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February 2, 2013

Alcohol Yields

How Much "Moonshine" Will a Still Produce?

We often get questions like these: "How much moonshine will 5 gallons of mash make?" and "How much moonshine will be produced by a 10 gallon still?"

Before we answer this question, lets us remind you that producing alcohol at home (for consumption) is illegal. If you want to distill alcohol, you'll need a federal fuel alcohol permit (which is free and easy to obtain). It will allow you to produce alcohol (but doesn't allow you to drink it).

Alright, moving on... The amount of alcohol produced by a still depends on starting alcohol and final proof. In this article we'll explain how to determine how much alcohol to expect from a run.

For the instant gratification seekers in the crowd, here's the short answer:

  • A 1 gallon run will yield 3-6 cups of alcohol
  • A 5 gallon run will yield 1-2 gallons of alcohol
  • A 10 gallon run will yield 2-4 gallons of alcohol

For the researchers, science nerds, alchemists, and truth seekers, here's why:

Starting Alcohol

Starting alcohol can vary significantly, having a big impact on the final yield. Starting alcohol is generally expressed as "alcohol by volume" or ABV and it can vary greatly from one batch of shine to the next. It's simply the percentage of alcohol in a solution of alcohol wash. For example a 10 gallon wash that contains 1 gallon of pure alcohol will have an ABV of 10%. The higher the starting alcohol, the higher the potential yield.

The starting alcohol of a wash is dependent on two things: the amount of fermentable sugar produced by the mash, or added in lieu of making a mash, and the type of yeast used.

Fermentable sugar

Fermentable sugar is exactly what it sounds like - the amount of sugar available to be eaten by yeast that can later be turned into alcohol. If there isn't very much sugar then there won't be much alcohol. However, too much sugar is wasteful. The amount of sugar needed depends on the recipe, the size of the batch, and the potential alcohol production by the yeast. Though, in general, the more fermentable sugar there is in the mash, the higher the potential starting alcohol and the higher the yield.

Yeast

The type of yeast used is very important as well. Bread yeast (the kind that can be purchased at a grocery store) will produce starting alcohol in the 10% range, whereas a strong distillers yeast may produce starting alcohol as high as 20%. This is due to two factors. First, distillers yeast has been bread to withstand higher concentrations of ambient alcohol. Where a bread yeast might die off once starting alcohol has reached 10 or 12%, a distillers yeast will still thrive, and will do so until ambient alcohol has increased to a much higher level (20% or so). Second, some distillers yeasts are packaged with loads of yeast nutrients i.e. Turbo 24, 48, etc. This can actually be a bad thing, as the excess nutrients contained in turbo yeasts can cause off flavors in the final product. Checkout our article "Bourbon, Whiskey, Vodka and Moonshine - How Much Yeast?" for more information on yeast.

In short, good yeast will allow for a higher starting alcohol and a greater final yield without producing off flavors.

Final Proof

Final proof can also have a significant impact on yield. If 10 gallons (with a starting alcohol of 10%) is distilled, the amount of pure alcohol collected will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 gallon. However, the collected spirit won't be 100% pure (200 proof). It usually gets proofed down to somewhere around 100 proof, or 50% pure alcohol. While the total amount of alcohol collected remains the same, there is now twice as much "product" and the "yield" is doubled. The higher the final proof, the lower the final yield, the lower the final proof, the higher the final yield.

Collection efficiency

One final note is that all of the alcohol produced during fermentation will not be collected during the run. Generally only about 85 or 90% is collected because it takes too much time and energy to get the last little bit...and it isn't the good stuff anyway. For example, if there is 1 gallon of pure alcohol in a wash and it is distilled with a collection efficiency of 85%, then .85 gallons will be collected.

Summary

Here are a few examples of yields that one might expect when running 1, 5, or 10 gallon batches:

  • A 1 gallon run with a starting alcohol of 10%, a final proof of 100, and a collection efficiency of 85% will yield 2.72 cups.
  • A 1 gallon run with a starting alcohol of 20%, a final proof of 100, and a collection efficiency of 85% will yield 5.44 cups.
  • A 5 gallon run with a starting alcohol of 10%, a final proof of 100, and a collection efficiency of 85% will yield .85 gallons.
  • A 5 gallon run with a starting alcohol of 20%, a final proof of 100, and a collection efficiency of 85% will yield 1.7 gallons.
  • A 10 gallon run with a starting alcohol of 10%, a final proof of 100, and a collection efficiency of 85% will yield 1.7 gallons.
  • A 10 gallon run with a starting alcohol of 20%, a final proof of 100, and a collection efficiency of 85% will yield 3.4 gallons.






  • How fast do I bring the temp up on my 10 gallon still ? Can I bring it up quick or should I let it come up slllloooowwwwww ? Thanks for any help. ( copper still )

    Posted by Tommy on April 07, 2015
  • Hello! Full moon! I use 7 gals. Distilled water, 20 lbs pure sugar, turbo yeast, 8 days to ferment, 1.3 to 1.5 gals yield of 150 to 180 proof. No special tricks, just follow recipes.

    Posted by james on March 20, 2015
  • if you are willing to take the extra step and make your own drink take the time to do it right cook your corn get your mAlted enzymes do a little research and you will end up with a much better product. the key is in the preparation.

    Posted by floridacheez on March 13, 2015
  • I was wondering. You sell copper packing materials for the column To produce a higher proof. But if my logic is right would cooling fins soldered to the column have the same if not better effect. it should wick heat like a car radiator. The yield may be less but the product would be better. At least I think

    Posted by lightnin on February 27, 2015
  • I followed popcorn’s recipe and ended up with 2 quarts outbof 10 gallons. What am I missing? How does the top off work on the mash?

    Posted by Shiney Girl on February 20, 2015
  • I have made 15 batches of mash with no problems other than self inflicted. My last batch looked terrific when I removed the fermenter lid, but I could only get 1.5 gallons of usable wash as the corn had turned into a substance that resembled corn grits. Below the grits was normal looking kernels. Run started at 160 proof and ended abruptly at 140. Yield was two and a half quarts. Taste is good. I used Turbo 24 hr yeast for the first time. Ferment time was 48 hours. Any ideas what I did wrong?

    Posted by ALan on February 15, 2015
  • I have been running a 10 gal still with a grapefruit mash, it is to die for!

    Posted by camoman on February 03, 2015
  • i use a prison recipe.about 50 fermented oranges and 5 pounds of sugar.no yeast.if you want though you can use yeast.the rest would take some explaining so i wont even try although its very interesting reading.

    Posted by David Wilkerson on January 20, 2015
  • What about 1gal. With 4cups sugar 2cups corn meal one cup corn syrup and two packs of bread yeast? Would that make ok wash?

    Posted by bknight on November 24, 2014
  • Can you send me a picture of the finished product with the supplies not sold here

    Posted by matthew kuppel on November 23, 2014
  • I am filling out the application for a federal fuel alcohol permit. I followed your directions on what to fill out on the app but how do you determine the proof gallons of the 10 gallon kit? I have no idea what to put in this spot on the application. Thanks, J

    Posted by Jason Krepps on September 28, 2014
  • First let me say love your site now I need to know where to get my yeast and how many bananas I need for 30 gallons of mash

    Posted by Donnie Sumner on August 11, 2014
  • I’m just to get setup for making moonshine I need help with the hole proses where could I find helpful tips?

    Posted by Peter Reimer on July 06, 2014
  • In response to Shine’s last post: Your recipe seems to be missing one vital ingredient. Not sure of your complete procedure, but you’re missing malted grain, such as barley. The malted barley will release the enzyme necessary to convert the carbs in the corn to sugar. For your recipe you’ll need 8-10 pounds of malted barley (ground up or cracked).I would do this before adding the sugar. There’s a great Thin Mash recipe on this site that will be very helpful in your venture. Happy mashing!

    Posted by Marduk on July 03, 2014
  • Hey fellas, I am hoping I can pick your brains as to what I may be doing wrong when making my mash. Long story short, I mix 50lbs of cracked corn, 50 lbs of sugar, 25-30 gallons of water and 7.5 teaspoons of distillers yeast in a 55 gallon barrel. I have done two runs now in a 26 gallon still which has produced 3-3.5 gallons of pure shine with an end result of 170 proof. My concern is that I’m thinking I should be producing twice as much out of the still. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    Posted by Shine On on June 18, 2014
  • I am using your sugar shine recipe and it is taking 3 weeks to get the bubbling to 5 minutes. the wash is cloudy and getting an abv of only 1.18%. will adding nutrients help increase my abv?

    Posted by Tom on May 04, 2014
  • I am making a wine mash of banana strawberry using frozen fruit. I made two 5 gallons of mash and will distill a 10 gallon run in my still. I used 33lbs of fruit mix and 20 pounds of sugar and my yeast packets of EC-1118 yeast. Just wondering any tips you might add to get a good product and how much alcohol I may get out of it? Thanks and any tips would help!

    Posted by Mark on April 12, 2014
  • Scott you didn’t let it finish fermenting to begin with. 3-4 mins apiece isn’t finished. Let it sit until it STOPs bubbling completely then distill.

    Posted by Ryan on March 03, 2014
  • Can I use a 1300 watt hot plate with a 5 gallon still?

    Posted by Aaron on March 02, 2014
  • I used your Honey shine recipe for a 5 gallon mix with Fleishman’s bread yeast (3 1/2 tablespoons or 7 packets) and let it ferment 3 weeks at 70 degrees the bubbles in the air lock were 3-4 minutes apart when I put it in the still. I used a convection heat plate and didn’t get any vapor condensation until 195 degrees on stick thermometer. I threw out the first 1/2 quart for methane and ran 4 quarts at a temp between 195 and 200. The first qt tested on a hydrometer at 105 proof and burned blue/clear with red yellow tips of flames. The next 3 qts tested 90,80 and 40 proof and wouldn’t burn at all. Is any of this safe to drink and what did I do wrong? The induction heater took about 90 minutes to get the wash up to 190 degrees.

    Posted by Scott on February 18, 2014


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