Brewing your own beer? Be careful, warn experts
Since President Cyril Ramaphosa banned alcohol sales to help flatten the curve of the coronavirus, South Africans have turned to home brewing to quench the thirst.
From vodka, ciders to pineapple beer, there has been a significant rise of people creating their own alcoholic drinks at the comfort of their homes.
According to experts, drinks produced at home are not so harmful, and some of them can even possess useful properties.
They say that an alcoholic drink prepared by yourself seems to have no extraneous toxic components, but this is just on the face of it. They also add that any alcoholic drink, produced by fermentation (wine, beer, home brew etc) or by distillation, contains a lot of toxic substances forming during the process of production.
We spoke to Hope Distillery's resident Gin & Spirit Maker, Lucy Beard and brewmaster and founder of Brewsters Craft, Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela on the disadvantages of brewing your own alcohol at home.
Beard said that they have heard several stories about people making their own pineapple beer and apple beer, but some are going one step further and turning their hands to distilling spirits.
“Be warned, it can be dangerous and it may be challenging to get anything vaguely palatable. As many know, any starch or sugar source can be fermented and then distilled to produce liquor (mampoer from peaches and witblits from grape are well known): however, it can be both dangerous to make and dangerous to drink,” she said.
The distilling process produces highly flammable vapours, and so they come with a high risk of explosion or fire.
The initial liquid that comes off a still is highly likely to contain methanol – this is very poisonous and can cause blindness and severe poisoning.
"Home stills are usually quite unsophisticated, and so it is very difficult to distil to a high proof, this results in alcohol that is “under distilled” and full of impurities which won’t taste great and will leave you with a monster hangover."
Nxusani said that most people don’t know what they are doing and don’t understand the principles of fermentation, and that she has had people ask her for recipes that will take a day to make alcohol. She said that fermentation is a natural process by the yeast and can not be rushed.
"The brews people make at home are for human consumption and thus people making them need to be aware of the food safety requirements to ensure the product doesn’t cause harm to whoever will be consuming it. This means making use of ingredients safe for human consumption, making sure all utensils used during the brewing process are clean and sanitized, making sure there is no introduction of other material – like methylated spirits , which are harmful."
The other disadvantage is that people will soon run out of the normal ingredients, as many stores have stopped selling brewers yeast and have stopped selling malted sorghum. This will lead to people looking for other ingredients to brew with.