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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.

  • can someone please tell me why after 7 successful runs on a 5 gallon pot my last run only produce 1/4 of the norm, everything was exactly done the same im a stickler that way. My confidence has been shaking and I need to understand what may have happen

    Posted by Mike on April 07, 2021
  • can anyone tell me where i can find a cloth mesh bag for making liquor.

    Posted by sr on March 31, 2021
  • Please note, the design of our website does not allow us to respond directly to blog comments. Please email us directly regarding questions about products. We don’t answer questions about recipes, procedures, etc. However, feel free to leave a comment or respond to comments made by others!

    Posted by icanread on December 09, 2020
  • Love the apple pie moonshine spices. Everyone’s favorite!
    My question is, if I follow the recipe and use 80 proof shine, what is the proof after dilution? If I use 100 proof what is the Proof after diluted with the concentrate?


    Posted by Chris on December 02, 2020

    Posted by rAYMOND on December 01, 2020
  • Hi guys, I love this site, it is so full of info for a beginner like me. Can I ask two questions, I plan to make a corn mash moonshine, when allowing the wash to ferment in the 30litre bucket should I use a heat belt to maintain s warmer temp or go without. Secondly in the thumper keg should there be one long input tube to allow the steam to enter the liquid in it. My still doesn’t have this it, just a in pipe in and out but there is nothing actually in the thumper keg?
    Thanks for your help. Michael.

    Posted by Michael Duffy on July 14, 2020
  • This may be a strange question, but i am new to making home moonshine. Being female, I like adding flavors. This is my third run and I don’t know how to measure my proof after I add jolly ranchers or red hots. I have begun with 60 proof and added my girl candy. My sister thought it had too much bite. I added a little spring water to it, but, of course, my hydrometer no longer works. What can I use to see what proof I am at?

    Posted by Pam on June 15, 2020
  • Many comments are asking about temp and hydrometer. As a liquid heats up, its density decreases. A warm measurement would read higher % than cool. I am unsure of how significantly, but that is a science explanation without much extra research

    Posted by Chem Dude on June 08, 2020
  • If I am using a 30 gal.can for making my mash 20 gal.water how much cracked corn and sugar and yeast do I add?

    Posted by Tom on September 30, 2019
  • Many of the questions asked are ones I would ask…I’m a struggling amateur!!!I

    But, I don’t know where or how to find the answers or replied comments…

    Could you help me please….

    Thank you…

    Posted by Kendall on September 20, 2019
  • How much turbo yest do you use on 5 gal of corn and barley mash (8lb maize and 1.5 lb barley) with 4 lb of sugar.

    Posted by Hennie on July 08, 2019
  • How much turbo yest do you use on 5 gal of corn and barley mash (8lb maize and 1.5 lb barley) with 4 lb of sugar.

    Posted by Hennie on July 08, 2019
  • how do i test abv of my flavored shine

    Posted by greg bryant on January 30, 2019
  • Hi,
    I would like to ask you about the different measurement in Europe and USA in alcohol. In US 90 proof is 45% alcohol, in Europe 45% alcohol if ~ 18 grade.
    Do you know the calculated formula of this?

    Posted by on October 30, 2018
  • Hello! You can send video of the copper distillers and maximum layers of the same. Thank you.

    Posted by EMILIO FILACHIONE on September 11, 2018
  • To dilute: c1*v1=c2*v2, where c is the concentration (%), and v is the volume, so for example to dilute 1L of 110 proof down to 80 (55%, 40%), (0.55*1.0)/0.4=1.375. Just add 375mL of water.

    Posted by Jason on July 20, 2018
  • you guys are really helpful its nice that you can help .

    Posted by dennis on May 15, 2018
  • what is the best way to calculate to lower the proof from 160 to 90 that is a 70 percent difference

    Posted by DENNY SENTERS on April 07, 2018
  • Do you sell hydrometers up to 200%????

    Posted by Armand A. Briere jr on March 17, 2018
  • Need help.. When running my 5 gallon banana mash the 1st pint came out 120 proof the second pint jar was only @60 ..what am i doing wrong?… 12lb banana 5lb white cornmeal. 6lb sugar with 2 packet of premeir cuvee distilling yeast sat for 6 daya b4 runnin

    Posted by Joe on January 28, 2018

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