Frugal yet Fancy Homebrewing – with 30 Seconds of Work

discoSummer seems to have started a little early this year here in Colorado, and brought along all of its pleasant side effects. Abandoning the socks and shoes, gathering with local friends to play in the park and watch the sunsets, and of course an increased consumption of cold beverages.

Long ago, I wrote a post about brewing your own beer. It was an amazing experience and it produced great beer. Many readers are advanced brewers and they wrote in with advice and encouragement. It is still a great hobby for the many people who enjoy it. But unfortunately for my friends and me, we found that after a few batches the habit just didn’t stick.

It was all in the practicalities: the brewing process takes a couple of hours and involves quite a bit of repetitive labor that can be guilt-inducing for those of us who like to use all our time productively. Bottling is a particularly slow chore, and the more efficient alternative of keg storage encourages excessive beer consumption because you end up with your own refrigerated beer tap taunting you at all hours. To top it all off, the home-brewed beer was only slightly cheaper than the local microbrews, which can be found for just over a dollar a bottle around here if you pick them up during a sale.

To create a winning home brewing situation for lazy people like myself, I needed an impossible combination of attributes: a low time commitment, small batches, low cost, no major research, and no bottling. I didn’t think such a thing existed, but a local friend of mine who is known on this blog as The Honey Badger has proved me wrong. He has rediscovered an age-old method to convert good fruit juice into very good summer party beverages with about 30 seconds of work (plus of course two weeks of fermentation).

The end result is a sparkling beverage that is extremely tasty, much drier (less sweet) than the original fruit, and contains about 6% alcohol – the perfect level for adult relaxation and a factor in the easy breezy style of this very article which is being written with a large mug of cider right next to the laptop.

At less than 60 cents per 12 ounce serving, this is a truly frugal way to get the party started. Replacing a portion of your microbrew consumption with some innovative drinks you ferment yourself could save you hundreds per year. And pulling out a fresh gallon jug of this fine hard cider from the fridge is a prestigious way to impress your party guests. As long as you don’t use it as an excuse to consume more, something we laid down the rules for in the old Beer ‘o’ Clock article.

So let’s make some right now.

1: Procure the largest, fanciest bottle of juice you can find

yeastI chose this lovely one-gallon jug bottle of North Coast Sonoma County unfiltered apple juice from the new hipster market in town called Lucky’s. It runs about $5.99 for a bottle this size. The key is to look for something without preservatives, and with a very good natural taste. You can ferment pretty much anything with sugar in it, but we are fancy people here, so we use fancy juice. Apple, grape, mango, pineapple, pear, and berry juices work beautifully.

2: Take off the cap and dump in 1/2 teaspoon of Champagne Yeast
You might give it a little swirl or shake to disperse the yeast nicely through the juice. Save the cap, for you’ll be putting it back on once the brewing is done.

3: Put a cork with an airlock* in it.
stopperThen put an ounce of clean water (or a sterile liquid like whiskey as shown here) into the airlock. I recommend setting the bottle in the center of your kitchen table at this point so you can watch the show. Within 24 hours, it will start gently bubbling and fizzing, as the yeast works its incredible alchemy of turning the useless sugar molecules into useful alcohol ones. This bubbling will go on for about two weeks. At that point, you may notice that it slows down as the yeast runs low on sugar.

And you’re done! After those two weeks, put the cap back on, and put the jug in your fridge. A small amount of additional fermentation will happen, which will release more carbon dioxide that gets forced back into solution to make the mixture slightly bubbly. It will store well for many weeks in the fridge, or you can use it immediately. Dispense freely to self and friends, and watch the pleasant results.

Update: In response to the idea of in-bottle carbonation, some readers brought up the concern that it is possible to break certain bottles if the pressure grows too large. The thing is, you don’t know what “too large” is. Therefore, I will start a new dangerous experiment today that may cost me a whole bottle of cider: I’ll brew a new batch, cap the bottle tightly after two weeks, and leave it in a a protected enclosure in my warm garage for several additional days. Then see if it explodes, gets extremely fizzy, or just ends up perfectly carbonated. Plastic bottles will also eliminate the risk of dangerous explosions, because they have a great capacity to stretch. Update 2: I tried it and the bottle did not explode. But others report that explosions do occasionally happen (especially with larger/thinner glass bottles), so make sure you do it in a safe place if you try this.


The key to this whole deal is that we have eliminated the time-consuming parts of beer and wine brewing. Instead of boiling grains for hours and adding multiple ingredients, we use just one ingredient. Instead of washing carboys and siphoning from one to another, we ferment in just the bottle supplied with the juice. And instead of sterilizing and capping dozens of bottles afterwards, we just throw that same bottle in the fridge and serve directly from it. The result is obviously not beer, but the variety of fruits and other sweet things that Nature makes available will still keep your taste buds entertained.

I just started this experiment two weeks ago. We cracked the first bottle last night, and it was such a success that I decided to share the results with you as well as start a few more bottles for future use.

Bottoms up!


*The Honey Badger has been brewing interesting concoctions to share at his own parties for several years now, and he even started a website called Simple Brew Kits to sell the extremely simple parts needed to ferment beverages like this at home. A rubber stopper/cork, an airlock, and some yeast. Under 15 bucks and you’re set for the summer. 

** Mr. HB is also the guy I teamed up with for The Foreclosure Project, and the one who introduced me to the Badass nature of Fasting. He is also known occasionally as Poppa from Poppa’s Cottage and Hirsute Pursuit.


  • Kristen April 22, 2014, 8:06 am

    How much does the fermented beverage taste like the original fruit juice?

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 22, 2014, 8:20 am

      Quite a bit – my current batch of hard cider retains all of the classy appleitude (or is that appleassity?) of the original juice. It is just more tart and crisp now.

      • Beth April 22, 2014, 11:13 am

        Oh, it’s definitely appleassity. Hoping for another bumper peach crop from the backyard orchard this year so we can give this a try with free juice!

      • Paul April 27, 2014, 4:16 am

        Beware, PET bottles explode too, our elderflower champagne woke the whole house up at three in the morning bursting out of a kitchen cupboard.

        If you are worried about further fermentation use a cork which would blow out.

      • John April 27, 2014, 1:25 pm

        Wouldn’t it be easier, simpler, safer (at least from an explosion perspective) better and healthier (at least for your belt line) to just grow your own in the lovely new world of legal marijuana now firmly established in Colorado? I’ve never heard of anyone going blind (at least permanently) from homemade weed.

        • Charles April 28, 2014, 1:54 pm

          As long as you do not distillate it there is no risk of creating ethanol with this method..

          • jcd April 29, 2014, 2:23 pm

            Methanol is produced during distilling and can cause damage to the optic nerve.
            Ethanol is produced in fermentation, and does not cause such damage.

            • John April 30, 2014, 3:40 pm

              I’d prefer to generate my savings in places that don’t require me to remember the difference between methanol and ethanol…

            • jcd May 1, 2014, 9:14 am

              brewing doesn’t require you to remember the difference. maybe you are too stoned to realize that.

            • Dave July 31, 2015, 1:30 pm

              You give stoners a bad name.

            • Maxim Ч. April 30, 2014, 8:48 pm

              I just had to comment on this…
              Methanol is NOT produced through distillation (NOTHING is produced through distillation, distillation is simply used to separate out the components of an alcoholic beverage based on their boiling points).

              Methanol is produced in small amounts by the yeast during regular fermentation. However, such levels are low enough to be non-toxic. Same goes for any beverage you distil from any sort of wine/mash (it will be safe to drink and will not cause blindness), especially because the hospital remedy for someone who ingests methanol is…ethanol (because the body will process this instead, simply passing over the methanol, IIRC).

              People who suffer optic nerve damage from drinking methanol are either:
              ~Idiots who bought methanol thinking that all alcohols are the same, or…
              ~Idiots who bought methanol that was *sold* as ethanol by some unscrupulous moonshiner.

              Sources: Moonshined a lot when I was in highschool :-)

            • jcd May 1, 2014, 1:07 pm

              you are right.

              Distillation only produces toxic concentrations of methanol.

              Fermentation produces around 3 mg/L of methanol. Considering 5,628 mg/kg is LD50 for a rat, the methanol produced in juice or beer fermentation could be considered negligible.

              just trying to assure folks that “going blind” would not be an issue with home fermentation


            • Maxim Ч. May 2, 2014, 7:22 pm


              Distillation does NOT produce methanol, fermentation does. Distillation simply removes the water and some other things from any alcoholic beverage. However, one CAN specifically distil methanol from wine if one so chooses (it has a lower boiling point due to it’s lower molecular size), though I don’t know why anyone would do this. Generally one actually throws out the “heads”, or first portion of a run when distilling something just to be absolutely certain that the end product contains no methanol. See http://homedistiller.org/ if you want to learn how to make your own badassed hard alcohol! :-)

            • paul July 25, 2015, 7:37 pm

              You’re both wrong and both right. Methanol is produced during fermentation. Whether it is also “produced” during distillation is just semantics. The chemical reaction that results in methanol production doesn’t happen during the distillation, but “producing” the purer methanol certainly does result from distillation. Since the boiling point of methanol is lower than ethanol, all of the methanol comes off of the mash first, which is why you are supposed to throw the first 50 mL of a batch away or use it for cleaner. The people who go blind from methanol are more likely people who didn’t know this to begin with or those who didn’t label the “head” jar properly and drank it instead.

      • Oshawa Oscar August 12, 2015, 4:06 pm

        This seems wasteful – 60 cents a bottle certainly adds up for what is basically a social luxury. No brewing for me – I’d rather put that time and money to real work.

  • Mrs PoP April 22, 2014, 8:10 am

    This is the second time that I’ve heard about champagne yeast recently – in Michael Pollan’s new book Cooked, he talks about using champagne yeast as an accelerant and to get a higher alcohol content out of his fermented beverages. Seems like it’s not necessary for fruit juice fermentation, but it definitely speeds up the process and contributes to a higher alcohol content.

    • three is plenty April 22, 2014, 10:56 am

      Champagne yeast can survive higher alcohol levels – yeast produce alcohol, which in turn kills the yeast. The higher alcohol content beers/wines have to be made with specific yeasts because of that.

    • T April 22, 2014, 10:57 am

      It’s definitely not necessary, but Champaign yeast yields a different mouthfeel than a standard brewer’s yeast (and don’t even try baking yeast). Think of the sharper bubbly-ness of champaign compared to a standard beer’s less-effervescent mouthfeel, and that’s the basic difference.

    • HealthyWealthyExpat April 22, 2014, 11:35 am

      Thanks, MMM, for enlightening us once again on some of the amazing things we can accomplish in the comfort of our own homes. And thanks, Mrs PoP for making me aware that Pollan had a new book out. I will check it out of our university library tomorrow. I love his writing and was in fact just mentioning him to my English language students today as we make our way through a unit on food. I recounted to them the results of the analysis of a McDonalds meal, where he discovered it was over 60% corn…..

      • Free To Pursue April 22, 2014, 6:53 pm

        Thanks for the heads up HWE. I just requested Pollan’s latest book from the library also. Nice to see there’s more of his work available to read.

    • Jacob April 22, 2014, 2:46 pm

      I didn’t know much about fermentation, until my wife left some juice in her Nalgene water bottle on accident, and let it sit for a few weeks. In her college dorm. On a dry campus.

      You can imagine the surprise of her roommates when she found the bottle, cracked it open, and caught whiffs of alcohol from the bottle. The dirty looks and stares were hilarious, and she definitely had some explaining to do to the floor RA.

      Needless to say, I learned that juice can become an adult beverage with little to no interaction at all. Now….the safety of such a beverage is questionable at best.

      Speaking of, what are the safety aspects, concerns with this method. Can the juice turned cider spoil if not set up properly? I really want to give this a try, but would like to avoid food poisoning…

      • Sarah April 22, 2014, 6:32 pm

        The cool thing about fermenation is, if it goes wrong, you will know it. Failed ferments smell/taste moldy or rotten and you will want nothing to do with it. That usually happens only if some natural yeasts or bacteria colonize before your champage yeast does (if you used old yeast and it didn’t activate, for instance). You might get a more alcoholic product than you expect, but you won’t food poison yourself by accident with any fermented good.

      • T April 22, 2014, 10:06 pm

        There’s a risk of infection with any fermenting, but it’s REALLY low, insignificant even, if you use the method described above and just use the jug that the juice comes in. Brewers who use their own fermentation containers are usually very careful about sanitation, but that’s not an issue here. You’d know if it were infected–there would be visible signs on the top of the juice that look like mold. Not to be confused with the yeast sediment that settles at the bottom.

        The juice wont go bad, even with no preservatives (note that this is a must–preservatives will kill the yeast). Speaking from experience here, I’ve had a couple of gallons sitting on top of my fridge for 2-3 months with no issues whatsoever before bottling.

        • Jacob April 23, 2014, 9:24 am

          Thanks Sarah and T! Very helpful. I guess it’s now time to go get some fancy juice and make a fun summer beverage!

        • Marcus April 23, 2014, 6:37 pm

          … so you cannot use any bottled juice that contains preservatives without wasting juice and the yeast? Will the yeast even start if you used a cheaper variety of juice that contains preservatives?

          • Max April 27, 2014, 4:01 pm

            Any preservatives will usually kill the yeast. There’s so much readily available juice without preservatives that there’s no need to potentially waste a batch by not using it.

    • Natalie H April 22, 2014, 3:39 pm

      Champagne yeast can also tolerate higher temperatures than most yeast, yielding a good result at room temperatures, even in the summer.

  • Mr Money Motivator April 22, 2014, 8:13 am

    Excellent ‘how-to’ MMM, exactly what I like to see :)

    Ordered myself some yeast and airlocks, and should hopefully have some lovely cider to go with my home-made biltong ready for the summer!

    • Credaholic April 22, 2014, 8:35 am

      Hold the phone, is that a fellow Mustachian with South African roots I see? I was snacking on homemade biltong just last night!

      • guest April 22, 2014, 12:32 pm

        Where did you order your rubber cork/airlock/yeast from?

        • Dan April 24, 2014, 1:09 am

          I thought people might be interested in this, not just Australians…


          It’s a product that includes the yeast, but also caps that go on commercial bottles that both 1) keeps it free from infection and 2) gives it the desired level of carbonation.

          I have used the ‘Australian’ one for a while, and even with the cheapest juice i could buy, it still gives a cider that is as good as anything you can buy commercially.

          • Kit May 6, 2014, 6:12 pm

            I have taken the same idea as oztops, but we have two carbonation levels, sparkling, and soda like, and we are American Made.
            $9.99 + shipping. Our caps are reusable at least 50 times and the membrane we use to control the pressure, is FDA rated food safe.

            • Adam February 17, 2015, 8:24 pm

              Hi kit, can you give us a link or website? I’d like to see your lids.

          • St4n May 26, 2014, 11:06 pm


            Thank you so much for the Oztop tip! Forgive me if I’ve become a little too excitable about the prospective results…

            I moved to Australia about 2 years ago and despite many many taste tests, I haven’t found anything close to ye olde Somerset scrumpy. It’s the one thing I really miss from home (small things huh!).

            To be fair, my first Oztops batch wasn’t exactly close to scrumpy either, but it tasted good and has inspired me to continue experimenting with the kit. It’s so simple and quick too – I’ll keep on adjusting what I put in until I get the desired result.

            What’s more, I got 2.4 litres of Berri Apple Juice on offer for A$3. By the time you take into account the cost of the tops, yeast and a little added sugar, that works out around A$2 per litre, or just over 50p for a good olde English pint. Not only do I now have a way to make my favourite bevvy, it’s also the cheapest cider I’ve ever tasted!

      • Baba J May 22, 2014, 12:26 am

        As a relatively new home brewer and biltong maker…this is something I will definitely try

    • Scotch! April 23, 2014, 7:19 am

      To up the Mustachian level, you can skip the airlocks altogether and just cover the jug’s mouth with a sheet of aluminum foil. This works well because it protects the juice/hooch from unwanted micro-organisms settling out of the air and the CO2 generated by the fermentation protects the juice from oxidation. If you use this method, be sure that it’s in a place where it won’t be disturbed during fermentation, as added oxygen is the enemy of tasty flavors!

      • Chuck April 23, 2014, 1:33 pm

        Unfortunately, fruit flies can crawl under the foil and carry acetobacter which will create vinegar or ethyl acetate (think nail polish remover) neither of which is the desired result.

        I’ve seen a ballon used as a cheaper alternative since it expands as CO2 is produced.

        • Keith Schroeder April 24, 2014, 9:18 am

          I use a balloon, Chuck, when I make wine. Never had a problem.

          To the person asking if wine goes bad after a while: If hard cider sits around too long it becomes apple vinegar. Great for cooking, but terrible for drinking straight.

          • Van July 11, 2014, 12:25 am

            I used two layers of cellophane/saran wrap/cling film with offset holes punched in them, and rubber banded them together. Same effect!

  • Terrik April 22, 2014, 8:15 am

    Looks great, I’ll be trying it this weekend, I think.

    Out of curiosity: With some of the different types of juice that are naturally lower in sugar — I’m thinking specifically of cranberry juice here — would you need to add sugar to the mix until it reaches the same relative sweetness as apple juice or grape juice? Would it simply be more ‘dry’, or would it not properly ferment without additional sugar?

    Organic cranberry juice can be had incredibly cheaply in my part of the US; I may have to experiment to see how well it ferments.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 22, 2014, 8:18 am

      As you’d expect, the sweeter juices produce more alcoholic drinks. So if you add some sugar or honey to the cranberry juice just before adding the yeast, you’d get a more satisfying drink in the end. I am not sure if the extreme acidity of cranberry would mess up the fermentation, but perhaps Mr. Honeybadger will step in and counsel us on this condition?

      • Curious April 22, 2014, 9:37 am

        Hey MMM great & timely post! I’ve been enjoying many a hard cider since my neighbor started making fruit beers like this last summer

        Is the fermentation sugar limited? I was always under the impression that the process stopped when the result got too alcoholic for the yeast to handle. Is it the champagne yeast that allows it to metabolize more sugar than normal?

        Also are there any special precautions regarding sterilization or does the yeast overpower anything that might be in the juice or equipment beforehand? Shouldn’t be producing much methanol at all since it’s all fruit sugars.

        • gestalt162 April 22, 2014, 10:43 am

          The ABV tolerance for beer yeast is around 8-12 percent, so it would have no problem handling normal fruit juice. Wine yeast has an even higher tolerance, so this is even less of an issue. Wine yeast (ie. champagne yeast) will ferment out very dry, and is cheap if bought at a homebrew store, so it is a good choice here. You could use beer yeast if you wanted a slightly sweeter final product.

          All packaged juice is pasteurized when it is packaged, so there is no concern about infection before opening the bottle.

          • James April 23, 2014, 11:05 am

            I don’t know if it is the same with fruit wines / ciders as it is for honey wine (mead), but I think generally the higher alcohol content type stuff gets better with a little aging, allowing the flavors to mesh and mellow.

            I think this holds true even for beer in a way, which is why you see some breweries encouraging people to cellar certain high-gravity brews.

            A mead that has a 10% alcohol content or so is generally best after 6-12 months, but some of my 5% session meads are ready to drink after just one month of aging / settling down, sometimes even less.

          • Franco April 26, 2014, 11:40 am

            If you really want to get frugal and adventurous, you can use wild yeast. Just leave the bottle open outside for awhile, then close it up and put your airlock on. It will most likely ferment. I’ve tried this with a 5 gallon batch of apple cider and it turned out great.

            But packaged yeast is more predictable and reliable.

      • gestalt162 April 22, 2014, 10:39 am

        Yeast is remarkably acid-tolerant- the pH of fermented beer is pretty low, and yeast works just fine in sour beers with even lower pHs. So it should be just fine with cranberry juice.

        Adding sugar will up the ABV, but will not result in a sweeter product.

      • Mr. Frugal Toque April 22, 2014, 11:42 am

        We did an experiment recently when we took our children off of fruit juices. 4 1-gallon jugs of cranberry juice were converted to cranberry wine in much the same way as described here (we added one cup of sugar per 1-gallon container)
        The result was a delicious, dry (not sweet), cranberry-smelling wine.
        So yeah. Cranberry juice works just fine, and the alcohol content was quite high (based only on how drunk I felt after drinking it, not on scientific hydrometer testing).

      • Poppa Badger April 23, 2014, 12:06 am

        Phew, it’s been a long day trying to keep up with all these MMM-generated brew kit orders. I had to bust out my version of Purple Drank (some fermented Newman’s Own grape juice) to mellow out this evening. I learned a lot by reading all the comments here – the Mustachians answered these great questions better than I could.

        For me, fermenting is really about experimenting and learning on the fly. I’m no oenologist, so I don’t always know what will become of my experiments. Failure’s part of the process. I’ve tried fermenting acidic juice (lemonade – the acid seemed to stifle the yeast but it wasn’t bad), milk with sugar added (only a couple days in the cool basement – yummy but low alcohol), V8 with sugar added (a chunky disaster), and mead without adding yeast originally (I think I rediscovered penicillin – it sucked). I’ve used bread yeast in apple juice (pretty damn good to my suspect palate), drunk a bit of yeasty sludge mixed in with the juice (might’ve had some GI issues but not bad), and even exploded a bottle or two (back in the beer brewing days, not in the juice fermenting days).

        I was excited to see some suggestions here about different drinks and yeasts to try. I plan to add a variety of yeasts to the website so people can do more experimenting. Meanwhile, I’m going to try brewing some kombucha, and maybe something with the juniper berries in the front yard….

        • Travis April 23, 2014, 12:14 pm

          Kombucha is great as is Water Kiefer. We’ve been doing the Kombucha for a couple years now but stopped the water kiefer because we kept contaminating it with the Kombucha and it was becoming more labor intensive than we wanted (water kiefer every24-48 hours as opposed to every 7-10 days w/kombucha)

          • queen of string April 24, 2014, 8:35 pm

            I frequently make rather alcoholic water kefir :-) This sounds like fun too, will probably start with apple.

            • Greg Tippitt August 18, 2015, 6:52 pm

              Using this jug method, I made a really great tasting non-alcoholic fermented apple juice using tibicos aka water kefir grains. I tastes like a dry champagne and is super-healthy. I made my first batch by just adding a tablespoon of tibicos grains, instead of champagne yeast, to a glass gallon jug of fresh apple juice from a local orchard last fall. I let it ferment at room temp with a loose cap for 2 days, then moved the jug to the refrigerator for 2 more days with the cap sealed. It was ready to drink in only 4 days. I enjoyed it so much, I started keeping a 5 gallon carboy (large plastic mineral water jug) of it in the frig. I let it ferment continually, and it only requires about 5 minutes work per week. In addition to the tibicos, I added some Saccharomyces Boulardii, which is a probiotic yeast you can buy in capsules at most pharmacies. Now when the carboy gets half empty, I refill it with apple juice, stir the SCOBY sediment, and leave it at room temp for 24 hours. I have started adding a tablespoon each of lemon and lime juice to each gallon of apple juice for a more tart taste. A cup of strong black tea and a cup of cranberry, pomegranate, and/or sour cherry juice added to each gallon of apple juice also give it a nice complex flavor. The tibicos SCOBY is really robust and ferments most of the sugar really fast. It bubbles CO2 so much during the first 12 hours, I leave a half gallon of head space to keep it from overflowing. To prevent an overflow mess, I sit the carboy in an aluminum turkey baking pan during the warm fermentation as well. There is just enough sugar left in the juice to produce the perfect amount of fizz while the fermentation finishes in the cold with the cap tight. I keep a gallon jug of the finished cider to pour from and make sure to refill the jug before starting a new batch in the carboy. I tried it with concord grape juice instead of apple juice, but I didn’t like it.

  • Joshua Sheats April 22, 2014, 8:28 am

    Love this one! I’ve wanted to try home brewing, but I’m daunted by the necessary equipment and investment. I’m totally trying this one!

  • Zeb April 22, 2014, 8:29 am

    Isn’t there a risk of the bottle exploding if fermentation continues after corking? I’m just getting into home brewing and everything I read cautions against using containers not made specifically for carbonated beverages. Are those sources being overly cautious?

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 22, 2014, 8:45 am

      Yes! Good point – you don’t want to put a tight cap on until the fermentation is mostly done. When I recapped my juice after 2 weeks, the extra bubbliness was very minor and the bottle only developed a very small amount of pressure judging by the small ‘Pssht’ when opening. It was just about perfect.

      Once you put the juice in your 34F refrigerator, the fermentation slows way down as well.

      Other strategies could include buying juice in a plastic bottle (I’m fermenting one of those right now), transferring to a higher-pressure bottle, or even better MacGyvering up a cap with a pressure gauge and safety release.

      • Kris April 22, 2014, 11:56 am

        I once had a batch of over-carbonated bottles explode more than 6 months after bottling. I can only guess why it took so long, but I ended up disposing of all of the remainders by opening with leather gloves and safety glasses on. More than one bottle exploded in my hand when I went to remove the cap. There are pictures out there of people having severely lacerated hands from this exact scenario. Just a warning that the bottles can fail catastrophically even if all you are doing is removing the cap.

    • Jared April 22, 2014, 8:52 am

      If you stick it in the fridge, the fermentation process should pretty much stop. Also, if you’re periodically opening the bottle (to imbibe a small amount), that will release pressure.

      If you’re really worried, I don’t see any reason this scheme can’t be done with a plastic container instead of glass (which is much less likely to explode).

      … and MMM beat me to it :)

    • Money Saving April 23, 2014, 5:27 am

      Wow – I guess it’s best to keep it in the garage or something so that it doesn’t explode all over the house.

      I like the MMM idea of some type of relief valve type of system. I wonder how easy it would be to come by a household version of one.

    • Bex April 23, 2014, 11:40 am

      also If you want to be on the safe side you could always take a hydrometer reading after 2 weeks to see how much has fermented vs potential.Probably after a few weeks it’s mostly done. And you are going to be opening the bottle somewhat often to pour a glass (and thus releasing pressure each time) so I’m thinking with the small batches and an intention to open the bottle up frequently (even if just to release pressure) it’s probably okay.
      I like the idea of a special cap with safety release! Fancy!

  • Big Cajun Man April 22, 2014, 8:47 am

    No problems with the sludge at the bottom? Maybe filter it after a few weeks? Yes filtering suddenly makes it MUCH more complicated, but I am curious as to how much brewing sludge is in the bottom.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 22, 2014, 9:05 am

      I find that the yeast leftovers at the bottom cause no problem – you can pour carefully from the top and leave those behind. Or you can drink them with no bad results as well.

      • Chris April 22, 2014, 10:56 am

        Or you could wash your yeast and re-use it. I assume you’re using dry yeast though, which is much cheaper than a vial of ale yeast.

        I’d even try pouring fresh juice onto the left over yeast cake at the bottom of a previous batch and letting that sit at room temperature to ferment. Lots of home brewers re-use their yeast.

    • Schmidty April 22, 2014, 5:50 pm

      If you don’t like the sediment left at the bottom you can pour the dregs through a coffee filter, although the carbonation will be removed too.

      • George April 22, 2014, 8:57 pm

        Big Cajun Man, the sludge or “dregs” at the bottom is nasty stuff, if you accidentally ingest it in high enough quantities you can get bad stomach pains, gas, and it has laxative effects because there is live yeast in it.

        You can probably pour out the cider or juice especially for the stuff at the top if you are very careful not to stir up the sediment at the bottom, pour very slowly and gently; but it gets harder as you get down to the bottom of the fermenting container.

        The easiest way is siphon to so you can get the liquid out without disturbing the dregs sediment and without having to move the fermenting container at all;

        A good rule of thumb is you get out up to 1/4 inch above where the dregs start; to be safe, I take out no more than 1/2 inch above (let small the remainder go at the bottom of the container, it is not worth getting sick over)

  • whafa April 22, 2014, 8:54 am

    Don’t take chances with pressurized gas and glass containers that weren’t designed for pressure, even if you think the fermentation is complete. Decant quietly into a used, plastic 2-liter bottle after primary is done. For some extra sparkle, add a tablespoon of plain sugar (experiment for best results) to the 2-liter bottle and allow it a secondary fermentation under pressure before refrigerating.

    • Kamil April 23, 2014, 10:57 am

      I am getting confused with the terminology. What is the primary fermentation? The first two weeks? Is there any reason you have to use glass to start with? Why not a 2-litre sparkling water (plastic) bottle that has been emptied? I have seen recipes that caution against plastic but they don’t explain why.

      Any insights are much appreciated.

      • David B. April 23, 2014, 12:34 pm

        Primary fermentation is the main event that you do first (the 2 weeks or so that MMM talks about, actually is usually over in 1 week but tapers down)

        You can ferment in the plastic, usually the bottles are PET plastic which is very safe and even used for fermentation containers for the 5 gallon batches.

        I would suggest doing the fermentation in whatever you’d like, but when you want to get some carbonation, add it to the plastic bottle (or you can ferment it there and carbonate it there if you’d like) Just pour so you don’t pour out any of the sediment into your glass.

    • Obi May 1, 2014, 11:23 am

      Just a thought – why not use a stainless steel growler for the secondary fermentation? I assume the explosion risk would be lower and no worries about chemicals leaching from plastic bottles.

  • Done by Forty April 22, 2014, 8:55 am

    Sheesh, at $6 a jug, can we afford NOT to make hard cider?

    • Distant Shore April 26, 2014, 1:53 pm

      I just found this juice at my local supermarket for $15 per gallon. I was all set to go before I saw that. The joys of living in a large metro area in the Northeast!

      • Michiko July 16, 2014, 12:48 am

        Same problem in Hawaii. It’s still half the price of store bought hard cider, but definitely a smaller return on investment than in Colorado. But once I get the hang of this, I may try papaya juice of which we could have gallons for free. If it’s a thick consistency, will that make a weird drink? Or an alcoholic smoothie? Yum

  • Kris April 22, 2014, 8:57 am

    I love the mini-batch concept, but you should include a word of caution to the uninitiated: Complete fermentation can take up to 4 weeks or longer, especially if you leave the bottle in a cool space. At only 2 weeks, there is some risk of a significant amount of sugar being left in the bottle. As long as you keep the carbonated bottle cold everything should be OK, but if the bottle warms back up (for instance, if it were to be taken out of the ‘fridge and allowed to warm up) you’ve basically got yourself a glass bomb of which I’m sure the results would be even more exciting than when a beer bottle explodes.

    A safer method would be to give ample time to allow fermentation to complete, then add back sugar or more juice so you can have a controlled carbonation with no need for long-term cold storage. The best method would be to rack it off to a new jug so you can get rid of the sediment, but I digress into a more complicated process reminiscent of the full thing!

    On another note, from personal experience I think there are much better yeasts to use than champagne. For hard cider, I can personally recommend the Belgain Ardennes (http://www.wyeastlab.com/rw_yeaststrain_detail.cfm?ID=136) or the Edinburgh Scottish Ale yeast (http://www.whitelabs.com/yeast/wlp028-edinburgh-scottish-ale-yeast) both available at your local homebrew shop. And the best part is you only have to buy them once by salvaging and recycling used yeast (http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f163/yeast-washing-illustrated-41768/). Or for an even lazier method, free to scrape a tablespoon or two of sediment from the bottom of an old bottle and throw it straight into a new jug of juice!

    • Rudi Pittman March 15, 2015, 2:00 am

      I use plastic 3 liter bottles for alot of my fermentation…with airlocks on top….cleanest way is to use a siphon to drain from one 3 liter to another after two weeks..the airlock will show when fermentation has stopped…the trick is to use 3/4th fermentated juice and add back in 1/4 fresh juice to do the final in bottle carbonation and add back some sweetness or it will be very dry….then take the 1/4 fermented juice and leftover yeast/sediment to start your next batch by pouring the rest of the fresh juice in there and shaking it up good before adding back the airlock. After 2 days in the bottle at room temp the bottle should be VERY firm and then you can move it to the fridge….you’ll get CLEAN bubbly juice in various flavors of your choice. You can add sugar but keep in mind the yeast will continue to try to convert it to alcohol…if you want it sweet without this issue then use non fermentable sweeteners..there are several…I’ve branched out and am now trying mead which is honey wine and takes alot longer…typically 6 months for a good gallon. I do the apple cider.. acai/pomegranate…..grape…..berry blend (all sort of juice in it)…..cran-grape…….I do reuse the yeast ….the sediment settles and I siphon again. In many cases I’m making the same juice multiple times so it just keeps carrying forward.

  • insourcelife April 22, 2014, 8:58 am

    I’ve been wanting to try this for a long time now so thank you for the simple instructions and motivation provided in this post. Question – can you use the same yeast one would use for bread making? I have a big package of it from Costco and all I’d need to get would be an airlock. Google search for “DIY airlock fermentation” returns plenty of interesting alternatives to buying an airlock. I prefer making things whenever possible so I’ll probably give one of these DIY designs a try!

    • gestalt162 April 22, 2014, 10:46 am

      You can use bread yeast, and it will make alcohol, but won’t taste as good as using wine yeast or beer yeast would.

      I would buy an airlock vs. making one yourself. They cost less than $3 if you buy one from a homebrew shop, under $5 including the rubber bung.

      • insourcelife April 22, 2014, 12:07 pm

        Thank you – I will get some champagne yeast then. Also, after looking at online prices I decided against DIYing the airlock. I bought a pack of 3 airlocks that look like the one in this post for around $10 shipped which includes 3 rubber bungs. They are all over Amazon and eBay and saves me a trip to a homebrew shop. I should have airlocks in the mail this Friday and will try out the first batch!

    • eccdogg April 22, 2014, 12:42 pm

      My grandmother used a balloon and rubber bands for an air lock when she made a similar recipe.

      • Jenn April 22, 2014, 1:23 pm

        This. Using a balloon with a few holes poked in it, the setup it can be less than $1 (plus the cost of juice).

        The balloon won’t last more than a few uses, but if you already have one on hand it does fine to try out brewing- especially if you just want to ferment for a few days/week to get a mildly bubbly drink! (Saran/cling wrap with holes in it doesn’t work as well for me, btw.)

        • carriep May 19, 2014, 4:08 pm


          I read MMM’s post a while back, bought the juice and ordered the champaign yeast. I got the yeast about 3 days ago, but kind of felt nervous about doing it. After reading your comment, I marched down to my basement, found an old balloon, poked a couple of holes in it, swirled the yeast into the apple juice bottle and I’m off. I appreciate your comment–it made the process approachable for me—otherwise I would have been hemming and hawing about going to a brew store for one of the pressure tops or looking at spending money on-line. THANKS!

  • scott April 22, 2014, 8:58 am

    Try mixing it up with some ale yeasts. I’ve had success using Wyeast’s hefewiezen yeast in apple ciders. The end result is like a green jolly rancher when it’s still green.

  • Luke April 22, 2014, 8:59 am

    Next step is to “jack” it to make something a bit more…potent: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Applejack_(beverage)

    Just be aware of the applicable laws.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 22, 2014, 9:02 am

      Yeah! I am intrigued by applejack too.

      Also, a very good joke about applicable laws. Rules against what one does in the privacy of one’s own kitchen are made to be broken – just like NYC’s AirBnB laws that so many people were bringing up in the Manhattan frugality article the other week. And the comedy-based rules against Marijuana that we thankfully lifted in Colorado earlier this year :-)


      • Luke April 22, 2014, 9:15 am

        Completely agree! But home distilling can and does get people in trouble with the feds so it’s important to have the awareness. There is some press about a recent push to change the ridiculous prohibition era laws: http://www.dallasnews.com/news/metro/20140413-home-distillers-get-serious-about-legalizing-their-hobby.ece

        I may or may not have experience with products from http://www.clawhammersupply.com and will not confirm deny that they are awesome.

        • David B. April 23, 2014, 12:54 pm

          freeze distillation is just fine and completely legal in the US

          • Chuck April 23, 2014, 1:39 pm

            That’s concentration, not distillation.

          • bcr April 24, 2014, 9:33 am

            Advise taking care about freeze “distillation” which may result in methanol concentrations sufficient to result in health problems.

  • CJ April 22, 2014, 9:02 am

    You might also consider using a yeast with lower tolerance and a profile more suited to fruit juice. Red Star has a number of cheap options, and their Cote des Blancs reads about right for a juice like this.

  • Stansoid April 22, 2014, 9:02 am


    If you are in Canada (or, in my case, the North bit of Toronto) you can duplicate that “simple brew kit” for about $4 – $6 depending on the yeast you pick, using local supply stores. ($6 if you use the same brand of yeast they are selling, $4 if you use another brand of champaign yeast). For example – http://www.torontobrewing.ca/servlet/StoreFront

    • Joey April 23, 2014, 4:00 pm

      Competely new to this, but just curious how you figured out which type of airlock to use? Seems to be they aren’t “one size fit all bottles”.

      Thanks for the site though!

      • Stansoid April 23, 2014, 10:01 pm

        I suppose it depends on what you plan to jam it into. The site tells you the size of the available plugs (bungs) on both ends. You can buy the bung and airlocks seperately at the same cost, so measure your bottle opening and buy accordingly. Alternatively, get a 1 gal growler for fermenting it and pickup the cap for them that accepts the airlock (the growler caps that accept airlocks are cheaper than the bungs). That said measuing the plug would be cheaper.

  • hs April 22, 2014, 9:53 am

    With the size of that container, do you get premature oxidation like you would with wine? That volume would take me a couple of months to drink.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 22, 2014, 10:28 am

      Ahh, but how quickly could you drink it if you were among many friends? You might find that more friends materialize if you are the brewer of good drinks like these.

      That’s the real point of articles like these – although we’re not earning money or making ourselves healthier by producing alcoholic drinks, I feel that the effects of creating more festive times with more people greatly outweigh the disadvantages, if done in moderation.

      • mbl April 22, 2014, 12:08 pm

        That’s so much of the enjoyment of sharing what you make whether it’s beer, food, whatever. We have a very large party each summer where everyone comes and camps and stays most of the weekend.
        DH brews a variety for people to sample. Everyone seems to enjoy the “flights” in the smaller glasses and votes on their favorite at the end.

  • Cheez Its Christ April 22, 2014, 9:57 am

    Yet another example of what happens when you gather creative, entrepreneurial-type people together and encourage the sharing of ideas. Instead of spending $8 on a trendy six-pack every week, we will now be using this wonderful method to fuel our alcohol addictions!

    MMM, I anxiously await an article on a frugal DIY vaporizer – for tobacco use, of course ;-)

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 22, 2014, 10:27 am

      Heheh.. I haven’t invented one of those yet, but I have been considering writing a post extolling the virtues of recreational Marijuana use over alcohol. Much healthier overall and less costly on a per-serving basis. Once you discard the antiquated social stigma, a single beer and a single serving from one’s pipe makes for a better evening than several beers without the herb.. without the hangover or flab-gaining disadvantages of heavy drinking.

      • HealthyWealthyExpat April 22, 2014, 11:39 am

        You’re talking more like a West Coast Canadian every day, MMM. You sure you’re not from BC?

      • WageSlave April 22, 2014, 12:03 pm

        “A single serving from one’s pipe… makes for a better evening… without the flab-gaining disadvantages of heavy drinking.”

        Total agreement with your point, but regarding the flab-gain… haven’t you ever wrestled with herb-induced munchies? :)

      • Des April 22, 2014, 4:44 pm

        For an even more frugal high, try a vaporizer :)

  • Kristen April 22, 2014, 9:58 am

    In a similar vein, I recently made this delicious French aperitif (it tastes like Lillet, a popular and pricey liquor). http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-vin-dorange-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-200292
    I used cheap cheap cheap white wine from a box, gut rotting vodka, and plain old oranges to make the concoction even more frugal. I made it in one of those beverage dispensers with a spigot at the bottom so I didn’t have to mess around with filtering. It came out great and the most work it took was chopping up the oranges. This is also a perfect summertime drink!

  • Heath April 22, 2014, 10:00 am

    This looks like a super excellent idea! And it’s good to have the cautionary advice from the other Mustachians. I like to avoid glass bombs whenever possible.

    Question: what kind of temperature should I store the bottle during it’s fermentation phase? Clearly I wouldn’t refrigerate it, but I live in Tempe AZ, so my house temps range from 70 to 90 F this time of year.

    I have some super tasty organic, unfiltered apple cider that I get from the local grocery store. Should be a fun experiment :-)

    • gestalt162 April 22, 2014, 10:51 am

      Keep it as cool as possible. Under 80 for sure, under 70 is best.

      • Heath April 22, 2014, 11:03 am

        Damn, I don’t know that I could do that without wasting too much $$ on air conditioning, which would entirely defeat the purpose of DIY brewing. Sigh…

        • John April 23, 2014, 1:24 pm

          Could you swing a mini-fridge (dorm-room style; $60-$70) and an appliance timer?

          Would require some experimentation to get the temperature right, but the electric bill hit shouldn’t be TOO high since it won’t be kept running constantly (fridges are typically far too cold for fermentation, so you’d only run it a couple of hours at a time).

          Check this out (though you’d want to set it to the recommended 70-80 degrees, obviously): http://www.wikihow.com/Turn-Your-Mini-Fridge-Into-a-Wine-Refrigerator

      • Heath April 22, 2014, 12:22 pm

        Just had a thought. I suppose I could keep the in a cooler, and throw a frozen 2-liter bottle in to keep the temp down.

        Wouldn’t be too much extra work. I’d just worry about it getting too cold. Above you said that 70 degrees is a decent upper threshold for fermentation. What’s the lower?

        • mjmphx April 22, 2014, 3:30 pm

          Heath, that’s really a function of how long you want to wait. Lower temperature, longer time to ferment. If you’re in Tempe, check out the brewing store on the south side of University between Hayden & Rural – they’re really helpful, and can pair you with a yeast.

          About cooling, though, I’ve found wrapping the vessel with a towel and keeping the towel wet (ie-let it stand in a pan and pour a bit over it every day) will keep fermentation temps happy in a frugally-cooled house here, unless it’s monsoon season.


  • Travis April 22, 2014, 10:18 am

    Kombucha and water kiefer are both very easy and give you some added health benefits via probiotics depending on how much you let it ferment.

    We go through a gallon/wk and constantly change up the fruit/juice we use to flavor it as well as different teas for the kombucha which change the flavor as well. Takes maybe 1 hr/week and it can be brewed at a low level so the kids can drink it as well e.g < .5%.

    Here's a great resource if anyone is interested in learning more. http://www.culturesforhealth.com/kombucha#Kombucha_Articles_Videos_Recipes

  • Cashew April 22, 2014, 10:29 am

    One thing we’re told here in the DIY state of Vermont is that you need to use UNPASTEURIZED cider to get hard cider. Which makes good business for all the little local orchards who press & sell their own (unfermented), but also means you can’t make hard cider outside of apple season. Is this an old wives tale?

    I’ve also been using this process to make ginger ale (not appreciably alcoholic but still less than $2 for a 2L bottle). One more option to try!

    • three is plenty April 22, 2014, 11:01 am

      you don’t need unpasteurized, but you do need no additives. Anything with the word sorbate in it won’t work (kills the yeast), but anything where the ingredients are “juice” will work.

      • Moonwaves April 22, 2014, 2:49 pm

        Excellent. I love it when someone asks what I was wondering and the question has already been answered by the time I get to it. I have a steam juicer and love making apple juice in the autumn but because it’s a steam juicer, the juice is essentially pasteurised when it comes out. Must give this a try – I’ve been wanting to try fermentation for ages and this seems like a good way to start. Also, I’m very partial to a nice pint of cider on a hot summer’s evening.

    • queen of string April 24, 2014, 8:47 pm

      You don’t even need commercial yeasts to make ginger ale, search “ginger bug” on google to make a perpetual starter for ginger ale and other fermented (low alcohol)drinks for free :-)

  • dca-sea April 22, 2014, 10:31 am

    This is what my friends did in college! Except they used jugs of mass-market juice from Costco, and no airlock – they just left the cap loose. I called it their “prison hooch.”

  • Mary Ellen April 22, 2014, 10:32 am

    My favorite fancy unfiltered apple cider comes in a plastic gallon milk jug. It seems like you could brew hard cider using the lazy method directly in the plastic jug without worrying about the pressure. Has anyone tried this? Is there anything I should be watching out for if I do it that way? Thanks in advance for the advice.

  • Middleman April 22, 2014, 10:35 am

    Great article. It’s worth mentioning that really good (IMO) small batch bourbon can be purchased for $15/1.75L. At 86 proof, that is $20 per L of alcohol. Like hard cider, it isn’t a direct replacement for beer, but half a highball glass on the rocks is quite refreshing. The hard cider mentioned here runs about $28 per L of alcohol I think. Both are great alternatives. I suppose mixed drinks can be efficient as well.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 22, 2014, 10:57 am

      Excellent calculations, Middleman. You are right that the strong stuff is even cheaper than DIY homebrewing with fancy juice. Especially here in the US where our taxes on booze are very low. In Canada and other countries with sin taxes, the equation tilts further towards homebrewing.

      Making your own could also be ideal for young adults who live in a country with a ridiculous drinking age like 21. Not that I’d endorse such law-breaking, but shit, having the driving age at 16 and the drinking age 21 is completely backwards.

    • dca-sea April 22, 2014, 4:11 pm

      What’s your recommended small-batch bourbon at that price point? Here in WA it would be considerably more owing to our sin taxes, but that’s true of all hard liquor.

      • Middleman April 22, 2014, 7:20 pm

        After extensive blind taste-testing (for science), I have determined that Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch is my best bang/$ at $15/1.75L. My girlfriend gave it equally high marks. Looked something like:

        1) Buffalo Trace
        2) Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch (NOT the cheaper Black Label)
        3) Woodford Reserve Double Oak (great, but $$$$)
        4) Knob Creek $$$
        …. about 7 others

        I’m sure there are others, but this is my go-to for now.
        Your taste buds may vary. Blind taste test your own and see what you find. You may be surprised at your preconceived notions of quality.

        • mschaus October 28, 2014, 1:00 pm

          Middleman — can you share what town/store one can get the Evan Williams 1783 for that shockingly good price? In Chicago it is $19 for 750ml. Thanks!

  • Adam Kniedler April 22, 2014, 10:40 am

    If you are in prison without any fancy “Champagne Yeast”, just ball up some old bread and stuff it into a sock. Don’t worry, you could put freshly molded bread inside of your concoction and the yeast would die off once fully fermented.

  • RubeRad April 22, 2014, 10:42 am

    I am SOO going to try this.

    Another question though: after brewing, is the yeast dead, or is it reusable in another batch (ad infinitum)? Or should it be discarded and fresh yeast used every time?

    • gestalt162 April 22, 2014, 10:54 am

      With a low ABV like cider, the yeast is fairly healthy after fermentation and can be reused. However, if you’re serving from the fermentor, I would be concerned about sanitation. You best bet is probably to pour off the beverage into a serving container after fermentation is complete, and pour about half the slurry at the bottom directly into a new gallon of juice to ferment the next batch.

    • Sean Mullin April 22, 2014, 1:49 pm

      Dead! It should settle to the bottom as it ferments, make sure you don’t stir it up when pouring, it’s nasty.

  • Joggernot April 22, 2014, 10:57 am

    Friends make it from concentrated frozen grape juice for a slightly cheaper cost. Buy one or two glass jugs so you have the “fermenter”, and then switch to any frozen concentrate without preservatives. Just a thought…

  • three is plenty April 22, 2014, 10:59 am

    We do something similar in 5gallon batches – then bottle it as wine (fermentation is complete then we add some potassium sorbate to kill the yeast and prevent further fermentation). This is actually Ed Wort’s Apfelwein recipe: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f81/edworts-apfelwein-33986/ The wine it produces tastes like a fine white wine – and it’s great mulled too!

  • George April 22, 2014, 11:04 am

    I have been doing the alcohol fruit juices for some time (there is discussions about it in the forum as well). Pineapple juice is one of my favorites.

    To be honest, I got tired of the sweet, fruity tasting alcohol by going this route. Over time, I started to miss the wonderful malty favors that only the barley and grains in beer can bring, thus I am going in the opposite direction you are (back to beer).

    You can get more cost savings with brewing beer at home by doing all-grain rather than the extract brewing that your previous homebrew article covered. Again I would refer to the MMM forum where some really knowable, experienced mustachians know more than me about this.

    As for bottling, there is a nice middle ground solution, between bottling 48-50 12 oz bottles and kegging. I found through my research that you can get 1L, EZ cap or swing top bottles. This reduces the sanitizing bottle step down from 48-50 bottles to about 17 bottles for a 5 gallon batch. Also the EZ cap or swing tops eliminate the need for capping, thus saving labor in the most tedious part of the process.

    Also personally, the boil or mashing in beer is relaxing, peaceful and makes the end result that much more rewarding; don’t become a hasselhoff!

    the time spend doing this extra work in beer making is no different than spending the extra time to mow your grass using a reel mower rather than fume-spewing riding mower.

    • Rich April 22, 2014, 1:10 pm

      +1 on the all-grain, make it even easier by doing it via the Brew in a Bag (BIAB) method. Fewer steps and materials needed than standard all-grain methods.

      I use the 20oz ‘bomber’ bottles as a compromise between 12oz and kegging. Almost 1/2 the bottles for almost 2 pints worth of brew.

  • Even Steven April 22, 2014, 11:17 am

    More of a Mustachism question than a home brewing question. Where does the frugality end and the enjoyment begin? What are you willing to spend a couple extra dollars to make you or your family happy? If you like your homebrew and the experience more than a small craft brew from Colorado and sampling different breweries, then I suppose this question is less about beer and more about what do you enjoy that’s considered expensive in your world?

    The Even Steven family loves going to a local brewery especially the tours and sampling a couple beers, might even grab a 6 pack to sample and pay the $6-$10. Choose your spend a couple dollars extra on things you like. What’s yours? Thanks for any response.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 22, 2014, 1:56 pm

      I still don’t have a great answer for deciding what to spend money on, other than taking the time to think carefully about each purchase before making it – put your investments on automatic, but your spending very much on manual mode.

      If you’re in emergency debt (credit card and car loans, for example), I would draw the line pretty early. Pretty soon after “potatoes for dinner”.

      But without debt and with a higher savings rate, I’ve always spent a huge amount of money on optional luxuries, and we still do today. It adds up to $25,000 per year for our family of three, even with no mortgage payment and low property taxes. So I’m not the one to ask about minimalism. On the other hand, I try to learn from those who voluntarily spend less than me, and hope that those who spend even more than my family might gain a few new ideas from even this luxury-oriented website we run here.

      • Even Steven April 28, 2014, 8:44 am

        Wow the blog did get a new look, very nice. I’ve been thinking my reply over for a little bit and was unsure on how to respond. But what I got out of your response is each person has their own “spend money on this is important” and the goal is the site is to share ideas that help everyone out there. No argument here, keep it simple agreed. Thanks for the reply.

  • Jenny April 22, 2014, 11:35 am

    This looks so, so amazing and I can’t wait to give it a try. One question I have (which would determine what size juice to use)– how long will this keep once the fermentation is complete and you start drinking it? Is it the sort of thing you should drink quickly, or would it keep?

    • Brian April 22, 2014, 1:59 pm

      The ABV will determine how long it will keep. So if you are in the 4-8% range, then it will keep like beer (so keep it cold). If you up the ABV (by adding sugar) to over 10.5%, it will keep like wine (white wine).

  • Matthew Pence April 22, 2014, 11:37 am

    We’ve had on-going discussions about this on ThePlantedTank.net, where some of us use the yeast and fermentation for the CO2 to feed tank plants. I have tried some of the product and it wasn’t bad for being water, sugar, and baking yeast.

    We often use small reptile heating pads for accelerating the production of CO2. I wonder what the impact on the fermentation length of time would be.

    Regarding the pressure, I’m not sure it’s that much of a concern with plastic. I have measured production of ~40 PSI in a 2L soda bottle.

    • Brian April 22, 2014, 2:04 pm

      Assuming you are using the same yeast as MMM, the warmer the environment the quicker the fermentation (to a certain extent). However, yeast will only ferment as long as there are sugars to eat and the ABV isn’t so high that it kills them off.

      However, a controlled fermentation process will produce better flavors (IMHO, fermenting at temps higher than 75F, isn’t necessary). Additionally, if you are running large batches, the fermenting yeast give off heat as well.

      If you are looking for a quicker fermentation process, you will want more and higher quality yeast (again relative to the size of batch you are running).

  • Jed April 22, 2014, 11:48 am

    Regarding this : “the brewing process takes a couple of hours and involves quite a bit of repetitive labor that can be guilt-inducing for those of us who like to use all our time productively.”

    One thing you are overlooking here is that once you get your process down the making of homebrew is less tedious. You can mash in and go do something productive for the hour it takes to mash grain. Then start your sparge and go do something productive… etc. you get the idea.

    Also I dont think having kegs on tap all the time has upped my consumption. Sticking to no drinks during the week helps me with that.


  • Blake12 April 22, 2014, 11:51 am

    I frequently make a very similar recipe, but with the addition of about a pound or so of honey. The result is a cyser, that is like a dry white wine, at about 13%-14% alcohol.

  • mbl April 22, 2014, 12:00 pm

    My DH has been brewing his own beer for the past 25 years. He only bottles that which he gives as gifts. Otherwise he kegs his beer and stores that in a specially modified fridge with 2 taps.
    He does the majority of his brewing on a stand-alone burner or the grill….even in the midst of winter. He filters his and has the whole process down to a science.
    He also started growing hops 3 years ago and has a good enough yield now to use for all that he wants to brew with.
    Besides his other interests which include working our land, cutting wood, planting trees and cultivating them, the brewing is something that he finds relaxing no matter how long it takes.
    If you’re not into the process but more interested in the final product I can see why you’d think it is tedious.
    Our neighbors do their own cider which is something that you have to have a taste for.
    Our families do wine the old fashioned way….crushing the grapes, fermenting in the oak barrels…..the whole shebang. Just like in Italy where they came from. I don’t know exactly what the alcohol content is but it makes my knees hot…:)

  • Alex Krizel April 22, 2014, 12:08 pm

    MMM: It’s a point well made, and one that is now being re-hashed as home-brewing becomes more accessible and quality ingredients become less expensive. Point is, sugar, water and yeast make alcohol and carbon dioxide. That does not change, regardless of whether you are making beer, wine, mead, etc. Now it’s only a matter of taste. I have been making my own wine for years (beer is still a bit expensive). I figure I’ve pretty much paid off the equipment (3 carboys, tubing, airlocks, etc.), so now it’s just the cost per batch (I re-use my bottles). So, a quality 6-gallon bucket of grape juice (I use Zin or Pinot) is about $40. Yeast (wine yeast) about $1.50. Corks, about $1.50. Misc chemicals, costs, etc. $2. Time, 3-6 months, depending on wine type. Yield, about 30-750ml bottles. Feel free to do the math. What you are estimating per drink you could actually get for 5 (about 5 glasses per bottle). And that’s not all. Once you get comfortable, try other ingredients. A fruit-punch blend, honey, whatever. It’s economical, fun and gets you every bit of a buzz. Thanks for the article.

  • Keith Schroeder April 22, 2014, 12:17 pm

    I’ve been brewing my own wine for years and love hard cider. Some additional wines worth making yourself are clover blossom, dandelion, and current berry. It takes work, but once the wine cures out a few years you have the best wine anywhere.

    And I still love the hard cider wine in this blog. The best thing is no one else in my house likes it so it is all mine. Tastes like apple soda to me.

  • Sean Mullin April 22, 2014, 1:47 pm

    Nice! I will give it a try!

    As far as overcarbonation is concerned there are several things one can do.

    1. Use a 2 liter plastic bottle (which can handles tons more pressure than glass), fill it to a couple inches from the top, squeeze out the excess air and cap it. When it re-expands and becomes firm to the touch it is carbonated and ready to drink.

    2. If you are using a glass bottle leave it in the garage or in a sealed garbage bag should it decide to explode. If the metal lid is tenting upward, simply unscrew it and allow some pressure to escape and the re tighten the lid.

    • Travis April 22, 2014, 3:04 pm

      I used to brew beer now just Kombucha but have always used swing top bottles. These allow you to easily vent pressure if you’re concerned about exploding bottles.

      On that note I did have one exploding incident because I didn’t have enough swing top bottles and recycled a glass kombucha bottle from the store. Lesson learned…I know have plenty of swing tops at the ready

  • Rocketpj April 22, 2014, 1:50 pm

    A long time ago I worked on a Polish fishing ship that had a large number of Russian officers and crew. These guys spent 6-8 months at sea working 18 hour days. (In that context I was ‘the man’ making sure they didn’t trash the Cdn fishery while they were working here).

    It wasn’t long before I was introduced to their form of hooch – which was made by fermenting bread, basically. Awful but effective stuff, and at one point the captain had to disallow bread from being available for awhile. Not all hooch is good hooch, as it turns out.

  • Adrian April 22, 2014, 2:57 pm

    The temperature of the fermentation can produce wildly different results. I’ve found that a dry cider fermented between 70 and 75F can taste hot (fusels) and give quite a solid headache. I’d recommend keeping your vessel in the 60-65F range for best results. Type of yeast strain will have its best temperature range so test, test and test some more until you’re brewing what you like. The high end of the recommended temperature range on packages is usually too high for tastiest cider.

  • Moonwaves April 22, 2014, 3:00 pm

    Just curious MMM, have you ever tried making ginger beer (that stuff that the kids in all the Enid Blyton books used to drink) so that your kid can also get to join in the making and drinking of fizzy drinks? That’s another one I’ve been meaning to do for a long time and not gotten around to.

  • Darren April 22, 2014, 4:33 pm

    I remember a pub drink in England (Oxford area) called snake bite – cider mixed with lager. I preferred the dark beer with no fizz, no bubbles, it is what I termed dead beer. It is served quite warm too. We had a great time in the pubs sometimes even had a “stand on your head” drinking contest – those were the days. Can vaguely remember running a police road block too and getting away – makes me shake to this day just thinking about if I would have been caught. Got pulled over by the police once too and they asked “do you know why we pull you over?” They said I was going around a round-a-bout on 2 wheels. I think they were exaggerating, but that time I was in the police station until 5AM. Yes, those were the days. I made it out alive and with a clean record.

    When I returned to the US, typical bud light, bud, miller, all of the mainstream stuff was just awful to me.

    I tried making some dead beer, but it did take a good amount of labor.

    These days a mere swig of beer gives me a migraine. Probably for my own good.

    • Kate May 2, 2014, 7:29 am

      A classic drink for teenagers – snake bite and black (half a pint of larger, half a pint of cider and some blackcurrant squash). Teenagers love all things cider related because they are really sweet and it takes most of us a little while to get used to the taste of alcohol! You make me feel very nostaligic :)

      I don’t think I’ve had a snake bite and black since I was 20. We had these brilliant parties the night before we were turning 20 drinking cheap teenage drinks (for teenagers of my age in the UK thaat was lots of cheap cider related things and lots of things blackcurrant squash or lime cordial added). I think teenagers drink alcopops now, I’m sure they have much the same effect but there was something fun about snakebite!

  • Jessica April 22, 2014, 5:55 pm

    Mr MM

    I have to say, somehow you get the cheapest prices of anything anywhere it seems.

    I went to a fancy food store today (large name) after reading your article (not because of it though, just coincidently) and the lowest price for a gallon of apple juice was $7.99.

    How, just how do you do it. !

    • insourcelife April 25, 2014, 1:14 pm

      Same here. Went to a local “hipster market” and a similar 128 oz glass jug of juice is $9.99. Ended up buying 2 plastic bottles of real unfiltered apple juice from a regular supermarket for under $6 for both (64 oz each).

    • Evan Lynch April 25, 2014, 10:25 pm

      MMM has explained earlier that he does most of his shopping at Costco, which is how he gets consistently low prices, since they’re known for their low prices. If you’re interested in one of his posts on this on this from a while back, see his post from a few years ago: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/03/29/killing-your-1000-grocery-bill/

      • Eric M June 26, 2014, 12:09 am

        There is no reason to go fancy. Speaking of Costco, I have been buying the 2 gallon package (2 1 gallon bottles strapped together with handy carrying handles) of Kirkland Apple Juice (not from concentrate). It contains 100% apple juice with no additives and works excellently for this project. I have been experimenting with adding cinnamon (good), more cinnamon (just finishing up) and allspice (just finishing up). So far I have made 2 gallons, one with a 1/2 tsp of Cinnamon and one without, and the wife and I loved them. I preferred the cinnamon added.

  • Bek April 22, 2014, 6:06 pm

    Awesome, and totally relevant as I have my first batch of cider fermenting in my kitchen right now. To make it even more frugal I harvested the apples from my grandparents tree and used their press to make the juice. Only cost to me was the yeast, my time (which I don’t really count as homegrown everything is a hobby to me) and that of my family who helped with the pressing, but as they will be paid in cider (we made 20 litres in a couple of hours work) and it was a fun family morning I think it was time well spent. And we get cider-y fun times at the end of it.

  • Frugal Paragon April 22, 2014, 6:15 pm

    Mmmm, I’m going to have to try this. My favorite non-alcoholic beverage is lime seltzer with a little juice, so this sounds delicious to me! (Or I could just add rum to my “fizzy juice”!)

  • The Smaller Dollar April 22, 2014, 6:23 pm

    While the plastic bottle may reduce the possibility of explosions, it reduces the fanciness quotient below an acceptable threshold. Intolerable.

  • anthonydpaul April 22, 2014, 6:31 pm

    This is what we made in high school! Though we added extra sugar and didn’t have that fancy contraption for the top. We used a surgical glove and a rubberband.

  • Free To Pursue April 22, 2014, 7:02 pm

    This is a fabulous idea and I would think that it would be a tasty main ingredient in a party punch bowl. I will definitely try it in preparation for entertaining this summer. I especially like the social aspect of sharing a freshly made batch with friends.

  • Darrel April 22, 2014, 8:26 pm

    An interesting approach…I like my beer, and I view the cost of home brewing not to be excessive since the intent is that the brewing, bottling and drinking of home brew is where the true value is found. The cider will be a nice complement to it. On the pressure bit, fermenting bottles for beer (5 gallons) really aren’t too expensive, so if you can find one on Craigslist, grab onto it. These things are heavy duty.

  • Weedy Acres April 22, 2014, 9:03 pm

    Do you realize you have now written 7 blog posts on the subject of alcohol? (Yeah, I went back and counted; I thought it was 3 or 4). A little obsessed, perhaps? :-)

    But you’ve never written one on gardening: raising ones own super-fresh, super-healthy, super-cheap organic vegetables and herbs. Fresh veggies are way more enjoyable–and healthy–than home-made adult beverages. I’m puzzled why you’ve never gardened, or at least had a guest poster talk about doing so. DIY feeding of oneself is so mustachian on so many levels. And you can track and calculate your savings, optimizing your labor and expenditures involved to pick your crops.

    I challenge you to some more balance in your food & beverage posting.

    • Jessca April 22, 2014, 9:23 pm


      do you garden?

      could you write a post for us readers?

      spread the love :-)

    • Trifele April 23, 2014, 4:16 am

      Second this! Love this post, MMM, but you can definitely do more with gardening! :) It is the ultimate Mustachian activity. Nothing beats harvesting your produce, saving seeds for next year, planting them in the spring, and then harvesting again. We are still eating — at the end of April — delicious juicy onions and potatoes that we harvested last October and stored in our basement. Our freezer is still stocked with containers of tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, peas, kale, and more. Our pantry has many jars of pickles, beans, and other vegetables — all from our urban garden. Anyone can do it.
      You mentioned that you travel a lot in the summer, but there are ways to garden around that. You can choose hardy vegetables that don’t need much care, set up a soaker hose on a timer, and mulch well. We travel quite a bit in the summer, ask a neighbor to check on things once or twice a week, and have never had a problem.

      If you would like, Weedy Acres and I can collaborate on a guest posting for you.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 23, 2014, 10:20 am

      Weedy Acres: YES!! You are totally right: I have never written about vegetable gardening, because my vegetable gardening skills are largely absent so far. I suck and need to improve.

      As a kid, my Mom always grew huge gardens and we ate everything they grew. She is the one that taught me that food waste never goes in the trash – it is simply compost for your garden.

      I’ve tried vegetable gardens almost every year here in Colorado, but so far they have not been successful. The reason is that the hot, dry desert sun and 90-100 F days will instantly wither most food crops, unless they get daily irrigation. And weeds grow quickly. But we spend 2 months away every summer.

      I keep designing ever-more-robust irrigation systems, but they end up failing or clogging sometime over that period, and I return to find dead tomatoes, or a few live ones and a 7-foot-tall cluster of weeds that grew up in the wet patch where the drip irrigation pipe sprung a leak, or other weird things.

      For now, I outsource all gardening knowledge dissemination to Erica at Northwest Edible Life: http://www.nwedible.com/

      • Travis April 23, 2014, 12:18 pm

        You should check out the Larry Hall designs for irrigation. I’m building some this year using buried PVC pipe but overall the gutter system it an easy and cheap solution if you want to do a container garden.

        Otherwise you could take the PVC pipe “hybrid” system of his and bury it in a raised bed to get a similar affect.

      • Bek April 23, 2014, 4:50 pm

        You could always try wicking beds
        They work well in our Australian summers, which last year consisted of 4 days in a row of temps over 40degrees C/ 104 Fahrenheit, with average rainfall of 400mm per year.

      • Erica / Northwest Edible Life May 1, 2014, 7:28 am

        Ah, Mr. Money Mustache, I’m flattered. Let me know if you ever set up an MMM Expert Counsel or Reader Advisory Board or anything. I hereby officially volunteer to help with vegetable growing related issues. :)


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