People have been making alcoholic beverages for at least the past 7000 years. All that is required is a container to ferment in, yeast and sugar. However, things get a bit more tricky if you want to make something that actually tastes good!
Want to learn how to make alcohol at home? Here is everything you need to know about beer, wine, cider and more!
⇒ NOTE: Every country has their own laws about homemade alcohol… and even though I love fermentation in all its forms, I’m not condoning illegal fermentation.
Different Types of alcohol:
Here is a brief overview of the different types of alcoholic ferments, with links to more information and recipes.
Beer: Beer is fermented grain. First the grain is malted to increase the sugar content and improve the flavour. Then hops is added for flavour and preservation. Beers generally range from 4%-8%.
Fruit Wines and Ciders: Cider and wine are both made from fruit, using the same basic process. Cider is capped off early so that it is sparkling with an alcohol level of 3%-12%. Wines are fermented until they reach 12%-14%.
Bread Kvass: Kvass is the original form of beer. It is made from fermented bread and is drunk when fresh and sparkling. It is an easy ferment for beginners, as it doesn’t need any specialized ingredients or equipment.
Mead: Mead is another traditional form of alcohol. It is made from fermented honey is can range between 8%-20% alcohol.
Rice Wines: There are many types of alcoholic rice beverages, and the process is more similar to beer than wines. Rice wines generally range from 18%-25%.
If you have never made alcohol before, then try starting with a simple fruit juice cider. It’s an easy ferment made from juice and yeast that will make a sweet and sparkling beverage within a week.
How to make alcohol:
Here is a basic overview of everything you need to know to make alcohol at home. This information is the same whether you are brewing beer or wine.
- Sterilize everything: It’s important to make sure that all your equipment and bottles are completely sterile to prevent a fermentation failure.
- Carbon Dioxide: Yeasts break down sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Sparkling beverages, like beer and cider, capture the carbon dioxide. For wine and mead, the CO2 released. Either way, you need to account for the pressure that builds up during the fermentation process. Airlocks are used for releasing CO2 during the fermentation stage.
- Halting Fermentation: As long as the conditions are right, the yeast will keep fermenting until most of the sugar is gone or until the ferment reaches the maximum alcohol levels for that yeast. (Around 17%-20% for champagne yeast and 5% for wild yeasts.) You can prematurely stop fermentation by refrigerating your ferment or adding sulfur dioxide.
- Yeasts: Traditionally all alcohol was made from wild yeasts. However, this doesn’t always result in a tasty brew. Over time, specific strains of yeast were cultivated to make beer, wine, etc. You can buy yeasts online or at your local brewing and wine making shops.
There really isn’t any specialized equipment required for homemade alcohol. However, it is handy to have a little more control if you want to make great-tasting beverages or if you are planning to store your homemade alcohol for more than a week or two.
- Tubing: Food grade tubes and siphons are useful for moving liquids between carboys and bottles. They generally run at about $20 and are worth the investment.
- Airlocks: Airlocks are very important if you are serious about making alcoholic ferments. It allows the CO2 to escape, while maintaining a sterile fermenting environment. In general I recommend cylindrical airlocks because they are easier to clean than S-shaped airlocks.
- Hydrometer: A hydrometer measures the approximate alcohol levels of your beverage by comparing the amount of sugar before fermenting and after fermenting. Here’s my tutorial on how to use a hydrometer.
- Chemicals: There are a number of chemicals that are frequently used in wine and cider making to ensure fruit ripeness, total acidity, and pH. If you are planning on making wine or cider, then I recommend reading about the necessary supplies.