Alcohol by volume

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Alcohol by volume (abbreviated as 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 (3.5 imp fl oz; 3.4 US fl oz) 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 (68 °F), which is 0.78945 g/mL (0.82353 oz/US fl oz; 0.79122 oz/imp fl oz; 0.45633 oz/cu in).[4] The alc/vol standard is used worldwide. The International Organization of Legal Metrology has tables of density of water–ethanol mixtures at different concentrations and temperatures.

The alcohol by volume shown on a bottle of absinthe

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),[5] although there is a slight difference since the Gay-Lussac convention uses the International Standard Atmosphere value for temperature, 15 °C (59 °F).

Volume change edit

Change in volume with increasing alc/vol.

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 closer spacing between molecules than is usually found in non-polar mixtures.

Thus, alc/vol is not the same as volume fraction expressed as a percentage. Volume fraction, which is widely used in chemistry (commonly denoted as v/v), is defined as the volume of a particular component divided by the sum of all components in the mixture when they are measured separately. For example, to make 100 mL of 50% alc/vol ethanol solution, water would be added to 50 mL of ethanol to make up exactly 100 mL. Whereas to make a 50% v/v ethanol solution, 50 mL of ethanol and 50 mL of water could be mixed but the resulting volume of solution will measure less than 100 mL due to the change of volume on mixing, and will contain a higher concentration of ethanol.[6] The difference is not large, with the maximum difference being less than 2.5%, and less than 0.5% difference for concentrations under 20%.

Threshold levels edit

Legal thresholds edit

Some drinks have requirements of alcoholic content in order to be certified as a certain alcohol brand or label. Some alcoholic drinks may be considered legally as non-alcoholic in spite of having relatively high alcohol levels such as in Finland where products under 3 degrees can be sold legally as alcohol-free.

Low-alcohol beers (0.5<) are considered in some countries such as Iran as permitted (or "halal" under Muslim vocabulary) despite alcohol being banned. However, the level of alcohol-free beers is typically the lowest commercially sold 0.05.

Biological thresholds edit

It is near impossible for a healthy person to become intoxicated drinking low-alcohol drinks. The low concentration severely limits the rate of intake, which is easily dispatched by human metabolism. Quickly drinking 1.5 L of 0.4% alc/vol beer in an hour resulted in a maximum of 0.0056% BAC in a study of German volunteers.[7] Healthy human kidneys can only excrete 0.8–1.0 L of water per hour, making water intoxication likely to set in before any alcoholic intoxication.[8]

The process of ethanol fermentation will slow down and eventually come to a halt as the alcohol produced becomes too concentrated for the yeast to tolerate, defining an upper limit of alc/vol for non-distilled alcoholic drinks. The typical tolerance for beer yeasts is at 8–12%, while wine yeasts typically range from 14–18%, with speciality ones reaching 20% alc/vol. Any higher would require distillation, producing liquor.[9][10]

Typical levels edit

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

Drink Typical alc/vol Lowest Highest
Fruit juice (naturally occurring) 0–0.86%[11] They qualify as alcohol-free drinks in most countries.

(most juices do not have alcohol but orange or grape [the highest here] may have some from early fermentation)

0.00 0.86
Low-alcohol beer 0.05–1.2% (usually not considered as alcohol legally)

Under 2.5% in Finland, and 2.25% in Sweden, however.

0.05 1.02
Kvass 0.05–1.5% 0.05 1.50
Kefir 0.2–2.0% 0.20 2.00
Sobia 0.2–6.8% 0.20 6.80
Kombucha 0.5–1.5% 0.50 1.50
Kumis 0.7-4.5% (usually 0.7-2.5%) 0.70 4.50
Boza 1.0% 1.00 1.00
Chicha 1.0–11% (usually 1–6%) 1.00 11.00
Tubâ 2.0–4.0% 2.00 4.00
Chūhai 3.0–12.0% (usually 3–8%) 3.00 12.00
Beer (usually 4–6%) 2.00 10.00
Cider (usually 4–8%) 4.00 8.00
Palm wine 4.0-6.0% 4.00 6.00
Alcopops 4.0–17.5% 4.00 17.50
Malt liquor 5.0% 5.00 5.00
Hard seltzer 5.0% 5.00 5.00
Four Loko 6–14% 6.00 14.00
Makgeolli 6.5–7% 6.50 7.00
Kuchikamizake 7%[12] 7.00 7.00
Barley wine (strong ale) 8–15% 8.00 15.00
Mead 8–16% 8.00 16.00
Wine 5.5–16% (most often 12.5–14.5%)[13][14] 5.50 16.00
Bahalina 10–13% 10.50 13.00
Basi 10–16% 10.00 16.00
Bignay wine 12–13% 12.00 13.00
Duhat wine 12–13% 12.00 13.00
Tapuy 14–19% 14.00 19.00
Kilju 15–17% 15.00 17.00
Dessert wine 14–25% 14.00 25.00
Sake 15% (or 18–20% if not diluted prior to bottling) 15.00 20.00
Liqueurs 15–55% 15.50 55.00
Fortified wine 15.5–20%[15] (in the European Union, 15–22%[16]) 15.50 22.00
Soju 14–45% (usually 17%) 14.00 45.00
Rice wine 18–25% 18.00 25.00
Shochu 25–45% (usually 25%) 25.00 45.00
Awamori 25–60% (usually 30%) 25.00 60.00
Rượu đế 27–45% (usually 35% – except Ruou tam – 40–45%) 27.00 45.00
Bitters 28–45% 28.00 45.00
Applejack 30–40% 30.00 40.00
Pisco 30–48% 30.00 48.00
Țuică (Romanian drink) 30–65% (usually 35–55%) 30.00 65.00
Mezcal, Tequila 32–60% (usually 40%) 32.00 60.00
Vodka 35–95% (usually 40%, minimum of 37.5% in the European Union) 35.00 95.00
Rum 37.5–80% (usually 40%) 37.50 80.00
Brandy 35–60% (usually 40%) 35.00 60.00
Grappa 37.5–60% 37.50 60.00
Ouzo 37.5% 37.50 37.50
Gin 37.5–50% 37.50 50.00
Pálinka 37.5–86% (usually 52%) 37.50 86.00
Cachaça 38–48% 38.00 48.00
Sotol 38–60% 38.00 60.00
Stroh 38–80% 38.00 80.00
Fernet 39–45% 39.00 45.00
Lambanog 40–45% 40.00 45.00
Nalewka 40–45% 40.00 45.00
Tsipouro 40–45% 40.00 45.00
Rakı 40–50% 40.00 50.00
Scotch whisky 40–63.5% 40.00 63.50
Whisky 40–68% (usually 40%, 43% or 46%) 40.00 68.00
Baijiu 40–65% 40.00 65.00
Chacha 40–70% 40.00 70.00
Bourbon whiskey min 40% bottled, 43%, 50%, max 62.5% bottled, max 80% distilled 40.00 80.00
Rakija (Central/Southeast European drink) 40–86% 42.00 86.00
Maotai 43–53% 43.00 53.00
Absinthe 45–89.9% 45.00 89.90
Arak 60–65% 60.00 65.00
Oghi 60–75% 60.00 75.00
Poitín 60–95% 60.00 95.00
Centerbe (herb liqueur) 70% 70.00 70.00
Neutral grain spirit 85–95% 85.00 95.00
Cocoroco 93–96%[citation needed] 93.00 96.00
Rectified spirit 95% up to a practical limit of 97.2% 95.00 97.20

Practical estimation of alcohol content edit

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.

Specific gravity is the density of a liquid relative to that of water, i.e., if the density of the liquid is 1.05 times that of water, it has a specific gravity of 1.05. In UK brewing usage, it is customary to regard the reference value for water to be 1000, so the specific gravity of the same example beer would be quoted as 1050. The formulas here assume that the former definition is used for specific gravity.

Wine edit

The simplest method for wine has been described by English author C.J.J. Berry:[17]


Beer edit

One calculation for beer is:[18]


For higher ABV above 6% many brewers use this formula:[19]


Other methods of specifying alcohol content edit

Alcohol proof edit

Another way of specifying the amount of alcohol content is alcohol proof, which in the United States is twice the alcohol-by-volume (alc/vol) number. This may lead to confusion over similar products bought in varying regions that have different names on country-specific labels. For example, Stroh rum that is 80% ABV is advertised and labeled as Stroh 80 when sold in Europe, but is named Stroh 160 when sold in the United States.

In the United Kingdom, proof is 1.75 times the number (expressed as a percentage).[20][17] For example, 40% alc/vol is 80 proof in the US and 70 proof in the UK. However, since 1980, alcohol proof in the UK has been replaced by alc/vol as a measure of alcohol content, avoiding confusion between the UK and US proof standards.

Alcohol by weight edit

In the United States and India, a few[which?] 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 alc/vol) on beer containers, particularly on low-point versions of popular domestic beer brands.[citation needed] The alc/vol value of a beverage is always higher than the ABW.

Because ABW measures the proportion of the drink's mass which is alcohol, while alc/vol is the proportion of the drink's volume which is alcohol, the two values are in the same proportion as the drink's density is with the density of alcohol. Therefore, one can use the following equation to convert between ABV and ABW:


At relatively low alc/vol, the alcohol percentage by weight is about 4/5 of the alc/vol (e.g., 3.2% ABW is about 4% alc/vol).[21] However, because of the miscibility of alcohol and water, the conversion factor is not constant but rather depends upon the concentration of alcohol. At 0% and 100% alc/vol is equal to ABW, but at values in between alc/vol is always higher, up to ~13% higher around 60% ABV.[citation needed]

See also edit

Notes edit

  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.

References edit

  1. ^ "Beer 101". Lafayette Brewing Co. Archived from the original on 19 February 2012. Retrieved 4 February 2012.
  2. ^ "Glossary of whisky and distillation". Archived from the original on 12 February 2012. Retrieved 4 February 2012.
  3. ^ "British Brewing Glossary". English Ales Brewery Monterey. Archived from the original on 19 February 2012. Retrieved 4 February 2012.
  4. ^ Haynes, William M., ed. (2011). CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics (92nd ed.). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. p. 3.246. ISBN 1-4398-5511-0.
  5. ^ "Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac (1778–1850)". Archived from the original on 6 March 2008. Retrieved 5 July 2008.
  6. ^ "Density ρ of Ethanol-Water Mixtures at the Temperature in °C Indicated by Superscript". CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics. Retrieved 13 December 2019.
    This source gives density data for ethanol:water mixes by %weight ethanol in 5% increments and against temperature including at 25 °C, used here. It can be calculated from this table that at 25 °C, 45 g of ethanol has volume 57.3 mL, 55 g of water has volume 55.2 mL; these sum to 112.5 mL. When mixed they have volume 108.6 mL.
  7. ^ Thierauf, A.; Große Perdekamp, M.; Auwärter, V. (August 2012). "Maximale Blutalkoholkonzentration nach forciertem Konsum von alkoholfreiem Bier". Rechtsmedizin. 22 (4): 244–247. doi:10.1007/s00194-012-0835-8. S2CID 29586117.
  8. ^ Ballantyne, Coco (21 June 2007). "Strange but True: Drinking Too Much Water Can Kill". Scientific American. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  9. ^ "Yeast Strains Chart". Retrieved 29 November 2023.
  10. ^ Smith, Brad (19 December 2018). "Alcohol Tolerance in Beer Yeast and BeerSmith 3". Retrieved 29 November 2023.
  11. ^ "The Unexpected Alcohol in Everyday Food & Drink". Steady Drinker. 12 June 2019. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  12. ^ "Brewing (and Chewing) the Origins of Sake". Boston Sake. 2 April 2012.
  13. ^ Robinson 2006, p. 10.
  14. ^ "Wine: From the Lightest to the Strongest". Wine Folly. 23 November 2015. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
  15. ^ Robinson 2006, p. 279.
  16. ^ Council Regulation (EC) No 479/2008; Annex IV, §3 (European Union document). "Liqueur wine", p. 46.
  17. ^ a b Berry 1998.
  18. ^ "Get to Know Your Alcohol (By Volume)". 18 June 2003. Archived from the original on 3 July 2014.
  19. ^ Peros, Roko (7 May 2010). "Calculate Percent Alcohol in Beer".
  20. ^ Regan 2003.
  21. ^ "Alcohol Content In Beer". Archived from the original on 4 July 2008. Retrieved 5 July 2008.

Bibliography edit

External links edit