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September 3, 2014

How To Proof Moonshine

Moonshine Alcohol Content

Old school moonshiners can tell the proof of their shine by shaking the mason jar and looking at the bubbles. If the moonshine has large bubbles that disappear quickly it indicates that the moonshine has a high alcohol content, while smaller bubbles that disappear slower indicate lower alcohol content. Today we can proof moonshine easily and also with more precision by using a few simple tools. In this article we are going to explain how to proof moonshine using a proofing hydrometer and a copper proofing parrot.

Proof vs. ABV

Alcohol by volume (ABV) is a standard measure of how much alcohol is contained in an alcoholic beverage. Alcohol proof in the United States is defined as twice the percentage of alcohol by volume. If moonshine has a proof of 120, it contains 60% alcohol by volume.

What is a Hydrometer and How does it Work?

A hydrometer is an instrument that measures the density of a liquid compared to the density of water. Doing so provides lots of information regarding potential alcohol content, actual alcohol content, etc. One very important fact to note is that there are 2 different kinds of hydrometers: proofing and brewing. When making a whiskey mash, a brewing hydrometer is used to measure either alcohol content or the potential alcohol content by taking a specific gravity reading. When distilling, a proofing hydrometer (also called a spirit hydrometer) is used to measure final alcohol content. 

The biggest difference between proofing and brewing hydrometers is the scale. The brewing hydrometer is used during the mash process and can measure up to a mash with a potential alcohol of 20% ABV. Proofing hydrometers are used for proofing moonshine and can measure up to 200 proof or 100% ABV.

This article focuses on proofing hydrometers, which is the type of hydrometer one would use with a parrot to measure the proof of alcohol that has been distilled. If you're looking for information on brewing hydrometers, check out our article titled, "How to Use a Hydrometer."

To use a proofing hydrometer, fill the test jar or parrot with the liquid to be measured and place the hydrometer into the jar/parrot. Give the hydrometer a quick spin to remove any air bubbles and take a measurement reading from the scale on the side of the hydrometer.

How To Proof Moonshine With A Parrot

The best way to measure proof of moonshine is by using a proofing hydrometer and a copper moonshine parrot. A proofing hydrometer is a very easy tool to use. Place the proofing hydrometer into the parrot making sure that the drip arm from the moonshine still drips into the parrot. (see illustration) The moonshine will fill up the parrot causing the hydrometer to float. The floating hydrometer will show the proof of the product coming out of the still. The moonshine will then exit the parrot, dripping into the collection vessel. This is the easiest, most convenient, and most reliable way to monitor and measure alcohol proof when making moonshine.

Why Should Proof be Measured?

When making moonshine it is good to know the proof of the product being made. Great moonshiners know everything about the moonshine they make, including the proof of the individual cuts as well as the proof the final product. Using a parrot and proofing hydrometer is an easy way to monitor and proof moonshine. Knowing the proof of the moonshine not only important when diluting or proofing the final product, but it can also be used to help aide in making cuts during a run. When doing a run it is important to take notes on temperature and proof of the product when the cuts were made. This is helpful as once a recipe has been dialed in the cuts will be be similar from run to run. the notes from a  previous run can help aide in the cuts of future runs. Making cuts based on proof is only an aide; the skill of the distiller determines the quality of the final product. To become a great moonshiner it helps to have tools to guide you in the right direction.

  • To get a strong mash with good yield,you need to add sugar 1 1/4 lb. of sugar per gal. Increase yeast by 2/3 yeast nutrient and co2

    7 gal. 10 lb. sugar
    6 scoops cracked corn
    1scoop oats
    2 scoops cracked 2 row malted barley
    1/2 box white raisins
    3 packs yeast
    1 capful nutrient

    Posted by SNeaky PEte on June 16, 2016
  • First timer..corn,2 types of apples and plenty of sugar and turbo yeast. Plan on Keeping product at 82-85 for a week. Does this sound right?

    Posted by tim on February 02, 2016
  • Need information on how to make corn and wheat moonshine any help would be a greatly appreciated .

    Posted by Jerry Campbell on October 24, 2015
  • Initially the shine was ran 110-120 it sat in the fridge for a week and it seems to have dropped. Is this normal? Does the temp make the hydrometer work different?

    Posted by CHance on August 30, 2015
  • Hello,
    Until i’ve been making liquor with a water distiller, a simple machine that steAMS AND DRIPS WATER. IS THERE SUCH A MACHINE FOR MY MASH?

    Posted by Bronffen Maker on August 10, 2015
  • I am very new so please bear with me. I have one of your 5 gallon stills and had fun assembling it. using 5 gallons of mash, what I have read is the yield for this 640 oz’s is 3-5% foreshots, 20-30% heads, 30-40%hearts and 20-30% tails, is that correct? I am in the process of distilling my second mash (I rushed the first and had to discard it) and am using an electric heating plate to distill on. I heated it very slow so I could control the temp but once it got to around 160 degrees f it shot up to 210 and I started to get drips with a column temp of 206-210 degrees. as I type the last of the heads is distilling. am I distilling at to high a temp? how do I control the temp better?
    from what I have read should I distill the distilled product a second time to get a better quality of moonshine, and if so do I distill just the heads, hearts and tails from this mash and discard the foreshots? will the second distilling also create foreshots?
    thanks for hearing me out. frank

    Posted by frank on May 19, 2015
  • Ryan – One reason it sits too high is because you have added yeast and then attempted to measure potential alcohol or Original Gravity., or the mash is too thick. Make sure you are using the correct hydrometer. It is better to take gravity readings before you pitch your yeast, and then once fermentation is complete. This will give you a more accurate reading for the amount of alcohol in your fermented wash.

    Don – Without knowing your recipe I can only take a guess. You do not have enough sugar for the yeast to turn into alcohol. If you are doing an all grain mash (or all corn) without using sugar, you must make sure that your corn has released its starches, and then you have properly converted them into sugar. otherwise the yeast will not be able to use it. You can do this in a few different ways… 1.You can malt your corn, if it is an all corn recipe. 2. You can add other malted grains (2-row crushed malted barley) which will convert the corn starches into sugar. If you go this route be sure to research the grains because at certain high temperatures you can prevent the malted grain from converting starches. 3. You can use cornmeal and sugar as the basis for your mash, and add in regular corn for flavor. The sugar will be your alcohol and the corn would be there to transfer some flavor over.

    Ross – If you are still looking for a hand, let me know. I have a lot of great online resources and quite a bit of knowledge I can share

    Posted by ShinerMike on March 06, 2015
  • When. I put the hydrometer in my mash it sits to hi to get a reading

    Posted by Ryan Lucks on February 26, 2015
  • I need advise on my corn mash, my last 2 batches have been ready within a week, but I cant seem to get the mash more than 3% . what should the mash be at when it is ready to run?

    Posted by don fugere on February 13, 2015
  • could do with advice on making moonshine and what stills are available

    Posted by ross withers on September 16, 2014

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