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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 8 gallon run will yield 1.5-3 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.


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 bred 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.


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 8 gallon run with a starting alcohol of 10%, a final proof of 100, and a collection efficiency of 85% will yield 0.89 gallons.
    A 8 gallon run with a starting alcohol of 20%, a final proof of 100, and a collection efficiency of 85% will yield 1.79 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.

  • Very interesting Iam learning more all the time.when I learn enough about how to make brandy I’ll start with a five gallon still. Thanks enjoying the lessons

    Posted by Bill on February 10, 2021
  • i am trying to get a third ferment from my wash since the leftovers of the wash appear to be “sugary” i got decent results from the second fermentation but not this third one. i am reusing the yeast cake from the original but no luck this third mash ferment (no activity). any ideas?

    Posted by aLLAN on December 14, 2020
  • hi I just bought a 2gallon still .How much would it make. I see all the others, not a 2 gallon listed help me

    Posted by NEAL on December 11, 2020
  • Yes after your first run can you put finished product back into the still with the old mash for your 2nd run and again for third run or do you jump out after first run and just use the finished product for second run and maybe Third Run what to do with old wash or mass after first run

    Posted by on December 09, 2020
  • If starting a run with a 10% wash Will the yield be the same With both a pot still and a reflux still or will one produce less? Doug

    Posted by DOug on November 25, 2020
  • Please unsubscribe me. I am now receiving similar information from another supplier using metric measures which for me is more useful.

    Regards Derrick

    Posted by on December 02, 2020
  • Hi I bought a destilation of 4 liters… how much of that do I have to throw out?
    4000ml do i have to throw out 40ml?, 400ml? Does any one have a table that shows the % to save and eliminate


    Posted by on December 02, 2020
  • Hi, I’m thinking of buying your 5 gallon still. I live in Regina, I don’t know where your located. I was thinking of saving on shipping. I’m in Edmonton for 2 days. If your near there? Let me know.

    Posted by ALana on June 11, 2020
  • where can I find the answers to all these comments? I can’t find them and there is a lot of useful information. thanks!

    Posted by matt on May 18, 2020
  • Hi, writing a short story on moonshining in the hills of Georgia, it’s titled: A Brewing Season in the hills of Georgia. " How long would it normally take to make 48 jars of liquor, 26 oz about? cabin in the woods enterprise?
    Thank you.

    Posted by Nicholas k f matte on March 23, 2020
  • I just made 25 gallons of rye mash,25lbmalt rye,17lb flake maze,5lb barley malt,20.5 gallons of water. I only had 13 gallons of mash after I maltedstrained and pressed the mash. Is this comon?

    Posted by Charles on February 24, 2020
  • I’m using a big ballon as an airlock on a 5 gal jug during fermentation. My balloon is still rising/ inflating up to 30 days… should I just let it go until it can’t go anymore or stop and distill it after set number of days no matter if it’s still bubbling, or what? This has been my case in fruit brandy mash ,also sugar wash mash… using distillers yeast( says nothing about turbo on the package)

    Posted by DAn-Dee on January 06, 2020
  • A question about shipping. I live in Canada and am wondering If you offer free shipping to my country too. Is there a customs fee? Do you often ship here. I’m in british columbia on Vancouver Island.

    Posted by Pen Allen on December 11, 2019
  • I see all the questions but don’t see any answers.

    Posted by Daniel on October 28, 2019
  • Hey there,
    My question is that after cutting down to 100 proof and letting it sit for about a week, it tastes like perfume. I’m using r.o. filtered water and starting with a sugar wash that has been fermented with 48 hour turbo yeast. Before diluting i’m at 190 proof. This is using a reflux still and trying to make clean vodka. Why does it turn into perfume?

    Posted by Charlie on September 26, 2019
  • I’m using 15 pounds of crack corn 1 gallon of ground rye 15 pounds of sugar and 15 gallons of spring water and I quit running around 80 proof and only getting around 11/2 to 2 gallons of 105 proof moonshine should I keep on running down and stop at 70 or 60 proof

    Posted by Brian on September 24, 2019
  • good lesson.

    Posted by mubarak on September 20, 2019
  • Running 20 gallon run and only producing 1 to 2 gallons of 100 proof. Using a receipe of cracked corn, water,sugar and yeast.IS THIS ABOUT RIGHT OR SHOULDN’T IT BE YEILDING MORE THANKS

    Posted by Lester Corbitt on July 03, 2019
  • I have a 8 gallon Chinese pot still with gallon thumper,I ran 6 gallons of wash,I have no way of checking wash abv. It took 15 hours to get 1/2 quart of 140 proof, a quart of 155 proof. I’m new to the hobbies,but 15 hours for that little of likker seams like a excessive amount of time. I threw out 50 ml of paint thinner. I’m using a electric hot plate burner, 6 lbs corn 1 lbs malt rye and 1 lbs malt barley for a 3 gallon wash, and distiller yeast. it taste good(spicy) but good. How can I yeald more in less time? Any help would be appreciated

    Posted by Aaron on July 03, 2019
  • What is the approx. amount of foreshots that you should expect out of a five gallon still.

    Posted by Ed on June 13, 2019

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