Well, I have a special DIY file in store for all you straight-edgers out there. Yep, it's the DIY guide to making jug wine! It's time to lose the edge, because today I'm gonna show you how to throw together some simple ingredients from your cupboard to make wine. It's fun, it's easy, and it'll give you a great headache the morning after you drink it. What a deal.
The first thing you need to make your jug wine is a jug. Otherwise, it wouldn't be called jug wine, would it? So, find a one gallon glass jug somewhere. I'm talking about the kind of jug that has the little loop for your finger. You know, the kind you see in movies about hillbillies, except preferably in clear bottles. Sometimes you can buy apple cider in these jugs, or maybe a local supply store might have them available. There might even be one hiding out in your parents basement somewhere, just waiting to be used.
Anyway, get yourself a jug and some liquid bleach. You'll want to clean the jug out with warm water and the bleach, so that there won't be as many impurities in your wine. If you don't do this, weird things will grow in your jug along with the wine, and it will taste horrible (of course, if it tastes horribly anyway, you can always blame it on impurities). Be sure to get all of the bleach rinsed out of the jug after you are done. Bleach in your wine isn't exactly tasty or good for you either.
The other thing you're gonna need is a large balloon. One that will stretch wide enough to fit over the top of the bottle. This will be our airlock, and I will discuss its use later.
Now it's time to gather the ingredients for your wine. The first recipe I'm gonna tell you about uses items that are readily available at any grocery store, or you might already have them laying around your house. This recipe makes some pretty wicked tasting stuff, though, but it is palatable when mixed with your favorite citrus soft drink. It sorta turns it into a wine cooler. Anyway, we're doing this for fun, regardless of how the final product turns out... right?
So, you'll need 3 twelve ounce cans of grape juice concentrate -- the frozen kind you buy in the freezer case at the supermarket. It can be the cheap stuff. It won't make much difference. You'll also need 2 cups of regular white can sugar (the stuff you use every day on your cereal), and 1 package of baker's yeast, which is usually located on the same aisle as the bags of flour in the store.
Let the frozen grape juice thaw out, and pour it in the jug. Toss in the two cups of sugar after that, then dump in the yeast (make sure that the yeast isn't lumpy -- if it is, crush it until the lumps are gone). Then, fill the jug up the rest of the way with lukewarm water. Finally, put something over the top of the jug and shake it so that everything mixes together pretty well.
Now, take the balloon you found earlier (if you're lucky, it'll say something cool on it, so that when it expands you'll have a jug with a message), and put it over the top of the jug. Don't inflate the balloon at all, just stretch it's mouth over the mouth of the jug. The balloon will act as an airlock to keep oxygen and impurities from getting to the wine, but will allow the carbon dioxide which occurs from the fermentation process to expand from the bottle.
Put the bottle in a warm (70-80 degress) place, and let it be. When the balloon starts to expand, you'll know that the yeast has started working and that the fermentation process has begun. Check your wine every day, and when the balloon seems to be getting pretty full of carbon dioxide, gently pull an edge of the mouth of the balloon away from the mouth of the bottle. This will let the carbon dioxide rush out, without letting any oxygen get in, because of the pressure from the balloon. Don't deflate the balloon entirely, because then oxygen will be able to get into the wine and ruin it.
Continue checking your wine. After a week or ten days, the balloon should stop expanding. That means the fermentation process is done, and the wine is ready to drink. However, there will be a bunch of yeast caked to the inside bottom of the glass jug, so carefully pour the wine into another container (a clean plastic jug would work), trying not to disturb the yeast deposits. You probably will have half an inch of cloudy wine left in the glass jug if you pour carefully. Dump this out. It won't hurt you to drink it, but it won't taste good either. The other option is to siphon your wine, using a clean piece of plastic tubing, from one jug to the other. If you are careful, and don't stick the tubing in the yeast deposit, you will probably come out with a better end result.
Cap your plastic jug and throw it in the fridge to cool. That's all there is to it. It's fun, it's easy, and it's definately DIY. Realize, of course, that you can buy a jug of cheap wine at the store that probably tastes better, but what kind of fun is that?
If you want to get more involved in your wine-making, the best idea would be to visit your local brewing store. Here you'll find various extracts for making wine, along with champagne yeasts, and corn sugar, all of which will yield a better flavor than using ordinary household items. In addition, bakers yeast will only ferment the wine to around 14% alcohol content, while champagne yeast will run around 17 or 18%.
If you'd like to try making some more challenging and better tasting wines, a good source might be found at your local library. There have been a bunch of books written about home wine making, some of which give recipes specifically for making wine in gallon glass jugs. One excellent source that I've found is by H.E. Bravery. It's called "Successful Wine Making at Home." It was written 20 or 30 years ago, and gives a number of recipes for making wines from different fruits and vegetables!
If you don't drink, that's cool (yeah, forget what I said about straight-edgers above) but if you do, and want to try a truly interesting DIY experiment, then grab a jug, some sugar, yeast, and grapejuice, and start brewing.
-Mark Hanford (6/1/95)