How to Determine Moonshine Proof

How to Determine Moonshine Proof

One of the biggest questions we get about moonshine has to do with moonshine proof. What it is, how to measure it and how to increase it. Check out how to determine moonshine proof. 



What is Moonshine Proof? 




Moonshine, a term often associated with homemade, unregulated alcohol, holds a certain air of mystique and intrigue. However, moonshine has become increasingly popular not only in the United States, but around the world. 

Moonshine has become a symbol of rebellion and tradition in American culture. Moonshine's proof, a measure of the alcohol content, plays a crucial role in its definition and reputation.

Moonshine is not only a great taste of American tradition, but its high proof makes it a thrill to sip. 


 What is High-Proof Moonshine?



The term ‘moonshine’ is direct slang for a high-proof distilled spirit.  Moonshine can be produced using various methods and different distilling techniques can be applied to increase the proof of this spirit.  


High proof moonshine means that the moonshine has high alcohol content.  You can drink much less high-proof moonshine compared to low-proof moonshine before getting drunk.

Moonshiners love to create high-proof spirits because these are considered ‘higher quality’ and they are easily mixed with other ingredients to create a very tasty beverage that packs a powerful punch.  


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Why Should Moonshine Proof Be Measured?

It is good to know the proof of the product so you will know how strong the spirit is that you are about to drink.  You can consume much more low-proof spirits compared to high-proof spirits before you will get intoxicated.  


Distillers also proof their products because buyers are willing to pay more for a high-proof moonshine.  

Knowing your proof also enables you to perfect your moonshine skills when you are producing spirits that are similar from run to run.  

How to Proof Moonshine



Bootleg moonshiners usually identified the proof of their spirits by shaking the mason jar.  Large bubbles that quickly disappear usually indicate high alcohol content.  Smaller bubbles in the spirits that take longer to disappear indicate a lower alcohol content.

As you can imagine, this isn’t a very accurate way to measure moonshine proof. 


The best way to accurately measure your proof is by using a proofing hydrometer and copper proofing parrot.

Understanding Hydrometers




Hydrometers are widely used tools in various industries, including winemaking, brewing, and chemistry.


These devices are designed to measure the specific gravity or density of a liquid, providing valuable information about its composition and quality.


By understanding how hydrometers work and how to interpret their readings, professionals and enthusiasts can make more informed decisions and maintain consistency in their processes.

What is a Hydrometer?


A hydrometer is a scientific instrument used to measure the specific gravity (or relative density) of a liquid.

It is commonly used in various industries, including brewing and distillation. There are different types of hydrometers available, but two specific types used in these industries are the brewing hydrometer and the proofing hydrometer.


Hydrometers play a crucial role in the brewing and distillation industries by providing accurate measurements of alcohol content.


Whether it is a brewing hydrometer for potential alcohol content or a proofing hydrometer for final alcohol content, these instruments help maintain the desired quality and strength of alcoholic beverages.


What is a Brewing Hydrometer?





The brewing hydrometer is primarily used in the beer and wine making process to measure the potential alcohol content in the fermenting liquid.

It typically has a scale that can measure up to 20% ABV (alcohol by volume).

This type of hydrometer helps determine the specific gravity of the liquid, which in turn indicates the relative concentration of sugars in the solution.

By taking readings before and after fermentation, brewers can calculate the alcohol produced during the process.


What is a Proofing Hydrometer?

Hydrometers are used to measure the liquid density compared to water density.  There are two main different hydrometers; a brewing hydrometer and a proofing hydrometer.  Proofing hydrometers are used to measure the final alcohol content of your spirits.

What is a Proofing Parrot?



A proofing parrot allows you to continuously monitor the proof of your spirits during distillation. 


This is a copper device in which the hydrometer is inserted.  With the use of your proofing parrot, you can continuously monitor the strength of your spirits. 


This is ideal for those who want to separate the lower alcohol content ‘tails’ of their moonshine.

To measure your liquor proof, you can place the hydrometer into the parrot.  The hydrometer will show the proof of your moonshine.  This is the easiest way to identify the exact alcohol content of your moonshine.


How to Read a Hydrometer




A hydrometer is a simple instrument used to determine the density of a liquid. It consists of a long, narrow glass tube with a weighted bulb at the bottom.


The hydrometer works on the principle of buoyancy, as the density of a liquid affects the amount of buoyant force exerted on the instrument.


By measuring this force, the hydrometer can provide valuable insights into the composition of a liquid.

To read a hydrometer, it is crucial to follow a few simple steps.

  1. Ensure that the hydrometer is clean and free from any debris that could hinder accurate measurements.
  2. Carefully lower the hydrometer into the liquid, making sure it remains in an upright position.
  3. Allow the hydrometer to settle and come to rest. The liquid will rise along the tube, and the level at which it stabilizes is the reading point.

Accurate measurements are essential when using a hydrometer. Even small errors in reading can result in significant variations in density. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the hydrometer is properly calibrated, and the reading is taken at eye level, with the top of the liquid meniscus aligned precisely with the scale.

Additionally, the temperature of the liquid can affect its density, so it is advisable to record and adjust for temperature, if necessary.

A hydrometer is a valuable tool for determining liquid density. By understanding its functionality and purpose and following the correct reading process, accurate measurements can be obtained.


Factors that Affect Accuracy of Results



The accuracy of research results can be significantly impacted by several factors. One crucial factor is the sample size, which directly affects the representativeness and generalizability of findings.

In the case of a small sample size, the results may not accurately reflect the larger population, leading to limited external validity.

Moreover, the data collection methods employed can introduce biases and errors. For example, if the data collection process relies solely on self-reporting, participants may provide inaccurate or biased information, affecting the validity of the results.

Furthermore, measurement errors can arise from various sources, such as human error or faulty equipment. These errors can distort the collected data and subsequently compromise the accuracy of the findings.


Using a Brewing Hydrometer vs. Other Options





A brewing hydrometer is a commonly used tool for measuring alcohol content in homebrewing. It works by measuring the specific gravity of the liquid, which is then used to calculate the alcohol content.

One key difference between using a brewing hydrometer and other options is accuracy.


A brewing hydrometer provides a precise measurement of specific gravity, allowing for a more accurate estimation of alcohol content.


Other options, such as refractometers or digital alcohol meters, may not be as accurate.

Another difference is ease of use. A brewing hydrometer is relatively straightforward to use, requiring a sample of the liquid to be taken and then the hydrometer to be inserted and read. Other options, such as digital alcohol meters, may require additional steps or calibration.

Advantages of using a brewing hydrometer include its affordability and wide availability. Brewing hydrometers are relatively inexpensive and can be easily purchased at homebrew supply stores or online.


They are also versatile and can be used to measure specific gravity at various points throughout the brewing process.


One disadvantage of using a brewing hydrometer is the potential for breakage. Hydrometers are fragile and can easily break if not handled with care. Additionally, collecting samples for measurement can be time-consuming and may increase the risk of contamination.


Alternative methods for measuring alcohol content include refractometers and digital alcohol meters.


Refractometers are compact and require only a few drops of liquid to provide a reading, but they may require conversion calculations for accurate alcohol content determination.

Digital alcohol meters are highly accurate but are often more expensive and may require regular calibration.


A brewing hydrometer is a cost-effective and widely available option for measuring alcohol content in homebrewing.


While it offers accuracy and simplicity, it is not without its disadvantages, including fragility and potential for contamination.

Other options, such as refractometers and digital alcohol meters, provide alternatives with their own set of advantages and disadvantages.


Preparing for Testing Moonshine Alcohol Content




While the process of making moonshine is relatively straightforward, ensuring the alcohol content is safe and accurate is crucial.

Let's explore the steps to preparing for testing moonshine alcohol content, covering the necessary equipment, the methods of measurement, and the importance of accuracy in order to create a safe and enjoyable product.

Factors to Consider Before Testing Moonshine Proof




Before testing the proof of moonshine, there are several important factors that should be considered.

Firstly, it is essential to ensure that the moonshine has gone through the appropriate distillation process. This includes using the correct ratios of ingredients and following the necessary steps to produce a quality product.

Secondly, the quality of the equipment used in the distillation process should be evaluated. It is crucial to use proper and clean equipment to avoid any contamination or impurities that may affect the final proof.





Additionally, the age of the moonshine should be taken into account. Aging moonshine can considerably enhance the flavor and proof, so allowing the product to mature for an appropriate period is essential.

Checking state laws and obtaining the necessary permits is of utmost importance before engaging in the production of moonshine.

Moonshine production often falls under strict regulations due to the potential risks associated with its production and consumption.


State laws vary, with some states allowing small-scale production for personal use, while others prohibit it completely.


It is crucial to thoroughly research the specific laws and regulations in the state to ensure compliance.

Obtaining the proper permits ensures that the production is legal and safe. Ignoring state laws and permits can result in severe consequences, including fines and legal actions.


Needed Supplies and Equipment for Testing Moonshine Proof


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When testing the proof of moonshine, there are a few essential supplies and equipment that are required to obtain accurate measurements.


These tools are crucial in determining the alcohol content in moonshine and ensuring that it is within a safe range for consumption.


One of the primary equipment needed is a copper proofing parrot. The copper proofing parrot is a device that resembles a bird and is used to collect a sample of the moonshine during the distillation process. It typically includes a glass jar, a copper tube, and a hydrometer.

The purpose of the copper proofing parrot is to allow the operator to continuously monitor the proof of the moonshine as it is being distilled.

This equipment works by collecting a small portion of the liquid and passing it through the glass jar, allowing for the measurement of the alcohol content using the hydrometer.

Another essential tool is the hydrometer. This instrument is designed to measure the specific gravity of liquids, including moonshine.


By measuring the specific gravity, the hydrometer can provide an accurate indication of the alcohol content in the moonshine.


It works by floating in the liquid and giving a reading on a scale, which can then be used to determine the proof of the moonshine.


These tools are essential for obtaining accurate measurements of the alcohol content in moonshine and ensuring its safety for consumption.

Test Steps and Procedures for Accurate Results




Testing moonshine to achieve accurate results involves several steps and procedures. By following these guidelines, you can ensure the quality and safety of the moonshine you produce.

  1. Collect a sample of the moonshine: Take a small amount of the moonshine to be tested. Make sure the sample represents the entire batch and is free from any contaminants.
  2. Use a hydrometer: A hydrometer is a device that measures the specific gravity of a liquid. Lower specific gravity indicates higher alcohol content. Place the hydrometer in a cylinder filled with the moonshine and spin it gently to remove air bubbles. Read the scale at eye level and record the specific gravity.
  3. Determine the proof: To calculate the proof of the moonshine, use a copper moonshine parrot. The parrot is a device that attaches to the distillation apparatus and automatically collects and measures alcohol distillate. By measuring both the original specific gravity and the distillate's specific gravity, you can determine the proof.
  4. Keep detailed notes: It is essential to maintain detailed records of each run. Record information such as the ingredients used, fermentation time, distillation temperature, and specific gravity readings. These notes can be invaluable in future runs to replicate successful outcomes or identify areas for improvement.

By following these steps and utilizing hydrometers and copper moonshine parrots, the testing process becomes more accurate and reliable. The use of specific instruments and careful note-taking ensures consistent results and helps you perfect your moonshine production over time.


Calculating Moonshine Alcohol Content



Calculating the alcohol content of moonshine is essential for both legal and safety reasons.

Whether you are a distiller looking to comply with legal regulations or a consumer aiming to enjoy moonshine responsibly, understanding how to calculate its alcohol content is crucial. 

What Does ABV Stand For?




ABV stands for alcohol by volume. It is a measurement that represents the percentage of alcohol present in a liquid.


ABV is a global standard measure for alcohol strength and is used to determine the potency of alcoholic beverages.


The significance of ABV lies in its ability to provide a standardized metric for comparing the alcohol content of various drinks.

By indicating the alcohol percentage, ABV allows consumers to make informed decisions about their alcohol consumption and to gauge the strength of different beverages.

ABV is measured by determining the volume of pure alcohol in a given volume of liquid and expressing it as a percentage. This measurement is often determined through laboratory analysis using equipment such as a hydrometer or a vinometer. The calculated result is then rounded to the nearest whole percentage to provide the ABV value.

The use of ABV as a measure eliminates confusion and inconsistency when comparing alcohol content between different beverages. It ensures uniformity in alcohol labeling and helps consumers moderate their alcohol intake.

Whether it's beer, wine, or spirits, ABV provides a straightforward method to understand the alcoholic strength, making it an invaluable tool for both consumers and the alcohol industry.



Proof VS ABV



It is important to note that alcohol ABV and proof numbers are very different.  ABV is a standard measure of the alcohol contents of a beverage.  In the US, alcohol proof is defined as half the proof of your spirits.  Moonshine with 120 proof thus contains 60% alcohol or has an ABV of 60%.

The Most Common Moonshine Proof Levels



Moonshine can be made with all sorts of proof ranges but your spirits do need a high alcohol content to be considered moonshine. 

Moonshine usually starts at 35 proof and can be produced up to 192 proofs.  Here is a quick look at moonshines with different proof levels;

200 Proof Moonshine

It is impossible to make 200 proof or 100% moonshine.  100% moonshine is pure ethanol and cannot be traditionally made.  Pure ethanol can only be manufactured in laboratories and can be deadly when consumed.

190 Proof Moonshine

190 Proof moonshine is liquor that is 95% alcohol.  Moonshine needs to be distilled several times before it will reach this high alcohol content.  It is incredibly hard to produce moonshine with such a high proof level and most feel that it just isn’t worth the effort since your liquor quantity reduces every time you re-distill your spirits to increase its proof. 

Spirytus is the strongest proof moonshine in the world with a 192 proof or 96% alcohol content.  Everclear is a 190 proof moonshine (95% alcohol) that is more commonly found than Spirytus.  Both of these liquors are quite rare and pricey.

180 Proof Moonshine

Moonshine around 180 proof is a 90% alcohol.  Reflux stills are ideal for producing moonshine with such a high alcohol content.  Most people do however water down their moonshine to at least 75% for it to be enjoyable for drinking.  Bruichladdich X4 Quadrupled Whiskey is a good example of a 184 proof whiskey that you can buy.

170 Proof Moonshine

Moonshine with 170 proof is about 85% alcohol.  You still need to redistill your moonshine several times to reach this high alcohol content.  85% moonshine is more commonly sold compared to moonshine with a higher proof than 170.  Two good examples of 170 proof moonshine is Hapsburg Gold Label Premium Reserve Absinthe with a 179 proof and Balkan Vodka with a 176 proof range.

160 Proof Moonshine

Moonshine with a 160 proof range is about 80% alcohol.  This spirit is almost enjoyable in pure form but many still prefer to dilute it a bit.  Alcohol with this high proof is illegal in many countries and spirits this strong isn’t too common on the market.

140 Proof Moonshine

This is liquor with 70% alcohol content.  Even this beverage is still a bit too powerful to drink clean.  There are quite a few brands that produce a 140 proof moonshine.  A good example is Bacardi 151 with its 151 proof range.

130 Proof Moonshine

130 Proof moonshine is a 65% alcohol and there are quite a few brave souls who love to sip this moonshine clear or on the rocks.  Palmetto Moonshine Bootlegger Proof is the first legal moonshine produced in South Carolina with a 65% alcohol content.

120 Proof Moonshine

Many distilleries produce moonshine with 120 proof range. One of the best loved 60% moonshines is Ole Smoky’s Blue Flame Moonshine with its bright blue color.

110 Proof Moonshine

It is relatively easy to create a 110 proof (55% alcohol) moonshine with a pot still and you can buy quite a few moonshines with this strength from local distillers.

100 Proof Moonshine

This is 50% alcohol liquor that is quite common on the market and it is fairly easy to make your own moonshine with this strength.  Midnight Moon Moonshine is a good example of 100 proof moonshine.

50 Proof Moonshine

Many prefer 50 proof moonshine (25% alcohol) because this beverage is so easy to make and can be so rich in flavor.  Ole Smoky produces quite a few moonshines with this strength range and they are all glorious.

35 Proof Moonshine

Moonshine usually isn’t produced lower than the 35 proof range (17% alcohol).  Skilled winemakers or vintners can produce wines with this proof range without distillation through simply fermentation and aging processes.  35 Proof moonshine can be enjoyed clean or on the rocks and won’t offer too much of a ‘bite’ or burn sensation. 

Moonshine is available in a variety of proof ranges.  The most important thing to remember is that the higher the proof is, the less enjoyable your spirits become when you drink it neat.  Strong moonshine with a proof of over 110 is usually diluted or mixed into other beverages to make it enjoyable.