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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.