How to Make Your Own Beer, Wine, Soda, and Seltzer

From a prepping perspective, it is much more practical to store the ingredients to make your beverages than to stash back an immense supply. People stash back liquor rather than beer for a long emergency because it is more concentrated, and it doesn’t go bad. You are also not storing a bunch of water and packaging.

Let’s say your household beer consumption is 2 per day. That is pretty low, but it still comes to almost 61 12 packs or 730 bottles! Each one of those 12 packs comes in a cardboard box. That is a lot of packaging you are paying for and that you have to dispose of. It also takes up a lot of space, and at some point, your beer is going to be tasting skunky and not so great. It doesn’t keep well.

You can store enough ingredients to make that much beer at home in part of a closet if you reuse bottles or have a kegging system.

Making your own beverages gives you control over the sweetness, alcohol percentage, and quality of ingredients.

Do you like things to be a little sweet but not a lot? Making your own soda will allow you to customize the sugar level in your beverages. I like cola once in a while, but I always water it down with ice. Most soft drinks are too sweet, and I’m not particularly eager to consume artificial sweeteners.

Using less sugar or using juice and natural flavors to make “soda” can help you maintain a better weight too. There are plenty of people out there that drink three sodas or even six sodas a day. A three soda-a-day habit (12 oz can size) adds 450 calories to your daily diet! Cutting that in half means you will likely be at least 5 or 10 lbs lighter over the course of a year.

Kegging Systems

For a small investment, you can start kegging soda, seltzer, or beer at home. This is the least time-consuming way to make and dispense carbonated beverages in a reasonable quantity.

A kegging system consists of the following:

  • CO2 Tank and Connecting Line
  • Keg
  • Tap Line
  • CO2 Regulator
You will, of course, want a way to keep your beverages cold. This can be accomplished using your regular refrigerator, or you can buy a kegerator. An old chest freezer combined with a temperature regulator can be made into an inexpensive kegerator as well.

While you may not have room for your CO2 tank in your fridge, you can just add a little CO2 to your keg occasionally to keep your beverages flowing. This is not as convenient as having everything in one place, but it eliminates the need for a separate fridge.

With a kegging system, you can carbonate your favorite juices or even wine if you want. In fact, you can add some water for your own juice or wine spritzers on tap.

Here is a video that shows you how to use a simple kegging system:

Keg Size

Five gallons is the standard keg size for most homebrewing or soda-making projects. We have one keg that is just 2 gallons that we use for small batches of seltzer or other sparkling beverages. Smaller kegs can be nice, but they are harder to find used and often cost just as much as a 5-gallon keg. In my own opinion, I think they are worth it for some things. Five gallons is a lot more weight to lift, for example, and there are just some things that you don’t want to make that much of. You can just partially fill a 5-gallon keg, but then you are wasting quite a bit of space.

Soda Stream

These are a decent option for a single person or maybe a couple that enjoys a little soda or likes sparkling water. The C02 costs and capacity limitations make them not so practical for families. I recommend purchasing flavoring extracts that are not namebrand Soda Stream.

In the past, we tried brands like Soda Stream and found that their flavoring agents tasted unnatural, and they cost a lot of money compared to domestically produced extracts and flavors like those from Nature’s Flavors.

During the pandemic, my husband and I discovered Nature’s Flavors. This company makes a larger variety of extracts for flavoring sodas, seltzer, or other food products. A bottle of their extracts lasts a long time. If you have a favorite flavor, it is best to buy it in a quart or larger size.

Some name brand flavors are basically impossible to replicate at home. You need the name brand syrup.

Some drinks are patented and hard to replicate at home. A good example is Coca-Cola or Pepsi. You can buy cola extract or flavoring, but it does not taste the same as name brands.

Recently I discovered that Cheerwine makes a syrup that can be used to make Cheerwine at home. Here is a link for more info.

It is possible to purchase soda syrups like those used at restaurants if you really cannot do without your brand of soda. The downside is that they are already sweetened with high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners so they are not a great option for those that are trying to eliminate those from their diets.

Making Beer At Home

[caption id="attachment_641135" align="alignnone" width="1536"] Making beer at home[/caption]

We have made a lot of our own beer for decades at this point. My husband and I met in college and making beer was one of the things we did, so we didn’t have to pay a lot to drink something decent. Back then, we could produce 48 standard 12-ounce beers for around $15-$20.

Now we use a kegging system, and the ingredients cost a bit more, but it is still a lot less than buying beer at the grocery store.

Here is a brief overview of how to make your own beer.


[caption id=“attachment_641136” align=“alignnone” width=“400”] Green hops[/caption]

  • Hops
  • Liquid or Dry Malt
  • Water
  • Yeast
  • Large Pot
  • Brew Bucket or Carboy
  • Siphon Hose
  • Kegging System or Bottles and Caps
I generally make beer in 10 gallons or 20-gallon batches. For this, I need two 5 gallon pots since I am using liquid and dry malts.

To Make 10 gallons

  1. Fill your 5 gallon pot half way with water.
  2. Add 2 ounces of hops. Some recipes require more.
  3. Bring to a boil.
  4. Add liquid malt and/or corn sugar
  5. Boil for 15 minutes or more depending on your exact recipe. For a pale ale I usually don’t let the wort boil for more than 20 minutes.
  6. Let wort ( this is what unfermented beer is called) cool until it is around 150F.
  7. Add 2 more ounces of hops
Pour wort into a clean and sanitized fermentation vessel. Add cold water to top off but make sure you leave space to allow for the foam that occurs when fermentation is occuring. Check out the picture below for an example of good “headspace” using a standard 5 gallon glass carboy.

If your wort is under 90F, add yeast and put your airlock in place. If the temp is too high, give it a little more time to cool off. Make sure you have water in the airlock but don’t overfill it. Most airlocks have a line to indicate the maximum fill level.

Let your beer ferment until the airlock is not bubbling any longer. The higher the final alcohol content, the longer it will take for beer to ferment fully. The temperature where the beer is allowed to ferment also plays a major role. Different beer yeasts have a temperature range they will convert sugar to alcohol at. If you are in the lower range then your beer will take longer to finish. It is best to not be at the extreme end of your range. Try for a temperature that is in the middle. While it may be tempting to brew in a cold garage or basement area, you need to make sure that it is not too cold. Fermentation can completely stop or never even happen if the temperature is too low for your yeast to get started. The result is a ruined batch of beer.

Note: You can buy sticker strips that attach to your fermentation container and tell you the temperature of your wort. This can be help you avoid putting yeast in and scorching it. If your airlock is not bubbling after 12 hours and you don’t see any foaming action on top of your wort then you can always add another packet of beer yeast. I have definitely scorched my yeast more than once and had to do this.

Brewing From Grain or “All Grain Techniques”

All grain brewing produces a higher quality product, but it takes more work and cannot make as much beer in a pot. For example, a 5-gallon pot will only make around 4.5 gallons of all-grain beer, whereas I can make 10 gallons using concentrates.

Grains take up a lot more storage space and cost more to ship as well. Here are some links to sites to get started using all grain if this is appealing to you.


Making Your Own Wine

Wine kits are the easiest way to get started making your own. They have clear instructions and you can get kits to make wines that would be impossible to get the raw ingredients for in your area. You will still need to buy some basic wine making supplies.

Wine requires a lot more patience than beer because it takes a lot longer for the yeast to convert the sugars to alcohol.

Here are a few wine kits to consider.

Equipment and Making Wine From Raw Fruit or Juices

To make your own wine you need the following:
  • Fruit or Juice
  • Cane or Corn Sugar
  • Wine Yeast
  • Fermentation Vessel
  • Bottles
  • Corks
  • Corker
Note: You can keg wine too. For non carbonated wine you will need argon gas. You can use argon gas with any kegging system. For sparkling wine you just carbonate as you would for beer.

Fruit alone, with the exception of some wine grapes, does not have enough alcohol to make a shelf stable wine. You must add sugar. Corn sugar or “Dextrose” is better but white table sugar works just fine. The goal is to produce a wine that is at least 10% alcohol. The wine you get at a shop typically ranges from 11.5%-15% with 13.5% being the most common. Fruit wines are typically on the lower end of the alcohol range. It is important that whatever recipe you use, that you follow the instructions for adding additional sugars or better yet, use a refractometer to test your fruit or juice and then use the measurement to figure out how much sugar you need to add.

One mistake a lot of people make with fruit wines is simply not adding enough fruit to make it tasty. This is understandable considering how expensive fruit can be. Plenty of 5 gallon fruit wine recipes call for a mere 5-10 lbs of fruit and the rest of the alcohol comes from sugar. It is well worth the money to make wine using more fruit. When we last made blackberry wine, we picked a full five gallon bucket for each 5 gallons of wine. When the berries are crushed the volume goes down so you have to add sugar and water to adjust the volume and get the sugar content high enough to reach the 10% final alcohol minimum.

I recommend a good book on home winemaking for reference or visiting a few of the sites I link to below. Wine requires a bit more patience than beer. There are more steps that you must take to get a quality product, especially if you are starting out with raw ingredients and not using a kit.

Calories in Alcoholic Beverages

I think that people put a lot of blame on alcohol for weight gain. Consider that when you buy a six-pack at the grocery store, the bottle usually says that it has 100-200 calories per 12 oz. I think that is very misleading. They are counting the caloric value of the ingredients that are turned into alcohol during fermentation. While drinking six beers a day may not be the best for you, there is no way that someone that drinks that much beer per day will weigh as much as someone that drinks six sodas and eats the same way. I can say this from personal experience in my younger years too.

Mixed drinks are a different story. What people mix liquor with is often very high in sugar and calories.

Sources For Beverage Supplies


This is the supplier I currently use for purchasing hops, liquid malt extracts, and corn sugar. The shipping cost is included, and they are one of the only places where I can find Ultra Light Liquid Malt for making very pale ales. Their hop prices by the pound are excellent, and you can save even more by purchasing 5 lb bags of the most commonly used hops like Cascade. They have a warehouse on the East Coast and one on the West Coast, so your order usually arrives in a very timely manner. Sometimes they have to ship something to you from the warehouse that is further away from you, and it takes longer, but it is still pretty fast.

Label Peelers

I have to say that Label Peelers has some excellent coupons and sales throughout the year. Shipping is not free. Some may say it seems like a lot, but when you add up the overall cost of what you are ordering and the shipping, you are often paying less than from another supplier.

Local Suppliers and Malt Houses

If you are in an area with many breweries, you may have a malt house close by that you can purchase bulk grains from. I live near Asheville, which has more small breweries per capita than anywhere in the country. Naturally, we have a malt house that sells 50 lb sacks of malted grains for a good price.

A lot of towns have homebrew and wine shops that sell ingredients and kits to get you started. Most of them offer brewing classes too that can be fun if you are a beginner.

Check out local farms, farmer’s markets, and orchards for fruit if you want to make wine or cider.

Used Equipment

I highly recommend checking out Craigslist for used homebrewing or kegging equipment. Sometimes you can even find kegerators for sale too. Plenty of people move around a lot and cannot take their stuff with them. You can pick up some really great deals so you can get started for a lot less money.

Books On Beverage Making

It is possible to "Clone Brew" your favorite beer. In fact, there are many websites and books dedicated to helping homebrewers replicate their favorite commercial beer recipes.


The Complete Joy of Homebrewing

The Brew Your Own Big Book of Clone Recipes

How To Brew: Everything You Need To Know To Brew Great Beer Every Time


Home Winemaking: The Simple Way To Make Delicious Wine

Techniques In Home Winemaking

Home Winemaking Step By Step


Making Soda at Home: Mastering the Craft of Carbonation: Healthy Recipes You Can Make With or Without a Soda Machine

The Complete Soda Making Book: From Homemade Root Beer to Seltzer and Sparklers, 100 Recipes to Make Your Own Soda

Homemade Soda: 200 Recipes


Making your own beverages can save a lot of money and reduce how much trash and recycling you have to deal with. When you get to choose your own ingredients and recipes, you can cut out a lot of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial coloring agents. On top of that you can have fun creating new and interesting flavors that you cannot find in any store!

Do you have a favorite beverage recipe to share with the tribe?

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
A mind blowing amount of recipes from the late Jack Keller.

I have a simple plum wine going right now, about 1 week into it. This is a local simple summer wine recipe, so it is not going to be racked much and has only a couple ingredients, ground fall plums from the neighbors tree, sugar and champagne yeast. Realy pretty color right now. I would like a lower foaming yeast next time I do this one as it was a mess the first afternoon, it is very hot here
So for me, I find wine easier than beer as I dont need to buy alot of specialized ingredients. I use fruit that is just already here. Last time I made wine, I used Muscat grapes growing in my yard. Which I hope to do again next month, so then for the year, I will have two types of wine

Brewing is a gateway into a much bigger field; that of fermentation.
I would like to know if once the foodstuffs have been fermented, have their biological characteristics been fundamentally changed?
For instance, gluten intolerance is well known, but can a gluten intolerant person better consume it if it is first transmogrified by whatever ferments it?
And what of phytoestrogens of Soybeans when it is made into miso paste?
Etc and so forth.
A topic worthy of a profession.

Thrilled to see the topic here, thanks Samantha. Most people hear “beer” and they just think alcohol, but there’s a ton of knowledge and benefits you can gain from practicing brewing. With basic fermentation science you can learn how to create certain probiotics, how to preserve your harvest, create ideal livestock feed, make compost, etc. all while enjoying a tasty beverage and reducing stress.


Biochemical Nerdery

Lactobacillus is a genus of bacteria, specifically Gram-positive lactic-acid-producing bacteria, often lumped together with Pediococcus when it comes to souring beer. Under the right conditions Lactobacillus can produce lactic acid quicker than its hardier cousin, and generally does not leave behind the diacetyl or exopoly-saccharides (“sickness”) that require cleanup by Brettanomyces. Lactobacillus is able to reproduce quickly with some species capable of doubling every 20–60 minutes (meaning that each cell at T=0 can result in offspring num-bering millions or billions in just 24 hours!). Sounds pretty ideal: No unpleasant byproducts, grows quickly in a wide range of temperatures (depending on species), sours rapidly, and as an added benefit is a probiotic!
If you’re a homesteader keep an eye out for new breweries opening in the area. Even if you’re not a beer drinker they are usually looking for a farmer or rancher to take spent grain loads off their hands. I supply a local cattle rancher with about 1200 lbs a week for free and he picks up from a dozen other breweries in the area besides mine. The grain has a natural presence of lactobacilos and ferments naturally after about 48 hours and the cows love it. Hops oils and acids are harmful to most animals stomachs though so make sure you don’t mix them. Hop oils and alcohol are preservatives though for the right application. Hops are also known have antihistamine properties.    

I thought of trying home brewing a while back, but found it was difficult to simulate a light lager with home brewing methods. Something about lagers requiring a “cold fermentation” or top fermenting (home brew) vs bottom fermenting (lager).
I prefer a light beer in the evening after dinner, & then bump myself into my happy place before bed with a couple of gin & tonics. Strong drink too early in the evening turns me into a Neanderthal.

How about distilling? Still federal crime?

Normal brewers yeast, Saccharomyces, does not break down gluten proteins in beer production, but there are enzymes you can add to primary fermentations to help the reduction of the protein in solution. Specific fungal endopeptidase typically used for coloidal stability and clarity that only cleaves haze sensitive polypeptides at the carboxyl end of the amino acid proline, can be used at a higher rate for gluten reduction. I never like to call a beer gluten free unless it never had any gluten at any point in the process, but there are ways to reduce it significantly.

You can distill as much “water” you like. I have a handy 1 gallon electric distiller I bought off amazon. Sometimes bad wine batches get in there and I end up with hand sanitizer and a pretty effective glass cleaner. If the feds ever ask I’m not sure why anyone would think it fit for human consumption.
Winemaking is one of my favorite passive hobbies. Winter wines are the best IMO. Low temp, slow fermentation makes the flavor clean and crisp, without the flavors the heat can add to ruin a perfectly good batch.
My recipe for the science of it is: 100% grape juice concentrate, 2 cans of water per, 1/2 cup sugar per can. 1 campden tablet per gallon, and I like the red packet of wine yeast with the star. It seems to make high abv wines. Start with an SG of about 1.110 and let it go low and slow until you get to an SG of about .9 and its about right.
If the heat gets to it or some foul outside yeast screws it up, give it a tablespoon of cinnamon and nutmeg and let it sit. Age to taste then rack it and beat the devil out of it to release all the CO2, serve chilled and it makes a decent spiced wine.
Don’t like it? Distill it. Rinse and repeat.
Edit: material cost per 6 gallon batch is about $30, so very economical and a fun way to scratch the mad scientist itch, perfecting the recipe and environment to suit your tastes. A 5 gallon bucket with a lid will suit just fine with the ancilliary equipment. You can have everything you need for under $100 to try it out. Glass carboys etc can wait.

Every year I end up with dozens of jars of uneaten blackberry jams and myriad fruit syrups and spreads and old fruit getting to the end of their shelf life. You can make a pretty flavorful wine from that too. I call it a junk shot. I find the secret to all my best wines is to not try at all, and it usually works out well. Ferment until the yeast sterilizes itself with alcohol production snd you don’t need to use any sulfides (which many people are alergic to). The secret ingredient is forgetfulness. ??

For sparkling water I use a “carbonation cap” on regular PET soda bottles. I got a 40 pound cylinder of food-grade CO2 with regulator and hose from a gas supply company three years ago for $130. Pre-refrigeration and an aeration stone speed up the process, around 5 minutes to 40 psi. Amazon has all the parts. Fire stations may be able to refill with food-grade CO2.
I figure 15 cents a liter, less if I can get the cylinder refilled again before it needs recertification.

mntnhousepermi: That sounds delicious. I’m a big fan of homemade wine myself… it seems to actually retain the fruit flavor. And, tbh, I’ve never been a fan of the bitter flavor of most commercial wines. I know, I know, I have an uneducated palate. But I really like quality beer so go figure.
What I really want to do is get into a position to make cider. :slight_smile:
I planted my orchard with an eye toward making cider when I made my apple choices. I’ve planted a few apple trees and most of them (Roxbury Russett, Golden Russett, Winesap, Grimes Golden, and Mountaineer) are supposed to make good cider as well as tasty pies. I planted most of them in 2019 so I am a few years out but looking great so far. I also have a wonderful little Transparent (maybe 8 to 10 years old) that produced over a bushel of very large/nice apples last week. Not sure if they would make good cider or not.
I agree with Dontkknownothin, making wines is a perfect winter project.

Husband adapted a kegerator for us to store a lot of stuff at once that needed refrigeration. It was a great decision. The energy to refrigerate is low compared to a regular refrigerator because the freezer is insulated for deep freeze temperatures. Drawbacks? It needs inserts to keep small stuff from getting lost, it accumulates moisture, and sometimes stuff against the walls frosts.
I brew hard cider, rather I get cider in 1 gallon jugs from the farm markets and it brews itself. I open the jug, pour off ~1/2 cup of cider to give room to fizz, close it up, and put it under the dining room table for 3 weeks with the lid cracked slightly. Then it is closed and transferred to shelving in the garage until gone. It keeps until spring. A few jugs turn to vinegar, and is delicious vinegar after about 1 year, but better after 2 years. That’s about it.

Yes it is still
a federal offense. Most states also forbid it.

I too, am a professional brewer.
The product ZymurgencyMan is referring to is called Clarity Ferm or Brewers Clarex.
One thing not mentioned here is off-flavors from fermentation.
Seltzers (sucrose) puts off a lot of acetaldehyde (green apple). If your beer isn’t finished fermenting, you could have a buttery or butterscotch flavor (diacetyl).
I highly recommend the following books, in addition to Samantha’s list:
-Tasting Beer (The Beer Bible!)
-Radical Brewing (Traditional Ingredients wisdom, here)
-The Art of Fermentation (Traditional Ingredients wisdom, here)
-The Drunken Botanist (Traditional Ingredients wisdom, here)
If you have any technical questions, send me a pm. I’ve been a professional brewer for 15 years, this month. Cheers.
P.S. Also highly recommend the Brewer’s Association Draught Beer Quality Manual. It’s free.

ABV calculator:
Home brewing supplies, books, kits, and more:
US distilling laws by state, illegal everywhere but enforcement is challenging.
An adequate “water” still:
http://Mophorn Countertop Water Distiller 750W Digital Panel Stainless Steel Purifier Filter 1.1Gal 4L Glass Container Perfect for Home Use, Silver

Also, I’m going to be “that guy”.
Amateur distillation is illegal for a reason. Everybody thinks it’s about fire/explosion hazards, but in truth, it’s about concentrating toxins like methanol, or if you’re using stainless steel equipment, ethyl carbamate, a carcinogen.
These compounds may exist in a beer, but they are in low quanitity.
Once distilled…presto: you now have poison.

Hmm… how does one test for these issues? And isn’t methanol produced from distilling wood alcohols? Any sugar/fruit alcohols should only create ethanol, or mostly at least.
The steel equipment gives me pause though. My cheap chinese water distiller may be an issue…

I found it remarkably easy to make some reasonably tasty beer. At least from my experience anyway. I just iterated through the recipes from my local “Oak Barrel Winecraft” (mine was in Berkeley), and I figured out which recipe worked for me. Unlike wine, which takes decades (ok - 3 months, minimum) and ends up tasting just so-so, I was able to get a nice beer in about 3 weeks. And if I didn’t like it, I could toss it out, make another batch, and try it again in another 3 weeks!
Beer really wasn’t hard. Especially compared with finicky wine. Which I love to drink, but have not quite mastered how to make.
Cider sounds interesting too. I just don’t have enough apples lying around to try it.
Here’s a fun fact. The human body is built to run on 3 energy sources.

  1. glucose
  2. keytones (i.e. fat)
  3. alcohol
    Why #3? Well it turns out, your gut makes about alcohol for you. And you didn’t even know it. It’s our third energy source. Our body produces alcohol naturally. It doe so throughout our lives. And we don’t wait until age 21 in the US to make our own alcohol. Also it doesn’t matter what our religion teaches about alcohol. We still produce it. This process is endogenous ethanol production. It occurs 24 hours a day, seven days per week. Our bodies can make up to about an ounce of pure alcohol each day. That’s equal to almost two alcoholic drinks. But usually it’s much lower at about 4 grams. But that’s still well over one quarter of a drink.

Menthol comes from fermentation, but it’s enzymes, not yeast that make it happen. Also the claim that methanol only comes from wood alcohols or beer is demonstrably false. Luckily, it has a lower boiling point than ethanol, so amateurs have a bit of help.
This goes back to the “magic woo” that many distillers believe. That’s why they use copper stills: it leaches toxins and off-flavors out of the wash.