This is an article orginally published in 2000 on the first version of Andresworld.co.uk. It has been posted here for prosperity and as a permanent record before the old site is deleted and the new site goes live.
Hi, my name is Andrew Jackson and I am 15 years old. As you can imagine, I find it quite hard to get my hands on what most teenagers crave for a good night out, and that is ALCOHOL. Yes that’s it booze, drink, whatever you want to call it.
So what do you do when there are no older brothers or sisters or friends 4 that matter that can buy you the ‘stuff’, u make it yourself. This is what this guide is going to try and help you do.
I have to warn you that if making alcohol or making it stronger by means of distillation or freezing is illegal in your country or state then use this guide for entertainment purposes only, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO MAKE THE ALCOHOL.
First of all I shall be giving you a little biology lesson. To make alcohol we need an organism called yeast. Yeast is an organism which converts sugar (glucose) into alcohol (ethanol). Alcohol is a bi-product of an uncompleted reaction. Normally yeast would multiply by feeding on oxygen and sugar, but when yeast is deprived of oxygen this reaction cannot take place so instead of multiplying the yeast does something different. It produces alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Now I don’t know whether you know this but the reason that when you drink alcohol you get drunk because it is the side effects of a poison, that’s right alcohol is a poison. So as you can imagine the yeast doesn’t like a poison around in the same place as it. So as much as we would like to have 50% proof brew, we cant, your yeast will get to the point where it kicks the bucket because it has produced too much of this poison.
Yeast like any other fungi or bacteria needs certain conditions to multiply or produce alcohol. These organisms like moist, warm, conditions with plenty of oxygen (when multiplying). We obviously do not want oxygen so the conditions we want for the yeast to produce alcohol are:-
1. Warmth, around 30-40 degrees Celsius.
2. Moisture, not a problem because the yeast is going to be in a liquid.
3. No Oxygen, so we will use an air lock when brewing.
So you now know what you need for the yeast to prosper and make lots of lovely alcohol. You now nee to know how to make the darned stuff. Well its simple really once you get the equipment its relatively cheap, the only thing you need a lot of is patience and time.
To make alcohol you need a container known as a demi-jon. This is normally glass, and holds a gallon of liquid, about 4.5 litres. It is like a large fat glass which tapers off, after around 50cm to a round hole at the top about an inch in diameter. Sometimes at the spout it has two little handles that look like ears.
At the top of the demi-jon in the spout there needs to be a water/air lock. This is a device that will let the carbon dioxide from the reaction escape but wont let any bacteria get into the demi-jon. This is fixed in by a cork which will be about an inch in diameter.
To keep clean all of this stuff you will need a disinfecting agent. This can be picked up easily from the shop you get the rest of the stuff, it is quite expensive but very important. What you have to remember is that as well as being the perfect conditions for yeast it is also good for other nasty bacteria that wont make the brew taste that good or do to much good to you.
Once your brew is done you will be left with nice brew and skanky sediment so to get the brew we need a device which is really just a piece of plastic tubing about a centimetre in diameter. You can get some which have taps on the end, but that’s not really necessary. See later or how to use this device.
When preparing the brew you will need an old saucepan, a funnel, a hob, and something for stirring and adding stuff. Also for the yeast you will need a container with a screw top. Also when I make my brew after about a week I add some anti “pectin haze” which clears the brew of cloudy stuff – just go to the shop and read the back of the bottles!!
Ingredients you will need are:-
1 bag of caster sugar (1kg)
1 packet of dried yeast
2-3 litres of cordial (squash)
Fruit of your flavour
Water (tap will do)
For this guide I will be making lemon home brew for which I will use 6-8 lemons and 2 litres of lemon cordial. Try to avoid using orange juice from cartons, or any other juice. There is a nasty after taste when you drink that stuff – very yeasty.
The yeast I used was this high-alcohol content stuff, don’t buy any of the ones that specialise in the different wines, just ordinary wine yeast will do.
First of all to prepare the yeast – this may differ from yeast to yeast, but if you read the packet it should tell you how to prepare it. What needs to happen is that the yeast needs to get going, like Mel Gibson or demolition man it has been frozen in time except it hasn’t it has just been dried.
So the night before you create life to your brew you need to give the yeast a kick start. To do this pour a small amount of water (100mlish) from a warm tap into a screw top container, and wait for it to reach a temperature of around 35 deg C, if you have a thermometer all the better but if you don’t then just dip your finger in and if you can feel that its neither hot or cold i.e. the temperature of your body, then its just right.
Mix the yeast in the water and then screw the top on the container and give a good old shake. You do this to get the oxygen into the mixture so that the yeast can multiply faster. If you do not have a screw top container just use a whisk. I tend to leave the lid on at this point, so that no nasty germs decide that they want to move in next to my yeast. You can leave the lid off so that the yeast can get to the oxygen, but if you don’t just open the container every now and then to let some “fresh air in”.
Now after an hour or two you should start to smell the yeast working, it might smell slightly of alcohol – I mean yeast isn’t perfect, but might also smell of fresh bread – which is nice. This yeast needs to be left for around 12 hours min, any longer the better.
– 10 hours later
Now just before your yeast is ready you need to prepare your equipment. Read the instructions for your disinfectant, and see what proportions you need. With mine its a few teaspoons per gallon. Disinfect your demi-jon by adding your disinfectant and warm water – not boiling, some disinfectants rely on microbes to do the dirty work and you don’t want to kill them. Leave for about an hour.
Now make up a bit more of disinfectant solution – quite strong, and use this to soak your cork in for about an hour or two. Considering these b*stards float, its quite difficult to submerge them. I use a tall flask with screw top, fill it with the solution and drop your cork in, I then put a teaspoon or something in there to keep the cork pushed down as I screw the top on.
– 1 hour later
Empty the disinfectant out of your demi-jon and swill it out with cold water. Now to make the brew. Find the biggest saucepan you have and empty your cordial in so that its about 2 inches from the rim. Start to heat this up and continually stir. What you have to now think is, how much of the cordial have you used. Add a little at the time to the saucepan of the sugar continually stirring so its not gritty. Add as much proportionally as the cordial so if you have used a third of your cordial in the pan then put a third of sugar in it.
Watch the pan because for some reason liquid boils a lot faster with sugar in
it. You may notice that however hard you stir or however hot you heat the stuff up, the sugar just wont dissolve, well give up. Every liquid has a point where it cant fit anymore in and so it doesn’t.
While your concoction is heating up, get some lemons, again get them proportionally, so if you’ve added a quarter of your cordial use a quarter of your lemons. First of all use a potato peeler or the like to peel or scrape the yellow rind off the lemon into the brew. After you have done that juice the selected lemons and add, excluding pips, the juice to the brew. Then add a couple of the skins to the brew and leave to simmer for about 5 minutes. Repeat this process until you have used all of your lemons and cordial. Put the brew into the demi-jon and then fill with water if needed to 4 or 5 inches off the top.
You shouldn’t have many complaints from the folks for doing this part, because if you are using lemon then the whole kitchen will smell of it, you probably wont notice it until you go out of the room for a while and come back in.
– 1 hour later
Now the yeast should have had its 12 hours breeding time, so that is ready to go. Also all of the cordial should be ready and in the demi-jon, it should have cooled now, but if its still tepid that’s even better. Using a funnel add all of the yeast and its foam, froth and juice. Remove the cork from the disinfectant and place it into the top of the demi-jon. Put your finger over the hole in the end of the cork and give the demi-jon a really good shake and mix to get all the air in as with 12 hours ago. Take the water lock and poor some of the disinfectant from the cork’s solution into the end so that each of the compartments is about a third full.
That’s it all the preparation is done. Now depending on when your doing this depends on where you keep your brew to brew. I have done this several times in my shed during the summer. My shed is painted in a dark brown and it got really hot on the sunny days. I left it next to the window where it would get up to 40 deg C at its peak in the summer which is uncomfortable for us but bloody brilliant for the yeast.
If you have a shed and it is the summer then use it but otherwise I suggest you seek another place. I am currently thinking about using an airing cupboard for a winter edition of my lemon homebrew but I am wondering whether it will stink all the clothes out in the cupboard. I suppose next to a radiator would be good on a shelf or table. In the winter, houses tend to be a lot warmer with the central heating on full blast and all. Every now and then just keep edging up the thermostat, you’ll probably end up with a big heating bill, but lovely brew. Put it this way the colder it is where it is being kept the longer it will take.
Now when I was doing it in my shed when it was relatively warm, it took around four weeks for my first brew to do. The signs are that the brew stops bubbling and begins to clear. What will happen after around two weeks is that it will stop bubbling not because its ready but because it has run out of sugar. Have a spare bottle of cordial left to one side – this is why we left the space at the top, and try and make the sweetest cordial you can in as small a cordial as you can. Feed this to your brew every week and it should keep it going. After the four weeks taste a small amount of the brew to see if it is sweet or not. It will probably taste quite disgusting. If it is not sweet add a LITTLE more sugar, and wait a couple of days. The mistake not to make is that you add loads of sugar when the alcohol content has killed all the yeast rather than it just running out of sugar. I have done that twice, and it just tastes like nasty syrup.
When you think that your brew is done, it isn’t 99% sugar and it has a nice alchy taste to it you need to leave it for a week at least. If you don’t let the brew stand then it will either not be done and taste of yeast, be really murky and horrible, or be full of nasty sediment bits. This time allows the sediment to settle to the bottom and for anymore of the yeast to kick the bucket. If you have any of the pectin haze clearent put that in now and in a week you should be left with a gorgeous looking translucent brew.
NOTE: If you are using lemons like I have done or any other acidic fruit then please allow and extra week or two for the brew to start bubbling at the beginning. I think that these acidic conditions influence how the yeast performs so it takes a while for it to adapt. What I did just in case was to add another packet of yeast after the second week of no bubbling.
Just don’t rush things, if you do that then you will end up with a horrible off wine yeasty taste which spoils all your hard work, waiting, and money. When you are sure you are ready use the plastic tuby thing to get the home brew out. Before hand, disinfect the tuby thing and save 3 two litre plastic bottles to store the brew in, you will need to disinfect these as well as you did with the demi-jon.
This method of extraction uses a brilliant piece of physics called gravity which allows siphoning to take place. What you will need to do is stick one end of your tube in the brew and suck the other end until you just taste the brew, straight away stick the end into a bottle but making sure that this end is lower that the other, the lower it is the faster it will poor out. It doesn’t matter if you leave an inch of brew above the sediment just don’t suck any sediment up – play it safe.
Now you will probably have a nice strong (warm – urrghh) brew with a proof of around %5 to around 12% it depends on the yeast you used. The advantage of using the lemon one is that the lemon neutralizes any nasty yeasty taste, so it tastes quite nice as it is.
Now you may want to modify your brew so that it is stronger> to do this put your bottle in the freezer. Here comes the chemistry lesson. Alcohol as well as boiling at a lower temperature – this is how distillation works, it also freezes at a lower temperature. So when you put your bottles in the freezer the ice will form and the alcohol will stay liquid – simple eh, well no. The problem is the alcohol acts as an antifreeze so the results an alcoholic slush puppy. This is when it gets messy. I use an assortment of sieves and tea strainers and all sorts to get the booze out of my brew. The easiest way is just to squeeze it out the bottle, but the ice has a habit of getting in the way. Just persevere and you’ll get there in the end.
What you will end up with is a rather lovely super strength home brew. Lets put it this way, I went out with some friends and took an Oasis bottle full of my Five Alive brew and an Oasis bottle full of my lemon brew. That’s around 600ml-700ml of brew all together, I left three of them, yes only THREE, for 15 minutes, and they had chugged the lot – diluted with tango (fizzy pop/soda). They were so off there faces that the nearest fence post suddenly became part of there latest pole dancing fantasy. I didn’t get a drop – all my hard work :-(.
That’s about it now, I’ve told you all you need to know. I hope this makes you happy, mind you by the time you probably get to do this you’ll be 18 already!!!
Have fun and be safe – for f*cks sake don’t poison anyone.
Copyright Peroxide Productions TM.