Yes, I realize it's disgusting.
September 17, 2008 3:09 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to ferment potable alcohol from animal sources? Like, fluids?

Okay, I recognize this is extremely disgusting, and wholeheartedly agree. I'm not asking this because I want to actually ever drink such a thing. It's just idle curiosity, because I don't know a ton about the fermentation process.

That said, is it possible to ferment blood? How about semen? Would you need to add sugar? Really, just what would be the process involved here? Or, if it's not possible, what prevents it?
posted by kafziel to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Possibly excessive salts would prevent yeast growth?
posted by ian1977 at 3:15 PM on September 17, 2008

You can ferment anything with carbohydrates, whether you'd want to drink it is another story. See also Kumis.
posted by electroboy at 3:16 PM on September 17, 2008

Milk and honey will both ferment. More than just carbs, it's a lot easier to ferment stuff that has sugar in it.
posted by GuyZero at 3:19 PM on September 17, 2008

If you can grow yeast in it, it'll produce alcohol of one variety or another. Some of this alcohol might be drinkable, some might make you go blind or kill you.

Yeast likes to eat sugars and starches, so Piss is unlikely to work well out of the box (but it's pretty sterile, so that might be your best choice). It might work better if you're diabetic- I believe there's unusually high sugar levels in diabetic urine. Blood tends to contain antibodies and clotting agents, so I think you'd need to treat it a fair amount to make it work. Same problem with spit and phlegm- I'd expect them to kill off the little yeasties. Also, harvesting enough semen to make a sixpack may take a little too long unless you're a backstage fluffer at a bukkake flick. I think that any fluid you use, you'll probably need to load it up with some sugar to get the yeast working.

Prisoners often make Pruno out of ketchup, fruit, and sugar. That's well-known for being foul beyond belief, so it may be the closest analog to some of the other fluids you're considering.
posted by jenkinsEar at 3:21 PM on September 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

No. Alcohol is the result of fermented sugar, and there is insufficient sugar in animal tissue to produce enough alcohol to be worth talking about.

More generally, fermentation is a process whereby carbohydrates are converted into energy, but animal cells are composed mostly of protein. Fermentation does happen in mammalian muscle cells during periods of strenuous exercise, but the result is lactic acid, not alcohol.

Wikipedia has detailed information.
posted by valkyryn at 3:25 PM on September 17, 2008

There's an enterprising fellow in Duluth, MN who makes caterpillar wine.
posted by neckro23 at 3:26 PM on September 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

Mongolian arkhi is made from milk.

I'm taking Klingon blood wine as fictional. And of course snake-blood wine mixes wine with blood—it doesn't make wine from blood.
posted by adamrice at 3:39 PM on September 17, 2008

Well, you can "ferment" meat to create things like salami or prosciutto, except it's called curing. But it's bacteria, not yeast. And you have to control moisture to prevent your meat from going moldy. The combination of lactic acid and salt keeps the bad bacteria away. Even if you could cure blood this way (I doubt it) it still wouldn't be alcohol in the end.
posted by O9scar at 3:44 PM on September 17, 2008

There's Chal, similar to electroboy's kumis.

That said, most alcoholic drinks we partake of need sugar and yeast added to the basic ingredients in controlled conditions; otherwise you just end up with rot. I'd assume that if you used enough sugar and yeast in addition to blood or semen then you'd eventually get... something. But the blood or semen, by themselves, wouldn't do much.
posted by lekvar at 3:54 PM on September 17, 2008

You have to add sugar to honey to make mead, you add sugar to wort to make beer. You can ferment just about anything...given a yeast that will grow in the medium and some sugar.
posted by TomMelee at 4:58 PM on September 17, 2008

pedantry: beer usually doesn't have sugar added. the sugars that are fermented come from the malted grain (usually barley). sometimes sugar is added after the initial fermentation is finished to induce secondary fermentation (to produce carbonation).
posted by neckro23 at 5:37 PM on September 17, 2008

There's an article in today's Minneapolis City Pages about a guy who imports unique spirits from around the world, and one of them is a vodka made from cow's milk. It's in the 4th paragraph.
posted by vytae at 5:47 PM on September 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

I get the impression you mean "ferment" as in using yeast to create an alcoholic beverage, not fermenting to make a preserved meat or sauerkraut or something. As someone who has made beer, cider, and sake, I've often wondered about fermenting different things.

Sake is interesting because it relies on fermenting rice, which is mostly starch. But yeast like to eat sugar, not complex carbs. So how is sake formed? A fungus is used to break the starch down into sugar that the yeast can enjoy. It's a little scary that the first step in my making sake is making moldy rice, but it works (well enough that my friends keep asking me to make more).

I think a similar approach could be used to (at least partially) ferment other stuff, like blood, by using helper organisms and/or enzymes to pre-digest the material.
posted by exogenous at 6:37 PM on September 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

Apparently, you can also make wine out of caterpillars.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 6:55 PM on September 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

yeah. i know the guy who makes the army worm wine. bought some for fun and brought it to the family Thanksgiving. i do not recommend actually drinking the stuff. putting it in the wine cellar for lulz? sure.

it tastes like white wine with some nasty junk floating in it. (yes. those are worm guts. ew.)
posted by RedEmma at 8:17 PM on September 17, 2008

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