£1 grog: How to make wine on the cheap (using fruit juice!)

The world needs more cheap booze.  Wine and beer are damn expensive. Clearly, the answer is to make your own.

I’ll come clean, to start with:  I am not a winemaker.  I am a total amateur.  BUT, you can use ingredients from the supermarket, equipment from a car-boot sale and be up and running this weekend for the same price as a bottle or two of wine from Asda… and after about 3 weeks you’ll end up with 15 bottles of the good stuff.

So how do you do it with no prior knowledge without it tasting flippin’ awful?

Like this…

Really the process is simple. Fruit/grape juice is sugary and yeast breaks down sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.  If you make a sugary fruit cocktail and add yeast, you will get an alcoholic drink (wine!)  and a load of gas after a few weeks.  If you add an airlock so it can release the build-up of carbon dioxide then it won’t explode, either, which is nice.

First, a shopping list:

  1. Something to ferment in – a cheap demijohn from the car-boot sale is great, or even 5ltr bottles of spring water from the supermarket (already sterile, of course)… anything you can clean, fit an airlock to and fit 4-5 litres of liquid in.
  2. Airlocks and either rubber bungs (to fit demijohns) or rubber grommets (if you’re fitting an airlock into the lid of a plastic bottle the grommet will give you an air-tight seal).
  3. Bleach or sterilising solution/powder.  I used Bruclens from Wilkos at £1.60 for a pot which will last for maybe 4-5 ferments.  You can just use weak bleach if you like.
  4. Brewer’s or winemaking yeast (not baking yeast):  You can pick it up from a homebrew shop (or Wilkos) fairly cheaply.

The total expense for the equipment was well under twenty quid for a big load of stuff which can be used and re-used again and again.

Of course, you also need some fruit juice. Most supermarkets do multibuy offers on litre cartons – alternatively their budget range might be cheaper still at about 65p a litre, though is usually limited to orange and apple.  I make the total cost per gallon to be approximately £2.50-£4 depending on your choice of juice and not counting the initial (modest) outlay on equipment.

You can get creative with the flavours you use.  I have stuck to a 25% – 50% grape juice for each of mine, then added different flavours on top.  You don’t need to use any grape juice – it’ll all ferment, just the same, but if we’re making wine then lets at least pretend we’re doing it properly!


GETTING YOUR BREW ON!

The process is easy. First and foremost: Everything (INCLUDING YOU) needs to be clean and sterile.  Clean it and clean it again.  If you get this bit right, there is very little that can go wrong.  Yeast turns your sugar to alcohol but it also turns a little bit of dirt or left-over sediment into mould, and then your wine into vinegar.  I used Wilkos Bruclens to sterilise everything.  A £1.60 pot will do enough bits and pieces for two or three gallons of wine.

Right, here we go:

  1. Sterilise everything.  The demijohn/bottle you will use, the air lock or cap, the spoon and funnel you will use to tip the yeast and juice in… everything.
  2. Rinse it all, twice.  You want the chemicals to kill the germs before your start, but not to be left over and kill the yeast!
  3. Tip your juice and sugar into the demijohn.  Leave a bit of space (the “shoulders” of the demijohn) for the bubbles and froth that will be produced.
  4. Give it a bloody good shake.
  5. Optional – If you want, you can buy something called a hydrometer and measure the potential alcohol content of your brew at this stage.  Using the hydrometer you can also measure when the fermentation is finished, how much sugar is left at any stage (useful if  you want to stop the fermentation and end up with sweet wine)
  6. Add a teaspoon of yeast and stir.
  7. Stick the airlock in the stopper/cap, add a little water to the airlock and seal.
  8. Put the demijohn somewhere warm (not hot!) and dark – I just covered mine with an old towel to keep most of the light out.

The first day will be fairly slow, so don’t worry.  There will be a few bubbles but nothing dramatic.

After that it will pick up and start to resemble a lava lamp with sediment moving up and down and the airlock will bubble away.

After 2 weeks the fermentation slows to a crawl, so now’s the time to tip or syphon the wine into a new (sterile!) container, leaving the sediment behind as much as you can.  If you syphon, then simply don’t put the tube to the bottom of the demijohn; if you pour then just do it in one smooth motion and leave an inch of muddy sediment behind.

After WASHING MY HANDS (this is important) then I put my hand over the demijohn and give it a good shake, then released the gas, then again, then again.. like opening and closing a pop bottle… until no gas was coming out after a shake.  The wine is now flat, but cloudy.

You can bottle it like this and leave it to clear in the bottles (and get another batch going!) or let it sit for a week or two so the remaining sediment can fall to the bottom of the demijohn, then bottle.


My recipes have been pretty simple so far, with the results being lovely:


Batch #01
JUNGLE JUICE

1 ltr Asda pressed white grape
1 ltr Asda Pomegranate
1 ltr Asda Pomegranate & blueberry
1 cup black tea (2 bags)
550g sugar
1 tsp yeast
Water to shoulder of DJ


Batch #02

HOOCH

1 ltr Asda white grape
2 ltr Morrisons basics apple
450g sugar
1 tsp yeast
Water to shoulder of plastic DJ


Batch #03

Mk. II IMPROVED HOOCH

2 ltr Welch’s White grape, pear and apple
2 ltr Morrisons basics apple
500g sugar
1 tsp yeast
No additional water


Batch #04

UM BONGO

1 ltr Welch’s White grape, pear and apple
1 ltr Welch’s Purple grape reduced sugar
1 ltr Rubicon Passionfruit
1 ltd Rubicon Guava
500g sugar
1 tsp yeast
No additional water

I only used my hydrometer for the third and fourth batches, which gave potential alcohol readings of 13% and 14.5% respectively (they’re still in the demijohn, frothing away).   The total time from start to bottling is around 20 days – less if you drink it cloudy.

So far, Batch #02 above has been the favourite – a lovely rosé with a kick.

Starting off… a few bubbles

Batches 1 and 2 bottled and beginning to clear, batch 3 in the background bubbling away…

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29 thoughts on “£1 grog: How to make wine on the cheap (using fruit juice!)

  1. Really looking forward to trying this one 😉 I made wine from kits when I was a student but I have no idea what happened to the demi johns. I’ll be scouring car boots to find replacements so i can try this myself.

    • I only have one demijohn – Two of my “brews” are in Asda Spring water bottles. £1.10 for a 5ltr bottle – plus you get to drink the water (or use it in your brew if you’re topping up with water). They’re sterile too, of course, as soon as you tip the water out so no messing about.
      Good luck! Would like to hear how you get on

  2. I’m going to give it another try, my first experiment was a disaster, the alcohol content was fine but there was hardly any flavour. I may do well selling it as pure alcohol though lol

  3. This is amazing! Love making things from scratch (especially bread and pizza) but never had the guts to make wine! I’m definitely going to try this over the summer! Actually printing your instructions now! 🙂 Great post!

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  5. Great idea! I can’t believe I never thought of this. I have been wanting to make my own wine for ages. My hubby and I have made cider from kits, but I’ve been too nervous to try wine. You’ve convinced me though! As soon as I finished reading this I text my M-I-L to ask if I can borrow her demijohns. I’ll let you know how I get on.

    Love Katie xx

    P.s. Do I need to use brewing sugar or is normal sugar ok?

    • Normal sugar is fine if you get cane sugar (Tate & Lyle etc). I haven’t tried it but apparently sugar from sugar beet (Whitworths, etc) gives a funny aftertaste when it’s fermented.

      Brewing sugar is best for beers.

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  7. very good starter recipes and realy easy to do too, ive been making wine for years and have discovered many easy recipes like this, although i would advise you look more into the chemicals used in home brewing, they are used for a reason, also with some juice like the litre cartons have sorbates in them to make them last longer so its best to boil these juices first to kill off any additives thats in them as it can either kill off the yeast or stop the fermentation far too early so boil it for 10 minutes or so bring to the boil and simmer for 10 mins, also as with yeasts there are many to choose from and 1 sachet can be purchased and can ferment up to 25 litres of wine, turbo yeast is also avalable now and only takes a few days then you can add clearing chemicals to clear the wine in a day or 2, as with all home brewing it will taste much better if its left bottled for 6 months

  8. I made this exactly as it says to,I got abv 4.7, it’s effectively an alchopop,still very sweet,at the time of bottling after using finings it tasted a lot different……I have another now with a high alcohol yeast, I’m wondering about the sugar and time,I left it 4 weeks and used ordinary sugar,using brewing sugar this time,so will see how it comes out….

      • Yes. Mark is right, This could have happened for a number of reasons.
        Here’s a few of the most common causes..
        #1 TEMPERATURE MANAGEMENT.
        As the result of bad temperature management lower than 18C will result in v sluggish fermentation often giving the impression that the fermentation process has finished. As a result leading the brewer to prematurely rack causing a wine that’s sweet, low in alcohol content bottles that are prone to explode as the yeast continues to do its magic when gasses are unable to escape.

        Exceeding 26C will kill the yeast.

        Large fluctuation in the ambient temperature caused by unfortunate storage conditions. Cool place like a cellar or shed whilst during the daytime (Usually when temp is noticed) it will read/seem OK). However, exposed to the nighttime temperature drops (especially during the summer) renders the yeast vulnerable to this large fluctuation which stresses the yeast and causes it to stall. A sure sign of a stressed yeast is an unpleasant smell, a bit like rotting veg. Bizally yeast can be helped to reactivated by giving your carboy a good shake but ultimately adding yeast nutrient will de-stress and reactivate. Keep at a constant(ish) temperature or one with little fluctuation. Achieve this by wrapping the carboy in bubble wrap or/and a few blankets also place it inside a bag. Lower temps will just take a little longer to complete fermentation, this will result in the final wine retaining better flavours whereas warmer conditions will ferment out faster at the expense of losing some subtler complex flavours.

        #2nd
        Tired yeast that’s dead or as near as, often caused by having been kept in unfavourable conditions. Yeast doesn’t like to be kept in warm places, It causes it to become tired and age faster which leads to death. Ideally it should be kept in cool dark condition.
        #3rd
        washes that are too high a sugar content upon the start. Always check the start gravity at the beginning to avoid this.
        FINALLY
        Once you’ve identified the cause of the failed start (so that you don’t continue making the same mistake), rescue the brew with a Gradual restart method. This is easy to do especially with the help of an internet search engine. Good luck in your future brews.
        Jason

  9. Great site this. I’ve made wine on and off for years (I can remember the tins you used to be able to get from Boots that said ‘Sauternes type’, ‘Hock type’) but this site got me into making wine from Supermarket fruit juices. I recommend the Asda ‘Never From Concentrate’ Cherry. Makes a delicious fruity rose.

    • Hi, anything marked “from concentrate” should be fine to use. I’d avoid anything called “Juice Drink” though. Theres all kinds of preservatives, colouring and flavourings added to those. Dionysus knows what that would do the the fermentation process!

  10. thank you so much for this. I’ve just tried Batch 2 for the first time and drank the whole bottle before remembered that it was highly alcoholic! Given that it costs around 80p per bottle max, its doubtful i will ever buy another wine again.

  11. Does the fermentation just stop on its own or is there something that needs to be done or added to stop this? And any recommendations for what I should rebottle it into?
    Got my first bottle on the go. Will it be OK in the airing cupboard?

    • Get a Hydrometer (about £10) and check that way. Mine has a yellow band on it that indicates the fermentation has finished. The SG should be below 1 and it comes out “dry”. Totally dry is around 0.996 to 0.998. If you want a sweeter wine it’s best to add sugar only before you drink the wine (don’t store it with added sugar in because that could start causing fermentation and thus, gas again).

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