The tomato paste wash is one of the most popular tried and true recipes for not only people new to distilling, but anyone who wants an inexpensive neutral spirit. The recipe is very easy for new distillers, requires only a few readily available ingredients and no additional equipment.
I personally believe this should be every new distiller’s first recipe. Trying to make a rum or whiskey requires advanced knowledge of their yeasts, sugar / starch conversions, flavor profiles, using dunder or backset, reusing oils from previous runs, etc. and this is just for the fermenting! With the TPW recipe the ingredients are simple, the process is easy and the end product should be the same every run; a clear, flavorless, odorless neutral spirit. But most important of all, it’s easy to troubleshoot problems like why certain flavors, smells or colors came though, cloudiness, low ABV and in general what you did wrong. And this is above and beyond the most important thing when first learning to distill; you need to learn what you’re doing wrong. Because you will be doing something’s wrong.
With a rum or whiskey the difficulties of troubleshooting increase because there are hundreds of additional factors, and these are only increased by an inexperienced distiller without the proper tools, experience or knowledge. Your first several distilling runs should not be focused on making a drinkable end product (you can drink it, but it’s not very good, you just think it is). The focus should be learning about fermenting, running their still, doing cuts and diagnosing what they did wrong, and how to do it right or overall better the next run. And then get into difficult recipes.
When transferring to your boiler it is beneficial to use a siphon. Boiling the yeast and the solid material from the tomato paste can add unwanted flavoring to your final product. When siphoning a tomato paste wash also remember the tomato paste acts like a fog and will be in the last two or so inches of your wash.
For an optimal run it will be beneficial to siphon down to the last 3 or 4 inches. Rack this last two inches into a secondary container. Using a small 1 gallon container works well as you can place this in the fridge to help separate the yeast. Wait several hours or use this in your next run after siphoning the usable wash.
The tomato paste wash also known as Birdwatchers was originally written by Tater and can be found here
The costs for the tomato paste wash is one of the least expensive recipes you can use. Basic sugars, tap water, inexpensive yeast and tomato paste without preservatives will be all you need to make a great spirit. No need for flavoring products or aging and no specialized equipment is needed besides a still that can create reflux for a clear and clean neutral.
One cost that is optional is the cost of using carbon to refine the neutral spirits. Poor quality runs will benefit more than properly distilled product, and many believe using activated carbon as “cheating”. I don’t agree with this opinion and find it silly as anything that makes a better spirit is better. The cost will depend on the quantity you buy and how well you maintain it. Activated carbon can be used over several uses and when bought in bulk is a minor expense when compared to the benefits of using it.
This recipe is really as easy as it gets. The only thing easier is simply dumping yeast and sugar into a bucket and expecting something to happen, except the overall quality will be much better.
With the simplicity of this recipe it is a great wash to do testing with. Learning how your yeast function, to testing out your yeast fermenting capabilities, or understanding PH to using nutrients and other components to promote a higher quality wash.
All spirits will benefit from a few weeks of aging in glass or stainless with some headspace for air.
The end product can be drank right after distilling and will taste great, though you will still get a burn. After a week or three of settling the neutral spirit will be even better as the harshness decreases.
Like any neutral using carbon will help clear out any additional volatiles, esters or oils that may have make it to the end, but should not be necessary if you did proper cuts and fermented to a reasonable ABV.
The only reason for the low rating in quality is simply because it is a neutral spirit, and this recipe is simply that, the most non-flavored spirit you can make, which it does very well. But when compared to flavored spirits or aged spirits it is hard to compare. It is the best product for the price, and for the simplicity of the recipe, but that is exactly what it is. A great simple neutral spirit.