Culinary Solvent

Food Grade Alcohol 101

Food Grade Alcohol 101: Terms, Properties, and Uses

Not all alcohol is equal. The multitude of options available can often lead to confusion, especially when seeking the safest solution for skin and body. This page is your guide to understanding what sets food grade ethanol apart from other varieties like isopropyl and methanol. Discover why ethyl alcohol stands as the superior choice for your next craft, project, or recipe.

Ethanol vs Alcohol: Clarifying Terminology

Terms For Ethyl Alcohol

The term "ethanol" is a correct descriptor for products containing "ethyl alcohol". Ethyl Alcohol is the specific chemical name of the alcohol used in Culinary Solvent. Only ethyl alcohol is deemed safe for consumption. The following terms are also commonly used to refer to ethyl alcohol:

  • Anhydrous Alcohol: Denoting alcohol with no water content. Mechanically or chemically dehydrated to reach 200 proof.
  • Absolute Alcohol: Referring to alcohol with no more than 1% water content.
  • "Grain Alcohol" or "190 Proof Grain": Terms originating from the beverage industry, commonly used by those familiar with Everclear.

Terms for Additives: "Non-Denatured Alcohol" vs Denatured Alcohol

  • Non-Denatured Alcohol: Free from additives, safe for human consumption and topical application. Only non-denatured alcohol is used in Culinary Solvent products.
  • Denatured Alcohol: Contains toxic additives to prevent consumption. Avoid using it in projects intended for skin or internal use. Often cheaper due to the additives.

Never use denatured alcohol for applications involving consumption, ingestion, or topical application to the skin.  Read More About Denatured vs Nondenatured Alcohol products and uses.

Terms for Measuring: Proof vs ABV

  • ABV: Alcohol By Volume in a solution of water, stated as a percentage. The number always represents the ethyl alcohol content of the liquid
  • Proof: A term indicating alcohol strength, calculated by doubling the ABV (Alcohol By Volume).  "200 Proof" = 100% ethyl alcohol. "190 Proof" = 95% Alcohol and 5% water.
  • Wine Gallon: 128 fluid ounces of liquid. (If you buy a gallon of milk at the store, you are buying a "wine gallon" of milk...) 
  • Proof Gallon: One "wine gallon" of liquid at "100 proof" or 50% ABV (50% ethyl alcohol and 50% water). 
  • Why all of these different terms for measuring alcohol content? ABV and Proof are used to describe to the consumer what they are buying.  Proof gallons can be used to represent the actual amount of alcohol present in any volume of liquid from big tanks to 50ml nips.  For this reason, Federal Excise taxes are measured and reported in "Proof Gallons".  Read More: about "Wine Gallons" vs "Proof Gallons", including examples.

Terms for Raw Materials

Pure ethanol is a reflection of the raw ingredients used to make it.  Even at 100% alcohol, experienced noses can quickly determine the originating food stock used to create their non-denatured ethyl alcohol.  Different raw materials create vastly different noses inherent to the base alcohol used in your perfume recipe.  Choosing the right raw material can result in a complimentary fragrance experience, while the wrong choice can set the whole thing askew.

Through our experience over the last 10 years working with pure food grade ethanol, we have come to recognize the following varieties of ethanol by their aroma profiles:

  • Alcohol from Cane - As in sugarcane, the alcohol produced possesses a strong, close to burnt/very toasted notes of molasses, brown sugar, hard caramel. Blends well with vanillas or spicy herbs, present when looked for.  Most popular form of "value-priced" organic spirits.
  • Alcohol from Grape - Easy to recognize. Abundant fragrant flora aromas obtained after juicing for wine from the rich grape skins & pulp, earthy not sweet. Prominent odor, even with layers applied.  Available in organic.
  • Alcohol from Wheat - Crisp, spicy, reliably consistent aroma profile when sourced from different reputable distillers.  Wheat alcohol's use in the beverage industry, coupled with handling requirements that differ from corn and other grain, typically price wheat alcohol higher than other raw materials.
  • Alcohol from Corn - Naturally the most neutral aroma, taste, and character profile of all the alcohol options available for perfumers.  Corn ethanol is renowned for its ability to create a supremely pure base ethanol with very little odor naturally.  Low natural odor means corn ethanol is the best for hiding behind the delicate botanicals or fragrance oils you choose to incorporate into your perfume.  Corn ethanol is naturally gluten free, and even available made with Certified Organic Non-GMO Corn.

Chemical Properties of Ethyl Alcohol

  1. Chemical Formula: Ethyl alcohol's chemical formula is 25. This represents two carbon atoms, six hydrogen atoms, and one oxygen atom.

  2. Polarity: Ethanol is a polar solvent, which means it can dissolve both polar and certain non-polar substances. This property is vital in extractions and in the formation of solutions with a wide range of compounds.

  3. Boiling Point: Ethyl alcohol has a boiling point of 78.37°C (173.1°F). This relatively low boiling point makes it easy to remove from solutions through evaporation, which is especially useful in distillations and certain cooking techniques.

  4. Flammability: Ethanol is highly flammable. It can be ignited easily and burns with a blue flame. This property is the basis for its use in certain culinary presentations like flambéing.

  5. Density: Ethanol is less dense than water. Its density is about 0.789 g/cm^3 at 20°C.

  6. Miscibility: Ethanol is miscible with water in all proportions. This complete solubility is useful in mixology (creating cocktails) and in making tinctures where a range of alcohol-water concentrations might be desired.

  7. Vapor Pressure: Ethanol has a high vapor pressure, which means it evaporates quickly when exposed to air. This characteristic is beneficial for processes requiring rapid drying.

  8. Hydrophilic Nature: Ethanol is hydrophilic, meaning it has an affinity for water. This makes it a good dehydrating agent for foods and a useful drying agent in laboratories.

  9. Toxicity: While ethyl alcohol is consumable and is the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, it can be toxic in large amounts. Its purity, when referred to as "food grade," means that it doesn't contain harmful impurities or additives.

  10. Reactivity: Ethanol can react with various inorganic and organic compounds, making it suitable for numerous chemical reactions. However, in its pure form and under standard conditions, it's generally stable.

  11. Preservative Qualities: Due to its ability to denature proteins and lipids, ethanol can act as a preservative by inhibiting the growth of microorganisms. This property is why it's often used in preserving biological specimens and in herbal tinctures.

Uses for Food Grade Alcohol

There are so many uses for pure food grade alcohol from!  Click the use below for more information and blog posts about the topic.

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