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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.

  • When and how does proofed down happen ??

    Posted by Doug on September 28, 2016
  • First timer looking to make vodka, looking to buy USA built.

    Posted by DOnnie on September 19, 2016
  • all this information is really for new distillers or dummys. if some people can’t understand some sites that tries to explain how moonshine or the mash works this is the perfect site for them to read because it in layman’s terms and not in some lingo that new distillers don’t understand. great work on this web site, and thank you so much…

    Posted by sam on July 26, 2016
  • As I understand it, mash is basically the same as wine’—same process anyway. I’ve heard you can’t make wine over 18% alcohol so the 20% isn’t realistic although it still gives a good idea.

    Posted by Razor on March 14, 2016
  • I really like all the info on the how to section, information is so hard to find… From what I see your site is above the rest and what makes it so nice is that you kept it simple… Are there any plans of producing a 20 or 30 gallon set up???

    Posted by THomas on March 06, 2016
  • I Watched your assembly video for a 5 gal. Still a cpl times. How do you fill the boiler with mash? What did I miss ?

    Totally different.. If a person uses a ss pressure cooker.. Would adding a sheet of coper around the inside of the pressure cooker do anything to help with the sulfities.
    Thank you.

    Posted by Greg stansbury on February 15, 2016
  • Hi Is it ok to use a plastic Barrell,for fermenting,and could I use Apple juice,sorry to take your time,I live in Canada,is it a problem,Thank you

    Posted by Reg Lauzon on December 17, 2015
  • I have a very primitive pot still that I’ve ran some homemade pumpkin wine through. It holds 4 gallons and I collected the first 6oz as foreshot. I’m new to this and from the research I did that should have been enough to. Looking for some insight before I chance losing my sight. The 16 quart pot has a 3/8 tube that comes out of the lid, runs over 4’ and then is coiled into the worm. I also collected the next 16oz as heads. Any comments would be helpful.

    Posted by Freakshoww on December 02, 2015
  • I do a 5 gal banana mash. Use 3 gal distilled water, 6 bunches of bananas, 4 lbs sugar, 24hr turbo yeast. I get about 1 gal of 100 proof yummy shine.use whole banana btw, peel and all cuz enzimes and extra sugar in the peels.

    Posted by Donald on November 27, 2015
  • I would like to purchase a kit with a friend to do some hobby (spirit) making and really do not understand totally what we need to get started to make some whiskey. I’m sure their is more to it than the simple copper kits you sell.

    Probably best to ask questions with a phone call if that’s alright.


    Brian Jackson

    Posted by Brian Jackson on November 24, 2015
  • would it be possible to put one of the stills on a lay away type plan as in only charging credit card around lets say $75 every 2 weeks untill full payment is made then ship it

    Posted by bobby lindsey on October 28, 2015
  • It’s an amazing feeling to see the thick viscous mash you just cooked up turn to thin juicy mash within 10 minutes of adding corn malt that you malted yourself. I add sugar to my recipe most times to increase the output of the run , but no one has ever tasted a product as good as a pure corn whiskey likker made with only corn, malt corn, water and yeast…and the holy Grail is that mash made with no added yeast, natural yeast only…good cooking boys!

    Posted by Bama1981 on July 06, 2015
  • I want to make some apple pie with your recipe but I have the real full strength everclear. do I use 6 cups full strength or do I dilute it 50/50 water/everclear for a good tasting adult beverage?

    Posted by HL on June 22, 2015
  • Shine On,
    You’re dead on the money dude!! 170 proof shine is excellent, and an average yield of about 10% of the total volume is perfect. if you’re mash batch is 30 gallons and you’re getting 3 back as drinkable shine at 170 proof, you’ve got no complaints coming….you’re doing it right ( Unless you like drinking window cleaner).

    Posted by 100% Irishguy on May 30, 2015
  • Where can I get the intructions online to disTill the fermented mash into shine? I plan on using your corn whiskey recipie.



    Posted by DAve vIckers on April 30, 2015
  • 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

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