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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.

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 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.

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 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.






  • 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
  • Hi folks, have a question ? What else beside the 5 gallon still do you recommend for a start? I see you carry a lot of items. I want to purchase from you as I believe you sell a high quality product. Thank you Bob Lacey

    Posted by Bob on March 15, 2019
  • I am having the same issue as a guy posted above with flavour,I have run several different flavours and they all have very much the same flavour in the end. What am I doing wrong?

    Posted by Stacey on February 08, 2019
  • MY process to make 6 or 7 litres of 95 percent alcohol:
    I make 3 × 25 litre batches at one tine.
    Clean and sanistise all quipment used.
    Add 21 litres of moderate temperature water to each fermenter.
    Add 7 kilos of white sugar. Stir unltil desolved.
    Add Classic 8 Turbo yeast (purchased locally in Australia).
    Ferment for 8 to 10 days.
    Then I pour 1 and a half 25 litres into my 50 litre converted beer keg boiler.
    The boiler has 1 × 950 watt and 1 × 1350 watt heating elements.
    I bring the brew to 78 degrees (takes one hour) and let it continue at that temp for 1/2 an hour.
    Then I start taking the alcohol.
    The first 50 millielitres goes down the drain. The next 50 is saved to add to the next boil,
    and 6 to 7 litres is taken until the temp reaches 85 degrees.
    My yield is 95 percent pure, which I dilute down to 40 percent with clean water.
    The product is good, andf has been for more than 10 years now.
    Cheers.

    Posted by p-j-h@westnet.com.au on February 01, 2019
  • I have the chance to buy 100s of pounds of sweet potatoes cheap. If i run them through a garden shredder into a 50 gallon drum with water and yeast for a pot still, has anyone any info or tips on this mash?-mike

    Posted by mike on July 31, 2018
  • I have been distilling Pure sugar wash since 2002 and am looking to having a go at more traditional methods, techniques, flavours and recipes.

    I belong to a couple of facebook groups that deal with this subject, and claw hammer was recomended as a “go-to” site.

    “you’re never too old to learn….”

    Posted by Richard on June 26, 2018
  • these guys saying to the new ones don’t start it takes years,You had to start somewhere and how many smacks up the side of your head did it take before you got it wright

    Posted by PAUL on June 14, 2018
  • thanks for the e-book, good read, quick question, I tried to make cherry/honey shine, I used 12 cans cherries in syrup , 6 gal Cherrie/cranberry juice( no Cherrie only juice around) used wine yeast, ferment 2 weeks, drained and added 7lbs honey and sugar, with whiskey yeast, 1and 1/2. ran and was getting 78-85%abv(note 1.098 to 1.045 would not go lower) had no Cherrie taste, preformed a spirt run and still 80-88%, with Cherrie juice I found and sugar and more honey in the thumper, still no taste, is there something I’m missing for no taste, letting run sit for a while and will retaste, thanks for any help you can give.

    Posted by chris on June 13, 2018
  • Do y’all sale yeast to make moonshine with and if so can I get it in 50# bags

    Posted by ESteal Blount on May 31, 2018
  • I was using beer yeast for my last batch and only got about 1/2 a gallon of 100 proof shine. My batch of mash stoped fermenting in about 14 days and my batch readings was less than 10%

    Posted by Dave on April 10, 2018
  • I recently took 1 kilo of corn meal ( polenta) 1 KILO OF PEARL BARLEY AND BOILED THEM IN 25 LITRES OF WATER. WHEN COOL i ADDED 3 KILOS OF SUGAR WHISKY YEAST AND NUTRIENTS. IT FERMENTED COMPLETELY IN 3 DAYS AND I DISTILLED IT IN MY HOME MADE SET UP. MADE ABOUT 4 LITRES OF 70%. I THEN ADDED ABOUT 100 GRAMS OF AMERICAN WHITE OAK SAWDUST. THE RESULT IS THE BEST WHISKY I HAVE TASTED AND HOPE SOMEONE ELSE WOULD LIKE TO TRY IT. IT IS TOO GOOD TO SHARE!
    GOOD LUCK

    Posted by Peter-John de Kock on April 10, 2018
  • Having fun following your guidance, experimented different ways. Made some corn and rye, pears, grapes, malted barley, all came good. Through a home made 3 gallon still. hitting 90_130 proof. Very pleased.

    Posted by SUbhash on April 02, 2018
  • I would rather make yield calculations in metric units, because it is much more easier. For example, starting with a starting alcohol of 10 , in one liter we will have 0.1 L of pure alcohol, if the eficiency is 85, than we’ll get 0.085 l of alcohol. if the distilete alcohol is 50 % Gl, we will have 0.17 l of distilate. everything staright forward…. :)

    Posted by Emil Kermendy on March 31, 2018
  • I use red star D.A.D.Y. on a mash of 90%corn and 10% barley….still is a re-purposed 16 gallon keg. Normal output is 170 proof collected down to 70 proof. Makes several gallons of “fuel”.

    Posted by Throttlejockey34@yahoo.com on March 30, 2018
  • thanks for the info

    Posted by jess on March 30, 2018


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