Home Brewed

Home Brewed

Home Brewed
Home Brewed

Home Brewed

How could one spend a used book with such a tempting title for the price of one dollar? For a graduate student who

had money problems, How to Make Wine was a plan for a continuous flow of cheap nectar of the gods.

How difficult can it be? After all, a Neolithic man-made wine without the help of a recipe from an antiquarian.

With a little study and training, I could achieve the same results as the illiterate ancient cave dwellers.

I read the book twice. The “C” in high school chemistry reinforced the need for a careful understanding of the

process. At the end of the second reading, I was convinced that this winemaking matter was fading compared to

understanding Avogadro’s number, the method for measuring the number of molecules in gases. Why would this

Avogadro make sure he knew? He lived in Turin, Italy, one of the largest wine regions in the world. It would be better

to spend his time drinking Barol or Asti instead of having fun with the heads of high school chemistry students. As

the saying goes, taste doesn’t count.

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The first part of my plan was to assess the cost of the project. Although I suffered from eternal optimism,

I was not naive. The book listed the various fruits and vegetables from which wine could be made. Grapes were one

of the many options. It was a red flag. You better check the price of the grapes.

A trip to the Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles proved to be a powerful experience. With the book in

hand, I looked at the grape recipe and checked the price of the grapes. The amount I needed increased the cost

beyond what my modest budget could have saved.

I pushed through the market, flipped through recipes, and made notes about the price of different fruits. The humble

lemon, the last choice far removed from my hopeful expectations, had one overriding, winning quality – a price tag of nickel per pound.

Home Brewed

Water, sugar and yeast came from my kitchen cabinet. I invested in a new plastic bucket and a piece of gauze. I was ready to start.

The initial phase required squeezing out the lemons, mixing the juice with water and sugar, and stewing in a pan.

When the liquid reached the optimum temperature for yeast growth, I added granules, mixed and poured the

mixture into a plastic bucket and covered with gauze.

The bubbling, frothy drink took several weeks to calm down. The smell of yeast and alcohol spread through the apartment.

The next step, secondary fermentation, required a one gallon glass container with a narrow neck, such as an empty water container. Not a problem. I had one.

The picture in the book showed a device called a fermentation lock. It looked like they might have ripped him out of

Dr. Frankenstein’s lab. The accompanying explanation described how a coiled plastic tube allowed carbon dioxide to

escape from the container while blocking the entry of unwanted microbes that would destroy the wine. One end of

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the tube is passed through a rubber stopper inserted into the top of the jug. At the other end was a small water tank.

Gas bubbles pushed their way across the water barrier on their way out, but the microbes could not get inside. Brilliant!

I poured the yellow liquid into a jug, left the sediment behind, and then attached a fermentation lock.

Now the hardest part has begun – waiting six months. Despite the temptation to taste the wine before, the postponed pleasure overcame impatience.

When the day of the tasting came, I called my brother-in-law Bob, who was a few blocks away. The fun-loving guy,

who was prepared for almost anything, was happy to volunteer to evaluate the product.

I placed two glasses on the coffee table in the living room. When he arrived, I removed the fermentation lock from

the gallon jug. The strong smell of alcohol attacked our noses. This wine can have a high octane number. Due to the

impractical size of the container, I poured it into a smaller bottle before filling the cups.


Home Brewed

Bob already hugged the cup with his hands and lifted it to his lips. “Wow! It tastes like lemon.”

“Do you think it’s too strong?”

“I’m not sure. I’ll taste it again.” He finished his glass.

I drank half a glass. My body felt the immediate effect of alcohol.

“I think we should stop, Bob. I’ll put the rest back in the pitcher and let it develop for another six months.”

“I’ll make another shot.”

“That may not be a good idea.”

He picked up an empty cup.

“Okay. I’m glad you’re going home.”

He finished his second round and left.

Fifteen minutes later, my sister called. “What did you do to my husband?”

“He only had two glasses of my new lemon wine.”

Home Brewed

Home Brewed
Home Brewed

The explanation failed to calm her irritation.

I replaced the fermentation lock and let the mash rest for another six months. The wine softened and acquired the

character of cordiality with a lively lemon flavor. At the end of one year, the ghosts fit into a polite society.

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