An alcohol hydrometer is an important and easy to use tool for calculating the alcohol content of your spirits. Some people claim that they can calculate the alcohol content of moonshine by either shaking a bottle and seeing how quickly the bubbles disappear, or by burning the alcohol and seeing how long a blue flame lasts. These are incredibly crude methods that require a great deal of guess work and are horribly inaccurate.
However, this is in no way meant to diminish the skill of those who can make their cuts based on taste and feel alone. For those who are beginners, an alcohol hydrometer can be an important tool for making cuts. It is important to also taste and feel your spirits as well, but remember to water down your spirits to around 40% before tasting. This is due to the fact that it’s difficult to taste your spirits if they have a high alcohol content.
The heads, which are the first to come out of the still, will taste harsh. Whereas the tails, which are the last to come out, will smell somewhat like wet dog, and will have an oily texture. What you want is the hearts. The hearts come out in the middle of your run between the heads and tails.
An alcohol hydrometer is a simple device that floats in your alcoholic beverage. The hydrometer has a scale of numbers along the side that represent a percentage of alcohol. The deeper the hydrometer sinks, the higher the alcohol content. Your hydrometer should be calibrated to give you an accurate reading at 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
You may find it advantageous to use a correction chart. A correction chart will tell you how much you will need to correct your reading based on the temperature of your spirits. Click here to see chart Correction chart
Typical Alcohol Content of Various Beverages:
Absinthe: 45% – 74%
Barley Wine: 8% – 12%
Brandy: 35% – 60%
Cider: 2% – 8.5%
Beer: 3% – 12%
Wine: 9% – 16%
Fortified Wines: 15.5% – 20%
Rum: 40% – 60%
Whiskey: 40% – 50%