What Is Grain Alcohol?
January 7, 2020
Even if you’re a regular drinker, you might not be sure what grain alcohol is.
At 95% alcohol, this is certainly not a social drink to enjoy with a restaurant meal. If you’re buying grain alcohol, you’ve got one thing only in mind and that’s getting obliterated.
Since alcohol is such a common drink in the US with over 86% of Americans drinking at some point in their life, it pays to be aware of the dangers associated with this type of intensely pure alcohol.
So, before we examine some of the dangerous consequences of drinking too much grain alcohol, what is it exactly besides super-strong?
What Is Grain Alcohol?
Grain alcohol is a clear liquid with has no color, taste, or smell.
Despite having no taste, the aftertaste is so harsh and burning that it typically induces coughing.
Grain alcohol is also known as rectified spirit or neutral spirit.
Types of alcohol are broadly divided as follows:
- Hard liquor
These drinks are all made from fermenting grain or fruit. Grain alcohol is pure alcohol and it’s made from fermented grains.
When it’s made in the US, grain alcohol is normally made from corn. That said, the type of grain is irrelevant since it’s not those characteristics you’re looking for in the finished product.
A neutral spirit like grain alcohol can be produced from any of the following:
- Fermented plant materials
- Sugar beets
In its neat form, grain alcohol contains a minimum of 95% ABV (alcohol by volume). This equates to 190 US proof.
How Is Grain Alcohol Produced?
Grain alcohol is produced using a continuous still method. This is the cheapest and easiest method.
You can only produce alcohol up to 96% using distillation alone and it’s hard to maintain it beyond that level. Alcohol only attracts water to the point of equilibrium which occurs at around 96%.
Grain alcohol, then, is produced at the farthest reaches of what’s possible from distillation.
How Is Grain Alcohol Used?
The harsh nature of grain alcohol means it’s usually mixed with other drinks to take the edge off. Even then, it’s not normally rolled out to mix up drinks of any discernible quality. Think cheap punch at college in huge quantities.
Indeed, the manufacturer of Everclear states that you should view the drink as “an unfinished ingredient” rather than drinking it in undiluted form. The manufacturer goes further by suggesting you water the drink down so it’s no more dangerous than regular hard liquor. This seems like little more than a baseless disclaimer. After all, who would seek out alcohol produced purely for it’s remarkable alcohol content and then water it down?
Grain alcohol is also frequently used to make other alcoholic drinks like liqueurs. It’s also used as a base for cheap whiskey, especially in Canada.
If you’re tempted to drink grain alcohol, keep this image in mind…
Even when diluted with water 3:1, grain alcohol makes a highly effective disinfectant. Is that really what you want to be pouring down your throat?
Brands of Grain Alcohol in the US
If you’re looking for grain alcohol – and we hope you’re not! – there are 3 major brands:
- Golden Grain
Kittling Ridge Ltd from Canada makes Alcohol-95, unsurprisingly weighing in at a colossal 95% alcohol by volume, the equivalent of 190 proof.
Everclear from Luxco is perhaps the leading grain alcohol and comes in at 95% or 190 proof or a lighter 151 proof version.
Banned in several US states for its super-high alcohol content. To put it into clear perspective, Everclear is twice as potent as the strongest mainstream hard liquor.
Also manufactured by Luxco, Golden Grain is only available in a single 95% ABV version.
Why Is Grain Alcohol Dangerous?
There’s no element of surprise that the danger of Everclear and other types of grain alcohol lies in the outlandish alcohol content. A single shot of this type of liquor delivers more than double the alcohol content of a standard drink.
Even drinking a single shot of 190 proof alcohol can spike your BAC (blood alcohol concentration) levels. This can push your BAC levels between 0.06% and 0.09%. In this range, you might find your judgment and self-control impaired. Once BAC levels hit 0.08%, you’re over the legal limit for driving.
Aside from the immediate consequences of lowered inhibitions, continuing to drink grain alcohol puts you in clear danger of alcohol poisoning.
If you’re with a group of people all drinking heavily and grain alcohol is out to play, you should be vigilant for any signs of alcohol poisoning.
Look out for any of the following symptoms:
- Abnormal breathing
- Pale skin or blue-tinged skin
- The individual passes out
- The person is unresponsive but still conscious
- Very slow breathing
Even when the person stops drinking, blood alcohol concentration levels often continue to soar for more than 30 minutes. This can compound symptoms.
In serious cases of alcohol poisoning, breathing can stop completely. The person could also choke on their own vomit or even suffer a heart attack so don’t underestimate the gravity of the situation if you feel someone could be suffering from alcohol poisoning.
If you think someone in your group is suffering from alcohol poisoning, call an ambulance immediately.
While you’re waiting for medical assistance, try to do the following:
- Keep the person awake
- Try to keep the person in a sitting position
- Give them water if they’re able to keep it down
- Do not give the person coffee
- Avoid trying to make them walk around
- Don’t get the person to take a cold shower
- Ensure they drink no more alcohol
We look at how to deal with alcohol poisoning in more detail right here.
Other Uses For Grain Alcohol
If you’ve left the days of vats filled with cheap, shoddy punch long behind you, it should now be quite clear that drinking grain alcohol is inadvisable and potentially lethal. At best, you’ll end up getting intoxicated much more rapidly with a heightened risk of developing alcohol poisoning.
Grain alcohol can also be used for a surprising range of household tasks, though.
- Disinfect wounds: Everclear and other grain alcohol makes a highly efficient disinfectant. You can use any kind of liquor to sterilize wounds but using high-proof grain alcohol is the most effective way to kill bacteria. You should take care to also rinse your wound with water and to seek medical attention if necessary
- Multipurpose cleaner: Do you frequently find your laptop or phone screen are smeared with fingerprints and dust? If so, pop a few drops of grain alcohol onto a cotton pad and you’ll slice through all the grime and debris. The solution works equally well for cleaning windows. As the alcohol evaporates rapidly, your home won’t smell like a brewery either
- Air freshener: You can make your own air freshener by pouring some grain alcohol into a bottle along with a few drops of your favorite essential oils
- Bug killer: In the same way it attacks bacteria, so grain alcohol can be used to fight back against bugs and creepy-crawlies. Mix up some grain alcohol with equal parts of water and you’ll blitz any bugs that worm their way inside your home
- Deodorant: Sidestep the enormous number of additives in a store-bought stick deodorant and make your own with grain alcohol. Mix in a few drops of essential oil for a subtle scent
If you’ve got a bottle of Everclear at home, you’re much better placed using it around the household as above instead of drinking. Do yourself a favor and leave this stuff alone.
What To Do Next
Are you concerned about binge drinking or drinking too much strong alcohol to the extent it’s starting to affect your day-to-day life? If so, you might have a problem and you could benefit from considering recovery.
Get in touch with here at Landmark Recovery on 888-448-0302. We can help in a variety of ways whether you need medical detox followed by a full residential rehab program or intensive outpatient therapy. You should bear in mind that if you’ve been consuming excessive amounts of grain alcohol, you’re quite likely to suffer from serious withdrawal symptoms so you’re better off to seek help than to suddenly discontinue use.
Just give us a call if you’re worried about grain alcohol or any other aspect of drinking. Our admissions team is here to help provide you with the