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 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.
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.
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.