What actually is mash?

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At the beginning of June we talked about the differences between fruit brandy and fruit spirit and pointed out that the difference lies in the production. For the fruit brandy, the fruits are processed into a mash. For fruit spirits, on the other hand, the fruits are macerated and then distilled. But what is the difference between mashing and macerating?
We would like to take a closer look at these two approaches and start with the topic of mashing today.

As we have already pointed out in the difference between fruit brandy and fruit brandy, the fruit is used for fermentation during mashing scheduled. This requires that the raw material used contains enough sugar to start the fermentation process with yeast. Yeast is not only known from the production of spirits, the small organisms also play a major role in beer or when baking in your own kitchen.

Biologically, yeast is a microscopic, round to oval-shaped organism that belongs to the fungus family. Since a yeast organism can only be seen under a microscope, all we know as yeast is an agglomeration of the small organisms. For example, the well-known cubes of baker's yeast contain up to 1 billion individual yeast cells in one gram.
The yeast organisms lack the chlorophyll to survive independently, which is why they feed on sugar and multiply independently through cleavage. Of course, yeasts also occur naturally as wild yeasts. Here the spores are often found on sugary fruits. An indication of this is a self-pressed apple or grape juice, which begins to ferment after a few days and is then better known to us as must. This always happens unless the juice is reheated and treated to kill the yeast spores and stop the fermentation process. The wild yeasts are also responsible for the fermentation of fallen fruit and many a funny animal video.

What exactly happens during the fermentation process?
Fermentation occurs as a metabolic activity of the yeast. The small organisms feed on the juice/fruit in our example, contain sugar and convert it into carbon dioxide (CO2) and alcohol. The CO2 is also responsible for the well-known effect that a yeast dough ideally rises and becomes airy and fluffy.
Yeast is a highly amazing organism, since each individual cell can carry out all vital processes itself. Nevertheless, yeast is also known to be a demanding helper, since certain conditions must be in place for the organism to be able to convert sugar into the coveted alcohol. If the temperature is not right or if the nutrients are not sufficient, the yeast will not become active and no alcohol can be produced. Many are also familiar with this phenomenon from the kitchen, when the yeast dough simply does not want to rise. In nature, the spontaneous fermentation of wild yeast is not automatically required. Mold or bacteria can stop the fermentation process. In the production of alcohol, cultured yeasts are usually used, for which the environment must be clinically clean.

Yeast is not just yeast! As we have heard before, there are wild yeasts that occur in nature. However, yeast has many different properties and is also bred in different directions, especially in the brewery sector. Because yeast can significantly change the taste of the end product. An example of this is the specially cultivated brewer's yeast for a wheat beer. This gives the yeast beer the desired banana note. Especially in the field of brewing, also due to the very old tradition of this guild, extremely rich yeasts are bred. Every traditional brewery often has its own yeast, which has a massive impact on the taste of the beer and is often well protected behind thick vault doors.
After this excursion into the world of brewer's yeast, you can imagine that this is the case in the production of other spirits similar process.

In the long history of spirits production, a wide variety of yeast strains have been bred for a variety of purposes. Cultivation is not only essential to have the yeasts for different uses, but also pure yeasts without cultivating bacteria and molds so as not to interfere with the fermentation process. Distillers can now fall back on well over 1000 different yeast strains, all of which have specific properties. Important when choosing a distiller are components such as the ease of fermentation, that the yeast multiplies well in the mash, the resistance to alcohol or the working of the yeast at specific temperatures for the production of the distillate.

For burning needs, yeast is available as liquid yeast or dry yeast and must be matched to the end product. For example, there are special yeasts for the production of wine, since the yeast has to cope with the high concentration of tannins. Distillers can also use aroma yeasts to create a specific bouquet in the end product.
There are yeasts that have been bred specifically for grain, corn and potato fermentation and are used to make grain brandy. This selection of different yeast strains alone gives you an idea that mashing is not just about throwing the fruit and yeast in a vat together.

You can mash everything that offers enough sugar as a basis for the yeast. This includes fresh fruit, fruit juices, canned fruit or even pure sugar water.

How does the mashing process work?

Suppose we want to produce a brandy. For us, only fresh and fully ripe fruits, which are harvested directly from the tree, come into question. Fallen fruit can also be used as long as it is not yet rotten and not yet infested with insects. In the case of fallen fruit, which already has some brown spots, there is more pre- and post-run. This must be separated exactly so as not to change the aroma of the distillate.
Even before mashing, the following applies: If you want to get a noble drop, you should only use the noblest and best fruits. Every swab that is made when selecting the fruit can later be tasted in the distillate.

After harvesting, the fruit should be washed off quickly with clear, cold water. In the case of soft, sensitive fruit, it can make sense to skip this step in order not to damage the fruit and not lose even the smallest part of the valuable juice. After washing, drain the fruit carefully so as not to damage it.
If the fruit is stone fruit, the stone should be removed completely. There are 2 reasons for this: On the one hand, the kernels usually contain hydrocyanic acid and, on the other hand, they can bring a bitter taste to the distillate. These bitter notes can be desired in Slivovitz and plum schnapps, for example, which is why the stone is not removed here.

Then the fruit needs to be crushed. What used to be done with washed feet is now done by machines that crush the fruit and remove the pits directly in the same step. Before the mash can be filled into an acid-resistant and food-safe container, such as a carboy, a mash tun or similar, the pH value must be determined. This should be 3.
Half of the fruit is placed in the jar, then the yeast is added. Here you should always work strictly according to the quantities of the yeast product in order to obtain an optimal result. The other half of the fruit is added and any yeast nutrient salts, sugar or other additives for fermentation are added. It is also important here that the fewer additives are used, the more natural the fire will be later.

The mash-yeast mixture must now be mixed well and shaken.
Finally, the container is fitted with an airlock so that the gases that form can escape in a controlled manner and the container does not explode.

The mash is ready and the yeast can go about its work and convert the fructose into alcohol.

Next we will focus on maceration. So don't miss out and find out everything about maceration in the Lion Spirits blog next week!

For the fruit brandy, the fruits are processed into a mash. For fruit spirits, on the other hand, the fruits are macerated and then distilled. But what is the difference between mashing and macerating?

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