How To: Make Bucket Wine

This is part of a new series I will do that will help DIYers do what they do best — Peace Corps Malawi style.

Ahh, wine. You make me feel happy inside — when I’m creating you and especially when I’m drinking you.

I like a good brew. Nothing beats sipping on a concoction of your own creation. There is something enchantingly satisfying about knowing where all your ingredients came from and under what circumstances. In the instance of the brew I’m going to show you here, all but one of the ingredients — the distiller’s yeast — were manufactured or harvested within an eighty kilometer radius of my front door, most within short walking distance.

The yeast is from L.D. Carlson Company of Kent, Ohio. It is a red star dady distiller’s active dry yeast.

I’ve made blonde ales and IPAs as well as several wines, all using various methods, proportions and equipment. One doesn’t just make wine — one negotiates and orchestrates an eloquent dance of Nature’s providence, coalescing in a magnificent crescendo upon your palate.

Papaya Banana Semi-Sweet Bucket Wine

  • Sugar — 2.25 kg
  • Water — 4.25 litres
  • Papaya — 3, medium sized and ripe. De-seeded, peeled and cubed small.*
  • Bananas — 6, semi-aged. Peel and slice into same bowl as papaya.*
  • Yeast — 1 heaped teaspoon

*Total juice should equal 1/2 litre, more or less depending on the body you prefer in the finished product.

  • 10-litre jug with fitting cap (I used a 20-litre jug here)
  • 1.25 feet thin tube (i.e. bike stem tube, medical I.V. tubing, etc.)
  • Candle
  • Matches
  • 16-penny nail (or approximately the size of your tube)
  • Pliers
  • Super Glue
  • Knife (if needed)

Light the candle. Using the pliers, hold the nail over the flame for 30 seconds. Push the nail into the center of the plastic lid to melt a hole similar in size to your thin tube. Clean any melted plastic away. If necessary, use a knife to adjust the size of the hole to match the thin tube. It should fit snugly. Pull the tube through the top until you have about 3/4 of an inch coming through (once cap is screwed on the jug, the longer end should be hanging outside of the jug). Use the Super Glue to seal the hole around the tube on both sides of the cap. Wait for the glue to dry and scrape any loose debris away that isn’t ensuring a water (air) tight fit. This cap setup will ensure that the carbon dioxide released by the yeast can escape but no atmospheric oxygen can enter the container and spoil the wine.

Boil the sugar, water and fruit for approximately 15 minutes.

The fruit should be very soft and broken down.

Cup this into the jug (if you have an appropriate funnel, use it!).

Leave to cool to room temperature.

Add yeast. Tightly twist on cap, using a small, clean plastic bag around the threads to ensure an airtight seal. Twist slowly and watch your tube — you don’t want to break your glue seal. Lightly shake the jug a few times to encourage the yeast to get out of bed and off to work.

Place container in a dimly lit, cool place. Place long end of tube in a cup of water. Within a few days, you will notice the CO2 escaping out of the jug as small bubbles in the cup of water. The rate the bubbles form indicates how fast the yeast are metabolizing the sugar. The shorter the intervals, the faster the yeast are working. The longer the intervals, the closer your brew is to being done. This is a new yeast for me so I’m watching (and recording) this closely. A hydrometer helps if you have one handy and know how to read it. . .

Shake jug gently every day for two to three weeks. Depending on the yeast used, the fermenting process should be finished leaving you with a refreshing 15% alcohol content. Filter the wine through a clean cloth. Store the wine in airtight bottles (I’m using glass, Heinz ketchup bottles heh) in a cool, dark place. Enjoy!

You can use any fruit/juice. If it makes juice, it makes wine! The juice supplies the yeast with the minerals needed. I’ve heard that using store bought juice can have adverse effects on the yeast because of the various chemicals used for preservation but I don’t know personally — I’ve only ever used fresh fruit/juice. Proceed at your own risk.

Keep in mind that different proportions of the active ingredients will cause the wine to be drier, sweeter or otherwise give a different character than the semi-sweet this recipe calls for. Experiments are fun . . . because science!

All homemade wine should be shared in copious amounts with friends and family.

Please, drink responsibly.

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