The quick and easy way to make Paint Bucket Wine(TM)

Basic idea: Yeast eat sugar and convert it to alcohol, but you want this to happen without other things also infecting and eating the sugar, mainly because their waste products aren’t as useful or tasty as alcohol.

Materials needed to get started:

  • One brand new, clean 5 gallon plastic pail with lid, any plastic type but 3 or 7 preferred
  • One packet of active dry yeast, red brewer’s yeast preferred
  • 14 cans of juice concentrate, required to have no sulfites or preservatives
  • One standard size bag of granulated baking sugar
  • 5 gallons of water, filtered or distilled water preferred
  • A winemaking hydrometer
  • Bleach & a clean sponge

Materials needed to finish a batch:

  • One more similar pail, of same size or bigger
  • Two 1.5 meter lengths of 3/8 inch clear vinyl tubing
  • One 2 meter length of 3/4 inch clear vinyl tubing
  • One empty gallon or half gallon plastic milk jug
  • Sodium metabisulfite, or “campden” tablets
  • About 20 wine bottles (used or new)
  • Corks (synthetic or natural)
  • Corking device

Steps, in rough order:

Clean bucket vigorously with bleach and warm water.

Fill bucket half full of cold filtered water.

Add juice concentrate and yeast, and stir. (If the juice concentrate has anything besides juice in it like ascorbic acid, you will probably want to let the juice concentrate thaw out first so that the additives can settle out to the bottom and will stay in the can when you pour out the concentrate.)

Fill bucket to the top, leaving 3 inch gap at top (important). Stir.

Insert hydrometer. Read hydrometer.

Repeatedly add sugar and stir until reading on hydrometer is at or just over 1.090. Do not let sugar settle on bottom without dissolving. Keep stirring until dissolved or the reading will be wrong.

Add water if necessary to within 1/2 inch of top. (Smaller gap means less chance of outside infection, but is harder to transport without spilling.)

Clean lid with bleach and water, and place loosely on bucket.

Store in a cool, dry place on top of something to catch juice if the bucket “burps”.

Every week:

Clean hydrometer with bleach, and check the reading.

If reading is 1.010 or less, go to “Finish Up”.

If reading is not 1.010, but has moved less than 0.010 in the last week, go to “Anaerobic Step” if you are not there already.

Clean lid with bleach and water, dry, and replace.

Anaerobic step:

Clean the second bucket with bleach and water, and dry it.

Suck some bleach into 3/4 vinyl tube, and run water through it to clean it.

Using 3/4 vinyl tube, siphon wine into the second bucket. Suck on the hose to get it started, and keep the top of the target bucket below the bottom of the source bucket. Do not siphon from the bottom or attempt to get everything out. You want to get rid of the sludge that is near the bottom, so try to siphon from just below the surface as much as possible as opposed to dredging up the sludge.

Wash the bright purple sludge out of the first bucket and store it.

Add about 6 inches of water to milk jug.

Drill 3/8 inch hole in top of bucket lid. Sand off any plastic curds so that the hole is clean.

Insert 3/8 inch vinyl tube into hole so that it extends about 1/4 inch down from the inside of the lid. It should not submerge in the wine but be in the inner air gap so that CO2 can escape.

Clean lid with bleach and water.

Replace lid but this time put the lid on tight.

Use silicone caulk, or a rubber grommet or a stopper with a hole drilled down the middle, to seal tube to lid.

Without disturbing silicone, insert other end of vinyl tube into milk jug such that the end stays submerged. This is so that gas can bubble out but cannot be sucked back in.

Go back to “Every Week”.

Finish up:

Hydrometer should read less than 1.010 for a sweet wine and around 1.000 for a dry wine. Experiment to taste.

Clean standby bucket with bleach and water and clean 3/4 inch vinyl tube as before.

Crush five Campden tablets, dissolve in 1/4 cup of water, and add to target bucket.

Siphon bucket to bucket as before and discard sludge in source bucket.

Stir to distribute the preservative and get rid of dissolved CO2. Stir for 90 seconds for a normal, flat wine. Stir for only 30 seconds for wine with sparkle.

Clean lid with bleach and water and replace.

Wait 24 hours before bottling.


Clean standby bucket with bleach and water and clean 3/4 inch vinyl tube as before.

Siphon bucket to bucket as before and discard sludge in source bucket.

Put a capful of bleach in each wine bottle and fill it with warm water. Do this until all are full.

One by one, empty, rinse, and empty each bottle, and then use 3/8 inch vinyl tube to siphon from bucket to bottle until wine is at neck level. Do not overfill because cork must be inserted.

Use corking device to insert cork into each bottle, and rinse any spilled wine off the outside of each bottle.

Do not cork the last, incomplete bottle; simply drink it yourself. (It tends to have the most cloudiness in it.)

Rinse bucket and all equipment, and start your next batch!


Store in cool, dry place. If using natural corks, bottles must be stored horizontally or cork will dry out.

A note on buckets

The difference between “food grade” and other types of buckets is that ones labeled food grade have a paraffin coating on the inside that prevents foods from being absorbed into the walls of the bucket, leading to a stinky bucket. This isn’t much of a problem with winemaking because wine doesn’t spoil unless infected with bacteria, and because the buckets are not used for anything except winemaking. So it is not necessary to use food grade buckets.

However, it would be wise to make sure that you use buckets that are not of type 3 or type 7 plastic (shown in the recycling symbol on the bucket). Type 3 and type 7 buckets are the only types that can contain bisphenol A, a plastic additive that can be leached out of the bucket by hot or acidic contents, such as fruit juice and wine. While the health risks of bisphenol A are not conclusively proven, there is no reason at all to risk using these kind of buckets, because other types are readily available, and may even be available for free at your local bakery. (The exception is that if the bucket is labeled such that it contains no bisphenol A, which you should feel free to trust.)

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