In the latest issue of the TikTok trend, teens have documented their alcohol adventures while making coffee with the ingredients of the grocery store – usually fruit juice, sugar and active dry yeast. Some videos have created hundreds of thousands of likes and inspired others to create their own tiny bedrooms.
These short TikTok "dorm mead" tutorials instruct users to digest a tablespoon of active dough and a cup of sugar in what appears to be a gallon-sized juice bottle. Then leave the lid slightly loose or place a balloon in the opening and let the palace sit for about a week.
The process is likely to produce an alcoholic beverage, says John Wilson, a food scientist at Colorado State University, thanks to the molecular interaction between yeast and sugar in the juice.
"If you put yeast in sugar, you will definitely get the fermentation and alcohol production," says Wilson.
Yeast uses sugar to create adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a molecule that provides energy for many biological processes. Essentially, fungi break down sugar with commercial bonds back and forth – the burst of activity within the yeast cell then produces carbon dioxide and ethanol (what we know as alcohol) as by-products.
All that carbon dioxide accumulated in the juice bottle can cause your refrigerator to explode, although the balloon can relieve pressure inside the container.
And though it may get you drunk, that doesn't mean the DIY bottle is safe.
Homemade dough-based alcohol is nothing new – illegal preparation is known by many names, such as pruno, hooch and prison wine. The practice of cooking has been circulating in American prisons for at least two decades (cited in a 1995 poem), albeit for a much longer period, and has poisoned inmates in California, Arizona, Utah and Mississippi, according to the CDC .
Homemade drink can make people sick with botulism, a disease caused by bacterial toxins that sometimes bloom in the liquid. When the pH of the juice drops above the ideal number of 4.6 – making it less acidic – it promotes an ideal environment for the spores of bacteria to separate and grow.
Although juice usually arrives to store shelves at a balanced pH, Wilson says, adding yeast and spices to the brewing process increases the likelihood of botulism poisoning.
Symptoms of botulism poisoning include blurred vision, difficulty breathing and a thick tongue. When left untreated, people can develop muscular paralysis in the hands, feet and torso. Poisoning can be fatal.
Some TikTok analysts appear to be using the yeast of Fleischmann, a product with historical links to the alcohol industry. Prior to the ban, Fleischmann specializes in beer beer. Restricted by the federal ban on alcohol, the company moved into the bakery industry. Bakeries and breweries were once associated with nature: Often distributed in the 19th and 20th centuries, because beer produces abundant fungi.
Long before John Wilson worked in a brewing research lab, he admits that he made a juice-based porridge at his home – which he refers to by the more generous name of "country wine."
Despite the favorite nicknames of the drink and the heavy appeal to underage drinkers, it is still a potentially dangerous experiment. Although TikTok points to some videos that "could cause serious injury", the disclaimer is not currently available in #prisonwine clips. Due to the nature of the copies of the application, users can easily test it, while not being aware of botulism poisoning.