Introduction: Candy Corn Wine
It's almost that time of year again. The leaves are changing color, pumpkins are beginning to appear all over the place, the weather is getting cooler while the days are getting shorter, and apple orchards are spilling over with fruit. Of course there's still the most wonderful part of Autumn: candy corn!
Candy corn just has to be both one of the greatest confectionery creations ever and one of the most iconic parts of the Fall, that is, unless you eat a little too much of it. But, you’ve probably wondered many times in autumn's past, can you make wine from candy corn?
Well, as it turns out, you can make wine from candy corn! And in this Instructable we are going to do exactly that. It may not end up being the best tasting wine, although it is not undrinkable, but used at a mixer it is not bad and making this wine is a really fun project.
The list of ingredients for this recipe is fairly short, but you will need a little bit of equipment. That said, there is nothing too exotic here.
Candy corn (the calculation for the amount you need is in the next step):
Making wine is a simple process that people have used for more than 7000 years. Fundamentally, making wine involves adding yeast to a sugary liquid and waiting for a while for the yeast to convert some of that sugar to alcohol. Of course, the list of nuances and details here is just about infinite (I mean, we are making candy corn wine today after all). Since, for this recipe, the candy corn is our source of sugar, we will need to calculate the correct amount in the next step.
Brewsy Yeast Packet:
The candy corn will be our source of sugar so the other critical part of the wine recipe is the yeast. There are a lot of sources for wine making yeast that you can use for this project; you might even have a home brewing shop somewhere near where you live. For this Instructable, I am using yeast from Brewsy. Brewsy bags contain a measured amount of yeast plus some other ingredients that help the yeast thrive so they can work hard at eating the sugar in our candy corn mixture and convert it to alcohol and CO2. They are a particularly convenient and fast wine making tool.
Here are two links where you can get Brewsy yeast for this Instructable:
2 gallon glass jugs:
One of these large glass jugs will hold all our wine ingredients while fermentation is taking place. The reason we need a second one is so that we can “rack” our wine after fermentation is done. We will cover the racking process in more detail later, but it basically involves pouring almost all the wine out of one container and into another, so we need at least two containers total.
One of the tricky parts of making wine is that, during fermentation, CO2 is produced that we need to allow to escape the liquid, otherwise, our brewing vessel will become pressurized which could, as you might expect, cause some major issues later on. However, we can’t just leave the jug open because we don’t want a bunch of random microorganisms from the air getting into our wine; we just want the microorganisms we put in there on purpose. Therefore, we will use an airlock device on the gallon jug. The airlock is filled with water so that CO2 can bubble out of the jug but the outside air can’t get in.
4 wine bottles:
While we can just drink the wine straight from the gallon jug, that seems a little bit unsophisticated (not that making candy corn wine is quite on the level of prestige as some wine making outfits or anything). Therefore, we will finish the winemaking process by bottling our wine. A standard sized wine bottle holds 750ml of wine. Our one gallon jug is 3785.41ml, so it will theoretically fill 5 bottles of wine. However, we will lose a portion of wine during the racking process so we should only need four bottles.
This piece of specialized equipment is a little bit optional but it is really, really useful so I would probably recommend picking one up. A hydrometer is a tool we will use to determine the amount of alcohol in our wine in terms of alcohol by volume (ABV) which is the label you will see on any alcoholic beverage you might buy in a store.
This piece of equipment goes along with the hydrometer and, if you purchase a hydrometer kit, you will probably get a graduated cylinder as well. We will put some of the wine into the graduated cylinder to take measurements with the hydrometer.
All of the equipment needed for this recipe can be found on Amazon or in specialty home brewing stores (physical or online ones). For the first three items (the gallon jugs, airlocks, and wine bottles) you can also buy a starter kit from Brewsy that will even include the yeast you need too.
Step 1: Calculate How Much Candy Corn You Need
Candy corn will provide the sugar in this recipe that our yeast will consume to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide, turning the sugary candy corn mixture into delicious Halloween wine (maybe it is debatable whether or not this can be called wine since there is no fruit in it though). The amount of sugar, a.k.a candy corn, we use will determine the sweetness of the final “wine.”
As the yeast works on fermenting the drink, more and more of the sugar will be converted into alcohol. This process both decreases the sweetness of the drink and increases its alcohol content. Therefore, if you establish some target for the desired alcohol content of the wine, if we use more sugar in the pre-fermentation liquid, there will be more extra sugar left over after we stop fermentation, and so the drink will be sweeter. Therefore, we need to calculate how much candy corn we will need in order to achieve a drink with the desired sweetness level.
Calculate the Amount of Candy Corn
The first step in this process is calculating how much sugar needs to be added to the pre-fermentation mixture for the desired sweetness level. Note that this amount is not the same as the amount of candy corn we need since candy corn is not 100% sugar (although it is mostly sugar). There are a lot of calculators online that help with determining how much sugar to add to your wine recipe. The one I am using for this Instructable is the one that goes with the yeast packets we are using, the “sweetness calculator” from Brewsy.
1) Select your sweetness level
The first step of using the sweetness calculator is deciding on how sweet you’d like your drink to be. For this project, I am targeting a “sweet” wine because I feel like a wine made from candy should be on the sweeter side of the scale, but you can choose a different sweetness level if you’d like. There are two notes here about selecting a sweetness level for your beverage. First, in my experience and according to my taste, the Brewsy calculator leans a little on the sweet side in its calculation. This is probably specific to my own palette but when designing a drink, I typically underestimate my desired sweetness in the calculator. Second, keep in mind that it is generally quite easy to make a drink sweeter but basically impossible to make it less sweet. After fermentation is complete, you can always add more sugar to the drink to make it sweeter, this is called backsweetening. However, there is no way to remove sugar from the drink except for continuing fermentation longer which will also increase the alcohol content and there is a ceiling for how much of the sugar the yeast can convert to alcohol. The fermentation process can produce a maximum alcohol content of about 18% ABV, after which the yeast will be killed by this high alcohol content.
2) Calculate your sugar amount
With your desired sweetness level decided, the remaining parameters in the calculator will be used to arrive at an amount of sugar needed in the liquid to achieve this sweetness level. For this project, we will fill in the calculator like this:
- How much wine or cider are you making? 4 quarts
- Grams of sugar: 0 (we are just using water)
- Fluid ounces (per serving): 8 (it does not actually matter since there is no sugar)
- How sweet do you want your wine or hard cider? Sweet (or whatever level you’d like)
- How sweet do you want your wine or hard cider? Yes
- Is there lots of extra room at the top of your container? Yes
After filling in the fields in the calculator, we will get an amount of sugar to add to the drink. For my recipe, the calculator called for 896 grams of sugar.
Convert the Sugar Amount to Candy Corn Amount
So, now that we know how much sugar is needed for the drink, we need to figure out how much candy corn we need to give us that amount of sugar. For this, we will turn to the nutrition facts on the candy packaging.
The math here is quite simple. In each serving of candy corn there are 23 grams of sugar and each bag of candy corn contains 13 servings, at least for the bags I purchased. Therefore, each bag of candy corn contains (23 X 13 =) 299 grams of sugar.
So, this math works out really well for the amount of total sugar needed for the recipe. To get 896 grams of sugar in total, we will need (896 ÷ 299 =) 2.996 bags of sugar. It is almost perfect. Accounting for a couple candy corn pieces that you will inevitably eat, we need three bags of candy corn to make a gallon of candy corn wine.
Step 2: Dissolve the Candy Corn in Water
Let’s get started on making our candy corn wine!
The first task is to dissolve the candy corn to make a sugar solution. This task is quite an easy one. Into a large pot, add your 4 quarts of water. If you don’t have a cooking vessel large enough to hold the full gallon of water, it will work perfectly fine to use a portion of the water for dissolving the candy corn and then mixing the full gallon of water in the fermentation vessel. Then dump all your candy corn into the pot.
Apply some low heat from your stove. The candy corn dissolves fairly easily so it does not take too much heat to get all the candy to dissolve. Just warm up the water and stir the candy corn until it is all dissolved. In the middle of the process it will certainly strike a Halloween vibe with a vibrant orange color and some sticky foam; maybe we should have used a witch's cauldron instead.
In the middle of dissolving the candy corn in the water, it really ends up looking quite like some kind of potion.
Step 3: Add the Candy Mixture to Your Gallon Jug and Allow to Cool
With the candy corn completely dissolved in the water, we can add the mixture to one of the gallon jugs where fermentation will take place over the next couple days. I would certainly recommend using a funnel for this task if you want to avoid creating a truly horrible mess to clean up later on.
After all of your candy mixture is in the jug, it is very important that you allow the candy corn juice to cool down to room temperature. Otherwise, if you add your yeast to the hot water, it will just die and there will be no wine to drink later. So, just allow the candy corn mixture to cool until it reaches room temperature. This might take a couple hours because of the large amount of water.
Step 4: Measure Your Original Gravity
While it is not strictly necessary, it will be nice to be able to track the alcohol content of the wine. This is not only nice information to have, but also it will also help us track the fermentation process to make sure the yeast is doing its job and to make sure we get up to a high enough alcohol content to serve as a preservative in the wine. This last part is one of the main reasons humanity started using fermentation thousands of years ago. If we think about something like beer for a moment, if you let a sugary, starchy liquid sit around at room temperature for any length of time, it is going to get infested with lots of potentially nasty microorganisms. However, if we use fermentation to make the liquid alcoholic, it will become inhospitable for these little critters. Thus, fermented beverages were, in ancient times, safer to drink than non-alcoholic drinks, even water.
Anyway, to measure the alcohol content of the wine, we will use an instrument called a hydrometer. A hydrometer is used to measure the specific gravity of a liquid, which is a measurement of the relative density of the liquid. As the alcohol content of our wine increases, the density of the liquid will decrease because alcohol is less dense than water or our candy corn juice. By measuring the specific gravity before we start fermentation (called the original gravity) and the specific gravity periodically during fermentation, we can use an equation to calculate the alcohol content of the wine.
Measure the Original Gravity
Alright, so in this step we will measure and record the original gravity of the candy corn mixture before starting fermentation. First, fill the graduated cylinder with the candy corn juice. The specific amount does not matter as long as there is enough for the hydrometer to float in the liquid without touching the bottom of the graduated cylinder.
Then, go ahead and float the hydrometer in the liquid.
Carefully peak through the graduated cylinder and take a measurement of the specific gravity off the hydrometer. It should be somewhere around 1.1. Then, because we will not need to reference this measurement again for several days, go ahead and write it down somewhere so you can refer back to the reading later.
Step 5: Add Yeast and the Airlock
Now that the candy corn juice has cooled down to room temperature, we will add the yeast and the airlock to start the fermentation process. Adding the yeast is really easy. Just pour the yeast into the gallon jug, being careful not to spill any. The yeast, plus the other ingredients in the Brewsy bag, will dissolve into the vibrant orange candy mixture.
Before adding the airlock, we will give the jug a good hearty shake. Screw one of the caps tightly onto the jug and give the entire thing a shake for a few minutes to make sure all the ingredients in the Brewsy bag are fully dissolved.
Then, if you take a look at the airlock, you will find a water fill line on the outside of the device. Take the top cap off of the airlock and carefully fill the airlock to this line with water, then replace the cap.
Take the rubber stopper part of the airlock and press it hard into the top of the jug. Then, finish the airlock installation by pressing the stem of the airlock into this rubber stopper.
Finally, stash the gallon jug in a dark place that is warmer than 72oF. If the ambient temperature of your home is a bit cooler than this, you can wrap the gallon jug in a towel. In addition to alcohol and carbon dioxide, the fermentation process also gives off heat so insulating the fermentation vessel can help keep it a bit warmer than ambient. Speaking of towels, it is also wise to put down something under the gallon jug to catch any juice that might spill if the yeast gets just a little bit too active in there.
Step 6: Wait for Your “Wine” to Ferment
And now we come to the part of the project where, if you have any other projects in progress (and this is the right site to find a project if you don’t have one) you can go work on those because the candy corn wine will take a while to ferment. Brewsy advertises their yeast packets as taking 3-5 days to turn juice into wine. However, we are not using just sugar in this recipe. The candy corn is sweetened with both sugar and corn syrup. Fermentation is certainly possible in corn syrup, but this form of sugar is more difficult for the yeast to break down than plain sugar so the fermentation process will take on the longer side of this estimate.
If everything is working correctly, within 12-24 hours, you should see little tiny bubbles rising to the top of the wine in the gallon jug. This indicates that your yeast is munching away at the sugar in the liquid and producing carbon dioxide and alcohol. You will also see the airlock send a bubble out through the water inside it every so often.
Measure the Alcohol Content Every Couple Days
We will track the progress of the fermentation by tracking the alcohol content of the wine. As discussed previously, we will do this using the hydrometer and some math.
For my wine batches, I typically measure the alcohol content of the wine each day starting with day 3-4. First, pull the air lock off the top of the fermentation vessel and fill the graduated cylinder with the in-progress wine. As before, take a measurement of the specific gravity using the hydrometer.
There is an equation we can use to calculate the alcohol content of the wine from the original gravity and the new gravity we just measured:
Each day, write down the alcohol content of your wine so you can track the progress of the fermentation. The longer you leave your wine to ferment, the higher the alcohol content will get, up to a limit of about 18%. Typically, wines will have an alcohol content anywhere from 5.5% to 16%, but the average is usually around 12%.
Step 7: Cold Crash Your Wine
The day has finally come! After the better part of a week, your candy corn wine has finally reached your target alcohol content. It is now time to stop the fermentation process and work towards the bottling step. We want to accomplish two goals before we fill some bottles with our frankly beautiful candy corn wine. First, we want the fermentation process to stop. Second, we want to remove all the yeast and other sediment from the wine that you might have noticed at the bottom of the jug.
The first step in accomplishing both of these objectives is to cold crash your wine. This process could not be easier. First of all, remove the airlock from your fermentation vessel. Then, place the original top back on the jug without screwing it on. Just place it on top of the jug. If fermentation continues for a little while longer, we certainly do not want to seal the carbon dioxide inside the jug, causing a potentially dangerous buildup of pressure. Then, just stash the jug in the refrigerator for the next two days.
The cold will stop the yeast from continuing to ferment the liquid and most of the sediment will settle to the bottom of the jug.
Step 8: Rack Your Wine
Now that your wine has been chilling in the refrigerator for a couple days, it is time for the next step in the process of removing all the sediment from the wine that has now settled to the bottom of the container. We will use a process called racking to remove most of the sludge from the wine that you will see in a layer on the bottom of the jug. To remove all of this slimy goo, we will repeat the racking process twice.
Racking Round 1
The trick with racking the wine is that you want to handle the jug of wine very smoothly and carefully to avoid mixing the sediment back into the wine, which can happen very easily. So, being careful not to shake the mixture, pour the wine from the jug in which it has been fermenting into your second gallon jug. You will continue until you pour almost all of the wine into the second jug, stopping when you cannot transfer any more wine without the sludge coming along for the ride.
Then, place the wine back into the refrigerator to cold crash for another 24 hours.
Racking Round 2
After another day spent in the refrigerator, there will be a bit more sludge at the bottom of the jug again, but not as much as the first time. You might also find little clumps of pulpy material floating near the top of the wine.
The second round of racking will use about the same process as we used the first time. Again you will carefully pour the wine from the current jug to the empty one until only the slime is left in the original jug. The only difference this time around is that you can rack the wine through a strainer to remove the little bits of material floating around in the wine if you would like them removed.
Step 9: Bottle Your Wine
At long last we can finally put the finishing touches on our candy corn wine by bottling it and, in the next step, just for fun, giving the bottles a bit of Halloween flair with some decorative labels. Bottling the wine is quite easy, simply pour your wine into your four bottles until there is just a little bit of room at the top of the bottle. Be careful as you get near the top of the bottle because the rate at which the bottle fills will jump dramatically when the level of the wine reaches the neck of the bottle and it can be easy to overshoot the fill
Step 10: Decorate Your Bottles and Enjoy
Congratulations! You’ve successfully concocted a batch of Candy Corn Wine! All that remains to do now is add a little style to your fresh bottles of delicious (sort of) candy wine with stickers or labels, just in case the phosphorescent orange color is not striking enough. I made some labels hung around the necks of the bottles with a bit of string and a couple Halloween-themed stickers from vinyl. These decorations are nice because they are easily removed after the bottle is empty so you can re-use the bottles for your next wine making adventure (has anybody tried a peppermint wine for Christmas?).
Thanks so much for reading along and happy Halloween 🎃.
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