In the last few years homebrewing alcohol has become ever more popular. As such many people are keen to give it a go. However most want to start with a recipe that’s quick, cheap and basic. This begs the question, what’s the easiest alcohol to make at home?
Now the snarky answer would be to say throw table sugar, water and yeast into an airtight pot and wait. Whilst yes this will create an alcoholic liquid, it’ll also be disgusting.
Naturally you probably want your alcohol to taste nice, otherwise what’s the point right?
So instead of just thinking about what is the easiest alcohol to make, you must instead find out how to make something you like in a relatively simple manner. Luckily for you, that’s where we come in.
Table of Contents
- The Basics of Homebrewing Alcohol
- So What Is The Easiest Alcohol to Make?
- Slightly More Advanced Recipes
- Now You Know The Easiest Alcohol to Make at Home
The Basics of Homebrewing Alcohol
Before beginning on your homebrewing journey, there are some basics you need to know. Step 1 is to figure out what ingredients and equipment you’ll need for your homemade alcohol project. These can change depending on the type of alcohol you plan on making since the process for making moonshine will differ from that of making wine for example.
Despite this however, there are some universal rules and processes you should get to grips with first.
The specific types of ingredients will vary depending on what you make. Fundamentally though, the three most important parts of pretty much any alcohol creation process are water, sugar and yeast.
However, as mentioned before, just throwing them into an airtight container and waiting for a week wont create a particularly appetising beverage. This is why for different recipes a specific kind of yeast and source of sugar will be used. These are what give each type of alcohol it’s distinct texture and taste.
For homebrewing a set of basic equipment is needed before you can begin. The processes and kit required for liquor, wine and beer brewing do vary. However, you can easily get yourself a home brewing kit specifically designed for specific kinds of alcohol.
Additionally, these kits can often be used for brewing other kinds of alcohol. For the best results though, having all the equipment necessary for brewing a particular kind of alcohol is advised.
If you would prefer to not invest in one of these kits some universally applicable gear includes:
- Large container which can be sealed airtight with the lid.
- Lid with a small hole in the middle which can be sealed airtight.
- Air lock which can be added to the lid through a hole that is otherwise airtight.
- An additional bucket and lid that can be sealed airtight.
- Mixing paddle
- Bottling bucket
The Fermentation Process
No matter what type of alcohol you intend to make, the process of fermentation is the most important part. But what is fermentation?
Alcoholic fermentation or ethanol fermentation is a biological process. Usually it involves yeast and sugar, during which the sugar is converted into carbon dioxide and alcohol. This entire process doesn’t require oxygen, making it entirely anaerobic in nature.
Depending on the goal, different types of yeast or sources of sugar will be used. For example, vodka often uses potatoes for its sugar whilst wine and cider typically uses fruit.
Additionally, depending on the alcohol fermentation process used, you may decide to rely solely on the yeast that lives on the skin of berries instead of adding a yeast packet. Using this method will take much longer but many enthusiasts believe that it provides more authentic taste. Another caveat of this is that relying on natural yeast will make the taste of the finished product less predictable.
Another thing to remember is that typically using more sugar in the fermentation process will produce a higher alcohol content. For this reason along with using a natural source of sugar such as fruit or wheat brewers will often add extra sugar to their recipe. One word of caution however, if you go too hard on the extra sugar your mixture will likely end up as a batch of rocket fuel. Granted it will get you very drunk, but will likely not be the nicest of recipes.
Cleaning and Sanitation
Before you begin any sort of alcohol homebrewing it is crucial that all equipment you plan on using is thoroughly cleaned and sanitised first. This is because any dirt or undesired bacteria in the mixture can ruin your alcohol or make you ill.
Whilst household cleaners from the grocery store may make things safer to use they will likely not remove the less harmful bacteria that will negatively affect your brew. Additionally, these cleaners may leave flavourings or fragrances on your equipment that will be undesirable. Additionally, for certain brews like beer, these solutions may kill healthy bacteria that are essential to the beer brewing process.
It is highly recommended that instead of using these products that you invest in specialised cleaning and sanitation products. This is because they are specifically designed with brewing in mind.
So What Is The Easiest Alcohol to Make?
You’ve got an idea of some of the basics. Now let’s explore what the easiest alcohol to make actually is. Interestingly enough, there are actually quite a few options which are very simple and require very few steps in order to create a successful batch.
Mead is one of the oldest forms of alcohol in human history, dating back over three thousand years. If you’ve never tried it, mead is often considered a halfway point between wine and beer. In terms of potency, taste and brewing methods it lies somewhere in between with many debating which it is closer to. However it, like cider, is very much in a category of its own.
To make a basic mead is a very simple process. All you need is honey, water and a packet of yeast. Either brewers or wine yeast is ideal, although baker’s yeast will do. First you dilute the honey into a ratio of roughly 2-3 pounds of honey per gallon of water and stir well. Then add the diluted solution, which is also known as “must” to your fermentation bucket along with yeast and seal airtight. Optionally before sealing you can also add roughly 3-5 pounds fruit per gallon to the mixture. This is done if you wish to make a specific flavour of mead.
Once the mixture begins to ferment you should leave it until this process is complete. This typically takes a few weeks/months. You’ll be able to know when the batch has finished fermenting when it stops bubbling, although leaving slightly longer may produce a better taste.
Juice Based Wines/Hard Cider
These types of alcohol are incredibly simple to make. Like with the method for homebrewing mead the steps for juice based wines are very brief and very simple to follow. In fact most of the steps that you would follow for mead can apply here. However, there are some notable differences.
This time the ingredients are wine yeast (although bakers will do in a pinch), 2-3 pounds of honey (or sugar if you prefer) per each galon of your fruit juice of choice. Grape juice is good for this recipe if you want a more traditional tasting wine. Apple is best for hard cider however. In this recipe fruit juice is used for the dilution of honey instead of water. However, before fermenting if you believe the mixture is too sweet then diluting it slightly with water is advised.
Like with the mead if you wish to add any extra fruit to flavour the wine then add roughly 3-5 pounds of your fruit of choice at this point. However due to this recipe already calling for fruit juice it’s a good idea to be slightly more conservative here.
Similarly to the mead, once the mixture begins to ferment you should leave it until this process is complete. This typically takes a few days rather than weeks. When the batch has stopped bubbling it should be ready but leaving it to age slightly longer can improve the flavour. Do not leave it to ferment too long though as wine can soon turn to vinegar if over fermented.
Infused Liquor and Homemade Liqueur Recipes
For these method’s we’ll be using a store bought base base liquor, which some may see as cheating. However, unless you intend on getting a distillery license or getting into the moonshine business, then one of these options is likely your best bet.
This is probably one of the best and easiest ways for you to enjoy some “homemade” liquors and liqueurs since, although you aren’t making the base, the way it’s flavoured is entirely up to you.
Fruits are an obvious choice for this way of doing things but your options are much wider than that. Examples could include coffee vodka, salted caramel rum or even go a bit whacky and try making bacon flavoured whiskey! The options are endless and with a bit of creativity you could have something really unique.
The process for infused liquor is incredibly simple. All you need to do is steep the flavoring ingredients in your base liquor of choice for a few days to a few months. How long depends on how intense you wish the flavour to be. That’s it.
Equipment wise all you need is a large sealable jar for the infusion to steep in and a strainer to remove any solids.
In the case of liqueurs the only extra step required is to add sugar. However, making a simple syrup by dissolving a cup and a half of sugar in a cup with boiling water will produce better results.
Slightly More Advanced Recipes
Are none of the previous option appealing to you or you simply feel like taking on a slightly more elaborate process? Then the following recipes for beer and wine might be right for you.
Fundamentally, the majority of alcohol brewing principles mentioned previously still apply to beer and wine as they ultimately still rely on the fermentation process.
Additionally, whilst these may be more involved recipes than say the juice based wine, you can grab a specialised wine and beer kit that is designed for home brewing that particular beverage.
The process for making beer really only requires a single additional step. Even then, most of the process can be simplified by buying a beer kit. Beer is an alcoholic beverage which uses sugar extracted from dried hops and malt extract. As such this extra step is to boil these in water.
For 24 pints of beer you’ll need 55 grams of dried hops, 750 grams of sugar, 1 kilogram of malt extract and 24 pints of water, half of which is added during boiling. The other half, during fermentation. You’ll also need ale yeast. However different packs will be good for varying quantities of pints so consulting their instructions is wise. You could also use baking yeast or bread yeast in a pinch but these may not produce the best beer.
An additional option when making beer is to add half a teaspoon of priming sugar to each bottle of beer before filling them. This will allow the remaining yeast to ferment slightly further and make the beer slightly fizzy. This happens because the carbon dioxide produced becomes trapped in the bottle settles as bubbles. If doing so however, ensure that an inch to an inch and a half of space in each beer bottle is left empty. This is because not doing so will cause the beer to fizz violently, pop the bottle top and subsequently make a mess.
Whilst the fruit juice way of making wine is simple, it limits the level of control you have over the ingredients and taste of the recipe. Fortunately however, if you’re willing to try a technique that’s slightly more advanced, making your own wine from grapes and fruits of your own choosing can be very rewarding.
For two gallons of wine the ingredients you’ll need are, a box of grapes (zinfandel is a good choice), one gallon of water, a pound of sugar and a pound of raisins.
First, de-stem the grapes and break the skins. You could do this with your feet but rubbing them against a washboard also works.
Afterwards, throw them in the container you’ll use for fermenting and wait roughly four days. Then start tasting a little bit each day, until the flavour’s good. A good way of gauging this is to have a nice bottle of the kind of wine to compare it to. In this case a zinfandel.
When the flavour is right siphon off the lees (dead yeast cells) and bottle. It’s time for the second run.
Chop your raisins using either a food processor or butcher’s knife. Then pour them and the rest of your ingredients into the container and reseal it. After another four days, begin tasting and when it’s good, bottle it.
Natural vs Cultivated Yeasts
When making your own wine from scratch there are two popular ways to do so. Using natural yeasts or cultivated yeasts. But which should you choose?
The natural yeast method is considered the traditional way of doing things and many enthusiasts believe it makes for a more authentic. The reason for this is that fermentation is a factor that affects a wine’s vintage. As such, many prefer the idea of using natural yeast due to the variety it adds to taste.
However, if you’re looking for a consistent taste every time then cultivated wine yeast is the way to go.
Now You Know The Easiest Alcohol to Make at Home
With the basics mastered, homebrewing is a rewarding activity. Whether it’s wine or liqueur, experimenting with new flavours and finding the right alcohol percentage for your creation is lots of fun.
If you’re feeling generous, a bottle of homemade alcohol is also great for gifts. So now you know what you’re doing, all that’s left is to start.