People say brandy helps digestion and relaxes your muscles after a long tiring day. Technically, brandy is just distilled wine, but the delightful aroma is enough to persuade you to get a bottle.
So how do you make brandy at home? Read on and find out.
4 Steps In Making Brandy
1. Gather The Materials Needed
- 1.5 kilos of fruits of your choice (should be during peak season)
- 2 kilos sugar
- 2 tablespoons active dry/wine yeast
- 6 cups of water (cold)
- Jars with a tight lid (NOT plastic)
- Large glass jar
- Stone crock or glass bowl where all fruits would fit
- Plate (for cover)
- Potato masher or long-handled spoon
- Cheesecloth or strainer
- Pot still
- Dutch oven or oven-friendly pots that would fit your still
- Glass container (Never use plastic, and it should be dry and clean)
- Bottles or glass jars with a tight lid for storage
- A gas burner or stove
- Chips of oak
2. Select The Best Seasonal Fruit
One of the reasons why you should choose seasonal fruits is that the price is lower during peak season. Second, you can buy as many as you want since there is an abundance. Lastly, the taste is at its best since they are fresh and are picked at the right time.
3. Prepare Yeast Mixture & Sugar
Using the right leavening agent is crucial to your fermentation process. Instant fermentative mixtures do not produce the right reaction to your concoction. Remember to follow the recipe.
If you use berries, increase your sweeteners because they are only sweet to the taste, but their sugars are low. You would have to adjust your sweeteners to allow the enzymes  to do their job properly.
4. Start The Process
1. Place The Fruits In A Bowl
Prepare your chosen fruits and thoroughly clean them. Making brandy requires you to have clean and bacteria-free ingredients. Wash and remove any dirt or any particles stuck to the skin of your chosen fruit.
Dry them out before placing them in a large bowl or container where you will be processing them. Everything should be dry when you make brandy at home.
2. Slice The Fruits
The size of your fruits affects the outcome of your brandy-making a success. If you are making apple wine, you need to slice them into small cubes since these are harder to mash.
Grapes are softer; therefore, you can slice them in half. Do not forget to remove the pits of the fruit you are using.
3. Mash Them
Berries are easier to mash. Again, you need to add sugar if you choose to make wine from a berry fruit. Spread the sweeteners at the bottom, add your fruits and continue layering until you run out of the two ingredients.
Then you begin mashing the berry mixture until they turn liquid-like.
Fruit brandy made at home is preferable unless you use grapes aged in oak barrels. Removing grape skins is an option as these products usually taste harsh, thus the need for longer aging. But what does brandy generally taste like?
You can use apples, peaches, and apricots, place your fruits in a glass container and start mashing them. The result will look like grape juice.
4. Prepare Yeast & Water
Your fermentative mix should be thoroughly mixed. Place it in a bowl and pour in warm water to dissolve it well. Ensure that there are no clumps. Once done, pour it over your fruit juice.
Then, add six cups of cold water. Cover your mixture with a plate in case your container does not have a secure cover.
5. Ferment The Mixture
Your fermentation process starts at this stage. Once the cover is placed, your waiting also begins. It will take around four weeks, but you need to safeguard your concoction in a safe, dry, and cool place.
Also, remember to stir it once a week. Do not worry about bubbles. It’s an indication that your fermenting agents are doing their task. It starts producing alcohol. The process is very similar to how you make beer.
6. Strain & Store
After a month, your mixture should be ready. The smell should have a higher alcohol concentration. You can take it out of your storage and prepare clean glass containers to transfer it to.
Put a strainer and pour the fruit wine, removing skins, pits, and pulps. You now have your own wine! However, this is just the beginning of your distillation process into changing that wine into apricot, plums, grapes, or apple brandy. Find out if brandy is good for you here.
1. Prepare Dutch Oven & Still
It is time to start with your distillation process. It would be best if you had a dutch oven or any stove-friendly container that fits your still. Place it on the burner and nestle your still in the middle.
Pour in water and make sure it is three quarters away from the top. The process of distilling brandy is not difficult, but it is very meticulous. You will not be boiling the brandy mixture but putting it inside your still.
2. Fill The Still With Your Mixture
Fill your large pot still with the fermented liquid leaving a quarter of space from the lid. These few inches of space will allow the wine bubbles to rise. Cover the still.
Brandy, by the way, comes from the Dutch word “brandewijn,” which means burnt wine. But you will not be burning your fermented fruit to achieve the end product.
3. Start The Process
Collect & Get Rid of the Foreshots
Once the wine heats, ensure that the fire is not too high. The water’s boiling point is 211 degrees Fahrenheit compared to the boiling point of alcohol, which is just 173 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the heat source at a steady low.
As the temperature rises, you will notice liquid dripping from the sprout of your still. That marks your first distillation as the wine is distilled. These are called foreshots, a toxic combination of methyl alcohol and acetone.
Collect Some Heads
The next liquid coming out of the still is called the head. Compared to foreshots, the smell is more bearable. However, these are still unwanted alcohol you do not want to be mixed with your brandy.
You can also throw these away like the foreshots that came out of your pot stills. If you are making brandy with much more ingredients, you can collect five ounces of heads and keep five gallons of hearts.
Collect The Hearts
The clearer drops that come out of the still are called the heart. The product of your second distillation produces the good stuff. You can collect these using small glasses.
You can tell by the color of the distilled wine and the aroma that explodes inside the kitchen. Like most brandy, it already has 35% alcohol as it is. However, the alcohol content can still increase. Therefore, do not waste a drop.
Throw Away The Tails
The tail, the last part of the distilled wine, should also be thrown away. But how do you know it is time to throw away the liquid?
The duller color will be your first indication. The alcohol taste will also be bitter. You must take notice of everything that comes out of your pot still to ensure that your distilled brandy has balanced flavor and alcohol content.
4. Store Them In Oak Barrels (Optional)
When you distill alcohol, aging is required to settle the alcohol presence. Storing it in oak barrels will give it added savor and character. However, since this is homemade, having a stashed oak barrel in the attic is not most likely.
An option is to use chips and pieces of oak. Soak it inside your brandy bottle before you store them. When kept in oak casks, it may not have that same color, but the savor is very similar. But does brandy go bad?
Can you still turn a year-old mash into brandy?
Yes, you can still turn a year-old mash into brandy. You can do the same process, and the alcohol content will be around 30-40%. You can easily turn a bottle of wine into brandy, especially if you do not want to go through the entire process and start from scratch with raw ingredients.
Can you use oak chips to age the brandy?
Yes, you can use oak chips to age the brandy. If you infuse the chips into the brandy during fermentation, it will clear it out faster. However, exceeding the infusion for over three years would be useless as the flavor and texture will not improve anymore. Also, what’s the proper way to drink brandy?
Drink & Enjoy!
The whole process you need to follow to make brandy isn’t too complicated if you follow everything in detail. You can mix distilled water if you want to lower the alcohol content of your small-batch brandy. The measurement we provided should come up to a few liters, which could be a lot of alcohol for your consumption.
However, you do not have to worry since storing homemade brandy is legal, like hard cider, wine, or beer. You can double the ingredients and start distilling if you want to produce more. Commercially, some use fractional distillation with column stills. But the output will be the same, delicious brandy.
Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds!