How Do We Produce Alcohol?

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How do we produce alcohol (beer, wine, whiskey)?

The starting material for making alcohol is plant material which contains sugar or starch, such as fruit, grain, or sugar cane. [1] The sugar or starch is then converted to ethanol by fermentation.[2]

Fermentation is a therefore a chemical reaction. Thermodynamics tells us the maximum amount of product that can be produced in from a chemical reaction. Therefore, it tells us the maximum alcohol concentration we can produce from the fermentation step.

The study of maximum concentrations due to a reaction is called chemical equilibrium.

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  1. We are only talking about biochemical production here. Most non-drinking ethanol is actually produced from ethylene (even though that may change in the future).
  2. For grains the starch is first converted to sugar, which is then converted to alcohol