Is it safe to drink homemade beer and wine
I won’t lie to you! If you drink too much of your own alcohol, you can become sick. Wait! Don’t drop this site just yet. Let me explain first.
Don’t preach by excess
I guarantee that if, after bottling your first batch of thirty bottles, you decide to celebrate by drinking half of your production in two days, then yes, you will probably become sick.
be careful of food cross contamination and mold
Secondly, your own alcohol, like any other food, can become contaminated with undesirable microorganisms, as well as mold if you do not take the necessary precautions to keep it clean.
But don’t worry, no dangerous bacteria will contaminate your homemade fermented beverages if you take the usual precautions: avoid cross contamination (for example, by working on a surface that has not been cleaned and has come into contact with raw meat or fish), choose your ingredients carefully, sterilize or pasteurize equipment and ingredients.
The contamination by dangerous microorganisms is very rare and usually due to poor handling. In general, bacteria that could contaminate your drink will make your alcohol malodorous or give it a taste that your taste buds will not appreciate.
Cases of severe intoxication from craft beer or wine that have made headlines are usually related to the distillation of alcohol. This guide will not teach you how to make it.
Have healthy hygiene practices
The sterilization of your equipment is an important step to take when making fermented beverages, as your beer or wine will typically need to age for long periods of time before it is consumed.
This so-called aging period allows the beverage to improve and develop its flavors. However, if the sterilization steps have not been followed, the brew could be contaminated and unwanted microorganisms will then have all the time they need to reproduce and spoil your finished product.
Do not worry, like any food, in most cases, if it tastes or smells “strange”, you will know. All that will be left to do is throw it away. It happens sometimes…
I have made many batches of fermented beverages myself and have contaminated a batch on rare occasions. It will happen to you too. In some cases I was able to save it, in others, I chose to throw it all out. Each time, it was my fault. I was in a hurry, I forgot to sterilize one of my tools properly. I knew from the start that there was a risk that my batch would be contaminated.
But personally, I have never been sick from drinking my homemade brew, nor have my friends and family. I have also never been sick from eating my spaghetti sauce. My wife, on the other hand, got sick from eating my recipe for mussels in white wine that I had prepared for a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner. God, those mussels were delicious! I was also told that mussels were aphrodisiacs… I’ll pass on that!
Not more dangerous than eating meat
Making your own fermented beverages is no more dangerous in terms of the risk of food poisoning than the risk associated with any other food of general consumption and even much less risky in many cases (canned goods, cheeses, raw meats or fish…).
Moreover, the alcohol content itself, as well as the sulfur generated by the action of yeast, as well as the sulfites that you may add to your beverages in many cases, will contribute to providing an environment that is not conducive to the survival of unwanted microorganisms.
Just keep in mind that you will let your beverages age for long periods of time and that as a result, you will need to ensure that they are manufactured under adequate conditions at all times.
Proper cleaning and sterilization practices will keep you away from the risks (minimal) associated with fermented beverages production. And if you ever mess up a batch, throw it out and start over! It’s as simple as that.
A pasteurized kit greatly reduces risks
Finally, if you make alcohol from a kit or from pasteurized juice, the risks of contamination if your equipment is properly sterilized are very minimal. Where the risks are higher is if you decide to make fermented beverages from fresh, unpasteurized juice or from fresh fruits or vegetables. Indeed, these fruits and vegetables having been outdoors during their growth, they may have come into contact with the ground, with insects, with wild animals and birds or their excrements, with pesticides, with fertilizers, in short, with a whole bunch of products that you do not want in your diet.
Of course, if you decide to pick up very ripe apples that have been on the ground for several days within reach of insects and wild animals and decide to press them to extract a very sweet juice and you do not pasteurize this juice with the best methods, then you of course increase the risks exponentially.
I definitely do not recommend doing this, even though many people have done it over the centuries and you will probably find recipes suggesting it. The alcohol generated, contrary to popular belief, will not be enough to sterilize the cider produced.
By pasteurizing these juices, the risks are reduced to a minimum. However, “homemade” pasteurization is not guaranteed, nor 100% effective.
As for chemicals such as sulfites or chlorine, they will destroy the vast majority of bacteria, but some may be resistant to them, especially if the sulfite concentration is insufficient in the must.
Millions of people make fermented beverages
However, every year, millions of people make wine or beer at home and it is rare for cases of contamination to be reported. If you choose the fruits and vegetables you will use to make fermented beverages carefully, if you clean them well, if you sterilize them well with the means at your disposal, there will still be a certain risk, but it will be very minimal.
This guide will explain the generally used methods by amateurs to reduce these risks to a minimum. Although important, sterilizing equipment is far from complex and can be easily done with ingredients or methods that you probably already have at home. This subject will be demystified later in this guide.