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September 4, 2010 8:00 AM PDT

DIY Weekend: Spiked juice for homemade hooch

by Matt Hickey

Devil in a box.

(Credit: Matt Hickey/CNET)

Normally for our DIY Weekend feature, we talk about things like homemade rocket launchers, mobile Xboxes-in-a-case, and powerful plywood telescopes. This week, we talk about getting drunk.

I enjoy drinking alcohol. I'm also cheap, which is why I was excited at the chance to try out Spike Your Juice, a $10 DIY hooch-making kit that might just be of dubious legal standing depending on where you live.

SYJ is an all-in-one fermentation kit that lets you take off-the-shelf fruit juice from your local supermarket and turn it into a tasty alcoholic beverage in as little as 48 hours. I was doubtful at first, but after some experimentation, I can say it works as advertised.

My first try was with a white grape juice. After two days it was easily alcoholic, but the manufacturers state that the longer you let it ferment, the dryer (read: boozier) it will be. Another day and a half and it was almost like a really good cheap champagne. Sadly, there was a yeasty aftertaste that wasn't agreeable to a few of the more picky drinkers in my life. Mixing it with orange juice did the trick nicely and made for some awesome cheap mimosas.

The secret is in the individual packets. The kit comes with six, each of which contains a mixture of yeast, cane juice, and an emulsifier. Besides the fermentation packets, there's a special bottle stopper. It has a neat gas-releasing variable seal at the top that allows the gas byproducts of the fermentation process to escape with a none-too-awesome odor while keeping the environment in the bottle air-tight. It's neat in its own right.

The magic stopper lets gas out, but not air in, so your concoction ferments without exploding your bottle.

(Credit: Matt Hickey/CNET)

My next experiment was with a type of three-apple juice. After just 48 hours it was plenty boozy, though it had an odd flavor. We ran some of the juice through a standard Brita water filter, which certainly helped, but it did strip out some of the apple flavor.

So I went to a friend of mine who's a chef and has a broad if esoteric knowledge of all things fermented and distilled. We made a more porous filter out of a coffee filter and a rubber band. The outcome was fantastic. The drink was smooth and crisp. But we weren't done.

We like our booze to be high octane. To that end, we took what was left of the juice and added some cane sugar and a little bit of honey. We then boiled it and added another packet from the kit and put it back into the bottle with the special stopper. We let it sit about two weeks.

The finished product. It's got a kick, tastes good, and won't make you go blind.

(Credit: Matt Hickey/CNET)

After another pass through the coffee filter, we had some of the most powerful hooch I've ever tasted. We have no idea what the proof is, but I've had shots of Jager with less kick. We could shoot it, but we discovered that by mixing it with a little orange juice over ice we get a really amazing little cocktail. I'm going to call it "The Spiker."

Sure, this kind of fun isn't for everyone, but it's an almost fail-safe way to have a little fun with home fermentation on a three-day weekend, like the one coming up.

I have a couple of packets left, so I'm discussing other recipes with my drinking posse. We're going to make our own peach puree, add some cane sugar, and see if we can make the most amazing breakfast power-jam ever to grace an English muffin. I hope I live through the fall.

To share your DIY project, simply e-mail a description of 350 words or less, including all the geeky ins and outs of your invention, plus relevant links and photos, to crave at cnet dot com. Please put DIY Weekend in the subject line.

With more than 15 years experience testing hardware (and being obsessed with it), Crave freelance writer Matt Hickey can tell the good gadgets from the great. He also has a keen eye for future technology trends. Matt has blogged for publications including TechCrunch, CrunchGear, and most recently, Gizmodo. E-mail Matt.
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by chaosbarney September 4, 2010 10:22 AM PDT
People have been doing this in prison toilets for centuries.
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