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Choosing the right grain for your ethanol products

3 minutes
Alexandre Marland

Choosing the right grain for your ethanol products

Grain alcohol isn’t just grain alcohol; there are various types of grains globally, many of them used in ethanol production. Each grain type inhibits different qualities that are more or less favourable for certain products and applications, meaning that the choice of grain type that is distilled into ethanol is of utmost importance. Read on to find out more about the different grain alcohol types, their characteristics and how they are used in various sectors.


Corn is a very popular crop for ethanol production and it is no surprise: its high starch content makes it an efficient source of ethanol compared to other raw materials that have a lower carbohydrate content. Commonly used in the United States, its biggest application lies in fuel ethanol. However, corn ethanol is also used traditionally in bourbon whiskey and in solvents for pharmaceutical and personal care industries.


Wheat has a long-standing history of being used as a grain in ethanol. It is prevalent in Europe, where it can be grown in various climates and soil types. Compared to other grain alcohols, wheat has a higher purity, requiring a less complex fermentation and distillation process. This makes it perfect for the creation of high-quality vodka, as well as for the use in personal care and cosmetics.

If you want to know more about wheat alcohol’s characteristics and popularity, check out our blog post about the reason for its high popularity:

More about wheat ethanol


Barley is a very commonly used grain in the beverage industry. Its distinct flavour profile gives special character to drinks such as beer and whiskey, either in malted or non-malted form. While it can be found in other applications such as solvents, its reign over the beverage industry is undeniable.


Although rye is a less commonly used grain in ethanol production, it has its unmissable place in the production of rye whiskey: Rye ethanol has a unique flavour and aroma that is often described as spicy or peppery, making it a popular choice for unique beverages.


Rice alcohol is known for its typical flavor and aroma, which is often described as slightly sweet and floral. Itl is commonly used in countries like Japan, China, and Korea, where it is produced into traditional alcoholic beverages like sake, soju, and baijiu. Another, more internationally common, use of rice ethanol is the production of vinegar, as well as in the manufacturing of cosmetics and personal care products.

Endless possibilities with grain ethanol

In addition to these types of grain ethanol, there are also various blends and mixtures. For example, some ethanol producers may blend corn and wheat ethanol to create a higher quality and more consistent product. Others may blend different types of grain ethanol to create a product that is tailored to specific applications.

As previously stated: grain alcohol isn’t just grain alcohol. Depending on the final product and the qualities it needs to exhibit, manufacturers have to decide on the proper grain type(s) to either create the desired flavour profile for beverages or comply with industry quality and standards. The choice of grain may also be strongly influenced by geography or cultural ties, such as is the case with wheat and corn in Europe and the United States respectively.