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Table of Contents > Health Dictionary > Ethanol


A clear, colorless liquid with a faint ethereal odor and a burning taste, which melts at -114.1C, boils at 78.5C, and has a density of 0.789 g/mL at 20C. It is miscible with water and many organic liquids. Ethanol consumed in beer, wine, and distilled liquor is made by fermentation of sugars obtained from natural sources (grain, grapes, potatoes, sugar cane). Both the aroma of an alcoholic beverage and the smell noted on the breath of a person who has consumed it are due in part to the presence of congeners formed during brewing or fermentation and also due to added flavoring agents. Some alcohol used in industry is synthesized from ethylene or acetylene. Fermentation yields a maximum ethanol concentration of about 14%, above which fermentative enzymes are inhibited or destroyed. Higher alcohol concentrations in beverages are obtained either by addition of pure alcohol (fortified wines) or by distillation (whiskey, gin, vodka). The proof number of an alcoholic beverage represents tw
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