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February 2, 2013

Alcohol Yields

How Much Alcohol Will a Still Produce?

Before we get started, a reminder: Distilling alcohol is illegal without a federal fuel alcohol or distilled spirit plant permit as well as relevant state permits. Our distillation equipment is designed for legal uses only and the information in this article is for educational purposes only. Please read our complete legal summary for more information on the legalities of distillation.

 

The amount of alcohol produced by a still depends on starting alcohol and final proof. In this article we'll explain how a commercial distiller would 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. 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 a commercial distiller can expect when running 1, 5, or 10 gallon test 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.
Remember, it is illegal to distill alcohol without the proper permits.

  • “…if you don’t know how to make good whiskey then don’t try…. it takes years of hands on to be a seasoned shiner”

    According to this, a person should never start and thus, never get to be a seasoned shiner. Truth is, it’s not that hard but you have to read and make an effort to learn vs. just asking everyone to walk you through it.
    1. Learn to be safe first. It’s ok to make mistakes and fail on a successful run but you have to do it safely. If you burn down your house on your first run, your party will end day 1.
    2. write things down. Write it all down so you can look back and figure out what you you may have done incorrectly and what you can do to improve each time.
    Break that into subsections so you can address and improve each one.
    - recipe
    - ingredients (including yeast and water quality)
    - mash / wash process
    - distillation process
    - etc.
    3. go back and read and re-read to make sure you can apply what you are learning because this is where the “hands on” part makes it sink in.

    Posted by Mashmaster Flash on February 11, 2018
  • What in the world am I reading on these posts people…… Jesus ….. my answer to all of the posts if you don’t know how to make good whiskey then don’t try…. it takes years of hands on to be a seasoned shiner… respectfully, Franklin county ,va.

    Posted by POpcorn pUdd'n on January 21, 2018
  • I would like a great corn recipe if any has one I am just a newbie but having a blast had 3 nice runs with a surgar wash

    Posted by Denny SEnters on January 20, 2018
  • On a surgar wash is alcohol proof 140 normal I thought it would higher

    Posted by DEnny Senters on January 20, 2018
  • do you sell your kit versions assembled and with you make a bigger version of the one pint aging barrel

    Posted by thomas deutschman on December 23, 2017
  • Hi guys .
    I m about to buy a 10 gal, or possibly few of them to bring to Colombia where I wanna start home distilling with some friends. I havent found videos on how to running it properly for making safe moon shine. I m a beginner so I ll need quite detailed Info’s. By the way the videos on how to build it are greatly done.
    Then I wonder if u guys would do and recommend use the same still in bigger size… 30 gal? 50 gal? I could be interested. Thx guys. Kim

    Posted by Kim on August 04, 2017
  • 5 Gallon of mesh.
    How many liters of pure whiskey do i get?
    Corne.Barly,yeast.water.
    how to cut off the fishy taste?
    please kindly reply me to my mail.

    Posted by meera on July 29, 2017
  • How to distilling water for drinking ?

    Posted by Edward Dixon on July 20, 2017
  • Thank you very much for the e book i received. Great information. I have a 8 gallon pot with a 30 inch column. Its alot of work to make my mash and run it. Im wanting a bigger still, it will be the same amount of work for more product at the end. Im looking at 15 gallon to 20 gallon pot. Thank you again. G. Hale

    Posted by Guss on July 02, 2017
  • I have 10 gal still, run it 10 times, only 1qt per run,
    I have, cracked corn,horse sweet feed, corn meal, sugar,
    N bread yeast,
    Can you give me a can you tell me how much of each for 10 gal least 150 prf??
    Thank ya pal!!

    Posted by BRian on May 25, 2017
  • I just finished running my first batch of corn mash, 4lbs corn mash, 4lbs sugar 4.5 gallons water, 3 teaspoons analyse ensyme, 4 of the small packages of bread yeast. my question is if can you let the mash set up to long to where the yield is low? I checked with a hydrometer each quart as the run was being run the first qt was 140, 2nd qt 110, 3rd 90 then the proof fell way off below 20 however there was still approximately 3 gallons of mash left, is it possible that the mash set to long prior to being able to run the mash? due to uncontrollable circumstances the mash had to set for a month prior to being able to run it.

    Posted by Ted on May 03, 2017
  • I tried to make a corn mash first time 5 lbs. of cracked corn 4gal. Water 4 lbs. super but yeast seemed to of died very soon maybe by first day can I add more yeast an start fermentation over again

    Posted by BEn on April 11, 2017
  • Looking at purchasing a 120 gal electric moonshine still. I am figuring I will get around 35-40 gallons of nice shine. We don’t have a lot of money as we r a small family farm and was wondering do I need to buy a separate still for making essential cannabis oils? Or Can I use one still to make oils and shine? Do u ever have any deals or sales on 120 gal moonshine and esential oil stills? I wish ur answers to all the other peoples questions were on here. Please get back with me as soon as u can. Thank u

    Posted by CHris on March 23, 2017
  • I just got my 5 gal still and going to make a sugar mash with 15lbs of sugar to 5 gallons of water, I realize with so much sugar i will need good yeast but to stop fermentation will i need an additive so it will not taste like yeast,?? and do i need a clearing agent.??

    Posted by Geoff Clark on March 01, 2017
  • There are a lot of questions here I would love to know the answers to, but I don’t see any replies, where do I go to see the replies?

    Posted by RIck on February 20, 2017
  • What exactly should moonshine taste like, ive done three batches the first batch tasted like hell, the sexond batch tasted like hell the yhird batch i added some cherry koolaide and you got a very small hint of cherry.can i add apples or anything that will make ittaste better.

    Posted by Bruce on February 05, 2017
  • 5-GALLON COPPER MOONSHINE STILL: POURED 5 GALLONS OF FILTERED CORN MASH INTO STILL, STARTED A RUN AND SUDDENLY THERE WAS A RUSH OF LIQUID MASH THAT FILLED TWO QUART JARS WITHIN A FEW SECONDS. THE TEMP WAS NOT OVER 173 YET. LOWERED THE TEMP AND RE-HEATED THE STILL AND THEN PRODUCED A GOOD RUN. WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE SUDDEN OVER-FLOW?

    Posted by Mark on January 28, 2017
  • Thanks

    Posted by BIllY on January 26, 2017
  • I have a question for you. I bought a 1 gallon still from your company and am currently assembling it. I have a small problem though, I very little use of my left hand due to a gunshot wound I received in Afghanistan. The soldering is very difficult for me. My question is can I use an electric soldering gun to solder the still together or will I not get the same outcome than if I used the torch and solder?

    Thank you for you time and help
    Sgt Gerard Miller
    1/504 parachute infantry regiment

    Posted by Gerard on January 15, 2017
  • I feel This is not a complete answer, because you only want to use the Hearts of what is produced which is 30% – 40% of your run, not the heads or the tails. also the size of the still may be 10 gallons, but that is the maximum capacity not the operating capacity which is approximately 80% of the maximum capacity.
    That means your amount of hearts will be 2.4 -3.2 gallons in a 10 gallon still.

    Posted by august on December 30, 2016


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