Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Review: Spike Your Juice

One of my favorite blogs is the Drinkhacker. Primarily a booze review blog, it constantly reviews anything alcoholic with a discerning palate and thoughtful notes. My favorite is when some of the more rare or unusual products are reviewed.

A while back, I saw that the Drinkhacker had reviewed a curious product called Spike Your Juice. I was so excited by it that I emailed their Customer Service on the product's website to see if they would send me a free sample to review, and they did. Because of their kindness and their great product, I will be ordering more soon with my own hard-earned money.

Spike Your Juice is a small kit that contains all you need in order to begin making your own cider or wine at home. The kit comes with a bubbler airlock that will fit on most large commercial 64oz juice bottles, six packets of yeast, and a bunch of quaint labels to put on your homemade hooch once it's done.

The process to make your own booze with this kit is simple and fun. You take a bottle of your favorite kind of juice, pour in a packet of yeast, plug the bottle with your bubbler airlock filled slightly with water, and wait! The yeast immediately begin consuming the sugar in the juice and begin emitting alcohol and carbon dioxide as waste... delicious, delicious waste. Within 8 hours you can see many tiny bubbles rising to your juice's surface while your airlock lets out excess gas and keeps out bacteria. If you didn't have an airlock, your capped bottle would explode in a matter of hours.

As a side note, it turns out the the Spike Your Juice yeast packets are in fact yeast and a bit of sugar mixed in. It may be the added sugar or that it's a particularly fast kind of brewing yeast, but the effects of the yeast's consumption can be seen hours quicker than if you used a simple run-of-the-mill yeast from your grocery store... I experimented and confirmed it.

The fermenting will stop when either 1) you put the bottle in the fridge to chill and kill the yeast (but cap it loosely if your airlock doesn't fit in the fridge!), 2) you drink it, 3) there is no sugar left for the yeast to consume, or 4) when the alcohol-by-volume of the juice reaches about 14%, which is an environment that naturally kills off the yeast. But watch out, if you let it ferment much past 48 hours, most of the juice's sugar will be consumed by the yeast, and your juice/hooch will no longer be very sweet.

This stuff is great fun. The first thing I fermented was Welch's Concord Grape juice, a product on Spike Your Juice's recommended juice list(pictured right). After 48 hours, the juice was carbonated, still sweet, and slightly boozy. The yeast lend a pungent flavor to the juice, which is tolerable, but not ideal. I found that running the juice through a coffee filter can remove most of the yeast (taste)... also another way to slow down the fermentation.

After I tested a recommended juice, I set out to try it on my own favorites... and I learned a valuable lesson: carefully check your juice's ingredients list before you try to ferment. It goes without saying that yeast will only consume natural sugar and not artificial sweetener, but another aspect to consider is preservatives. I wanted nothing more than Hawaiian Punch wine, but it is not to be; after the yeast floated in the punch for a day, I realized that (with the help of my friend who's a doctoral biology student) the culprit is the punch's Potassium Sorbate, a preservative which is specifically used for killing yeasts and molds. Whoops.

So far I've fermented grape juice, apple juice, cranberry cocktail, fruit punch, (bottled, non-refridgerated) orange juice, and a big jug of apple cider. I brought the fermented cider to Thanksgiving, and it was a hit (pictured below).

Herein lies, in my opinion, Spike Your Juice's best application: parties. The life of your fermented juice will be short; like soda, the hooch's carbonation quickly dissapates, and further, the yeast's consumption doesn't stop on a dime. What tastes delicious and sweet today might be dry and sugarless tomorrow, even if you put it in the fridge. Further still, Spike Your Juice recommends throwing away your juice's cap once you begin to ferment it, because you can essentially never safely cap the bottle again without it exploding, which doesn't exactly encourage you to keep it long before drinking it. All this volatile nature means rapid juice drinking is best, and that is best done among friends or family.

I highly recommend this product. It's cheap($10), simple, educational, and a lot of fun. You can turn your favorite juice into a wine or cider and enjoy it in a different and novel way.

Experiment responsibly!


  1. “Delicious, delicious waste.”

    Hm... Hawaiian Punch wine, you say? Gotta be an approximation out there. I’m tasting hibiscus and pineapple and maybe something a little orange-y?

  2. Yeah, you could approximate it, though this leads to the overall better idea of just creating your own blend of deliciousness and then fermenting it.

    One of the keys to the process, that Spike Your Juice outlines, is to only ferment juices that were not refrigerated while unopened. So, pineapple juice would work. I lucked out and found some OJ in the juice aisle of my supermarket. Generally speaking, fresh squeezed juice should not be used with this kit.

  3. Hey man,

    Totally just ordered some. I'm totally getting into scotch these days and am thinking of opening a distillery in a couple years so figure I should try making some of the basics and this is a great start. Thanks for the idea. I'll let you know what i discover. :)


  4. Here's how to do it without the kit. Should taste the same:

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. I am currently makeing a batch right now an was wondering if i should filter it after the 48 hours. Thanks for letting me know that i should in order to remove the yeasts taste to it.

  7. I make batches of this stuff alllll the time. Love the product but as my fiance is a sommelier we like our boozy juice much more "dry". We've gotten to almost 14% alcohol by letting the yeast run from 10 days (for the lowest recommended sugar amount) to 20 days (for the highest sugar laden juices you can buy). If you check your bubbling every day you will notice when the bubbles appear to be less and the yeast appear to slow down (gradually die more and more), viola! You have about 12% to 14%. 2 days is far too little time for this yeast to truly consume that much sugar. Trust me! I am a biochemist that has worked at a winery and my fiance and I both know how to make wine. And yes, as previously stated don't use juice that has been pasteurized or refrigerated. Fresh squeezed juice should work, just make sure to eliminate the solids like pulp as this will limit the carbonation. Not to mention interfere with alcohol production. We've used everything from generic supermarket brand shelved juice to Welch's. Our favorites are those with higher amounts of sugar as it favors higher alcohol production with a better balance of sweet to tang.

  8. I have made honey mead using spike your own juice. I have to say it came out really good but not as strong as I would have liked. My memory may be off but I am pretty sure I let it ferment for about 2 weeks, and still it was about 6%. I am going to make more but I am going to let it sit for a bit longer. I will report what becomes of the honey mead after 4 to 6 weeks fermenting.