Hooch is a funny name for a”homemade wine”, but it sure is catchy. Other terms, like “pruno wine” or “buck wine”, have been around as nicknames for this DIY booze as well.
So take this article as part-guide and part-fun-trivia-piece. Don’t go experimenting with distillation with no experience and no permit. We warned you!
What You Need to Start Making Hooch
Now hooch making, like most homebrew beer set-ups and winemaking scenarios, can be made with basic household items and a little ingenuity.
That’s exactly why prisoners are regularly able to brew their own hooch fruit cocktail from the confinements of prison. They often use one old plastic bottle or a bag, old or canned fruits, a gallon of water, and discarded bread for their yeast content.
Unfortunately, inmates often get sick due to the unsanitary methods of production. There are even recorded botulism outbreaks due to a toxin found in old fruit used in their prison bag brew.
To avoid this and get started making your own prison wine, you’ll need the following:
- Any juice or fresh fruit you have available, as well as herbs, root vegetables, or syrups
- Option 1: Plastic Bottle with a Balloon (if you’re completely new at-home brewing)
- Option 2: Glass Fermentation-Grade Bottle with an Airlock
- Bread or Brewer’s Yeast
- Cheese Cloth
- (Optional) Sugar
For the fermentation containers, you’re going to want to have a generous gallon allowance for your hooch. Say you’re planning to make a 1-gallon brew of hooch, it’s advisable then to have at least a 2-gallon container for fermentation with you available.
Sugar is always handy to have as it can help keep your yeast healthy as it needs the starches and carbohydrates from sugar to continuously ferment your wine.
It won’t be as fancy as the stuff on the menu at your favorite restaurant, but it certainly beats the pruno wine prisoners are stuck with in prison. No botulism here, please.
Making the Hooch: A Step-by-Step Guide
Prepping your Materials
This fruit wine is dependent on the ingredients you’re using and the success of your eventual fermentation, so don’t skip this step.
- Always use clean equipment. If you haven’t used our equipment in a while, give it another round of cleaning to ensure you have sanitized equipment.
- Distilled water is important if you’re not using any juice. Distilled water ensures that your water does not have any additives that can affect the fermentation of the drink. So avoid using other types of water like tap or mineralized variants.
- Discard any old food or spoiled fruits. If you want to avoid being something like our prison buddies making wine, remove any old food that can spoil your whole batch. We want to ferment with fresh ingredients, not old and wrinkled oranges and grapes.
- Preservatives, like those most commonly found in store-bought beverages, can kill the yeast you’re going to be using and affect the whole fermentation process. For the best results, use fresh fruit or fruit juice with little to no additives.
Making the Must
The first step to any good wine is getting the juice out of any fruits you’re going to be using. This is called the “must”, a combination of pulped ingredients.
- Pulp up the fruit and other ingredients to get the juices out. Popular choices include grapes, oranges, apples, as well as beets, elderflower, and honey (for that added sugar kick).
- Transfer the pulp and the juice to a separate container and add the remaining ingredients you want in your drink, such as sugar syrups, herbs, and other vegetables. If you have experience in brewing, you can even add some stabilizers here.
This will serve as the foundation of your beverage, similar to how hops and barley are the foundation in the recipe for beer.
You can do a little experimentation with your must and add things like sugar just in case you want a bit more sweetness to accentuate the combination of several fruits and herbs.
Starting your Fermentation
Once you have your must nicely settled, you can start prepping for fermentation.
I know as humans we tend to be lazy with prep work like this but it is absolutely key to use sanitized equipment or else you just come out with a terrible beverage and a bad hangover.
- In a large container, start to pitch in your brewer’s yeast. If you’re truly following the pruno booze recipe method, you can use bits of bread for this method. Some yeast still remains even after leavening, so this should be enough to cause a reaction while fermenting (though this method may take a bit longer than using pure yeast).
- Instead of doing the bag method they do in prison, you can transfer the must to your plastic bottle or glass fermenter. If you’re using the plastic bottle method, you can use a balloon with a small hole poked on top to act as a release bag for any trapped gas. A commercial fermenter comes with an air-lock to slowly release trapped gas. (There remains the possibility of the glass bottle exploding from long ferment times, so be careful).
- Keep the drink in a cool area, around 50-70 degrees F, to ferment for around 5-7 days.
- After 5-7 days, strain the solution you made to remove the sediments of yeast and other items from the must. You can do this with a combination of the cheesecloth and water siphon.
- (Optional) You can also keep the hooch in the fridge after fermenting to force the sediments to go down to the bottle. This is called cold crashing your brew.
It’s good practice to check on your hooch every now and then to make sure that the carbon dioxide build-up doesn’t get too crazy.
Stories of bottle bombs, or bottles cracking and at times exploding due to trapped gas, are all too familiar to beer and wine brewers.
You can choose to keep fermenting your hooch much longer than the recipe calls for, and often this is something homebrewers do to get a product out of their brews.
Some people even go as far as fermenting for up to 3 months at a time before bottling the thing as well as adding more sugar to the mix.
The addition of sugar can also help your yeast continuously produce alcohol for a stronger final product.
Bottling your Hooch
Once you have your hooch nice and fermented, you can start transferring these to bottles for packaging and storage.
- Make sure to properly strain off the hooch from any remaining sediments. You don’t want your brewed beverages to continue to ferment when you store them. The cheesecloth comes in handy with this.
- You can use the siphon to bring up the hooch from wine fermentation kits with little mess into individual bottles.
Keep these stored in a place with cool conditions to avoid any latent fermenting. Probably not in your fancy pants temp-zone controlled wine cooler. Just somewhere not-hot.
Your hooch should last at least a month or two and can give you a fairly strong buzz due to its plenty produced alcohol content.
Drink this DIY booze alone if you can stomach it, or just drink it with some added juice for a refreshing boozy summer drink.
Should I Be Concerned about Methanol?
Luckily for you, you can actually try to make this at home with little to no danger as it uses only base sugar and yeast without any distillation processes involved.
While a lot of beer and wine recipes do follow similar fermenting methods to spirits like rum and vodka, beer and wine won’t go through the distillation process which concentrates all the methanol into a batch that can be dangerous if consumed.
The fact is, methanol poisoning is much more likely in one bad foreshot of distilled spirit than a gallon of homebrewed beer and wine.
We hope you enjoyed our guide on how to make your own very own homemade hooch.
While It is a fun way to make a prison staple, we do recommend you find a way to just brew a cider or home fruit wine, as all these steps in the hooch recipe are refined in these beverages.
But we can’t deny that the back-to-basics method of prison wine brewing is one interesting way to make alcohol, so we hope this guide has helped you understand the processes found in homebrewing.
It’s not exactly stepping on grapes, but it sure is fun to make.
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