To summarize my experience yesterday…nothing’s ever easy. For those of you that are keeping up, the Vodka Recipe (Recipe 1) was my first attempt at a batch using grain rather than a simple sugar wash. I can’t say that it went as I had hoped and dreamed. I’m not sure if the proportions of the recipe were off, or if my ingredients were off, or if I can’t follow simple instructions. I’m going to go with options 1 or 2. I have a high degree of confidence that my wife votes for option 3.
Anyhow, before we get going I should let you know what I used. I used Briess Flaked Rye, Flaked Oats (OIO), Briess Traditional Dark DME, about 4 pounds of generic amber honey, and the usual Alotec 48 turbo yeast.
It looked a lot like this:
There were several “command decisions” that had to be made throughout production. First, I overestimated the size of my pot. Historically, I’ve used a turkey frier pot, and that worked pretty well. However, when I thought about the ingredients I realized that the grains were going to expand and I had to cut the recipe back. So I settled on 6 gallons of water and modded the batch accordingly. However, that was not enough. I should have, in retrospect, gone with about 4.5-5 gallons. That was my mistake.
What I ended up doing was removing about a gallon of mash that was really, really thick (oatmeal thick) and adding some more water so that I could successfully stir the pot and not burn things to the inside of the (or make a mess on the stove). Because I took the grain out, I replaced it with simple syrup to keep the sugar content up. I decided to toss in a few frozen blueberries as well. The final distiller’s sin of the day was neglecting to take original gravity at the end of the process. With all of the other issues, I was way past late by the time I got it into the fermenter and didn’t have the opportunity to let it cool and take the measurement.
This is what it looks like while it’s cooking away:
So the moral of this cautionary tale is that I need to be more aware of the volume increase the grain goes through. I need to be careful to leave more room. Additionally, I’m curious if the fact that I used flaked grains rather than regular grains. I went flaked because I thought it would breakdown into starches easier. I think it worked…but the expansion was remarkable.
I checked on it today, and it’s fermenting away. Hopefully in a week’s time I’ll have something usable. Filtering the mash is going to be quite the experience this time.
All frustration aside, I’m pleased that I took a shot at working directly with the grain. I’ve used the Mr. Beer beer kit before, and I’ve used a sugar wash. Regardless of the outcome, I think that making a move towards the grain was a good step. I think the yield will be odd. I’m sure that we’ll get something to distill (it is fermenting after all), but I’m just not sure what the yield will be. More to come on this, I’m sure.