How To Make Brandy: A Guide For Distilled Wine

Learn Step-By-Step How To Make Brandy From Your Own Homemade Wine

Last Updated on June 10, 2022

In this post, we are going to walk you through how to make your own Brandy from fermenting your initial wine, to distilling it into an actual Brandy and then aging it using oak spirals or barrels. Learning to make a great Brandy is both an art and a science so be sure to pay close attention as you read through this guide. The best skill to focus on from the beginning is attention to detail.

If vodka or gin is more your speed, check out our guides on how to make vodka and how to make gin. For this distilling guide, we’ll be recommending supplies that you can easily find and order through our shop on MileHiDistilling.com

Let’s get started!

***Before we get started. It is illegal to distill spirits at home. This guide is meant as a hypothetical walk-through. Mile Hi Distilling doesn’t condone any illegal or illicit behavior and cannot be held responsible for the actions taken by any individuals not acting within the parameters of the law.***

Browse By Step. Click on any of these links to jump to the step you want to see:

A Short Background on The History of Brandy
Base Brandy Ingredients and Materials
Choosing The Fruit For Your Brandy
How to Make Brandy: Homemade Wine Recipe
Fermenting Your Brandy Wash
Distilling Your Homemade Wine
Collecting Your Distillate
Aging Your Brandy
Conclusion

We urge you to prepare all of the items we’ll describe in advance to avoid any difficulties along the road.

To clarify things, this guide will cover two procedures: making wine and then further distilling it to make your Brandy.

A Short Background on The History of Brandy

The name ‘brandy’ the shortened form of ‘brandywine’, comes from the Dutch ‘brandewijn’ or “burnt wine.” Burnt refers to the heating done while distilling. The distillation of brandy on a commercial level originated in the 16th century.

Initially, brandy came about because sea merchants figured out that distilling wine was a preservation method and made it easier to transport during long voyages. The wine was also originally distilled to lower the volume as a way to lessen the load of the ship and avoid imposed taxes. The sea merchant’s original intent was to add the water removed by distilling, back into the wine before drinking. They also discovered that after storing the wine in wooden casks, the aged spirit had improved over the original distilled wine.

After its accidental creation, brandy skyrocketed in popularity in countries like France, Peru, Spain, Hungary, and Germany.  As the taste for brandy spread across Europe, it became a favorite spirit in America as well. Distillers would take advantage of local fruits like apples, peaches, and grapes to make their own versions.

The history of brandy is one that has spanned many centuries and can be seen as playing an essential role in the rise to the popularity of a number of other distilled spirits around the world. Gin, rum, and whiskey all owe their origins back to the booming trade of brandy.

Check out this great video from our friends at Barley and Hops Brewing detailing How Peach Brandy is made.  Check it out below!

Base Brandy Ingredients and Materials:

Getting Started:
Choosing The Fruit For Your Brandy

The most common fruits used for brandy are grapes, apples, apricots, and pears. Other fruits can be used as well, such as peaches, plums, or cherries. You can also use berries, but you’ll most likely need to add sugar to your mix, as berries tend to not have the same amount of sugar as other fruits.

Seasonal Fruits

One important rule to remember is that you should always use fruits that are in season for your Brandy. The reasons for this are pretty simple. If you’re using a fruit that is in season, there’s most likely an overabundance of it, so you can buy as much as you want and need for a much cheaper price than out-of-season fruits. Also, if the fruit is in-season, you can pretty much guarantee that it will be at its peak taste because it was cultivated and picked just at just the right time.

Out-of-season fruits might have been picked too early or too late, which can lead to an inferior taste in your final product.

Brandy Recipe Ingredients

How to Make Brandy: Homemade Wine Recipe

The next step in the process is to make your homemade wine. This is what you’ll be distilling to make your Brandy.

A very important step in making the wine for your Brandy is to first sanitize all of your equipment. This includes your fermentation bucket, spoon, strainer, and any other utensils that will come into contact with the wine. You can do this by either boiling them for 10 minutes or using a sanitizer such as Star San.

Water and Sugar Quantity

The second rule is that for every 3 quarts of fruit you use, you’ll need 4 pounds of sugar and 6 cups of water. You can make adjustments to these quantities depending on how sweet or dry you want your Brandy to be, but we recommend sticking to these amounts as a starting point.

Yeast Selection

Now that we’ve gone over the basics of what ingredients you’ll need, let’s talk about yeast selection. For this process, you’ll need either active dry yeast or wine yeast. We recommend using Red Star wine yeast.

It’s a high-quality yeast that will produce consistent results every time.

Mash Pot

The next item on our list is a mash pot. This is a large pot that you’ll use to cook down your fruit and sugar mixture. It should be at least 4 gallons in size so that you have plenty of room to work with.

Long Spoon

You’ll need a long spoon to stir your mash while it’s cooking. This will help to release the natural sugars from the fruit and prevent the mixture from burning.

Fermentation Bucket

After your mash has cooled, you’ll transfer it into a fermentation bucket. This is a food-grade container that is specifically designed for fermenting wine and beer. It should be at least 6 gallons in size so that you have plenty of headspace for the fermentation process.

Cheesecloth or Strainer

Once your mash has cooled, you’ll need to strain out the solids so that only the liquid is left. You can do this with a cheesecloth or strainer. We recommend using a cheesecloth because it’s easier to work with and gives you a clearer final product.

fermentation bucket

Base Brandy Ingredients and Materials:

Homemade Wine Mash Procedure

  1. Wash your chosen fruits thoroughly. Remove any dust or debris that may have clung to them before the fermentation process. You want to go above and beyond in order to ensure that no dirt or bacteria are introduced into your homemade wine/brandy. After washing, dry them using a cloth.
  2. Slice your fruits and remove any seeds or pits before the mashing step. We recommend slicing your fruit as small as you’d like to make the mashing process easier. For example, apples or pears should be cut into small cubes, while slicing grapes or cherries in half should be enough.
  3. Add your sliced-up fruit to your mash pot and begin mashing the fruit to release the juices. This can be done by hand or with a machine.
  4. Stir your yeast into warm water. Make certain the solution is completely dissolved before adding it to your fruit mash since you don’t want clumps or disrupting the function of the yeast during the fermentation stage.
  5. Combine your yeast/water mix to the mashed fruit in your mash pot. Stir in 6 cups of cold water as well. Aerate the mixture by dumping it back and forth between your mash pot and your fermentation bucket for 5 minutes.
  6. Pour the mixture into your fermentation bucket. We carry complete kits for these as well as the materials to produce your own. It is important to have the bucket, cap, and air-lock. A spigot also makes for easier pouring.

Fermenting Your Brandy Mash

Materials:

Fermentation

Store the mash to ferment for 3-4 weeks at room temperature. If the temperature drops too low, the fermentation will come to a halt since the yeast go dormant.

For best results, use a hydrometer and check specific gravity at the start of fermentation and when fermentation is complete to ensure that all sugars have been used. This will tell you how strong your fermentation was by ABV (Alcohol By Volume). Be sure to write down the specific gravity reading at the start of fermentation and at the end of fermentation. Use the formula to tell you how much alcohol was produced. See our how to use hydrometer guide if you need help with this step.

Straining

After 3-4 weeks of waiting, your homemade wine is ready to be strained. Siphon mash water out of the mixture, taking care to leave behind all solid material and sediment, and into a container to adjust pH. Straining your mash water through a cheesecloth is recommended at this step. Leaving solid material in your mash water can cause headaches you’d rather avoid.

(Advanced) Some distillers will add 2tsp of gypsum to their mash water at this point. They then test the pH of their mash water. The ideal pH is 5.8 to 6.0. Use citric acid to bring the pH down and calcium carbonate to bring it up.

How To Make Brandy From Homemade Wine: Distilling

Once you have completed the fermentation process, it is time to distill your mash. This will turn your wine into brandy. The key to a good brandy is in the distilling process.

The best way to become an excellent distiller is to practice. We recommend taking notes throughout the process in order to improve with each batch. We’ve got everything you need if you need equipment or supplies.

From the basic copper stills to stainless reflux units and the exceptional Grainfather Brewing System, we provide it all at our shop. High-quality grains, as well as a replacement carbon filter, and any other supplies you’ll need are also available.

Materials

Great job!  So far you’ve come along way and done all of the work necessary to actually produce your fermented rum wash.  That rum wash currently contains some undesirable contents that you’ll need to separate out and dispose of.  This is where the distillation step of making your own rum comes in.  This process of distilling the fermented rum wash will make for a purer and more concentrated spirit.  This step separates out all of the undesirable types alcohols such as acetaldehyde, acetone and methanol (which can cause blindness if consumed).

Prepping Your Still

Maintaining a solid grasp on your still’s preparation is critical. It’s best to clean your still before transferring the mash water, even if you cleaned it after your previous run and allowed it to rest for a while. This is especially the case on copper stills that are showing a salt buildup.

If you add packing to your column, this is the time. Pack your column with the amount of copper packing that is required for your system.

If your setup has a condenser, hook up your water input and output.

Check out the video below or by clicking here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjZkH_RV578

Finally, it’s time to add your mash water to the still. You’ll need to use a cheesecloth or an auto-siphon to transfer the mash water without including solid material into your still.  The goal is to reduce the sediment in your mash water as much as possible.

Running Your Still

Now for the part, you’ve been waiting for! Turn on your still and begin heating the mash water.

Distillation is a fantastic technique. If you’re not familiar with the science, here’s the short and sweet explanation. Distillation is the practice of separating substances based on their different evaporation temperatures.

It is not the creation of alcohol that occurs during the distilling phase, but rather the removal of all other items from your mash water. During fermentation, you produced all of the alcohol (well, the yeast did).

Slowly bring your temperature up to 150 °F. Once you reach 150 °F, if your setup has a condenser turn on the condensing water.

Next, dial-up your heat source to high until your still starts producing. Time your drips as they speed up until you reach 3 to 5 drips per second. Once you reach this rate, dial down your heat to maintain it (usually the “medium” setting).

Collecting Your Homemade Wine Distillate

The most pleasurable aspect of the whole process is collecting your homebrew wine distillate. This phase is a blend of art and science, and it requires a skilled distiller to get it right. If you’re a first-time distiller, don’t be discouraged. Everything requires practice, and after running a few batches with your still, you’ll be able to adjust things by taking notes and making adjustments.

how to make brandy distilling

Collecting Foreshots

The first 5% or so of your mash water is comprised of the foreshots. These should never be consumed because they contain the earliest-evaporating alcohols in your mash water. Foreshots can contain methanol and should never ever be consumed. As well as causing a variety of issues, methanol might cause vision loss. Keep the foreshots in their own container and dispose of them properly.

Collecting Heads

The next approximately 30% of your production are considered the heads. The heads also contain volatile alcohols like the foreshots. However, the consequences are rather less severe – a massive headache, for example.

The heads will have a distinct “solvent” scent, for example acetone, due to the presence of alcohols. Collect your heads in their own containers and discard them as you would any other headshot.

Collecting Hearts

This is the good stuff, mostly ethanol. The hearts make up the next approximately 30% of your production. At this point you should start losing the harsh, solvent smell present during the heads. Once you’ve smelled and seen the droplets, you’ll be able to tell the difference. There will be a scent that is reminiscent of most brandy: fragrant with a recognizable sweetness aroma.

The drops are a dark brown color and have the scent of brandy. The most telling aspect is that almost all of the wine’s original color has been lost. Hearts will contain at least 35% alcohol by volume.

Collecting Tails

You’ll hit the tails as you reach the end of ethanol and enter the conclusion stage of your production. The tails will be approximately the last 35% of your output. The tails, unlike the hearts, will have a distinctly bitter flavor.

As the sweetness drops dramatically, you’ll notice a greasy top layer on your product. It will begin to feel slippery between your fingers. This is due to water, carbohydrates, and proteins present. You can set your tails aside for later distillation or toss them.

You’ve hit the end of your production! All that’s left is to shut down your still and enjoy your brandy.

How to age brandy

Aging Your Brandy

Materials

Now that you’ve distilled your brandy, it’s time to age it in oak containers. This will help to develop its flavor and character. How long you age your brandy is up to you, but most people recommend aging it for a year or more.

The longer you age your brandy, the smoother and mellower it will become. When professionals store brandy in oak barrels, they typically obtain excellent outcomes, ensuring that it is infused with all of the oak wood. Brandy aged and infused in oak is just divine!

Conclusion

You made it, well done! We hope you made a knockout batch of Brandy. Now that you know how to make brandy, it’s time to enjoy your hard work! Also, be sure to thoroughly clean your entire setup. Allow your equipment to dry thoroughly and store it in a cool, dry place.

Thanks for visiting Mile Hi Distilling and don’t forget to check out our shop should you need any supplies or moonshine ingredients. You have now successfully learned how to make brandy from your own homemade wine recipe!

If you enjoyed this guide on how to make moonshine, check out our other guides on how to make gin and how to make vodka.

How To Make Brandy Conclusion

How does your home-distilled brandy compare to store-bought? Share your thoughts and let us know what you thought of this guide by leaving a comment or a star rating below.

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