How to Make Grappa at Home

By Gail Cohen

Still a popular way for Northern Italian laborers to keep from freezing while working outdoors in winter, grappa brewing actually dates back to the Middle Ages. The idea behind this strong beverage requires adding skins, stems, seeds and other fruit byproducts in the pursuit of a heady liqueur. It sidesteps the niceties of fine wine production and employs every part of the fruit so nothing goes to waste. Once considered akin to moonshine, grappa has morphed from primitive brew to a beverage that's often compared to French cognacs and brandies or Portuguese Sherries. Make your own to see if reviewers are on the mark.

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Grappa's image has evolved from moonshine to liqueur

Step 1

Purchase the ripest fruit you can find, then wash it and cut it up. Put it together with stems, seeds and skin into a large vat or pot so it can begin the fermentation process. Seal the container. Some grappa makers put their fruit mix into glass containers and accelerate the process by putting it into the sun to speed up the fermentation. As the fruit breaks down, bubbling will occur. You can stop the fermentation process after a week.

Step 2

Use a fruit press, blender, food processor or other type of tool to pulverize the fermented fruit into what grappa-makers call pomace. The objective here is to quickly squeeze the oxygen out of the mixture so you don't lose precious aromas while taking the mix down to a fruity pulp.

Step 3

Put the squeezed pomace into your still and heat it up until you see steam being emitted. Monitor the temperature of the still to make certain none of the material burns and ruins the flavor of the grappa. It won't be long before you see the grappa start to move through the still into the final storage chamber.

Step 4

Eliminate the first grappa that reaches the storage chamber. Like most products of the distillation process, the first result tastes bad because it contains methane, so you'll want to dump the initial output. Monitor the remainder of the grappa as it moves through the still and cooks. When you notice the color is getting lighter, the brew has been reduced to watery remains and you're reaching the end of the process. Discard the tail end of the grappa so it doesn't dilute the finished product.

Step 5

Age the grappa you've distilled in a stainless steel barrel or large pot unless you happen to have oak barrels, in which case your finished brew will be wonderfully tasty. Seal the vessel and place it in a dark, cool spot. Most vintners agree that six months is an adequate curing time period, though some suggest you can probably sample your grappa at three months to see if it's ready to consume.

Step 6

Bottle your grappa once you're satisfied with the taste. Some vintners suggest straining the liqueur through a paper filter before bottling, but this isn't required. Divide your grappa among glass bottles, seal with corks and amaze your guests.