Booze Hacking: Three Fun and Easy Processes for Homemade Hooch

Back in November 2010, I made a presentation at Nerd Nite Toronto on alcohol fermentation and I demonstrated three fun and simple processes for brewing a 7% homemade apple cider. Almost a year later, I’m returning to Nerd Nite — this time to demonstrate how to process your homemade hooch into fuel for your car. The presentation is at 8 PM on September 8, 2011 (sorry for the short notice!) at the Tranzac Club, 292 Brunswick Ave, in downtown Toronto.

I figured this would be an appropriate time to write up a blog entry for Booze Hacking and shed some light onto the magic of alcohol fermentation.

ALCOHOL FERMENTATION

Humans were brewing booze before we had writing or agriculture. Alcohol fermentation is a fundamental process that occurs in nature and can be easily reproduced — a chemical conversion of sugars (carbohydrates) interacting with yeast to produce ethanol (ethyl alcohol) and carbon dioxide. Early humans used to party by eating rotten fruit and getting drunk off the fermenting juices. As agriculture and food production have evolved over the last 10,000 years, we’ve developed much more controlled, sophisticated and delicious ways to produce hoochy beverages.

Alcohol also occurs naturally in space. I can’t make this stuff up!

EXPERIMENT

Let’s make some booze! You don’t need a large industrial operation to brew alcohol — you can very easily ferment President’s Choice apple juice in your kitchen. For this experiment, I’m going to purchase three bottles of low grade Loblaws juice and show three simple ways to ferment them into a boozy, delicious cider.

  • Process #1 uses standard brewing equipment that I obtained at a homebrew supply store. It’s very simple but does require some extra legwork to get the specialty equipment.
  • Process #2 uses only common groceries available at Loblaws.
  • Process #3 ferments apple juice only by exposing it to wild yeast in the air.

Process 1: Standard Process

This process starts with a quick trip to your local homebrew supply store to obtain a few basic bits of equipment and brewing yeast (Torontoians can find everything at Macedo). You’ll also need a 2L jug of grocery store juice.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 gallon (3.78L) glass jug
  • Airlock
  • Lalvin EC-1118 yeast
  • 2L President’s Choice apple juice
  • Hydrometer (not strictly necessary but allows you the measure alcohol content

The process is fairly simple. Start by sanitizing the gallon jug with a bleach solution, then clean it out thoroughly with hot water. Once the jug is clean, pour in the apple juice. Make sure the juice is roughly room temperature, then pitch the yeast. Seal with jug with the airlock and wait for the show to start.

Within a few hours of pitching the yeast you should notice some activity within the bottle. This will get quite violent after a day, and then within 3-4 days should calm down completely. All done! Your cider is ready to drink.

Process 2: Loblaws Process

This technique builds on the things we learned in Process 1, but simplifies things to point where we can make cider with only Loblaws groceries. Instead of using brewing-specific yeast, we’ll just use basic bread yeast.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Fleischmann’s Active Dry bread yeast
  • 2L President’s Choice apple juice

This process is even simpler: add 1 tsp of bread yeast to bottle of apple juice, then seal the bottle tightly. Within a few hours you’ll notice activity, and within 12-24 hours the plastic bottle will expand considerably as it gets pressurized with carbon dioxide gas.

Every 4-6 hours you’ll need to “burp” the bottle — remove the cap and let all the carbon gas escape. If you don’t do this you risk the bottle exploding. Another option is leave the bottle cap slightly loose, so that carbon gas is able to escape during fermentation.

Within 3-4 days you’ll notice the fermentation will calm down completely. At this point it’s finished and ready to drink!

Process 3: Wild Yeast Process

The air around us is full of wild yeast. This is much less powerful than brewing or bread yeast, but on a hot summer day, it’s enough to kick off fermentation. Ever forgot to put a bottle of fruit juice back into the fridge, only to find it bubbling away several days later?

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2L President’s Choice apple juice

This process is the easiest — just open the bottle, expose it to the open air, and then seal it tightly. Shake it vigorously. Let it sit. Within 2-3 days, fermentation will kick off, and 3-4 days after that it should calm down.

It’s important to note this process only really works in the summer heat. Wild airborne yeast is much more sensitive to temperature than store-bought yeast. You should aim for a week of 25C+ weather for optimum results. Alternatively, fermenting it next to a furnace usually works too.

Conclusion

Within one week, all three bottles had fermented completely and stopped bubbling. Every day during the fermentation process I measured the specific gravity of each bottle, and hence stipulated the alcohol content. Results as shown below:

As you can see, the processes that used proper yeast kicked off right away and completed within 3 days. The wild yeast process was slower to start and a bit more erratic, but within seven days it had also fermented into a delicious 7.1% cider.

So you’re probably wondering, how did it taste? Let me tell you — each bottle tasted DELICIOUS. #3 was my personal favourite. Unfortunately however I can’t post free drinks on my website, so you’ll just have to try this for yourself to find out!

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3 Comments

  1. John Graves
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 1:18 am | Permalink

    Procedure two a success

  2. David
    Posted June 30, 2013 at 2:14 am | Permalink

    I made some cider with bread yeast. it was alcoholic but it tasted like raw bread dough. how did yours taste? actually, how did the taste differ in all of them?

  3. Mark
    Posted July 2, 2013 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    The first one (with standard brewing yeast) tasted like a plain, dry cider. The second (with bread yeast) definitely had a bread-ish taste, although this mellows out if you let it sit for a few days and allow the yeast to settle. Third (wild airborne yeast) had a sweet tangy flavour. All of them were great, #3 was my favorite.

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