To measure the amount of alcohols in alcohol based drinks we use alcohol by volume (ABV, abv). It is defined as the number of millilitres (mL) of pure ethanol present in 100 mL of solution at 20 °C. The bigger the percentage, more likely the intoxication will be, in less time and less quantity.
The most popular or more common drinks are vodka, whiskey and beer.
Most whiskies are near an alcoholic strength of 40% ABV, which is the statutory minimum in some countries – although the strength can vary, and cask-strength whisky may have as much as twice that alcohol percentage.
Whisky is usually made of copper, since it removes sulfur-based compounds from the alcohol that would make it unpleasant to drink. Modern whiskey are stills made of stainless steel with copper innards. The simplest standard distillation apparatus is commonly known as a pot still, consisting of a single heated chamber and a vessel to collect purified alcohol.
The strength of modern beer is usually around 4% to 6% ABV, although it may vary between 0.5% and 20%, with some breweries creating examples of 40% ABV and above.
Beer is made from: Barley, water, hops and yeast. The basic idea is to extract the sugars from grains so that the yeast can turn it into alcohol and CO2, creating beer. This is its process briefly:
- Malting: The grains are harvested and processed through a process of heating, drying out and cracking. The goal of malting is to isolate the enzymes needed for brewing.
- Mashing: The grains are steeped in hot, but not boiling, water for about an hour. This activates enzymes in the grains that cause it to break down and release its sugars. Once this is all done you drain the water from the mash which is now full of sugar from the grains.
- Boiling: The wort is boiled for about an hour while hops and other spices are added several times. Worts provide bitterness to balance out all the sugar in the wort and provide flavor.
- Fermentation: Then the wort is cooled, strained and filtered. It’s put in a fermenting vessel and yeast is added to it. The beer is stored for a couple of weeks at room temperature while the yeast works its fermentation. The yeast eats up all that sugar in the wort and liberates CO2 and alcohol as waste products.
- Bottling and Aging: You’ve now got alcoholic beer, however it is still flat and non carbonated. The flat beer is bottled, at which time it is either artificially carbonated like a soda, or if it’s going to be ‘bottle conditioned’ it’s allowed to naturally carbonate via the CO2 the yeast produces.
Since the 1890s, the standard Polish, Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian and Czech vodkas are 40% ABV. The European Union has established a minimum of 37.5% ABV for any "European vodka". Products sold as "vodka" in the United States must have a minimum alcohol content of 40%. Even with these loose restrictions, most vodka sold contains 40%
Vodka may be distilled from any starch or sugar-rich plant matter; most vodka today is produced from grains such as sorghum, corn, or wheat. Some vodkas are made from potatoes, soybeans, grapes, rice, sugar beets.
The master distiller is in charge of distilling the vodka and directing its filtration, which includes the removal of the "foreshots", "heads" and "tails". These components of the distillate contain flavor compounds such as ethyl acetate and ethyl lactate (heads) as well as the fusel oils (tails) that impact the usually desired clean taste of vodka. Through numerous rounds of distillation, or the use of a fractionating still, the taste is modified and clarity is increased.
Repeated distillation of vodka will make its ethanol level much higher than is acceptable to most end users, whether legislation determines strength limits or not.
Depending on the distillation method and the technique of the stillmaster, the final filtered and distilled vodka may have as much as 95–96% ethanol. As such, most vodka is diluted with water prior to bottling.
Depending of the percentage the amount of alcohol consumed can have diferent efects on the human body.
- 0.03%-0.12%: typically causes an overall improvement in mood and possible euphoria, decreased anxiety, a flushed, red appearance in the face and fine muscle coordination.
- 0.09% to 0.25%: causes lethargy, sedation, balance problems and blurred vision.
- 0.18% to 0.30% causes confusion, impaired speech, dizziness and vomiting.
- 0.25% to 0.40% causes stupor, unconsciousness, vomiting and respiratory depression (potentially life-threatening).
- 0.35% to 0.80% causes unconsciousness, life-threatening respiratory depression and possibly fatal alcohol poisoning.