Making Scotch Getting The Right Equipment
Mar 25, 2012 Make Your Own Scotch
While the barley, water and yeast provide the base for scotch, the equipment is where the magic really happens. Before you can make your own scotch, you have to have the right equipment to create the final product.
The exact equipment you will need to cook the grains and turn them into scotch will depend on the type you have decided to make. If, for example, you’ve opted to make a single malt, you will have to have a copper pot or copper still. Creating the malted barley itself will also call for a few extra things.
Single grain whisky product is a little less picky in regard to equipment. You will not have to seek out copper components and malting paraphernalia will not be required. Still, this form of scotch might not give you the body and flavor you truly desire.
Equipment You Need For Single Malt Scotch
As you already know, creating single malt scotch is a tricky process that calls for specialized equipment. It is often best to go ahead and purchase pre-made distilling supplies for this type of scotch.
If you’re of the mindset to purchase distilling supplies ready-made, you will need:
- Pans to malt the barley – Cake pans that can withstand water exposure for several days can be used here. Ideally, you want enough pans to enable you to immerse all 10 pounds of barley evenly in water to begin the malting process.
- A barley kiln or other device to dry out the malted grain
- Pepper mill or other grinder to powder the dried barley
- A still, preferably copper-based
- A copper pot to boil water in
- A wooden spoon
- A 10-gallon oak cask
If you would prefer to save a little money along the way, you can create your own still and dry out the barley in the air, over a fire like pumpkin seeds or in the oven. Some professional distilleries dry their barley over peat moss fires, lending to their distinct flavoring. They may also infuse peat smoke into their electric-powered kilns to create a smoky flavor without dealing with open flames. However you choose to dry your malted grains, do make sure the heat source is enough to dry the grains quickly and without actually charring them.
Single Grain Equipment
The process of making a single grain whisky is very similar, but does not demand copper equipment. Keep in mind a malt whisky might involve multiple distillations, but a single grain may not. Single grain products do not call for malting of the barley. Instead, the grains used – barley, wheat or corn – are dried and then ground to help form the mash.
With all of this in mind, single grain scotch basically requires these pieces of equipment:
- A kiln to dry the grain
- A grinder to turn it into coarse barley flour
- A still for fermenting the mash and distilling it
Making Your Own Still
It is possible to make your own still and save a little money along the way. Ideally, however, you will probably be better off purchasing a ready-made copper or metal still from a distilling supply outlet. With the flourishing of the do-it-yourself beer market, supplies for distilling alcohol have become much more widely available. This, of course, also means the components you need for making a home-made still are also easier to find.
Should you decide you want to create your own distilling equipment or assemble your own hybrid creation, you will need:
This is the container that will hold your wash (water and grain flour/yeast) in during the heating process. Some people use pressure cookers. If single malt is your preferred type, make sure your vat is copper.
This is tubing that collects the alcohol vapor as it steams off the boiling mixture.
This is where the collected vapor is cooled for transformation back into liquid that will eventually become your scotch.
Creating your own distilling equipment might save you a few pennies, but you won’t necessarily be guaranteed that it will work properly. If you choose to go this route, make sure to obtain instructions and follow them closely. Otherwise, your best bet is to buy commercially made distilling equipment through supply stores.
A Few Words About The Casks
After you’ve collected the malting and distilling equipment, one of the last pieces of the puzzle involves the actual cask or casks you will mature your scotch in. Remember, no matter what type of whisky you end up making, the maturation process is extremely important. To gain the rich, full bodied flavor most people are after requires the use of oak barrels. Within these barrels, your scotch will age and change as it goes from the unfinished distilled phase to a final stock ready for drinking.
For scotch to be considered scotch, the distilled liquid must be stored in oak. If you doubt this, refer to those laws from the United Kingdom! They demand the use of oaken barrels, and they do so for a reason.
Oak wood simply lends itself to the aging of scotch because it is not only solid enough to keep the liquid in, but it also infuses its flavor into the final mix. In fact, many Scotch distilleries actually use barrels that have been used in the aging of other liquors to hold their products during maturation. They might, for example, buy the cast off casks from American bourbon makers or work out agreements with companies that produce sherry. Used oak casks are preferred because the liquors that were stored in them change the composition of the barrels and reduce their likelihood of making scotch too astringent. Sherry and bourbon can also leave behind a hint of flavoring and coloring that can improve the flavoring and appearance of scotch during the maturation process.
To find proper casks for storing your scotch at least insist on the oak. Do not settle for barrels made from or partially from any other type of wood. You can find new oak casks through brewery and distillery supply houses. It is possible that you will be able to get your hands on previously used casks. Some home distillers settle for new casks, but choose ones that have charred insides to give their final product a smoky flavor.
Once you have your equipment in order and ready to go, there are a few tips that you should consider. Before using a commercially produced still or making a home version of one, be sure to:
- Read the instructions fully and understand the proper and safe operation of it.
- Make certain the home production of scotch is legal in your area. In many areas, scotch production might be allowed, but other alcohol production might not be. Creating moonshine, for example, is outlawed in most areas.
- Have the proper space staked out for the equipment. Producing scotch can take up a fair amount of space indoors and outdoors. This is even more so if you intend to dry your barley over a peat fire. Remember, too, that filled casks should be stored in cool, reasonably dry places for the duration of the maturation process.
When you have everything you need lined up, the actual production process can begin. Don’t expect this to happen as quickly as other “cooking” processes. Making a fine scotch takes time – and a lot of it. From malting the barley to actually cracking open a properly aged cask, you could easily be looking at three years and a month, or much, much longer!