How to make 'prison hooch' (AKA pruno)

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Making an alcoholic brew out of fruit juice is a classic cliche of many a prison movie or television show (looking at you Orange is the new Black) - but it's based in reality and you can indeed make 'prison hooch' out of fruit juice with a bit of yeast thrown in.

It's that simple...

how to make prison hooch

Making alcoholic fruit hooch - Prison Pruno

Did you ever watch the trainwreck of a show that was Orange is the New Black

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 but chemical love?

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 brewer yeast or baker's yeast but they can up their odds by throwing in a couple of pieces of bread (yes, yeast can survive the baking process). I have no idea how this happens, it seems counterintuitive to this author... 

There can also be natural yeast found on fruit too... it's everywhere in nature!

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

In the real world, you can simply add baker's yeast or brewer's yeast to a bottle of orange or apple juice, softly cap the lid, and then wait for the yeast to work its fermenting 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 diethylpyrocarbonate may be fairly difficult to ferment.

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

How to make fruity prison pruno cocktail AKA hooch?

In prison, it's often 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 (this is the only permittable time to do such a thing!) in it as a release valve of sorts:

prison hooch with balloon release  blow off valve

Can you imagine what the Ph level of prison hooch is like?

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 a 50:50 split with lemonade soda, so becomes a kind of fruity seltzer.

A handy trick 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.

There's nothing stopping you from using a hydrometer to take a gravity reading - when you have a few daily readings the same, then primary fermentation is complete. 

What is the alcohol content of prison hooch?

Temperature 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 what you want it to do in prison right?

That will all depend on how much sugar is available to ferment. It will also be hard to drink as it will be tart / acidic (try me, test the pH level and see)

orange juice prison hooch

Can you make a prison hooch out of Gatorade sports drink?

I get what you're 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 the use of honey can make an OK wine.

Whatever sports drink you choose to use, you should boil it to try and kill any 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 botulism was involved, it would have been caused by unhygienic and unsanitized conditions, rather than the process itself.

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

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

Making hooch is a 'cheap' and effective way to make some alcohol

Understand that there's a variety of reasons for the quality of booze you may make. Rember, results may vary and you make have to experiment somewhat before you settle on the kind of hooch you fancy. 


  1. Start by taking fruit of your choice, such as oranges. If being made Actually in jail then peal like 4 to 6 oranges and break and mash them up into a bag , garbage bag or even chip bags if that's all you have . Adding pineapple to it as well or even a bit of corn to works well , leave it sit in bag(s) a few days like that to start fermentation, after about 3-4 days it should be good to go , you can smell the difference. This is what we'll refer to as the "mash" . You'll then want to add that mash into bottles if you don't have a bucket with garbage bag to use , I've used multiple pop bottles putting even amounts of the "mash" into each , after that's done , you will need to add quite a but of sugar to each bottle of or big bag/bucket if all together , I've used a whole bunch of little packets of sugar but also with syrup with sugar to make up for lack of packets cause you will need quite a bit (example: I used about 30 sugar packets for 6 pop bottles , 5 in each and about a inch of bottom of pop bottles of syrup for rest of sugar)
    After that's added , you will then need to add your yeast with it all which can be done adding some white bread or buns , we can then refer too it all as "Complete Mash" . Use this complete mash and mix with juice such as orange juice and continue to ferment for a few more days , adding heat will will not only speed the process from here out but also make for a stronger brew but DO NOT forget to burp the brew every 12 hours or so as the gases from fermentation procees build up .
    This whole process can be done in a bit of different ways depending on ingredients such ad different fruits and juices , supplies for making it but you can experiment with different techniques and fruits as you wish but my instructions in this comment is a great way and have had best turn out this way , makes for strong brew :) also realistic for making it in actual jails (in Canadian provincial jails)

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  3. I came here out of curiousity, Ive had a bag of what was fresh cut up fruit in my fridge, strawberries, pineapple, blueberries ect, that has managed to hide for long enough if you catch my drift, I see no signs of mold, but was wondering if what I have here is technically hooch, I dont intend to ingest any, but its one of those things rattling around in my brain that I need to know now before I toss it away lol.


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