Making Homemade Hobo Jug Wine

Making Homemade Hobo/Jug Wine

For awhile now, I've been wanting to make homemade wine.  But I'm not talking about the fancy pants, artisanal craft wine, I'm talking nasty rotgut, ghetto style wine.  One step above prison wine and without needing to make it in a toilet or garbage bag...  and without having to be someone's bitch. 

Homemade hobo wine, also called jug wine, is made from pretty easy to find ingredients.  Here's the list of ingredients you need:

  • Juice
  • Sugar (*optional)
  • Yeast
  • Balloons

That's it.  Juice, sugar, yeast, and balloons.  

Honestly all you really need is juice and yeast.  Or technically you could just use sugar water and yeast, but it would be the most vile thing you've ever put in your mouth.  And I know what some of you have been putting in there.  Regardless, I'm sure you remember from my What is Alcohol post, that yeast metabolizes sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide which is how this whole thing works. 

For my homemade batch of hobo wine, I made sure to use juice that was pasteurized and free of preservatives.  Pasteurization is important in that is ensures that there isn't any extra living nasties already in your juice that might interfere with the yeast.  And preservatives could potentially halt and/or kill the yeast, so watch out for that.  

I added additional sugar because I wanted to make sure my yeast had enough food (sugar) to make a decent alcohol content.  I didn't want to be drinking some nasty fermented juice with only 3% alcohol, that just wouldn't be worth my time and the potential for gagging.  

To up the alcohol content even further and make it taste better, I also used Lalvin Dried Wine Yeast EC 1118 which is tolerant up to 18% alcohol whereas baker's yeast dies at around 10-12% alcohol.  Not to mention that champagne yeast doesn't taste quite as yeasty as baker's yeast in the final product.  But hey, if you truly want some nasty stuff, use baker's yeast.  Up to you.

Step 1. Let your juice warm up to room temperature which will help the sugar mix in and help the yeast get the party started.  Then pour out some of the juice like the picture shows.  If you don't do this, when the yeast starts bubbling and foaming, it'll spew yeasty liquid all over your house.  I used two different flavors of juice just as a comparison and because I'm awesome like that.

Step 2. Pour in some additional sugar.  This isn't really needed, but if you're using champagne yeast and really want a good, strong booze with some kick, add sugar.  I only added 1/3 of a cup to each jug, but I'm sure adding a little bit more would be fine.

Step 3. Shake it like a salt shaker.  Like I said, if you you let your juice come to room temperature first, the sugar will mix in a LOT better which is important if your want more alcohol in your homemade hooch.

Step 4. Pour your yeast into a little bit of WARM water and stir.  It's important that it's warm, not hot, not cold.  Hot water may kill the yeast, whereas cold water won't wake it up.

Step 5.  Wait a few minutes.  The yeast will start to foam up a little which shows that it's alive and ready to help you get your drink on.  If it doesn't start to froth up, either your yeast was bad... or you're a fool and messed up already.  Once it foams up, pour it into your juice and shake what your momma gave ya'.

Step 6. Using a pin or needle, poke a hole into your balloon.  One tiny hole is all you need.  This will effectively act like an airlock, letting excess CO2 out and keeping oxygen from coming in.  This is important because it will keep your homemade booze from oxidizing and turning into vinegar before you get a chance to chug it down your dirty pie hole.

Step 7. Put the balloons over the top of your jugs of juice and make sure they're on there good and snug.  I put my jugs in a tupperware container with papertowels in the bottom in case it spilled over when the yeast got to partying.  Put your juice in a dark pantry or closet which is either at room temperature or slightly below.
Step 8. Wait.  The yeast should start to froth up and bubble like crazy.  At this point, it's going to look disgusting, with big chunks of yeast floating around in your juice.  That's fine, the yeast is metabolizing the sugar and the bubbles are carbon dioxide.  If this is happening, it means your juice is turning into booze.  Your balloons should inflate partially and stay there.  If they don't inflate then you didn't put them on there snug enough.  If they get too large and/or pop, then you didn't poke a good hole in them.

Step 9. After a few days, your yeast will either run out of sugar or the alcohol content will hit its max (10-12% for baker's yeast or 18% for champagne yeast).  Either way, your yeast is going to die and sink to the bottom.  HOORAY!  It's DONE! 

You now have homemade hobo jug wine. 

All you need to do now is filter out the yeast.  I used folded cheesecloth in a funnel which worked remarkably well.  You can either drink as is or let it chill in the fridge for a day or two to mellow a bit. 

Your booze is going to be DRY.  As in, not sweet.  Not sweet at all.  This is when you can backsweeten by adding regular sugar or honey so that it's a bit more palatable.  Or, if you want to drink in true hobo spirit, just chug it down as is.

I found the grape juice to taste like the cheapest, driest, dirtiest wine I've ever tasted.  I didn't have any way to test the alcohol content, but I'm guessing it ended up around 16-17%.  The orange-peach-mango juice blend smelled a lot like a tropical wine cooler, but tasted like dry cardboard.  Delicious.  I probably should have added sugar after it was done so that it tasted better, but whatever.  On a side note, hobo wine will easily give you a crazy headache if you drink too much, so beware.

So, there you go.  Gather up the ingredients and make some homemade hobo/jug wine.  It's super cheap and has a good kick... but isn't exactly tasty.


Please drink responsibly. This post is for educational purposes only.           



  1. Came here for the Smirnoff Whipped Cream vodka review, left with the recipe to make my own (awesomely disgusting!) homemade hooch - priceless! Thx for the education & the laughs!

    1. I'm here to help! :)

      Thanks for the comment. Good luck on your booze!

  2. why you slamming HoBo's? That is racist!

  3. Is this safe? I'm not gonna get poisoned trying this am I?

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