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February 3, 2013
Last updated

Alcohol Yields

Owner of Clawhammer Supply

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.


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 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.

Kyle Brown is the owner of Clawhammer Supply, a small scale distillation and brewing equipment company which he founded in 2009. His passion is teaching people about the many uses of distillation equipment as well as how to make beer at home. When he isn't brewing beer or writing about it, you can find him at his local gym or on the running trail.

  • 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

    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 on March 30, 2018
  • thanks for the info

    Posted by jess on March 30, 2018
  • thanks so much for the E-book provided for me it will do me a lot of good.
    but just want to understand. if i need to get 10gallons of alcohol, How many Kg of corn or barley, sugar, yeast will i use to achieve this. pls. i need you quick response

    Posted by Ifeanyi Ikechukwu on March 21, 2018
  • “…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 21, 2018
  • On a surgar wash is alcohol proof 140 normal I thought it would higher

    Posted by DEnny Senters on January 21, 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?
    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

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