< How is Alcohol Made? Ingredients in Beer, Wine & Spirits | I Quit Drinking

We can see that alcohol is being used in many parts of daily activity, be it for beverages or other reasons. To know the making process of alcohol, it is important to know about the origin of alcohol first. This article will later focus on the interesting making process of alcohol. By elaborating the process, later we can understand how alcoholic beverages have different taste one another and also different effect to the body. Before talking about the making process of alcohol, let’s get to know more about this substance.

What Is Alcohol?

Alcohol is originated from the word alkene + suffix –OL. It is organic compound with one or more hydroxyl (-OH). Each of the hydroxyl is attached to the carbon atom in alkyl chain, usually called hydrocarbon chain. So basically alcohol is the organic derivatives of water, but the hydrogen substance is being replaces by alkyl group. Most alcohols, both in liquid or solid form, appear colorless in room temperature. Different alcohol content will also affect other things, such as:

  • Density
  • Boiling points
  • Viscosities
  • Vapor pressures

Let’s see an example: ethanol. The alkyl chain of ethanol is CH2CH3. It is one example of alcohol in different form. According to the carbon of the alkyl chain is attached to the hydroxyl group, there are 3 classifications of alcohol: primary, secondary, and tertiary.

How to Give Name of Alcohol

So many kinds of alcohol, and there should be one consensus of how the alcohol is being named. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) meeting in Paris invented about this. During the meeting that was held in 1957, the rules are:

  • Pick the longest carbon chain name and replace the “-e” and replace it with suffix “-ol” (example: alkene à alcohol)
  • To indicate the position of hydroxyl group, give number to the longest carbon chain name
  • Use appropriate number and name the substituents

The history of alcohol used in daily life is dated back to 7000 until 6650 BC. According to the National Academy of Sciences, alcohol is being processed since around that age. It varies from one country to another, and the functions are also different.

The Making Process of Alcohol

Essentially, alcohol is formed through fermentation process. In alcoholic beverages, the chemical substance, which is ethanol, appeared after the fermentation. The basic formula of the making process of alcohol is:

Yeast/ Bacteria + Sugars = Ethanol & Carbon Dioxide

By seeing the formula above, it is concluded that yeast and bacteria react by breaking down the sugars in food to form ethanol and carbon dioxide. Yeast is single that eats the carbohydrates. Yeast has special enzyme involved in the alcohol-making process. But yeast can’t survive to alcohol. When the ethanol substance has reached 15 percent, yeast will die end the fermentation process is done.

Carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol (ethanol) are basically the basic of all alcoholic drinks. The way to get carbohydrates is different from one kind of drinks to another. The catalyst used is also has the role of the whole process. Let’s see the making process of alcohol specifically by these examples:


Beer is made from grains like wheat and barley, and also hops for the flavor twist. These substances are being brewed for some times until the color, clarity, and flavor suit the expectation. After that, the substances will be boiled to evaporate, and being cooled down. The concentrated alcohol will appear in the form of liquid.


Generally wine is made from grapes. Different grapes will also affect the taste. Not only grapes, the making process of alcohol, in this term are wine, also possibly involving other fruits and vegetables. The sugar from crushed grapes is fermented to be liquid form of wine.


Most spirit is made from fermented cereals like spouting barley and rye. In the making process of alcohol, spirit is a bit different. It requires distillation, an additional process when yeast can’t survive in high levels of alcohol. During distillation, the proportion of water is removed to achieve stronger concentration of alcohol.

It’s not just these 3 alcoholic beverages that we emphasized about the making process. There are still a lot of drinks with different ways to process. During distillation process, the ethanol has lower boiling point compared to water. And when the fermented drink is being boiled, ethanol will be vaporized at 78,5 degrees. The ethanol gas is being cooled down afterwards, and changed to a stronger concentration of liquid ethanol. After these making processes of alcohol, mostly the alcohol content will be around 40 percent, but it may vary from one kind to another. When the carbon dioxide substance is vaporizing, there will be a mix of ethanol and water. When there is no air, the ethanoic acid will appear, the same substance found in vinegar.

The length of fermentation will also influence the result. Like what we explained above, the fermented cereals like barley and rye will form beer or spirits. On the other side, fermented fruits will produce wine or cider. The kinds of ingredients also affect the overall concentration. Like grains for whiskey, sugarcane for rum, fruits and vegetables for vodka and gin.

Alcohol: Not Just A Drink

There are a lot of alcohol functions to daily life, not only for beverages. People have to be careful because most of the substances are poisonous and prohibited to be consumed. The examples are:

  • Isopropyl alcohol. Also called rubbing alcohol, it is usually used to sterilize hospital equipment as medical disinfectant.
  • Alcohol for industrial solvents
  • Alcohol as sweeteners in perfumery industry
  • Alcohol like methyl alcohol (methanol) for organic chemicals industry
  • Alcohol for toiletries, pharmaceuticals, and fuels
  • Formaldehyde alcohol for cleaning metals

It’s important to know that different alcohol may result in different concentrations of alcohol. The only substance that allowed to be consumed is ethyl alcohol (ethanol). By knowing the making process of alcohol, we can conclude that it relates heavily on fermentation procedure, and resulted in different flavor of alcoholic beverages.