Welcome to Simple Brew Kits!
After brewing beer for a while, I decided one of the things I really don’t like is bottling. What I do like is turning sugar into alcohol, some honest-to-God alchemy. I also like doing my own thing and experimenting. And, well, I’m cheap, so I like the idea of creating some decent hooch without breaking the bank. How do I put those things together, I wondered.
After enjoying some great home-brew hard cider that a friend made, I had an idea: had anybody tried fermenting fruit juices right in the bottle? That would allow you to skip a lot of the brewing steps – no need for a carboy, no messing around with different concoctions on the stove, no need for heavy lifting and tedious cleaning, and no need for bottling. Just buy some cheap, sweet juice at the store, throw in a little yeast, put an airlock on it, wait for a week or so, and voila, you got yourself a nice little 5-10% alcohol beverage.
Being an ambitious (and naive) sort of guy, I bought six half gallons of three different kinds of juice: white grape, apple, and a vegetable medley. The veg drink didn’t have enough sugar in it so I added a bunch. Then I tried two strains of yeast (champagne yeast and bread yeast – yes, simple bread yeast from the grocery store) in each kind of juice and away they went. In a day or two my basement was alive with bubbling, fermenting juices.
After a week, the grape and apple juices measured in the 5-8% alcohol range, much of their sugar having transformed into alcohol, but I couldn’t measure the alcohol content of the veggie juice because it was too thick for my hydrometer. The hard grape and apple drinks were delicious. I had pictured my veggie drink turning into a perfect bloody mary, but alas, it was more like a blood clot – chunky and hard to swallow – so I gave it to my compost. Yeast-wise, the bread yeast seemed to do just fine in comparison to the champagne yeast.
Since then, I’ve created numerous yummy concoctions with all kinds of juice. I’ve even done fermented milk, a poor man’s koumiss (not bad, although it was pretty low-alcohol since I didn’t want to let it sit too long). You can even make beer this way with the right ingredients (but you’ll have to bottle it if you want it carbonated). Currently I’ve got some mead fermenting in the basement – I used honey from my own bees, mixed about 1:1 with water. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Let me know what you come up with.