Juice hooch! How to turn juice into a yummy, alcoholic cooler on the cheap

February 5 | Guest post by Emillie
The photo shows a balloon air lock, and a proper air lock. I had to sanitize the containers so I wouldn't grow anything funky.
The photo shows a balloon air lock, and a proper air lock. I had to sanitize the containers so I wouldn't grow anything funky.

I naturally gravitate to people who are seriously into the DIY culture. I know a lot of people who make wine, cider and beer in their closets. However, I really haven't delved into this area of fermentation myself. Turning juice into alcohol was the obvious first baby step in the direction of alcohol production, and it was surprisingly easy and cheap way to make hooch.

Normally alcohol production requires sterilization, air locks, and large vats of fermenting liquids. Depending on what you want to make, it also involves a small chemistry set of sulfite, pH testing strips, a hydrometer, and more.

Juice hooch is perfect for the newbie, because it only requires a bottle of juice, a balloon, and a packet of yeast. While you could use bread yeast, the flavour is immensely better with champagne yeast.

The proper way to ferment alcohol is to use an airlock to keep contaminates out and allow gas to escape. If you really get into making juice hooch I recommend buying one. They are very cheap and easy to come by. However, if you're feeling particularly lazy, (or just doing this as a one-off experiment) a balloon with a pin hole in it will also work. The pin hole allows gas to escape, and won't allow anything to get in.

The easiest and the most sterile way to make hooch is to simply add the yeast to your bottle of juice and cap it with an airlock (or balloon).

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of fruit juice (preservative free, 100% fruit, clear juice)
  • ¼ tsp (1 oz) champagne yeast
  • Optional: added sugar

Method:

  1. Pour out 2oz of juice from the bottle (to prevent overflow during the fermentation process).
  2. Mix the yeast into the juice.
  3. Top with an airlock (or balloon) and allow to ferment somewhere warm for 3-5 days.
  4. Ferment to taste (it will become less sweet and more alcoholic as time goes on).
  5. Replace the original cap and store in the fridge. Release pressure built up in the bottle every few days as needed.

Notes:

If you want a sparkling drink, cap it after three days, and put it in the fridge so that the carbonation can build up.

This is not the sort of thing that improves with age, so drink it when it tastes good!

I used a hydrometer (to measure alcohol content) and did some experimenting with my brews. This is what I learned:

  • It took five days to come close to full fermentation.
  • Without any added sugar, the maximum potential alcohol content of the juice was around 3%. The maximum potential alcohol content went up as I added sugar. I was aiming for about 5%, and that was around 3 tbsp of sugar (but it would depend on the natural sweetness of your juice).

I really liked the juice hooch. It was so drinkable. Because I capped it off before all the sugar was used up by the yeast, it was sparkly and still sweet. However, there are a number of factors that could affect the flavour. Including: your choice of juice, yeast, sugar content, and length of ferment. It is a cheap and fun way to experiment with DIY alcohol!

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  1. This is so crazy; it never occurred to me you could do this! What juices have you found work best? I imagine apple and grape work well. Cranberry?

    4 agree
    • I've been experimenting with fermenting juice for a couple years now. We did cranberry around July 2013 to give as presents that Yule.

      Cranberry is a pain in the butt to get fermenting. It has SO MUCH natural preservative that the yeast really struggles to overcome. We had to add extra yeast a couple days after we started fermenting to really get it going. Of course, we were doing a 2.5 gallon batch (which really isn't much more work than this here lol), so maybe it would be different with a smaller volume?

      (Side note: fermentation is super fun to watch, with all the bubbles and the creating. It's cool to see it go from tiny bubbles with little action to tons of bigger, faster bubbles in a few days.)

      1 agrees
  2. This reminds me of college! Both dorm room shenanigans and when I was a TA for a non-major's bio lab 🙂

    2 agree
    • You can use whatever size bottle you want! This will totally work with any size, though it will affect how much extra sugar you want to add — however, you really can't add too much sugar, ever. If you add more than you think you'll need, it just takes a little longer to get it to the right alcohol/sugar balance. The yeast will keep working until all the sugar is gone, no matter how much sugar there is, for the most part.

      With a gallon of juice, you'll just get a lot more servings than you would with a smaller bottle, so maybe it comes down to how much you're willing to risk in an experiment. A gallon of apple juice is like 4 bucks, and a tiny packet of yeast, which is enough to make 5 gallons, runs about 3 bucks. They're easiest to find at a local alcohol – making supply store; I've never seen them at grocery stores, but that could be the local demographic in my area.

    • I was using your standard 946ml bottle of juice for my measurements of yeast. I think small variations on the juice to yeast ratio won't make a big difference. A little extra yeast probably would just shorten the fermentation time.

      The sugar content will really affect the alcohol. I made a batch with apple juice and it went to about 9% alcohol! However, I believe champagne yeast will naturally die off at about 18% alcohol (though other yeasts will die at around 12% alcohol depending on the variety).

      3 agree
  3. We gotta do this.
    We actually bought a big ol' jug, an air lock and champagne yeast to make ginger ale/beer, but gettin' into some hooch would be delightful. Thanks!

    3 agree
  4. Fascinating!
    If you started with apple cider, would you get hard cider? Or does that follow a different process?

    2 agree
    • I had to look this up, and the answer is–apparently, it's the same process! The one thing is that mills often "hot" pasteurize cider, which will make the resulting hard cider come out cloudy and possibly a bit off-tasting. To me, cloudiness only really matters because it can be difficult to see whether the yeast has settled out properly.

      1 agrees
    • Alcohol is dead is easy to make. That's why they've been doing forEVER. And apple juice would make an apple cider like product. (Think of it as cider from the middle ages).

      To get a modern cider you should probably follow a more precise recipe. The fermentation of cider is always stopped by adding sulfites. That is why they are still sparkling and sweet. The dryness of the cider is based on the type of yeast. I also know that real cider starts out with a vat of different types of apples that sort of preferment before the juice is extracted to make the cider.

      (One of my neighbours makes a year's supply of cider ever fall. I've witnessed it, but I can't handle sulfites at all, so I've never tried it myself.).

      1 agrees
  5. I once did this by accident – squeezed some pomegranate arils in a potato river to make fresh grenadine syrup. Left the leftover juice in a container 4x too big in the fridge and it turned to pomegranate wine on it's own.

    1 agrees
  6. My boyfriend is an amateur wine maker. We currently have pear going on the pool table, with plans to start apple next. He's already got coconut and strawberry stored away for future usage.

    1 agrees
  7. Read this in the morning and by lunchtime I'm brewing my own Apple and Blackcurrant alcohol! The place I went to (in Australia but surely you'd be able to find these in the US) had replacement bottle caps for your juice bottle, with a hole punched in them and then a membrane underneath. This means it's super simple to use. Just switch the cap for one of these which allows the gasses out but nothing in. They're also infinitely reusable!

    1 agrees
  8. I brew my own hooch and do it completely different. I don't go buy juice. I use actual fruits and honey.
    This is my recipe and works been doing it for long time.
    I usually use 5 gal jug
    Per gallon:
    2lbs of fruit or honey
    2 cups of sugar
    1 packet of yeast.
    This process takes longer but its well worth it. A good brew can take up to 6-8 weeks. Ive had some really good batches that went between 10-16 weeks.

    1 agrees
  9. I heard that back in the old days apple juice was simply kept in the shade of the back porch in a large covered crock, right next to the pickle barrel. That crock provided apple juice in September, apple cider in October, hard cider in November, and Apple Jack liquor in December, after the water content froze. If it turned to vinegar it went into the pickle barrel. I really need to plant some apple trees.

    1 agrees
  10. Hi there..

    Will definitively try this recipe…!!

    Concerning the yeast…
    If i try with bread yeast…do i have to dissolve it beforehand.( As mentioned on the packet..)..OR just pour it directly in the warm Juice…?

    Many thanks in advance !!!

    • Bread yeast wont get you a very high alcohol content. It will probably die out after 2-3%. Champagne yeast was bred to tolerate a higher alcohol content before dying. (around 18%). Champagne yeast is much smaller than bread yeast, so I would dissolve bread yeast beforehand.

      • Concerning the " Champagne yeast "…do you have to swirl it around in the bottle to mix it …

        ..or just leaving it sitting there will do the trick ?

        Again…many thanks !!!

          • Yep….! Me again…… 😉

            I have a 2 Litre Apple juice bottle…..

            and 3 X 5g ( 0.176 oz ) packets of Champagne yeast…( Lalvin EC-1118 , Canadian company…)

            What would be the best proportion of yeast I should add….for that 2 Litre bottle ?

            Thank you for your patience….again.

            1 agrees
  11. That's the yeast I used. I think it was about 1/2 a package. (I'm in Canada too). Really, the yeast will multiply and do their work no matter what. If there's a lot of yeast it will go quickly, if it's less yeast, then it will go slowly.

    Last summer I made plum wine with fermented plums. I used 1 packet of yeast for 3 gallons of wine. http://www.fermentingforfoodies.com/archives/2181 It was the most amazing thing, and definitely something I will be doing yearly.

    • One last thing…

      Like real prison "Hooch"…does it have to be strained in cheesecloth…at the end of the process..?

      By the way..just started the batch..eager to see the results !! 🙂

      Again..many thanks for your advises !!

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