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You have brewed a great looking batch of moonshine. Congratulations! Now, you need to know how much alcohol is in your moonshine to complete the process. In this article, we’re going to review everything you need to know about proofing alcohol and the steps you should take to ensure a great quality end-product.
Alcohol proof is a measure of the content of ethanol (alcohol) in an alcoholic beverage. The term was originally used in England and was equal to around 1.821 times the percentage alcohol by volume (ABV). The word proof came to be in the 18th century when sailors, unloading ships of cargo and whisky, had only one way to tell the strength of the liquor in the boxes. They would mix a little bit of the whisky with a pinch of gunpowder and drop a lighted match into the mixture. If it ignited with an audible “proof!”, then the sailors would know that at least half the content was alcohol.
In the United States today, alcohol proof is defined as twice the percentage of ABV. For example, a whisky with 50% alcohol is 100-proof whisky. Anything that is 120-proof would contain 60% alcohol and 80-proof means 40% of the liquid is alcohol.
Unlike store bought alcoholic beverages, your homemade moonshine does not come with an ABV label. You will have to perform a simple test to calculate the amount of alcohol in your moonshine.
The experienced, old school moonshiners are able to tell the proof of their moonshine by simply shaking the mason jar and observing the bubbles. If the moonshine has large bubbles that dissolve quickly it indicates the moonshine has a high alcohol content. If the moonshine has smaller bubbles that dissolve slowly, it indicates a lower alcohol content.
Even though this test has been used for more than a century to proof moonshine, nowadays, we can easily and more accurately proof moonshine by using a few simple tools– a hydrometer and a copper proofing parrot or a borosilicate glass test jar.
So, whether you are making moonshine for the first time or having been doing it for a long time…here’s what you need to know to most accurately proof it.
A hydrometer is an instrument that measures the density of a liquid compared to the density of water. It consists essentially of a weighted, sealed, long-necked glass bulb that is immersed in the liquid being measured. The depth of flotation gives an indication of liquid density, which provides you the information of potential alcohol content or actual alcohol content.
There are two different types of hydrometers – a brewing hydrometer and a proofing hydrometer.
The difference between the two hydrometers is the scale on which they are able to measure. The brewing hydrometer (used during the mash process) measures a potential alcohol up to 20% ABV. A proofing hydrometer can measure up to 200-proof or 100% ABV.
Our proofing hydrometer is a 0-200 Proof and Tralle tester that will work ideally for your moonshine. You will want to check it out and use it to proof your moonshine for the most accurate testing.
A copper proofing parrot is an extremely helpful tool that is used alongside the hydrometer when distilling your moonshine. A parrot is a simple device that holds a proofing hydrometer, making it very easy to measure the proof of the product coming out of the still. Using this device, you do not waste any of your precious moonshine on testing.
Make sure you use a proofing parrot that is made from copper, as copper is the preferred material of a still to impart flavour into the distilled moonshine. Copper is also an excellent conductor of heat. It disperses the heat evenly across the entire surface of the metal, creating a more even distillation. Copper will not put harmful chemicals into your final product.
In the distilling process, the sulfur coming from the yeast binds itself to the copper, making hydrogen-sulfide, which in turn forms copper sulfate. The copper sulfate sticks to the inside of the still after distillation is completed. After a thorough cleaning of the copper still, the copper sulfate is washed down the drain, and not into your moonshine… and that is why you want to use a copper proofing parrot!
The best method to measure your moonshine is to use a proofing hydrometer and a copper moonshine parrot or a borosilicate glass test jar., as described above. Once you have the proofing parrot correctly set up, making sure the drop arm from the moonshine still drips directly into the parrot, you can carefully place the hydrometer into the parrot. The moonshine will fill up the parrot and the hydrometer will float.
You are now able to read the scale on the floating hydrometer and take an accurate measurement of the proof of your moonshine. Give the hydrometer a quick, gentle spin to remove any air bubbles, as they can affect the reading. Once you have your measurement recorded you can empty the moonshine out of the parrot and into a small jar.
This is the easiest and most accurate method to measure the alcohol content of your moonshine and monitor the ABV while you’re making it.
You should always, always measure your proof! You need to know everything about the entire process of your moonshine distilling. You need to know the alcohol percentage even if you are only planning to consume it yourself, but it is especially important if you are planning to serve your moonshine to guests. Imagine the look on their faces if you can’t give an answer to someone when they ask you what proof your moonshine is.
Proofing is an important step in distillation, so do not skip it.
To become a great moonshiner it helps to have the right tools to guide you to the best possible product.
Don’t hesitate…start your moonshining now!