Your First Home Brew
You must be of legal drinking age before making your own alcohol. Read out disclaimer for more information
Homebrewing can be very daunting. You’ll hear a lot of foreign sounding vocab and be faced with equipment that can cost thousands of dollars. This recipe does not require any specialized equipment or knowledge and is practically failure-proof. During the process, you’ll learn the basic steps of brewing, have fun, and end up with a lot of strong wine. That’s why we recommend you start here before moving on to more expensive and complicated techniques.
Think about it like this – if you are going fishing for the first time, it probably does not make sense to obsess over trying to catch a specific type of fish. Rather, you want to cast a line and see what bites. As you get more experience with the hobby, you’ll start paying attention to different lures, rods, and methods of fishing in order to catch bigger and better fish. With this recipe, we are just dropping a cane pole in the local watering hole. You won’t catch a bluefin, but it’ll be a cheap and fun introduction into the principles of home brewing.
Don’t worry, it’ll also get you drunk!
What You’ll Need
- One or more gallon(s) of your favorite %100 fruit juices (I recommend apple)
- Granulated sugar (2 cups/gallon)
- Packet of baker’s yeast
- Raisins/dates (just a handful)
Any type of fruit juice will work. Buy the one or half gallon plastic jugs with a screw top. I’ve had the most consistent results with apple, but have also used grape, cranberry, and pomegranate. Do not choose diet or low-sugar versions. The yeast converts the sugar into alcohol, so the more sugar, the better. Avoid juices that contain sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate as those preservatives interfere with fermentation.
If you have brewer’s yeast, you can obviously use that, but regular baker’s yeast works fine and can be picked up at your grocery store. Avoid the little cans of “nutritional” brewer’s yeast you find at the grocery store however, as that yeast is inactive and won’t work.
- Large measuring cup
- Small saucepan
- Tin foil
This recipe minimizes the need for sterilization, but it still requires some. If you have a food grade sterilizer like Star-San, use that, if not thoroughly washing all utensils with soap and water will work. I also like to keep a pot of boiling water to quickly sterilize smaller items, such as the tinfoil (more on that later).
These are the only things that should touch any of your ingredients after they leave their packaging, make sure you keep unnecessary contact to a minimum.
1. If your juice is refrigerated, let it come up to room temperature.
2. Wash your hands and any supplies or utensils that will touch anything that goes into your wine. I’m repeating this for a reason – there is nothing worse than waiting for your wine to ferment only to discover that it has turned into rancid vinegar.
3. Take your handful of raisins or dates and put it in a small saucepan. Add about a 1/2 of water and bring to a boil. Let simmer for about 15 minutes. Next, take them off the heat and mash with a fork until it becomes a slurry. Set this aside for now. This will be added to the wine to provide some needed nutrients to the yeast to ensure it ferments.
4. Crack open your room-temperature jug of fruit juice. Note: Do not breath in it, touch the lip of it, or leave it open unnecessarily.The benefit of using the plastic jugs of juice is that they are already sanitized, which saves you a lot of work. Don’t undo this work by contaminating the juice.
5. Pour out some juice so that the top 4 inches or so are empty. This will leave room for the sugar and prevent the wine from bubbling over.
6. Using your clean funnel, pour in your sugar, 2 cups per gallon. If you are using granulated sugar, it may take some time to pour.
7. Screw the cap back on and shake your sugar until completely dissolved. This may take several minutes of vigorous shaking depending on the type of juice and sugar.
8. After the sugar is dissolved, pour the liquid from your raisin slurry into the jug. It’s fine if some raisins or dates slip in.
9. Next, pour in the contents of your yeast packet. Screw the lid back on and shake vigorously for a minute or two.
10. Time to make an airlock. Airlocks are cheap and can be bought for a couple bucks off amazon, but in the spirit of this recipe, we will make one out of tinfoil. Rip off a little square of tinfoil off, about 3×3 inches, and sanitize it, either by washing it or dipping it in some boiling water. Now simply crimp it over the opening of the jug. This is not an airlock per se, as air can enter your container, but it will prevent any airborne particles from flowing or falling into your wine.
Another DIY airlock method is to put an non-lubricated, unused condom over the top of the jug. Check on your wine every few hours, and once the condom inflates partly, poke it with a pin. The pressure of carbon dioxide leaving the wine will prevent anything from entering the hole. However, this method is a lot more hassle than its worth, and if you forget about it, it can lead to a mess. It’s also a waste of a perfectly good condom.
11. Put your wine in a warm, dark place to let it ferment. After several hours you should start to tiny bubbles in the wine. This is the yeast turning sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Let it sit for a couple weeks or until you do not see or hear any bubbles being formed. Your wine is now read to be drank!
Now that you have wine:
The ABV will vary based on the type of juice you chose, how long you let it sit, and how much sugar you added, but you should expect something in the 8-12% range.
There will be sediment on the bottom, don’t drink this as it tastes pretty nasty. Consider pouring your wine into another container to remove the sediment.
It will be cloudy. That’s fine, it will still taste pretty good. As you get more advanced, you can start adding processes to clarify the wine.
Your wine will continue to slowly ferment. Make sure to “burp” the wine every so often to let out extra gas and put it in the fridge to slow down the fermentation. This should also be motivation to drink the wine.