Addictions

How is alcohol made?
Answered by Science Channel
  • Science Channel

    Science Channel

  1. People in the U.S. might drink less alcohol than adults in other developed nations, but they still manage to take in an average of about 318 ounces (9.4 liters) a year. That's roughly equivalent to 31 glasses of wine [source: Daily Mail]. Whether your drink of choice is beer, wine or a spirit, it begins with a common ingredient: yeast. A fermentation process produces the alcohol and works best in the absence of oxygen [source: University of Hawaii]. Alcohol is used for other purposes, too, and is made one of several ways:

    • Fermenting mixtures of grain or fruit, which is sometimes followed by distillation, results in alcohol suitable for drinking. Beer is made by fermenting grains, and gin, rum, vodka and whiskey are distilled.
    • Industrial alcohol is produced by chemically modifying fossil fuels like coal, natural gas or oil.
    • Methanol or wood alcohol is produced by combining hydrogen and carbon monoxide.

    In essence, wine really is fermented grape juice. Scientists have dated grapes on Earth as far back as the Paleolithic era, and ancients soon figured out how to turn grapes to wine to appreciate the effects the wines had on their bodies. Many ancient cultures associated gods with wine because of the pleasure drinking the beverage gave their people [source: Global Wine Industry].

    Pure alcohol isn't sold for drinking because it only takes a few ounces of pure alcohol to raise a person's blood alcohol concentration to a deadly level. Your favorite alcoholic beverage has much less than pure alcohol, generally the following percentage:

    • Beer has between 4 and 6 percent alcohol.
    • Wine contains between 7 and 15 percent alcohol.
    • Champagne has between 8 and 14 percent alcohol.
    • Distilled spirits such as gin, rum, vodka and whiskey have between 40 and 95 percent alcohol.

    It's not known who invented alcohol specifically. The Romans and Egyptians certainly get some credit for their ancient trade of wine and beer, but they are not the only ancient civilizations to record alcohol production and consumption. Regardless, production of alcohol today occurs on a large scale and is big business.

    More answers from Science Channel »



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