Now that everyone here is of legal drinking age and is simply curious. Don’t let the title of this article fool you, At the end of this process I came out with 1 gallon of wine that was alcoholic, it just didn’t turn out the way I had planned. So I sit here writing this article as a note for next time and to give all of you out that would like to try this process a head start.
In order to set up this process, you will need the following equipment. For the beginning of the process you will need; A glass fermentation jar, I use a 1-gallon cider jug I got from the grocery store, but you can also get larger more professional setups like carboys that are about 6 gallons.
A stopper for the top of your fermentation jar and an airlock, this will allow the gas from the fermentation to leave your container without allowing air back in. air and bacteria are your number one enemies when trying to make alcohol of any kind.
A sterilizer, this is required. You can get no rinse sanitizers from your local homebrew store and you cant make alcohol properly if your equipment is dirty or has been introduced to bacteria, make sure this is available when you start the process.
A funnel will help reduce the mess.
A hydrometer, one that is meant for non-distilled alcohol.
The yeast you intend to use, I normally use champagne yeast because it will yield the highest alcohol content. However, you can get very specific with your yeast depending on what you’re making. 1 package of the yeast will usually do up to 5 gallons, if you’re like me and are using a container that is nowhere near that size I usually split mine in two so I can have two experiments going at once or just to save on the resource.
You will also need sugar, regular white sugar is perfect. Stay away from unnatural or uncommon sweeteners at this stage as yeast can have a hard time digesting these. At this point, it is best to use regular white sugar.
Now for the fun stuff. What you’re going to add as your wine base. I was going for a simple experiment with my choices, I just wanted to see how cheaply I could make wine. So my choices were juice concentrate I got on sale. When using the juice concentrate it is best to use 2 cans per gallon, with only using a gallon jug myself this was simple math (few!). This is also the ingredient that will have the most effect on your taste outcome. In the future, I will try this with a standard store-bought kit as a base and if I choose to make my own concoction again I will be using juices that are not from concentrate. Previously I attempted to make hard cider that was a big hit and the cider base I used was from a local orchard, just about as natural as you can get, but I’ll get into that in another post.
Now for putting it all together, after you have sterilized your work area and equipment of course. Always make sure to follow the instructions on your packaging! I may have used different ingredients and while the process is still the same, some steps may take longer or shorter amounts of time. I am going to tell you what I did so you can see where I think I went wrong and how we can make it better for next time.
What I did
After Sterilizing my equipment and counters, I used my funnel to add the juice concentrate to the 1-gallon jug. After that I added the water to complete the juice mixture and gave the jug a swirl, just to make sure everything was all mixed. At this point, I started my yeast which takes 15 mins in 45-55 degree water. This is where I think I went wrong on this batch. I set my yeast up but at the start of the 15 mins it was just 45 degrees, I don’t think my water was hot enough to fully activate the yeast, so lesson learned for next time.
After starting the yeast, this is where we get a little science but don’t worry if I can do it so can you! I used my hydrometer to check the specific gravity of the juice mixture. On my hydrometer it is laid out very simply where it will tell you right on the hydrometer the potential alcohol in a percentage, some hydrometers require math, but in my experience, math and alcohol shouldn’t mix. At this point my potential alcohol was so low it didn’t even register on the hydrometer! So how do we fix that…? By adding our final ingredient, sugar! This part of the process can take some time if you are going for a specific alcohol content like wine, you’re looking for between 10-13% alcohol, so when your hydrometer reads a big fat 0% you have to load that sucker up! Just don’t let your kids see this part because it may start a “why can you have so much sugar” argument and that’s a conversation, knowing my fiance’s clever mind, that my future kids will win. When adding your sugar it is important to stir in as much of it as you can before taking a new hydrometer reading over wise you’ll have an inaccurate reading either from the hydrometer sitting in liquid that isn’t saturated with the sugar or if your in a small jug like I was, your hydrometer will just be sitting on a mountain of sugar and can’t sink into the solution.
At this point my yeast was ready and my potential alcohol was at about 11%, so I added my yeast, and this is totally optional but I have always also added a TBS of yeast nutrient as well just to give the yeast a helping hand. In this failed wine attempt I think this is the only reason the juice fermented at all. Then I gave the jug one last good mix and set it in a room temperature dark space where it wouldn’t be bothered for 2 weeks. In our case, that was our media room, but a guest bathroom, storage room or guest bedroom will do just as well. As long as it will not get any sunlight and will not go below 70 degrees or above 78 degrees your good to go! After the two weeks is up its time to bottle and find out if your experiment worked, for this one this was a disappointing day. After retrieving our basement wine, sterilizing our bottles, workspace, and equipment. A friend and I tested the end result and much to my disappointment the juice concentrate only came out to be 5% alcohol :(.
Now, this isn’t a total failure. The outcome of our experiment technically worked, I was able to make alcohol out of a juice concentrate. For about a grand total of 5$, I was able to get just shy of 1 gallon of alcohol or slightly over 3 large bottles. Not bad, but I don’t think I will be bringing these bottles out to show off to friends and family. This will be more of a cocktail ingredient I think. The final product was only 5% but still very juicy and my friend and I decided it would be better with a clear distilled alcohol and some sparkling water than a glass with dinner.
Will I do this again?
Absolutely! I’m not sure where you’re reading this from but I can’t find a 1.5 litre of any kind of alcohol in the true north for less than the cost to make 3 large bottles! If I’m wrong and someone out there can point me in the direction of something that exceeds what I was able to make please let me know!
For next time I will have to remember to cook the yeast better and I think now that I have a stock of juice concentrate mix I will be moving on to the store bought homebrew box to tell the difference, and then back to what I can make from natural juices. My end goal with this process will be to be able to use the fruits and sweet things we can grow on our future homestead to make up a true north wine. I also hope that my future tries with this experiment will also give me an increasing better product that I can eventually share with my friends and family!
If they dare ;P