Home Lifestyle Before brewing your own alcohol, read this first

Before brewing your own alcohol, read this first


If you haven’t stocked up, you are probably going to be trying your luck at making your own alcohol, right? Before you do that, there are things you need to be aware of.

The quality of the ingredients and water as well as improper cleaning of containers can make your alcohol brew dangerous. PICTURE: Marko Milivojevic

THE ALCOHOL ban was expected as Covid-19 infection numbers rocket and some people party every weekend (and weekdays, to be honest) with no care in the world.

Even the announcement of alert Level 3 was mostly met with apathy from many of them.

And then it happened.

Last week Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country was moving to alert level 4.

That means, among other things, alcohol sales and on-site consumption of alcohol are banned. Restaurants can do only takeaways and deliveries.

Even a five-year-old could have told us we would soon be moving to a higher level. The delta variant of Covid-19 has ravaged our health system and the third wave has brought the health-care system in Gauteng to near collapse.

With infections rising rapidly, people who realised what would come next, began stocking alcohol.

Last year saw many people resorting to brewing their own alcohol after liquor was banned for a couple of weeks. Pineapple, sorghum and yeast prices shot up, as did ginger.

Google reported in May last year, that South Africa’s number of searches for home-made alcohol recipes spiked. Searches included “how to make alcohol at home”, “how to make beer easy”, “how to make pineapple beer”, “does pineapple beer make you drunk” and “how to extract alcohol from hand sanitiser”.

If you haven’t stocked up, you are probably going to be trying your luck at making your own alcohol, right? Before you do that, there are things you need to be aware of.

We hit Quora to find some answers to the frequently asked questions about brewing alcohol at home.

What are the dangers?

Vineet Sikarwar advised brewers to be aware of the toxicity levels in alcohol.

“If the raw material and the process are right, then the produced alcohol (ethanol) will be fit to consume.

“On the other hand, if the feedstock or the process parameters have some issues, then the product will be methanol (the first member of alcohol group), which is poisonous in nature. Therefore, it is recommended to go for a lab test after synthesis, before consumption.”

Last year, IOL Lifestyle spoke to Hope Distillery’s resident gin and spirit maker Lucy Beard about the disadvantages of brewing alcohol at home.

Beard said there had been stories about people making their own pineapple beer and apple beer, but some were going one step further and turning their hands to distilling spirits.

“Be warned, it can be dangerous and it may be challenging to get anything vaguely palatable. As many know, any starch or sugar source can be fermented and then distilled to produce liquor (mampoer from peaches and witblits from grape are well known). However, it can be both dangerous to make and dangerous to drink,” she said.

“The distilling process produces highly flammable vapours, and so they come with a high risk of explosion or fire.”

Things to take into consideration

Bob Smead advised brewers to make sure that their equipment was clean.

“The risk to home-made alcohol is the same as cooking in a dirty kitchen. If you do it right, in a clean, sterile environment, with good quality ingredients and proper technique, there is very little danger.”

Smead’s advice is echoed by Loren Krnich. “The other hazard is contamination and that can come from any number of sources. The quality of the ingredients, water used, or improper cleaning of the container. Basically, you can poison yourself if any of those are not right.

“For liquors, because it is distilled, you’re considerably less likely to have active bacteria that might poison you, but the apparatus used to distill might be the cause of poisoning. Joints used to be soldered with lead, distillery containers are metal and any time you use metal, you run the risk of contamination from that source. Heavy metal is not just music, it’s also poison.”

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