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How to brew beer in a coffee maker, using only materials commonly found on a modestly sized oceanographic research vessel.

April 26, 2009


Beer brewing is as much an art as a science. Finding the right blend of delicate grains, hops, malt, adding just the right flavoring agents, boiling for exactly enough time to release the tannins, starches, humic acids from you wort, these are all skills that take a lifetime to master. Perfect beer is meticulously planned and carefully crafted.

Screw that.

The Flip - One research vessel you may a drink on

The Flip - one research vessel that mandates a drink

You’re six days into a 2 month expedition, and if you were lucky enough to not be on a dry ship, it’s de facto dry by now anyway. You’re eying the ethanol stores, the crew is eying each other, and all hell will break loose if y’all don’t get some sweet water soon. This is no time for artistry.

This is not, as a rule, a terribly good beer (though, with a good brewmaster on board, it can be). This is a beer to pass the time. I can guarantee that if you are careful, it will be at least as good as the cheapest commercial alternative.


The tools you need are simple: an electric drip coffee maker with hot plate, a coffee filter, 2 1-liter sample jars, 2 handkerchiefs, 2 rubber bands, and a source of clean (preferably R/O) water.

You’ll have to be more creative with your ingredients. What you need are some sort of grain, some malt, and, if possible, something that can act as a clarifying and hopping agent. You need a simple grain to release the tannins, starches, and enzymes. The best bet is common cereals – Raisin Bran, Cracked Wheat, Kashi, whatever you can find. The fruit and nuts will add flavor, but are not important.



Malt is tricky, and sometimes gross. In my experience, the best you can hope for is vegemite, marmite, or some other yeast extract. If you have chocolate malt balls or some other malt based candy, those can be ground up and used as well.

The hops are the hardest, and you may have to forgo their goodness. Alfalfa or some other green roughage may work, but a clever biologist will bring their own hops on board.

Finally, you’ll need to find some yeast. Most ships will have bakers’ yeast. If you’re very lucky they might have brewers’ yeast.


Sanitation is key. If you have an autoclave, sterilize your tools ahead of time. Otherwise, wash everything with an iodine solution or, if there are no other options, ethanol.  Contamination is your enemy. Everything must be clean.

  1. Grind up your ‘grains’ (but not so much that it becomes powder).
  2. Place your ‘grains’ in coffee pot (not the filter basket, the carafe).
  3. Run 2 cups of clean water through coffee maker and let it sit on the hot plate for an hour. This releases all the good chemicals from you ‘grains’ and creates a fluid called wort.
  4. Strain the wort through the coffee filter and place the filter full of ‘grain’ into the filter basket. Add the ‘malt’ to the filter basket. Pour the strained liquid back into coffee maker and add 1 cup of water.
  5. Run the wort through the coffee maker 5 times, each time adding 1 cup of water.
  6. Pour the wort into the saucepan and boil for 45 minutes. Two minutes before boiling is done, add the hops.
  7. Carefully pour the wort into the canning jars.
  8. Let the wort cool to between 60 and 70 F. Once it is cool enough to touch the outside of the jars without burning, pitched the Bakers’ Yeast into the mixture.
  9. Seal jar with a handkerchief and rubber band over the mouth.
  10. Store in a cool, dark place where it will not be disturbed for a week.


A cool, smooth brew, flavored with whatever you found. It may be very bad, it may be good. It will be beer.


Southern Fried Brewmaster

Southern Fried Brewmaster

You are now the most popular person on the boat. Enjoy.

Please note – these methods can be adapted to any lab or field work that demands it. The modestly sized oceanographic research vessel is not mandatory.

Southern Fried Science in no way endorses the consumption or manufacture of alcoholic beverages on dry or alchohol free research vessels, nor do we condone the manufacture of beer by the underage. Drink responsibly or don’t drink at all.

~Southern Fried Scientist

Update: Several people have complained about my casually switching between metric and standard units (liters to cups). Mark my words, there is nothing casual about it. If you’re on a research vessel, chances are all your sample containers will be metric, but your coffee maker (at least if you’re an American) will use cups as the units. I have saved you the odious task of converting between the two. You’re welcome.

126 Comments leave one →
  1. whysharksmatter permalink*
    April 26, 2009 9:51 pm

    I loves me some vegemite.

  2. April 27, 2009 9:54 am

    You’re my hero. I mean, that is VERY shocking behavior on a dry ship! Oh, wicked, bad, naughty SFS!

  3. April 27, 2009 10:48 am


  4. Gwen permalink
    April 27, 2009 11:14 am

    How about utilizing some of those delicious brown algae, such as is used in Kelpie? It’s tasty, if thick!

  5. desertbronze permalink
    April 27, 2009 1:43 pm

    Ingenious! Sailors will do anything to get some grog! Good on ya’!

  6. April 27, 2009 3:13 pm

    The Reinheitsgebot would like to have a word with you, oh fried one. Have you attempted to throw some priming sugar in and reseal the jars?

    • April 27, 2009 3:18 pm

      I’ve tried, it doesn’t work so well. You may have to settled for only slightly carbonated, instead of explosively so.

      • Noble permalink
        May 8, 2009 12:58 pm

        I noticed the recipe calls for bottling and fermenting at the same time – in a normal batch of home brew, you’ll do all of the above steps and let the concoction sit for a couple weeks to ferment, then you’ll add a sugar (priming sugar boiled down in water to form a simple syrup – I think a corn syrup will work – malto dextrose is NOT a good call – personal experience – not sure about table sugar…) and add it to the mix before bottling, then the yeast consumes the sugar releasing CO2 that then disolves back into the fermented beer. You might want to try a step like that and actually can the beer with a sealed lid so that the carbonation can occur.

      • May 8, 2009 3:47 pm

        The big problem with adding a carbonation step, is, well, have you ever shaken a sealed beer bottle? Modestly sized oceanographic research vessels move constantly, so what you end up with are glass hand grenades.

        Trust me, you do not want to be anywhere near a glass bottle when it explodes…

      • Noble permalink
        May 8, 2009 3:55 pm

        A good point of course – I’ve never seen that happen, though I’ve never tried to brew at sea :). I wouldn’t have thought it’d be too much pressure for the glass to handle, though – do you make all your commercial beer flat before setting out? The beauty of home brewing is being in control of your ingredients, you can add a lot less of the sugar and still get a little carbonation which will make all the difference in taste. I’d be interested to hear from somebody who’s going to try it and find out their results.

      • May 8, 2009 4:56 pm

        Ahh yes, I should have explained it a little better. After carbonation is done, you can shake your beer up all you want and you’ll just get more carbon dioxide to come out of solution at once, resulting in a classic party foul.

        However, when the yeast is still alive and metabolizing, shaking up the bottle will aerate it, resulting in the production of way more carbon dioxide than you’d usually get, which can cause the bottles to blow.

        The handkerchief solves this problem by letting excess carbon dioxide escape, but still works as an airlock because CO2 is denser than oxygen and settles over the surface of your fluid, at least to a point.

      • Noble permalink
        May 8, 2009 5:02 pm

        That’s fascinating – I had no idea. Great article, btw. I’ve been thinking about it all day and it’s gotten me through my Friday at work.

  7. April 27, 2009 3:15 pm


  8. April 27, 2009 3:29 pm

    This is ingenious. I’ve got some friends who home-brew, but I could never justify the start-up costs for the fancy schmancy equipment. I’ve got a coffee pot, though!

  9. hellopresto permalink
    April 27, 2009 4:56 pm

    haha very nice. The story and insight is almost as good as the actual instructions!

  10. April 27, 2009 5:01 pm

    So, just when I thought that using my coffee maker couldn’t get any better, I go and find this post! I’m definitely going to have to try this, so thank you!

  11. April 27, 2009 10:47 pm

    Very cool – but should you really use the last ethanol on board to clean your brewing equipment?…

    • April 27, 2009 10:59 pm

      If we’re down to the last of the ethanol, sobriety is the least of our worries. But a couple squirts from the 95% bottle is all you need.

      Mmmm, denatured alcohol, tastes like blindness.

  12. mooseo permalink
    April 27, 2009 10:54 pm

    There is the other option, well known to any resident of a maximum security prison, of fermenting fruit / orange rinds / grape jelly under your bed. Results are likely to be slightly more potent and way more disgusting.

  13. April 28, 2009 7:43 am

    Shades of “The Life Aquatic” . . . very resourceful and something to experiment with before you head out to sea to perfect your craft! : )

  14. Brian permalink
    April 28, 2009 7:52 am

    Thanks for a look into the creativity of homebrewers and scientists!

  15. April 28, 2009 9:04 am

    I wonder if the church ladies are going to be upset if I try this one in the church kitchen.

  16. foodchoices permalink
    April 28, 2009 9:48 am

    I loved this and I love my beer! The book that I have makes home brewing so complicated and i don’t have access to most of the supplies where I live.

  17. April 28, 2009 10:29 am

    Or, a clever biologist would just bring their own beer…

  18. anti-puffstar permalink
    April 28, 2009 11:13 am


  19. infamousink permalink
    April 28, 2009 11:23 am

    So, more importantly. After a long night of drinking “Starboard Beer” does the coffee maker work?

    • whysharksmatter permalink*
      April 28, 2009 11:37 am

      How exactly is the ability to make coffee more important than the ability to make beer?

      • April 28, 2009 1:46 pm

        After pondering that for a moment or two, I don’t have a good answer…..

      • Telba Cavero-Fabiani permalink
        November 27, 2009 6:05 pm

        Coffee will keep you awake to keep researching while beer won’t. It was a nice article though, I had to stop my husband, he read the article and was heading to the kitchen!! if you really want to think ahead i got two ideas for you.
        Yuca and or Sugar cane
        1st Sugar cane, just grab some and take them with you, once you are ready to sail, get all the juice out of it place in in a jar to ferment, after a week, use an alembic (i’m sure there is one onboard) and distill it 5 times. you get some rum!
        Yuca: you need about 3 kilos of yuca (casava) 1/2 kilo of sugar and 1/2 a liter of boiled water. crush the Yuca, sugar, water and mix it very well. place it in a big bottle (big mouth) for 10 days, after 10 days strain the liquid you can drink it cold or hot. It will get you drunk, but not only that it will let you go for days without feeling hungry, the name is MASATO and originally instead of sugar and water the use to chew the Yuca and spit it into the bottle, so it will ferment with the saliva.

  20. April 28, 2009 11:51 am

    I had a friend send this to me, she said she thought of me when she read it …. there is a bit of a story behind that, but i abosulutly loved this!!!!

  21. A.Alaalas permalink
    April 28, 2009 12:55 pm

    Cider alternative: if you get a bad beer batch it will be because of non-sterility. Avoid this with cider which loves wild yeasties and such. Getting the fruit (apple/pear/etc.) concentrate may be a problem tho (using retail apple juice will give a weak, sour cider). For the sparkly in the bottle, remember to dose a bit of sugar when bottling. The wort is much simpler, just add sugar, water and yeast to the extract and cap with a release valve. Specifics are all over the webnet.

  22. ndbrewlady permalink
    April 28, 2009 1:30 pm

    if you have honey, bread yeast, oranges, raisins, cinnamon and water you can make some orange mead, it is a little more potent then your beer and might taste a little better as you should have all the ingredients on board. I would add a balloon to your bags for an airlock.

  23. April 28, 2009 1:44 pm

    And I thought we were daring when making Jiffy-Pop over an Army lab Bunsen burner.

    • whysharksmatter permalink*
      April 28, 2009 3:35 pm

      That’s bush league.

  24. April 28, 2009 4:15 pm

    If you tow the jar behind the ship it is technically not on the ship when its contents become beer. UNOLS is happy, the ship is happy.

    Now I understand why so many ships carry Vegemite. I had previously thought it’s only practical use was to deter pirates.

    • whysharksmatter permalink*
      April 28, 2009 4:44 pm

      And to make toast delicious!

  25. The Cook permalink
    April 28, 2009 4:21 pm

    If you can cheat by bringing hops ahead of plan, I’d say malt extract could be brought along as well – surely nicer than Marmite, unless you really screw and find you got the one with cod liver oil!

  26. April 28, 2009 6:51 pm

    That is unreal! It all makes sense, but…wow. Not bad though if it usually comes out on par with the cheapest manufactured beer.

  27. laserface permalink
    April 28, 2009 10:18 pm

    Sad thing is, someone bought me a cheap brewing kit with disturbingly similar equipment, and the steps to take are also almost exactly like this (minus coffee maker). Only part I’m curious about is you said to seal the sample jars with handkerchiefs. Won’t that make the batch easier to contaminate?

    • MPL permalink
      August 1, 2009 12:35 am

      Yes, but it makes them much less likely to over-pressurize and spew/explode everywhere.

      In actuality, yeast growing in sugary places has a tendency to win the competition with everything else. For one thing, it’s likely to be the only thing in the jar that can stand the booze. Since you gave it a good head start by dumping some yeast in there, it’ll probably dominate the environment well enough to keep it drinkable.

  28. Killroy permalink
    April 29, 2009 2:34 am

    I have often thought about this as I used to work in the maritime industry. I also happen to be a professional brewer.

    Let’s start with something easier than beer. Mead, cider, wine… All can be made very simply. Bread yeast will make alcohol, but it will not taste good.

    Homebrew supply stores are all over and they have a variety of dry yeasts available. Small packets good for 5 gallons. You can’t go wrong with champaign yeast, but there are many wine yeasts that will work nicely.

    5 gal. Traditional Mead(honey wine): 15 lbs. honey, enough water to equal 5 gal. Wine/Mead yeast. Typically mead ages for 1 year before being consumed (+ the month it takes to ferment). Not the best choice.

    Drop the rate of honey and it will be drinkable sooner. Try this “Cyser” recipe. 7.5 lbs. honey, enough apple juice to make 5 gal.

    Essentially any fruit juice/sugar blend can tast O.K. if you DON’T USE BREAD YEAST!!! Try this website out for yeast: (or any local homebrew supply store).

    Now for the Beer:

    Interesting idea with the coffee maker. I think an easier way would be to take a 5 gal. bucket, drill as many 1/8 inch holes it the bottom as you can. Drop that bucket inside annother bucket and you have a “Mash tun”. The second bucket will have to have some kind of device to drain the “Sweet Liquor” from under the “screne” you have created with the first bucket with the holes.

    What to put in the mash tun and how much? Maby 3 gal. 168 degree water. Cereal, bread… Let “Mash” for an hour.

    Alpha and Beta Amalayse(enzymes) will hopefully be present and take the long chain polysaccharides (startch) and convert it to simpler sugars that the yeast can handle. In traditional brewing the grain husks create a filter bed and allow the sweet liquor to run off. Oatmeal has a very high gluten content and may “Stick” (i.e. turn to glue). Regualr cereals and bread may stick as well, So I would avoid any oatmeal.

    “Sparging” happens after the grains or whatever have rested for an hour and converted. Take 170 degree water and pour it over the top of the grain bed. You shoud maintain about 2 inches of water above the grain bed at all times. Collect 5.5-6 gal. sweet liquor then boil. You will probably need 4 gal. or so of “sparge water”

    If you got a hold of some dry yeast from a homebrew supply store you might as well get some hops as well. Pellet hops are very compact and shelf stable. Most commercial breweries use pellet hops. Boil the wort for 1-1.5 hours. Boil the hops for 60 min for bittering, later additions will add more flavor/aroma.

    How about a recipe. US-05 dry yeast. A bunch of cereal/bread to make a very runny oatmeal looking mash. There are many varieties of hops available. Citrusy, piney american style hops would include: Cascade, Centenial, Amarillo, Simcoe, Chinook. English (more dirtlike) would include Goldings, Fuggles, Wilammette…

    Here is a sample recipe. Obviously you can’t replicate this, but maby it can help as sort of a guideline.

    After the boil, cool to 60-70 degrees, shake the hell out of it to get some O2 in there and pitch the yeast. If you have a 5 gal water bottle that would be best, but any pot, bucket will do. There will be 2-4 inches of krausen (foam) during fermentation so beware, it can make a real mess.

    I usually let beer sit on the yeast for 2 weeks at home before transfering. Carboantion can be ashieved in 2 liter bottles or corked wine bottles. Add 3/4 cup corn sugar (or any sugar) after 2 weeks and bottle, Let refermentation happen for at least a week.

    Batch Size: 5.50 gal

    Boil Size: 7.50 gal Asst Brewer: Mrs. Nugiburger
    Boil Time: 90 min Equipment: My Equipment
    Brewhouse Efficiency: 84.00
    Taste Notes:


    Amount Item Type % or IBU
    8.97 lb Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM) Grain 93.94 %
    0.43 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (40.0 SRM) Grain 4.55 %
    0.14 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt – 60L (60.0 SRM) Grain 1.52 %
    1.16 oz Glacier [5.00 %] (60 min) Hops 23.6 IBU
    0.58 oz Glacier [5.00 %] (30 min) Hops 6.0 IBU
    0.58 oz Glacier [5.00 %] (15 min) Hops 3.1 IBU
    0.58 oz Glacier [5.00 %] (0 min) Hops –

    Beer Profile

    Est Original Gravity: 1.055 SG

    Est Final Gravity: 1.014
    Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 5.31 %
    Bitterness: 32.7 IBU Calories: 43 cal/pint
    Est Color: 7.1 SRM

    Hope this makes some sense.


    • Killroy permalink
      May 1, 2009 11:32 am

      Some more notes:

      If you are already on a research boat out in the middle of the ocean and can’t get to a homebrew supply store; you can order through the mail or use what is around you. I don’t know if you are on a 2 month rotation, but when I was doing that kind of work it seems like mail was available.

      To be more clear the temperature of the “Mash” should be between 148-158 + or- a couple of degrees. Adding your grain or whatever will absorb heat, therfore you must start with water of a higher temp to reach your target rest temp.

      You can use a colinder or any other sort of device to hold back the mash material while sparging. The bucket idea comes from Charlie Papaizian the “Father” of the craft brewing movement.

      Sanitation is important. Bleach may be the best sanitizer you have nearby. You may have seen homebrewers use an “airlock”. No need, just cover loosely with a lid, foil… Be sure to leave room for the krausen (foam that appears atop the fermenting wort). Also fermentation has a distinct aroma. If you are trying to be secrative you had better figure something out.

      A book called “Radical Brewing” by Randy Mosher might be something to pick up for this type of situation. He goes through all kinds of strange ingredients, as well as lost or obscure beer styles.

      If you do not have acess to hops: Hops are relatively new in brewing and didn’t dominate until around the 15th century. In the past to tame the sweetness of the beer bitter herbs and spices were added. Bog Myrtle, Wild Rosemary, Yarrow. Beer brewed with these herbs was commonly referred to as Gruit. I know Yarrow is available in AK in the summer… Any bitter plant or herb would work to some degree or annother. Finnish Sahti is made with Juniper.

      How about Russian “Kvass” by Mosher:

      5 gal. batch
      1.75 lb. rye flour
      1.0 lb. six row malt
      1.0 lb rye malt
      9.0 oz. buckwheat

      Mash for 1 hour at 150. add .12 oz peppermint, juice and zest from one lemon. Do not boil.

      Obviously you may not have all of these ingredients on your boat so improvise. Apparently a more traditional method of preparation ws to pour boiling water over rye bread and let it sit for 24 hours. Sugar, cream of tarter, and yes the infamous bread yeast were then added. Bottle as soon as fermentation starts.

      I think this beer would be tart even without the addition of cream of tartar. A traditional modern barley malt mash left overnight would become slightly sour due to Lactobacillus (lactic acid producing bacteria) present on the grain. I don’t know if this would be the case with baked rye bread. Lacto is all around us however so it wouldn’t be hard to get some in there (dip your hand in the mash perhaps).

      I just realized that this beer is only 1-2% alcohol. Use these notes as a guideline and bump up everything to give you more sugars for the yeast to eat= more alcohol.

      In conclusion: Crumbling up some bread, cereal, maby some sugar, honey, throw in some type of bittering substance. Mash as directed to break down the complex sugars, boil with your bittering substance, cool pitch arrrg! bread yeast if you have nothing else. ferment at a temp no less than 60 and no greater than 68. When the krausen dies down and becomes patchy or 1-2 weeks whichever comes first, add more sugar and put in a container that can hold pressure to allow natural carbonation to occur.

      Radical Brewing has all kinds of non-traditional ingredients and how to use them. Get the book!

      Southern Fried, hope I didn’t totally take over your thread with this.


  29. April 29, 2009 12:03 pm


  30. Joseph Ryan permalink
    April 29, 2009 12:21 pm

    Nearly as much fun to read as to drink

  31. btidwell permalink
    April 29, 2009 1:13 pm

    Very clever! How about a decent bottle of Port, though. Much more my style.

    (Exquisite Pleasure)

  32. seattlepir8 permalink
    April 29, 2009 3:49 pm

    Having once had Sake made in a paint locker I find this proposal thoroughly feasible.

    Now then, a GOOD biologist would have written this up as a grant proposal and gotten NSF funding to test out these theories on various ships in different ocean areas, noting the unique aspects that different local wild yeasts played in the fermentation processes, their ratios of sugar to alcohol conversion efficiencies, tolerance for flecks of coffee grounds, paint, marine invertebrates and small crustaceans that might find their way into the wort. This would also have to be a time series study, spanning say a decade at least.

    The results of this study would rely on a peer review taste test.

  33. April 29, 2009 7:20 pm

    Seriously – you have a gift! Thanks for sharing it! Cheers

  34. April 30, 2009 7:42 am

    That’s brilliant. A little niche maybe, but brilliant none the less.

  35. May 2, 2009 2:03 am

    I was taught jail house booze making by an old merchant marine. The first recipe he showed me was a cocoanut with a plug cut out, a handful of raisins inserted, then reinsert the plug and put it away for a while. He worked his way up to peach champagne from a can of peaches. The man was an artist.

  36. Brian permalink
    May 3, 2009 7:14 pm

    You are seriously confused about malt and Vegamite. Malt is grain that has been sprouted, then kilned. Vegamite is BREWERS YEAST, but I would not attempt to ferment with it. It would probably be better than BREAD yeast though!

    The malt inside malted milk balls IS dried wort (unhopped). No doubt a coffee maker coils be used to brew beer, but the STOVETOP would work better, and you do need MALT, HOPS, and yeast. That is all you need though (besides some bleach for sanitizing, and a vessel to hold it.

    • May 3, 2009 7:50 pm

      Vegemite is yeast extract, it is not yeast. You cannot ferment with vegemite, there’s nothing alive in it. It is, however, wonderful food for Saccharomyces cerevisiae and will create a similar flavor to malt when fermented.

      There are plenty of ways to create beer, but of course these instructions are for how to do it without any standard supplies.

      I would recommend you pick up a copy of the Joy of Homebrewing before trying to give advice.

    • Ann permalink
      May 10, 2009 6:12 pm

      “need MALT, HOPS, and yeast. That is all you need though (besides some bleach for sanitizing, and a vessel to hold it.”

      You’ll need to add H2O to that list.

      (You can even skip bleach if you boil the bottles for 15 min….)

      Personally, I like my beer with enough HOPS to etch the glass, but I guess if one is desperate there are substitutions- a common one was juniper berries.

      Here’s a historical maritime brewing fact I learned when I went looking for unique beer recipes: The Vikings used oak casks for their ales and the beer had very high alcohol content and hops to ‘preserve’ it, but was not carbonated. The alcohol, for obvious reasons, but did you know that hops are bacteriostatic? They have been used for centuries in ancient medicinal remedies. Obviously the oak casks are not airtight. Carbonated beer is a fairly ‘new’ addition to the old world recipes and hops weren’t a standard ingredient until the later in the 15th century. Seems desperate brewers have been around from the beginning of time.

  37. May 3, 2009 8:43 pm

    You rock. World needs more souls like you.

  38. May 4, 2009 1:39 am

    jeez, I need to get one of those MSORVs so I can brew some beer with my coffeepot. I’m stuck making coffee here in Eureka, Nor Calif. (2 earthquakes this morn!)

  39. copepod permalink
    May 4, 2009 6:30 pm

    posted on R/V New Horizon….

  40. conman permalink
    May 5, 2009 10:40 am

    I had the owner of a brewpub that caters heavily to soldiers in the US army ask me to come up with something similar that troops stationed near Kuwait, could use to create their own homebrew.
    Cereal (as close to grapenuts or whole grain) works best and you really could only call it an attempt at beer making. without hops, the soldiers were forced to use other bittering agents that are commonly available on an army base. there is a spice in kuwait available in the local economies that resembles cross between hops and spruce believe it or not, forgot the name as its not english and its been several years and they used bakers yeast. I was amazed that after some of these guys got home they continued to refine the recipe until a few of them became very proficient ad creating very tasty , if only mildly alcoholic beverages from normal ingredients availabe almost everywhere.

    • Killroy permalink
      May 5, 2009 2:41 pm

      One last note. Charlie Papazian’s book The Joy of Homebrewing, is a great book (I read it 100x or so) but it is a little dated. He does have a revised edition out.

      If you are really interested in brewing, John Palmer has a book called How to Brew. Go to and view the entire book, free!

  41. broncoblogger permalink
    May 8, 2009 12:34 pm

    I love the results.. might suck, or be great but it will be beer! My question is.. how does your coffee taste after this experience.

    • AceMoose permalink
      May 19, 2009 10:42 am

      After this experience, who will remember what their coffee ever tasted like? (LOL)

  42. howell clark permalink
    May 8, 2009 4:21 pm

    loved the glass hand grenade brought back some old memories about my dad and grand dad making home brew wine and beer. dad found an old hand press bottle capper to cap the beer with. my brother and i always had to clean all the old guart glass coke and gingerale bottles (no plastic two liters back then). we also got to clean up 170 quart hand grenades that exploded in the garage all over the 52 plymouth one hot houston texas night.

  43. May 9, 2009 1:27 am

    Anybody who has actually read “The Joy of Homebrewing” knows that a ships movement is not going to over-agitate primed beer and make bottle bombs. The limiting factor is the amount of priming sugar…once it’s fermented out, the maximum amount of Co2 has been created and all the agitation in the world isn’t going to create more carbonation and pressure. It’s actually good to gently agitate freshly bottled beer, to make sure all of the priming sugar is fermented out.

    Stick to an oz of dextrose per gallon, and so long as your beer has fully fermented, bottle bombs will not be a problem. If sucrose is all you have (which is likely on a ship) use a bit less, as it is more fermentable.

    Vegemite is dead brewer’s yeast that has decomposed and autolyzed, with a ton of salt added. All that salt vastly outweighs any yeast nutrients it might add to your wort. It is not related to malt in any way, and has no place in any beer. The only flavors it will contribute are salt and soy sauce! While it’s damn tasty on buttered toast, keep it out of your beer!

    • May 13, 2009 5:53 pm

      Interesting. I’ve had mixed results with sealing the jars in a moving vessel, but always they’ve come out much worse than if you just don’t carbonate. As for the vegemite, as weird as it sounds, it certainly brings in a malty flavor, the salt ends up mostly encrusted in the inside of the coffee maker (bad news for the coffee machine, good news for the beer) – you end up with no salty taste at all.

  44. May 9, 2009 1:33 am

    I mean no disrespect to the Southern Fried Scientists, as they seem like really smart guys and I quite enjoy their site. (They are merely a little out of their depth on brewing!)

    Anybody who is intrigued by this very interesting article should definitely read “The Joy of Homebrewing” and “How to Brew,” which were previously mentioned. Furthermore, visit , a terrific online (and non-profit) brewing community with a great many accomplished homebrewers among their members.


  45. Ann permalink
    May 10, 2009 5:14 pm

    A creative mind is a wonderful thing….

    Here are some thoughts on backup methodology…

    No generator? No problem, this should work with a plain old coffee percolator on a simple gas burner. No need for filters, it would save you some wort recycling steps and the extra pan for the 45 min simmer, just pull the grounds basket out after it has percolated long enough. I think I’ll have to experiment with this and see how it goes…. (I’m going to call this the mountain gal method)
    One other advantage to the sturdy old coffee percolator, it’s less likely to break if it slides off the counter during rough seas. A few dents don’t hurt performance.

    On the slightest chance this little historical marvel has never been in your extensive repertoire of science, cooking or brewing supplies here’s a link which shows a nice variety of makes and models.

    And finally, this suggestion, if you have a limited supply of dried yeast or none at all. 1 cup flour and 1 cup water covered with a handkerchief. Give this a couple of days and you should have a nice little starter that will work for brewing (and a nice sour dough bread).


  46. BobP permalink
    May 11, 2009 4:52 am

    Will there be a lesson 2 “The art of distillation”? Vodka or rum must be achievable!

    • dunabitofeverythingnow permalink
      May 15, 2009 6:35 pm

      You might have the equipment for that onboard as well… a simple water distiller can be used. ;)

  47. UtherSRG permalink
    May 13, 2009 4:15 pm

    Oh boy… I’d get in so much trouble if I did this on my vessel….. :D Must find a way to do it. ;)

  48. May 19, 2009 7:35 am

    Great article. One thing to add, if you forgot the hops on shore or were out I might suggest a gruit. Substitute a healthy amount of fresh ground ginger root, 3-4 oz by weight (Galley Raid) and a little coco powder to make a spicey gruit. It also serves as an energy beer.

  49. AceMoose permalink
    May 19, 2009 10:08 am

    Mmmm.. Beeeer!!

    When I was a starving art student, I usta buy A&P Tudor beer — a BIG bottle for 39 cents. We nicknamed it Four Door Beer becuz it tasted so metallic. So what? It gave us a cheap high, probably much like my Mister CoffeeBeerMaker will do for me once I brew up some of this hootch.

  50. ajk permalink
    June 10, 2009 3:44 pm

    I love this kind of thing. Reminds me of my friends who’ve tried to make “Low-end-brau” with only what can be found in a grocery store.

    I’m surprised you don’t add any bittering hops at the start of the boil, though. Doesn’t that result in a cloyingly sweet brew?

  51. July 21, 2009 10:11 am

    what about using a syphon type coffee maker instead of a normal drip type.and the other camping type as ann had mentioned.

  52. stevo1 permalink
    July 28, 2009 3:11 pm

    This will not work. You need enzymes to break down and convert the starches in the grains into simple sugars during the mashing process. Without this process the yeast will not have sugars to consume and convert into CO2 ethyl alchohol. These enzymes are not present in processed breakfast cereals. Now, if you could smuggle on a handful of milled malted barley and throw it in the mix, this could work…otherwise, no dice. Stick to home made wine from any sugar sources you can find on ship…beer will not work as you won’t be able to mash.

    • July 28, 2009 3:25 pm

      And yet, it works. Perhaps the enzymes are in the vegemite (though not likely).

      More likely is that there are plenty of simple sugars in mass produced cereal, vegemite, and whatever else you can find to chuck in there.

    • MPL permalink
      August 1, 2009 1:37 am

      “You need enzymes to break down and convert the starches in the grains into simple sugars … [or else] the yeast will not have sugars to consume and convert into CO2 ethyl alchohol.”

      Then how does bread rise?

      • AnnaEA permalink
        January 1, 2010 11:31 pm

        Bread rises because amylase breaks the starch down into simple sugars for the yeast to work, or because the baker has added sugar. Many modern bread flours contain small amounts of diastatic malt to supply the amylase.

        On topic – I have an old coffee maker in the basement that is going to get a run through on this. Not being seabound though, I’ll use proper brewing supplies.

      • MPL permalink
        January 2, 2010 12:48 am

        Yes, amylase is involved in the metabolism of starch by yeast, but the point is, yeast is capable of doing it on its own—bread can be made with nothing but unenriched flour, water, and yeast.

        To quote wikipedia on the issue: “While Amylase enzymes are found naturally in yeast cells, it takes time for the yeast to produce enough of these enzymes to break down significant quantities of starch in the bread. This is the reason for long fermented doughs such as sour dough.” ( ).

        The addition of amylase, sugar, or malted barley will certainly accelerate, and probably improve the fermentation of starchy mixtures, but it is not strictly necessary.

        All of this is somewhat beside the point, since the original article is not speculative—the procedure as stated does, in fact work as described.

  53. chris bates permalink
    October 24, 2009 9:51 am

    Very nice. I was looking for something just like this – sort of an “ancient” method:better than chewing up seeds and spitting them into a stump, as in the Travel Channel; better than buying $400 worth of equipment. Perfect. Thanks.

  54. October 27, 2009 12:37 am

    This is fantastic! Thanks for the post. Now I’m going to ruin my coffee maker.

  55. Bill Halsall permalink
    October 31, 2009 8:35 am

    Nice post. Horlicks if you have it (malted milk drink) is a very good source of malt, being more than 50% malt. Also contains flour and sugar.

  56. November 9, 2009 11:44 am

    I never heard of something like this honestly but I’m sure the beer has a crappy taste. As far as I know you are allowed to take beer with you on different vessels so I don’t see a reason why you should make it on your own.

  57. Accidently on a Porpoise permalink
    November 18, 2009 7:42 pm

    Isn’t a dry ship an oxymoron? Thanks for sharing, this should help get me through college.

  58. Annie permalink
    November 25, 2009 9:53 pm

    If you like beer and know your going away, i’m sure you could bring some beer with you instead of making your own. I understand it’s a great way to pass the time, but if it’s gross, you wasted your time. Also, if you are on an important “mission”, there is no time to be off getting drunk, you should be focusing on work. My opinion, bring your own.

    • doug permalink
      November 25, 2009 10:16 pm

      Your opinion is stupid. Could the blog owners please moderate out useless comments?

  59. Emma permalink
    November 29, 2009 6:32 pm

    This sounds fun but I feel like it would have to taste so nasty. It’s too much trouble and you probably wouldn’t get much out of it. I say just bring your own!

  60. Stacey permalink
    November 30, 2009 1:32 am

    Emma and Annie – You miss the point. Most oceanographic vessels are dry – no booze allowed to be brought on board. For boats that allow crew to bring booze on board, this thread is moot. However, many boats don’t allow alcohol, so this is a means by which folks can circumvent the rules. I’m on such a vessel, although I have no desire to do this, I find the concept and the thread humorous and insightful.

  61. Carmen permalink
    December 1, 2009 8:03 am

    This was fun to read. I liked how this article was unexpected and it surprised me to find it on this southernfriedscience site. But, I am glad to see the art and scientific part acknowledged not just separately but together. It shows the use of different fields to accomplish a commonly known drink and luxury!


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  • Authors

    The Southern Fried Scientist

    Andrew is a graduate student in North Carolina studying deep sea biology. When not in the lab, he spends his time out on the water, usually swearing at his boat while simultaneously sacrificing some important tool to Poseidon in a desperate attempt to make the motor start. That is, assuming he can get his truck running long enough to actually put the boat in the water. He enjoys long walks on the beach, by necessity. Follow him on Twitter @SFriedScientist.


    David is a graduate student in South Carolina studying shark conservation. He is the author of the upcoming book “Why Sharks Matter: Using New Environmentalism to Show The Economic And Ecological Importance of Sharks, The Threats They Face, and How You Can Help”. His time is divided between educating the public about sharks, spending days at a time at sea playing with sharks, and eating horribly unhealthy foods. Follow him on Twitter @WhySharksMatter.

    bluegrass blue crab

    Amy is a graduate student in North Carolina studying local ecological knowledge within the blue crab fishery. She spends half her life studying the most charismatic of organisms - humans - and the estuaries on which they depend. While not contemplating grand social theories, she enjoys a good jam session and watching sunsets over the estuary. Follow her on Twitter @bgrassbluecrab.

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