Cheap Apple Hooch

Not too long ago, I came across this ThinkGeek DIY Juice to Alcohol kit while browsing reddit.  At first, I thought this was absolutely ridiculous.  Let’s get some things straight first.  There is no way this works in 48 hours.  It would take an absolute minimum of 1 week to really finish fermenting and 2 weeks would probably get you to a realistic final gravity.  And 14% alcohol?  Don’t think so.  More about this later.

So after the homebrew snob in me settled down, I started to think about what an ingenious way this was to actually get people to  see the process of fermentation and creating a fermented beverage.  Now, I have no idea what this will taste like, and I’ve set the bar extremely low, but I’m going to give this a try.  I mean, this makes brewing about as simple as possible… no equipment to buy except a drilled #7 stopper, an airlock, some yeast and some juice.  This could be bought for half the price of the kit right here in the store and you’ve got it in your hands this afternoon.

I picked up some Welches 100% apple juice to make this with.  This seemed like a good choice; it’s in every grocery store, it has no preservatives, it’s pasteurized and the bottle is perfectly clear so I can see everything that’s happening in there.  Let’s get started!

The first thing I did was take the temperature of the juice and get a hydrometer reading.  This isn’t necessary to do, but I wanted to know the details about what I was working with.  The temperature was 68 degrees and the hydrometer read 1.05, which sounded just about perfect.  I’m using Red Star Montrachet yeast, which takes the gravity to right around 1.00, so I estimate that the final alcohol content once fermentation finishes will be around 6.56%. Not bad… it’s no 14%, but hey, not bad.

Next, I poured off some of the apple juice since it was almost to the top of the bottle.  I left about 2 inches of space to the very top, which I figured would give enough room with the stopper to allow for some fermentation activity without blowing out through the airlock.  Because this is one gallon of juice, I estimated how much 1/5 of the yeast packet was, and I came up with 1/2 tsp of yeast.  I think that may be a bit more than 1/5, but it’s not that far off.  I poured the yeast in and let it sit on top of the juice, no shaking.  I set up the airlock, put it in the stopper and secured that on top of the bottle.  All in all, this took about 5 minutes total to do.

If nothing else, this will be an interesting experiment.  One of my biggest frustrations in homebrewing is trying to convey what I see as the simplicity of making your own beer.  Unfortunately, I’ve somewhat forgotten what it’s like to be that guy that’s never done it before and doesn’t understand all the parts and processes.  This reduces it to the simplest setup imaginable, and if you can do this, I’m convinced that you can transition to making beer.  Even better, because it’s fermenting in the clear plastic bottle, you can actually watch what’s going on in there.  The yeast party is no longer a mystery!

Let’s summarize… what you need:

  • Airlock : $0.75
  • Drilled #7 stopper : $0.40
  • Montrachet yeast (or your choice) : $1.00
  • One gallon of Welches apple juice : $3.50

Total cost: $5.65 including juice, and no shipping cost!

Steps:

  1. Open juice bottle and pour off an 1 1/2 inches or so.
  2. Open yeast packet and measure out 1/2 tsp of it.  Pour gently into apple juice bottle.
  3. Fill airlock to the line with water, insert into stopper and attach to bottle.

Total time: 5 minutes at most!

Now we sit back, grab a bag of popcorn and watch the show.  Well, it would have to be a lot of popcorn to last for two weeks… Check in again soon, more to come on this experiment!

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5 Responses to Cheap Apple Hooch

  1. Jimmy T says:

    What about preservatives?

    • Scott H says:

      Yeah, as long as it doesn’t have sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate, it should be fine. Those will stop your fermentation though. Lots of juices are preservative-free, just take a look at the label. Welches fit the bill in this case.

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  3. Zack says:

    How did it turn out??

    • Scott H says:

      There’s a follow up post in the works on this, but the quick answer is : ultra-hoochey. I really tried to like it, but it didn’t take more than a few tastes to know that it’s not the kind of drink you want to unwind with after a long day at work. It’s alright as a functional drink, but not necessarily an enjoyable one. I have a feeling, though, that if you were to bottle it and leave it for six months or so, you might wind up with something much more charming. Something to experiment with in the future.

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