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Alcohol by volume

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The alcohol by volume shown on a bottle of absinthe.
The alcohol by volume shown on a bottle of absinthe.

Alcohol by volume (abbreviated as ABV, abv, or alc/vol) is a standard measure of how much alcohol (ethanol) is contained in a given volume of an alcoholic beverage (expressed as a volume percent).[1][2][3] It is defined as the number of millilitres (mL) of pure ethanol present in 100 mL of solution at 20 °C (68 °F). The number of millilitres of pure ethanol is the mass of the ethanol divided by its density at 20 °C, which is 0.78924 g/mL. The ABV standard is used worldwide. The International Organization of Legal Metrology has tables of density of water–ethanol mixtures at different concentrations and temperatures.

In some countries, e.g., France, alcohol by volume is often referred to as degrees Gay-Lussac (after the French chemist Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac),[4] although there is a slight difference since the Gay-Lussac convention uses the International Standard Atmosphere value for temperature, 15 °C (59 °F).

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  • ✪ Why is Alcohol Content Referred to as Proof?
  • ✪ Brewing a High Alcohol By Volume Brew
  • ✪ Alcohol by volume
  • ✪ 5 Strongest Alcoholic Drinks in the World


An early example of beneficial government regulation, to proof alcohol was simply to test and verify that the contents of a barrel of liquid was what it was claimed to be. The process began in England around the 16th century. Its original purpose was not consumer protection, but rather to ensure that the state (read: the King) collected the proper amount of taxes on the sale of the product (alcohol, called proof spirits, was taxed at a higher rate). The first method was imprecise at best, and involved soaking a gun pellet in the liquid, and then trying to light it on fire; if it burned, it was classified as a proof spirit. However, as alcohol’s flammability is dependent on its temperature (the higher the temperature, the more vapors the alcohol infused solution will emit, and, therefore, the more flammable), sometimes actual alcohol was passed off as something less (and taxed at the lower rate). Nonetheless, frequently the product would catch fire, and by that the authorities would know that the spirit (usually rum) was at least 57.15% alcohol by volume (ABV), which at that time was classified as being 100 proof. As scientific skills improved, by the early 19th century, a far more accurate test was developed which measured the liquid’s specific gravity (the ratio of the density of a substance to a reference, in this case distilled water). Distilled water is actually denser than alcohol. Accordingly, in 1816 a test was developed that relied on the fact that at 11°C (51°F), a 100 degree proof spirit (~57.15% ABV) would weigh 12/13 that of distilled water. As 57.15% is roughly equivalent to 4/7, in the UK to convert a lower alcohol to proof, you simply multiply the ABV by 7/4 (or 1.75); so, if you had a delicious IPA with an ABV of 6.9%, in the UK this would be 12.075 degrees of proof, while a 100% ABV pure alcohol would have a proof of 175 degrees. In the US, this somewhat complicated method was rejected (in an early example of tl;dr), and instead proof is simply calculated by doubling the ABV. So, in the States, that IPA would be 13.8 proof, while Jack Daniels, with an ABV of 40%, is 80 proof. Of course, some spirits far exceed these ABVs, with a number of neutral grain and rectified spirits reaching ABVs of 96% (168 degrees of proof in the UK and 192 proof in the US). In the United States, these alcohols are regulated, if at all, by the particular states; for example, Nevada prohibits the sale of alcohol in excess of 80% ABV, and California prohibits the sale of anything over 60% ABV. Uncle Sam has singled out one alcohol in particular for regulation, however, – absinthe. Sometimes called the Green Fairy, this exotic, strong spirit (ABV 45-75%) infused with green anise, fennel, other herbs and most notably, grand wormwood, fueled Paris’ Belle Époque and is credited by some as inspiring a variety of artistic movements (e.g. Surrealism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Modernism and Cubism), as well as the writings of notables including Oscar Wilde, Charles Baudelaire and Ernest Hemingway. In the early 1900s, a number of countries banned absinthe (1912 in the US), due in equal measure to a smear campaign conducted by the wine industry, lurid tales of men under its spell committing horrid violent crimes, and the presumed presence of thujone, a chemical compound that is said to be poisonous in large amounts. As it turns out, however, most absinthe has very little thujone and easily meets all regulatory requirements (in the US, no more than 10ppm). Accordingly, beginning in about 2007, absinthe returned to the US, both as imports from Europe along with domestic producers springing up, as well.


Volume change

Change in volume with increasing ABV
Change in volume with increasing ABV

Mixing two solutions of alcohol of different strengths usually causes a change in volume. Mixing pure water with a solution less than 24% by mass causes a slight increase in total volume, whereas the mixing of two solutions above 24% causes a decrease in volume.[a] The phenomenon of volume changes due to mixing dissimilar solutions is called "partial molar volume". Water and ethanol are both polar solvents. When water is added to ethanol, the smaller water molecules are attracted to the ethanol's hydroxyl group, and each molecule alters the polarity field of the other. The attraction allows for closer spacing between molecules than is usually found in non-polar mixtures.

Thus, ABV is not the same as volume fraction expressed as a percentage. Volume fraction, which is widely used in chemistry, is defined as the volume of a particular component divided by the sum of all components in the mixture when they are measured separately. To make a 50% v/v ethanol solution, for example, you would measure 50 mL of ethanol and separately measure 50 mL of water, then mix the two together. The resulting volume of solution will likely not measure 100 mL due to the change of volume on mixing.

Typical levels

Details about typical amounts of alcohol contained in various beverages can be found in the articles about them.

Drink Typical ABV
Fruit juice (naturally occurring) 0%-0.09%
Low-alcohol beer 0.05%–1.2%
Kvass 0.05%–1.5%
Kefir 0.2%–2.0%
Kombucha 0.5%–1.5%
Boza 1.0%
Chicha 1.0%–11% (usually 1%–6%)
Beer 2.0%–12% (usually 4%–6%)
Cider 2.0%–12% (usually 4%–8%)
Alcopops 4.0%–17.5%
Malt liquor 5.0%+
Makgeolli 6.5%–7%
Kuchikamizake roughly 7%[5]
Barley wine (strong ale) 8%–15%
Mead 8%–16%
Wine 9%–16% (most often 12.5%–14.5%)[6]
Kilju 15%–17%
Dessert wine 14%–25%
Sake 15% (or 18%–20% if not diluted prior to bottling)
Liqueurs 15%–55%
Fortified wine 15.5%–20%[7] (in the European Union, 18%–22%)
Soju 17%–45% (usually 19%)
Shochu 25%–45% (usually 25%)
Rượu đế 27%-45% (usually 35%- except Ruou tam -40-45%)
Bitters 28%–45%
Applejack 30%-40%
Mezcal, Tequila 32%–60% (usually 40%)
Vodka 35%–95% (usually 40%, minimum of 37.5% in the European Union)
Rum 37.5%–80% (usually 40%)
Brandy 35%–60% (usually 40%)
Grappa 37.5%–60%
Ouzo 37.5%+
Pálinka 37.5%–86% (usually 52%)
Cachaça 38%–54%
Sotol 38%–60%
Stroh 38%–80%
Fernet 39%–45%
Nalewka 40%–45%
Tsipouro 40%-45%
Gin 37.5%–50%
Scotch whisky 40%–63.5%
Whisky 40%–68% (usually 40%, 43% or 46%)
Baijiu 40%–65%
Chacha 40%–70%
Răchie (Central/Southeast European drink) 42%–86%
Maotai 43%-53%
Absinthe 45%–89.9%
Țuică (Romanian drink) 30%–65% (usually 35%–55%)
Arak 60%–65%
Oghi 60%-75%
Poitín 60%–95%
Centerbe (herb liqueur) 70%
Neutral grain spirit 85%–95%
Cocoroco 93%–96%[citation needed]
Rectified spirit 95% up to a practical limit of 95.6%

Alcohol proof

Another way of specifying the amount of alcohol is alcohol proof, which in the United States is twice the alcohol-by-volume number, while in the United Kingdom it is 1.75 times the number (expressed as a percentage).[8][9] For example, 40% abv is 80 proof in the US and 70 proof in the UK. However, since 1980, alcohol proof in the UK has been replaced by abv as a measure of alcohol content.

Alcohol by weight

In the United States, a few states regulate and tax alcoholic beverages according to alcohol by weight (ABW), expressed as a percentage of total mass. Some brewers print the ABW (rather than the ABV) on beer containers, particularly on low-point versions of popular domestic beer brands.

One can use the following equation to convert between ABV and ABW:

At relatively low ABV, the alcohol percentage by weight is about 4/5 of the ABV (e.g., 3.2% ABW is about 4% ABV).[10] However, because of the miscibility of alcohol and water, the conversion factor is not constant but rather depends upon the concentration of alcohol. 100% ABW is equivalent to 100% ABV.

Prediction of alcohol content

During the production of wine and beer, yeast is added to a sugary solution. During fermentation, the yeasts consume the sugars and produce alcohol. The density of sugar in water is greater than the density of alcohol in water. A hydrometer is used to measure the change in specific gravity (SG) of the solution before and after fermentation. The volume of alcohol in the solution can then be estimated. There are a number of empirical formulae which brewers and winemakers use to estimate the alcohol content of the liquor made.


The simplest method for wine has been described by English author C.J.J. Berry:[9]


The calculation for beer is:[11]

However, many brewers use the following formula which uses a different constant (different probably due to temperature variations and rounding):[12]

It is derived in this manner:[11]

1.05 is the ratio (by mass) of ethanol molecules produced for every molecule of CO2 produced[dubious ] (46.07 g/mol C2H6O / 44.01 g/mol CO2 = 1.0468) from a single molecule of glucose. The number 0.7936 is the specific gravity of a 100% ethanol solution[13]. Both are unit-less measurements. The difference between the starting SG and the final SG measures the specific gravity lost to CO2 release.

For higher ABV above 6% many brewers use this formula:[14]

See also


  1. ^ See data in the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, 49th edition, pp. D-151 and D-152. Mixing a solution above 24% with a solution below 24% may cause an increase or a decrease, depending on the details.


  1. ^ "Lafayette Brewing Co". Archived from the original on 2012-02-19. Retrieved 2012-02-04.
  2. ^ "Glossary of whisky and distillation". Archived from the original on 2012-02-12. Retrieved 2012-02-04.
  3. ^ "English Ales Brewery Monterey British Brewing Glossary". Archived from the original on 2012-02-19. Retrieved 2012-02-04.
  4. ^ "Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac (1778–1850)". Retrieved 2008-07-05.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Robinson 2006, p. 10.
  7. ^ Robinson 2006, p. 279.
  8. ^ Regan 2003.
  9. ^ a b Berry 1998.
  10. ^ "Alcohol Content In Beer". Archived from the original on 4 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-05.
  11. ^ a b "Calculate Percent Alcohol in Beer". Retrieved 2014-07-03.
  12. ^ "Get to Know Your Alcohol (By Volume)". Retrieved 2014-07-03.
  13. ^ "S.G. Table for Ethanol-Water". Retrieved 2016-08-31.
  14. ^ Anon, 2012, Industrial Microbiology Beer Fermentation Practical, School Of Applied Sciences, RMIT University, Melbourne


External links

This page was last edited on 27 January 2019, at 23:20
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