The situation was tense. Being in lockdown and going without alcohol for months.
The Liquor shops had finally opened but the lines were long and they were overcrowded. My boyfriend forbade me from going to a liquor store to buy alcohol for the fear we might come back with corona along with the beer.
Modi announced the Atmanirbhar bharat scheme. If becoming self sufficient was the goal then so be it! and then I decided to make my own alcohol.
It was time to bring out the inner chemical engineer in me.
Before getting started here are some of your gnawing questions answered
1.It is legal to make alcohol?
Yes it is legal to make it for your own consumption (except in states where it is banned like Bihar, Gujarat, Lakshadweep, Manipur, and Nagaland). However you need a license to sell. I visited Kinvah Vineyard where the chemist told us how he made all kinds of homemade wine from different fruits at his home. (Visit to Kinvan Vineyard)
No law states in India that you cannot brew beer or make wine at home but this is only for personal use and not for commercial purpose(Google).
There is a limit to how much you make it. More than 50 litres can land you in trouble as a quantity more than 50 litres cannot be considered for personal use.
2. Is it dangerous?
The danger comes from distilling alcohol. We need the Ethanol; Methanol is harmful. Methanol comes out first when we distill. Those who don’t know the chemistry distill methanol into their alcohol and that causes blindness and other complications.
In here we are not distilling. We are just fermenting it with yeast.
The worst that can happen with fermenting wine is ending up with vinegar (which I will get to later)
3. What if I drink 100% Ethyl alcohol and die?
Wine yeast cannot function when alcohol content raises above 20% the the maximum you can end up with is 20%. Higher wine concentrations kill off yeast. At home you rarely reach those concentrations. If you want to measure the alcohol v/v you can use a hydrometer.
4. What should I look out for ?
Sanitise your equipment. Clean everything before use. Don’t let oxygen come in contact with wine after 3 days.
I saw a few YouTube tutorials and started my first batch. The process seemed simple and it had simple ingredients – Grape juice, yeast, sugar.
5. How long does it take?
It takes 3 days for Aerobic fermentation to occur. Then The wine needs to ferment Unaerobically for 21 days.
I do a simple Aerobic fermentation for 3-4 days and have the wine which is safe and non messy. You need to follow strict steps when you need to store it tightly enough for 21 days. I did not do the long secondary fermentation which is necessary when you make wine industrially but not necessarily important when you make it at home.
6.What do you need to get started?
- Sanitised Equipment (Best to use glass, Stainless steel) You can buy the standard equipment on amazon.
2. Substrate- Grapes or any fruit (But grapes give the best result and the familiar taste)
3. Yeast (mix it with water and leave it for 10 mins, if it froths it is active)
4. Sugar and water
5. Fermentation airlock -The air( CO2) needs to get out but no air should get in and you use a fermentation airlock (Again can be purchased in Amazon)
Some use a setup like this using the Water can with a tube into a glass of water
Starting the experiment!
Batch 1 – Bubbly Wine
- I ground 500 gm of grapes in a mixer.
- I boiled 1 L of water with two cups of sugar and allowed it to cool
- I added 1 tbs yeast in warm water for 10 minutes. If it starts frothing it it active.
- I put them together in a pressure cooker
- I kept it in a cool place for three days stirring them once everyday.
- I fermented the batch for 3 days.
I had an amazing first wine experience. We got Bubbly grape wine. I added some beetroot juice for the colour but was pointless as the yeast ate away all that and I got a dull pink juice.
Batch 2 – Sour Flat wine
- I made my second batch with 1 kg of grapes.
- I added just a cup of sugar this time (Reduced the sugar by half)
- I left it ferment for 6 days
The result was a less bubbly and sour wine. It had higher alcohol content.
Batch 3- How to make Vinegar
After the success of my two batches I just went bananas
Yep my substrate was banana. I let it ferment for 7 days
- I added a kg of bananas (Sliced)
- I also added water with sugar(1 cup)
- This time I made it in a fish bowl
- I put a cloth to cover it and did not cover it fully.
- I also transferred it into another container with a lid after three days.
I added a cup of water mixed with sugar into the mix.
Things were fishy after three days because I wasn’t getting any smell of alcohol.
Guess my yeast wasn’t the only one eating my bananas. It was the culprit acetobactor.
It converts wine into Vinegar which is basically acetic acid. Acetic acid is produced by the oxidation of ethanol by acetic acid bacteria, and, in most countries, commercial production involves a double fermentation where the ethanol is produced by the fermentation of sugars by yeast (google)
That is how my third batch became vinegar. We tried drinking it but the smell just gave away. It tasted just like apple cider vinegar.
Batch 4 – With store bought Grape Juice
This time I tried it with Store bought ‘Real Fruit juice’. I mixed it with 500 grams of grapes. I separated the batched into two different equipment. I found that the cooker gave a better result. I fermented it for 3-4 days.
The tubes act as fermentation airlock letting the CO2 into the water.
This time we made some fine wine
All said, Sanitize your equipment properly and put a fermentation airlock lest bacteria will eat your substrate and you will end up with vinegar
Lockdown has been great ever since when I realized I can make my own wine!