How To Make Alcohol (Ethanol)

Alcohol Fermentation

Alcohol Fermentation Cycle

Making alcohol (ethanol) is easy. As a matter of fact, ethanol production can and does happen spontaneously. I remember when I was a kid there was a gallon of apple cider that had been kept too long. I took a sip and it was not the apple cider that I was expecting. It had naturally started to ferment in the refrigerator. The magic ingredients that caused this change was sugar and yeast.

Fermentation, or alcohol production, occurs when yeast metabolizes sugars. The waste product from the yeast is ethanol and CO2. The yeast does not need oxygen to perform this conversion and is commonly referred to anaerobic (without oxygen) metabolism.

Yeast is everywhere. Saccharomyces cerevisiae is the most common species of yeast used to make beer, wine and distilled spirits. It has been used since ancient times in brewing and baking. We believe that yeast was originally isolated from the skin of grapes. Sometimes on the skin of grapes you can see a white film which is partially composed of yeast. Today brewers, wine makers and distillers often use specific strains of yeast to achieve desired flavor components as well as selecting for the environment that the yeast will be added to. For example, some yeasts do better in high or lower pH solution (mash). As the yeast metabolizes the sugars the concentration of alcohol rises which inevitable kills the yeast. This is the reason it is difficult to ferment a mash to an alcohol content greater than 18%. To get a higher alcohol content you must distill the fermented mash.

Now to answer the question “How to Make Alcohol”? Here is a simple example you can use to make alcohol from store-bought grape or apple juice.

Equipment Needed:

  • 5+ gallon carboy or other large food grade container (fermentation container).
  • Large pot
  • rubber band or string
  • cheese cloth or cloth
    I know…this sounds like some sort of MacGyver setup.

Ingredients Needed:

  • 9-10 cans of frozen concentrated grape or apple juice
  • 6-7 lbs white sugar
  • wine or distiller yeast (approximately 1 packet or 5-6 grams). You can use bakers yeast also.
  • Approximately 5 gallons of water


  1. Heat 1.5 gallons of water and add the sugar. Make sure all the sugar has completely dissolved. It is not necessary to boil the water. The main goal here is to dissolve all of the sugar.
  2. Remove from heat. Add frozen juice concentrate. Stir until completely dissolved.
  3. Pour into fermentation container and add additional water to make 5 gallons total. Make sure that the solution is not too hot when pouring into the fermentation container.
  4. Let the mixture cool to 86º F\30º C and then add (pitch) the yeast.
  5. Cover the top with your cheese cloth and secure with a rubber band or string. The purpose is to keep bugs and other critters from getting into the fermenting mixture.

Fermentation will take approximately 4-5 days depending on the yeast strain, temperature, etc. You can use a hydrometer to check if fermentation has completed.

Additional Reading