the middle, collecting the "hearts." Set your GrainFather to boil throughout the whole distilling process. When making your spirit run, read the temperature from the Alembic Condenser Arm, not the GrainFather Connect Control Box. When the temperature hits 131Â° F being the cold water flow. Here's a Tip: use the GrainFather Connect Control Box to set the power level during your boil. Once the temperature begins approaching 158Â° F (the heads will start at around 172Â° F), adjust your power setting down to around 60%. This will slow down the heat increase, allowing you more time to make your cuts. This gives you ample time to taste and collect your spirit without rushing through.
The initial cut is referred to as the Heads Cut and will be the first, very strong, portion of spirits to exit the still. The heads will be very strong in alcohol, with a typical ABV of around 80%. As your still reaches between 172 - 176Â° F, the fore-runnings will begin collecting. The fore-runnings are a collection of harsher chemicals, such as acetone, aldehydes and methanol, that we will discard. Fore-runnings are potentially dangerous and should not be consumed. Be sure to discard the first 200 ml of spirit to avoid the fore-runnings in your first cut. When making the heads cut, you can rely upon the temperature readings, but this fluctuates between batches, so it is important to learn to taste when to make the cuts as well. Collect them in multiple containers to use while blending later. The heads are finished when your temperature reaches 183Â° F.
The second cut, or Hearts Cut, and is where the majority of your spirit's flavor is going to come through. It will be a lower ABV than the heads, but contain much stronger flavor notes. This cut will make up the majority of the spirits your collecting, so using a larger collection vessel is recommended. The hearts are finished when your temperature reaches 199Â° F.
The final cut, or Tails Cut, will produce spirit with low ABV and some strange, more vegetal and acidic flavors. Keep the tails while making your cuts, as these can be added to your next distillation run to add some additional alcohol to your wash. Collect these cuts similarly to your heads in 3 smaller containers. Collect the remaining tails in a larger container until the temperature is around 208Â° F or the ABV drops to 20%.
Blending - After collecting your heads, hearts and tails, you will use the small samples to determine which heads and tails will make good additions to the hearts. Taste each sample and decide which blend brings out the flavors you are most looking for. A general rule to follow when blending, heads contain harsher flavors but more alcohol, while tails are smoother but with less alcohol. Feel free to mix and match to find the correct blend for you. Retain your "unwanted" samples and add those to the large container used to collect the final part of the tails. This is called the feints. Keep the feints, not for drinking, but for adding to your next stripping run!
The last and hardest part of whiskey making . . . the wait. After selecting your blend, dilute your spirit down to 50% ABV using filtered or distilled water. Whiskey comes out of the still clear, and it is now, during the aging and oaking period, that it will pick up the dark colors found in highball glasses around the world. Store your spirit in an oak barrel or with an oak spiral. This with extract both color and flavor from the oak over a period of two weeks. Taste your whiskey during the oaking process, removing the spiral whenever it tastes best to you. After removing your oak, let your whiskey age for 3 weeks in a cool place, then dilute it down to 47% ABV. Allow an additional 3 weeks of aging time before diluting down to 44% ABV then repeat for another 3 weeks and dilute to 40% ABV. Your whiskey should age for a total of 9 weeks. Add water slowly to give your whiskey a more robust, better flavor. Your whiskey can be ready in as little as 2 months, but the more head and tails added to spirits will increase the aging period.
*Please be aware, depending on your location, alcohol distillation may be illegal or require special licensing.