Defining Common Ethyl Alcohol Terms

Ethanol is an alcohol, but not all alcohols are safe like ethanol for our body.  Alcohols are a kind of chemical made up of carbon atoms that have a special part called a hydroxyl group attached to them. This part, which is made of oxygen and hydrogen (–OH), is what makes a molecule an alcohol. This chemical group defines the alcohol family, with properties varying according to the molecular size and the attached group. Alcohols can be simple, like methanol and ethanol, or more complex like those found in sugars and starches.

hydrometer measuring alcohol proof representing defining common ethyl alcohol terms proof, abv, and more

Measuring Alcohol by "Proof"

When navigating the world of ethyl alcohol, two terms you'll frequently encounter are "200 proof" and "190 proof." These labels signify the alcohol's purity level, measured by the "proof" system, where the number represents the percentage of alcohol content doubled.

200 Proof Ethanol: This term indicates the highest level of ethanol purity commercially available, equivalent to 100% alcohol by volume (ABV). With no water or other additives, 200 proof ethanol is used in applications requiring absolute alcohol, such as scientific research, pharmaceuticals, perfume, and commercial botanical extraction, and high-grade disinfectant and sanitization. Its complete lack of water makes it an excellent solvent for precise extractions and reactions where water could interfere with outcomes, most notably when extracting cannabis.

190 Proof Ethanol: 190 proof ethanol equates to 95% alcohol by volume (ABV), with the remaining 5% typically being water. This slight dilution makes 190 proof slightly less aggressive as a solvent compared to 200 proof, but it's still highly effective for a wide range of uses, including tinctures, culinary extracts, and as a base for hand sanitizers. The presence of water can make certain extractions more efficient, as some compounds dissolve better in a water-alcohol solution.

What does A.B.V. stand for?

ABV is an acronym for the term "Alcohol by Volume". ABV is a standard accepted method of representing how much actual alcohol (typically ethanol) is contained in a given volume of liquid. 

The Top 3 Most Common Types of "Alcohols"

  1. Methyl Alcohol (Methanol) - also known as "wood alcohol", available at the hardware store. often used as a solvent, antifreeze, fuel, and feedstock for the synthesis of plastics and other chemicals.
  2. Isopropyl Alcohol (Isopropanol) - also known as "rubbing alcohol", available at the market or pharmacy.  Often used as a disinfectant, cleaning agent, and dye or paint solvent.  
  3. Ethyl Alcohol (Ethanol) - also known as "grain alcohol", available at brick and mortar local liquor stores or online from reputable suppliers.  Ethyl alcohol is the only alcohol used as a beverage, in edible decorations, vanilla extracts, and flavorings. Often used as a single-ingredient perfume, disinfectant, thinner, or cleaning agent.

What is Denatured Alcohol?

Denatured alcohol is ethyl alcohol that has been mixed with additives to make it poisonous, bad-tasting, unsuitable for human consumption, and exempt from certain taxation and regulations applied to pure ethyl alcohol. These additives, or denaturants, which can include methanol, isopropyl alcohol, and denatonium benzoate, are introduced to prevent the recreational consumption of ethanol that is intended for industrial, cleaning, or fuel purposes.


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