How to make 'prison hooch' (AKA pruno)

how to make prison hooch

Making an alcoholic brew out of juice is a classic cliche of many a prison movie or television show - but it's based in reality that you can make 'prison hooch' out of fruit juice with a bit of yeast thrown in.

Did you ever watch the trainwreck of a show that was Orange is the New Black on Netflix? The character Poussey made her prison hooch in a plastic bag using fruit...

Fun fact before we get into it, some elephants have been observed to bury watermelons, come back once they have fermented and get drunk. So clearly nature intended us all to drink fermented juice at some point...what is wine after all?

Prison hooch has plenty of interesting slang names - toilet wine (because it is hidden in toilet tanks while fermenting) and buck, raisin jack and one form of it called pruno, is extremely popular - it got its name from the use of prunes as the sugar base.

What are the ingredients of prison hooch?


In prison, you're probably going to juice all the fruit you can such as oranges, apples, plums, and apricots. Prisoners can't magically get their hands on baker's yeast but they can up their odds by throwing in a couple of pieces of bread (yes, yeast survives the baking process). There can also be natural yeast found on fruit too... it's every where in nature!

Extra sugar is very helpful and prisoners have also been known to throw in packets of tomato sauce, jelly crystals, hard candy, basically any sugar that can be fermented!

In the real world, you can simply add baker's yeast or brewers yeast to a bottle of orange or apple juice, softly cap the lid and then wait for the yeast to work its magic.

One thing to consider is that some juices contain preservatives that will kill off the yeast. Fresh juices and products that contain sulfur dioxide, benzoate, potassium sorbate, and dimethylpyrocarbonate may be fairly difficult to ferment.

If you intend on using pineapple, consider that it contains enzymes which can be hazardous to yeast, though some yeasts are stronger than others and you can always boil your juice before pitching your yeast.

How to make this fruity prison pruno cocktail?


In prison, it's done with a plastic bag that can be sealed. The fruit is pulped up, bread added and then sealed. It's then placed somewhere warm, such as a toilet where it can ferment for 5 - 7 days (depending on if the guards find it). Else whatever is available is used - buckets & bottles.

In the real world, you seriously probably just want to make a nice homebrew cider. If you want to give it a crack though, by all means, use the plastic bag but we suggest you simply use bottled juice and you ferment in the bottle itself. This will also prevent spills and mess!

If using the bag technique, any vintner will remind you that fermentation produces CO2, so you will need to burb the bag each day to release this gas build up.

If brewing from a bottle, you can use a balloon  or condom with a small hole pricked in it as a release valve of sorts:

prison hooch with balloon release  blow off valve


What does this homemade cider or orange hooch taste like?


In my personal experience, it will often turn out quite bitter, or tart. If you've an iron cast stomach, give it ago. I could only manage half a glass before I mixed a glass with 50 50 with a lemonade. 

A hand tricky to account for the taste is to add some artificial sweetener or Stevia. 

How long does it take to make 'prison hooch'?


5 - 7 days is a pretty standard length of time but the more time the better. Once fermentation is complete, your pruno juice is now ready to drink - you may wish to chill this overnight in a really cold fridge to help let any sediment fall to the bottom of the bottle. In the brewing vernacular, this is called cold crashing.

What is the alcohol content of prison hooch?


Conditions, ingredients and time of fermentation are some genuine variables that will determine the ABV of pruno or prison hooch can range from as low as 2% to as high as 14% which is similar to strong wine. 

A batch that high will knock you for six, which is exactly want you to do in prison right... it all depends on how much sugar is available to ferment. It will also be hard to drink. 

orange juice prison hooch

Can you make prison hooch out of Gatorade?


I get what your thinking - if you drink, you get a hangover but if you drink a brew made of Gatorade then the electrolytes will help you wake up as fresh as a daisy!

You actually can ferment such sports drinks but you need to change the game a bit - pitch a high amount of yeast and add additional sugars. I've heard use of honey can make an OK wine.

Whatever sports drink you choose to use, you should boil it to try and kill and preservatives present,

It's probably not really worth your time...

How safe is prison hooch to drink?


You may have heard the stories from US prisons where prisoners have suffered from botulism which has been attributed to brewing alcohol in prison. If the botulism was involved, it would have been caused by unhygienic and un-sanitized conditions, rather than the process itself.

So if you using clean brewing equipment and sanitizing with cleansers like sodium percarbonate, you'll be just fine.

For the record, you can't get methanol poisoning from homebrew either.

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