From my googling, beer tends to contain around 16mg/L of methanol. While for brandy, typical methanol content is around 1000mg/L (give or take a factor of 3, depending) The distillation that brandy goes through attempts to concentrate ethanol and remove methanol, yet we end up with an 8x worse methanol-to-ethanol ratio.

  • $\begingroup$ If they did distillation to decrease the ratio, the brandy would have decreased ratio, compared to the distilled fermented solution. Note that different sources have different ratios after fermentation. $\endgroup$
    – Poutnik
    Aug 5, 2023 at 8:40
  • $\begingroup$ There is a lot of water in beer. $\endgroup$ Aug 5, 2023 at 10:33
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    $\begingroup$ Different raw materials yield different amounts of methanol upon fermentation, see e.g. pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acsfoodscitech.1c00025 $\endgroup$
    – Karsten
    Aug 5, 2023 at 13:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Karsten Very interesting! It's the pectin... $\endgroup$
    – MWB
    Aug 5, 2023 at 20:49
  • $\begingroup$ Brandy is made from wine or other fermented fruits. You can also distill beer (German chat), which usually has less methanol unless a home-brewer messes up. $\endgroup$
    – Karsten
    Aug 5, 2023 at 22:14

1 Answer 1


You state, "The distillation that brandy goes through attempts to concentrate ethanol and remove methanol." AFAIK, the intent of distillation is to concentrate ethanol only.

However, the statistics you quote are misleading for a few reasons.

  1. Brandy is not generally distilled beer, but rather from wine. Your comparing apples and oranges... well, beer and brandy. Would it not be better to compare alcohols in wines and brandies? Also, pick the same type of wine and brandy, e.g., plum wine vs. slivovitz.

  2. Water is removed by distillation, leaving a higher percentage of ethanol, so the ratios you quote are misleading: comparing beer, about 4%-6% ethanol with brandy, about 40%-60% ethanol, one should measure concentration based on the amount of alcohol in the beverage, rather than on the total volume. That would make the beer about 0.4 g/L methanol:ethanol, and the brandy about 2 g/L, based on the statistics you gave for the amount of methanol. What is the source of those statistics?

  • $\begingroup$ both alcohols are lowerboiling than water distillation at a low 50-60 proof is designed to add water to the distillate not remove it. Distillation removes alcohol from the wine together with some flavoring chemicals probably by steam distillation. Since this necessitates an inefficient distillation process discarding the first fractions would probably remove more flavorings than methanol. $\endgroup$
    – jimchmst
    Aug 20, 2023 at 2:49

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