/ Grades

The many different applications of ethanol require a broad range of grades and blends:


These grades depend on the feedstocks used to produce them, by the nature of the production process, and by their degree of purification. Ethanol used in the production of white alcohol brands, for example, would always be high-purity, fermentation alcohol, whereas ethanol for heating would be far less refined. Some ethanol uses require alcohol to be rectified through additional distillation, dehydrated or denatured.


  • Rectification involves a temperature controlled, additional distillation to increase the purity of the ethanol by further removal of ‘heads and tails’ as well as methanol (low-grade alcohol simultaneously extracted can be recovered to improve yields). The final pure product has strength of 96.2 to 96.6 % by volume, a top quality known as ‘surfin’.
  • Dehydration removes water to produce ethanol containing less than 1 % water for ‘absolute’ or ‘anhydrous’ alcohol for use in fuel blends, pharmaceutical and chemical applications. This degree of concentration cannot be achieved through distillation alone. Processes developed for this task include azeotropic distillation (where a third product is selected as a water-separating agent) or ‘hydroselector’ molecular sieves (where alcohol passes through sieves which retain the water molecules) and evaporation.
  • Denaturation prevents the use of ethanol for human consumption (exempting it from tax and excise duty). It is a process in which bitter or toxic substances are added, restricting the use of the resulting blend exclusively to industrial applications. The regulations and the types of additives vary from one country to another. In France, for example, ethanol may be denatured with the addition of DEP or Bitrex, affecting the taste but not the odour, so the ethanol can be used in cosmetics and fragrances.
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