I Made Cheap Booze…And It Was Cheap Booze

by JT McGee

By now, many of you have probably read Mr. Money Moustache’s post on making booze at home.

Basically, juice + champagne yeast + time = booze.

After reading it, I had to try it. Doing what any rational person would do, I quickly came up with about 5 gallons of various juices, and 30 packets of champagne yeast, which, I realized only later, is capable of producing 150 gallons of boozy juice.


Here are a few quick thoughts:

  • Waiting is for suckers – I let my juice ferment for only 3 days. At that point, it was more than alcoholic, tolerable tasting, and, by my not-so-scientific discovery, good enough. Another blogger found that after 3 days, regular Welch’s juice turned into wine with a 7.1% alcohol content.
  • This is PTSD-inducing wine – After three days, two different juices (white grape and pear, and white grape and cherry) tasted like a boozier version of Catholic church wine. It took me back to the days of third grade, where required church participation during school hours allowed a quick childhood buzz before math class.
  • Add sugar – Allowing the yeast to consume only the sugar from the juice results in something only slightly more alcoholic than your average beer. If you want to get to the upper-end of the range for champagne yeast, try 4-5 cups of sugar to a gallon. That’ll get you close to the supposed 18% ABV limit at which champagne yeast commit suicide by their own design. And, besides, if a frugal drunk is your goal, sugar is the cheapest way to maximize the booziness.
  • Additives to avoid – The internet tells you to avoid perservatives. That’s not good enough. What they mean to tell you is to avoid juices with potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate. So few juices actually contain these that it’s pretty darn easy to avoid them. I did my shopping at both Wal-Mart and The Fresh Market (a Whole Foods knock-off), for the record.
  • Balloons suffice as airlocks – Airlock? Pfft. Just run a toothpick up a balloon until roughly half of the toothpick has gone through the top. That provides a way for gas to escape without allowing unwanted oxygen in. And you don’t have to worry that your airlock won’t fit your container.
  • Yeast multiplies – MMM recommends adding a full packet of champagne yeast to a gallon of fruit juice. Unnecessary, I say. The yeast packet says you can make up to 5 gallons of champagne with one packet. From experience, this seems accurate, given I just started another 5 gallons of this putrid stuff with a single packet. Sure, it may take slightly longer, but, if you’re impatient like me, dipping into it earlier with less yeast should result in less yeasty-tasting early wine.
  • Don’t add sugar later – I made the mistake of trying to add sugar to a batch that was already fermenting. It quickly bubbled over. I suspect it’s due to the added oxygen from the sugar falling in, plus the fact that sugar crystals are porous and thus a perfect surface for CO2 to gather — though I have no freaking idea if my suspicions are correct.
  • Speaking to the alcohol content – I’m pretty drunk at 12pm on a Sunday, when ordinarily I wouldn’t be able to purchase anything with a remote amount of alcohol content. You’ve met your match, backwards Indiana laws.
  • Decanting helps – You can get a much better flavor by merely allowing a drinkable quantity of your new wine to decant for 20-30 minutes. This is, by far, the most important lesson I ever learned in college. Decanting can make a $3 bottle of wine taste like a $10 bottle of wine, which, by my calculations, is a 233% return on capital!
  • I’ll be making more of this – Is it frugal? Yes. Is it tasty? Kind of. Is it fun? Hell yeah! There’s something to be said about the fun of watching your juice turn into wine. Each bubble that comes to the surface is evidence that your juice is, in fact, becoming booze. I don’t want to tell you how much time I spent staring at the rising bubbles.

On Making Your Own Wine

For the curious among us, there are few things more fun than making your own wine on a shoestring budget. I’d highly recommend it. Unfortunately, I think this may have led me into a new hobby of homebrewing, which is substantially more expensive than backwoods wine making.

P.S. I’m sufficiently drunk.

P.P.S. Virtually all of the snarkiest posts on Money Mamba are the product of drinking a little too much. The more you know…

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

save. spend. splurge. July 10, 2014 at 15:53

That is priceless. Sounds like you had a good time doing it. A lot of BF’s family in France do their own wines, so I can see how people get bitten by the bug.


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