|Head, heart and tail|
For inexperienced winemakers, understanding the characteristics of these three transformations is very basic and a good place. In short: Heads = start, Hearts = middle, Tails = end
The three parts are defined as follows:
Liquor heads: spirits that contain a high percentage of low-boiling alcohols and other compounds (such as aldehydes and ethyl acetate) from the beginning of the run.
Hearts: Your ideal moderate alcohol when running.
Tailings: Distillate containing a high percentage of fusel oil and a small amount of alcohol at the end of the run.
The goal of the distiller is to render and collect as many hearts as possible. The heart contains the largest amount of ethanol. Ethanol is ultimately the most ideal type of alcohol in the still.
Spirits were originally made by making fermentable lotions or worts composed mainly of sugar and some other nutrients. Yeast is added to the washing liquid to consume sugar. Alcohol is basically a by-product of the consumption of this sugar. Yeast eats sugar and excretes alcohol.
|Alcohol is yeast feces|
In this kind of yeast feces, more than one kind of alcohol is produced. Each of these alcohols has a slightly different boiling point. But all the alcohol produced is infinitely miscible with water.
Therefore, the still cannot simply bring the massively fermented wort (now called beer) to the boiling point of ethanol. By the way, that boiling point is 173.1°F. Remember, because ethanol is 100% infinitely miscible with water, the actual boiling point of a kettle with beer will be between 173.1°F and 212°F (the boiling point of water) to produce ethanol. Similarly, the boiling point of ethyl acetate is 170.8°F. Therefore, the boiling point of the resulting ethyl acetate will be between 170.8°F and 212°F. To complicate matters, each of these boiling points also depends on the total amount of alcohol (in terms of alcohol volume) contained in the beer. For example, the boiling point of alcohol with a total alcohol content of 10% will be lower than the boiling point of 7% alcohol.
Finally, the last variable is that the boiling point will continue to increase, because these alcohols appear as finished distillates. This happens because the alcohol content gradually decreases as each alcohol content increases. The temperature in the still never stays the same because the alcohol (which has a lower boiling point compared to water) is being taken out of the mixture. Therefore, in the entire distillation process, ethanol is to some extent the moving target of the distiller.
|Separate head, heart and tail|
In order to ensure the best separation between the head, heart, and tail, once the operating temperature is reached, the distiller usually applies a minimum to moderate amount of heat to the kettle. The top compounds will evaporate first, and the pressure in the distillation unit will push these evaporated top compounds to the distillation outlet.
The early part of the distillation operation should be performed slowly and deliberately with patience in order to minimize the invasion of the heart into the head part of the operation. This cannot be overemphasized. The head can be identified by a very astringent smell. It can be said that the head smells like rubbing alcohol, but it can smell a little bit. Usually, the head will be collected in a separate collection container.
Once the distiller determines that the running head part has been collected, he or she directs the collection flow to a dedicated collection container for heart collection. This transformation is called "beheading".
At this point, the distiller can wisely increase the heat of the kettle to collect the heart, which is the most ideal part of the operation. Compared to the head or tail, the heart is characterized by the most neutral odor.
Once the distiller determines that the core part of the operation has been sufficiently collected, he or she will direct the distillate to be discharged into the tailings collection container. This is called "tail trimming".
The smell of the tail is characterized by a wet dog smell. Or maybe an old pair of shoes. Or wet cardboard.
The number of fronts, hearts, and backs are not equal. Therefore, the distiller needs to pay close attention to the entire distillation process to determine when the "head cut" or "tail cut" is needed.
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