Proofing your Moonshine – Shake Test, Gun Powder Test, Hydrometer Test Explained

Proofing moonshine is an important part of the process of making it. There are several different methods used to proof moonshine In this article I’ll discuss each method separately and you can decide which method you like the best.

Proofing Moonshine – By The Shake TestShake Test Proofing Moonshine

You may have seen the shake test on TV or heard of it from your father. It’s an old school technique to test the proof of moonshine and works well if you have the experience. If your just starting out I’d suggest you try this method and then move on to testing it with a Hydrometer, see just how close you were to predicting the Proof of your Brew.

Shake Test Instructions:

Step 1 – Shake up the bottle of Moonshine

Step 2 – Watch how fast bubbles dissipate at this point your checking the “bead”

  • Remember: The faster the bubbles disappear the higher the content of alcohol. For example a bottle of 80 proof Moonshine when shaken will have small bubbles that will disappear after several seconds. Where as a bottle of 180 proof Moonshine will have large bubbles that will disappear instantly.  You’ll obviously have to practice the Shake test many times before you can accurately predict the Proof of Moonshine.

Proofing Moonshine – Gun Powder Test

Proofing moonshine with Gunpowder started with the British Navy, sailors figured out if they mixed gunpowder and moonshine  it would ignite only if it was of a certain proof. Hence why at 100 proof gunpowder and alcohol mixed together will ignite. This is the basis of the proofing system the United Kingdom used to date. At 100 proof equals 57.1% ethanol by volume. Anything below 100 proof or 57.1% abv will not allow the gunpowder to ignite.


  • Gunpowder
  • Lighter
  • 3 Small bowls
  • Moonshine, Everclear, Bottle of 40 % rum or vodka


  1. Add 1 sp of gunpowder to each bowl
  2. Add 10 drops of Moonshine to one bowl, 10 drops of Everclear to another bowl and 10 drops of Rum 40% abv to another bowl
  3. Stir each bowl up
  4. Try to light each on fire.

Here’s a video that will show you the results if you don’t want to try it yourself


Proofing Moonshine – Hydrometer Test

Most Home distillers today use an alcohol hydrometer to proof their moonshine. Hydrometers are extremely easy and precise to use.

How does a Hydrometer Work ?

A hydrometer measures the density of moonshine to the density of water and is able to tell you the exact alcohol content in your shine.

How do I measure the Alcohol Content In Moonshine with a Hydrometer?

You’ll need the following:

  • Proofing Hydrometer – If you want to save money Amazon has them for around $5  usually around $15 at your local brew shop.
  • Graduated Cylinder –  If your seriously thinking of making this your hobby pick up a graduated cylinder their cheap and worth every penny.  If you don’t have one for now any long slender container will work.
  • Moonshine

Step 1 – Fill Graduated cylinder with moonshine 3/4 full

Step 2 – Drop the Proofing Hydrometer into the Graduated Cylinder.

Step 3 – Once the Hydrometer is floating in the Moonshine you should be able to read the proof off the scale on the side of the Hydrometer

Note: The temperature of the Moonshine will affect the reading on the hydrometer by as much as 20% depending on the temperature. To Correct for temperature use the following Calculator/ Cart.

Alcohol Hydrometer Temperature Correction Calculator

This calculator can be used in place of the correction tables used to calculate fluctuations in hydrometer readings due to temperature.Best practice is to cool down the distillate to 20°C And measure the alcohol strength to get the most accurate reading. At 20 C you don’t need the correction Chart.

To Use The Calculator Here Is An Example: Temperature of distillate ( Moonshine ) is 32 C, Reading from Alcohol Hydrometer is 160 proof. Actual proof of moonshine when corrected to 20 C is 156.4. I’ve been having some issues with the calculator not working for some people if it’s not working for you head over to

Enter the temperature of the distillate:
Enter the value the alcoholmeter shows:
for corrected mash strength:

Common Questions

What is the difference between ABV and Proof?

(ABV) Alcohol by volume is a standard measure of how much alcohol is contained in an alcoholic beverage. Alcohol proof in the United States is defined as twice the percentage of alcohol by volume. For Example If moonshine has a proof of 160, it contains 80% alcohol by volume.

Are There Different Types of Hydrometers?

Yes there are two types of Hydrometers used in Distilling. They are a Proofing Hydrometer and a Brewing Hydrometer

What is A Brewing Hydrometer used for ?

A brewing hydrometer is used when making a whiskey, corn or fruit mash. To measure the specific gravity before and after fermentation. By doing this it allows you to measure the amount of alcohol present in the Mash after fermentation.

What Is the Difference Between a Brewing Hydrometer and an Alcohol (Proofing) Hydrometer?

Alcohol Hydrometers are used for proofing pure spirits after they have been distilled. Brewing hydrometers are used for testing potential alcohol content in a Mash.

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