I'm interested in making a hard lemonade after my cider is done, but I'm having a tough time figuring out how the recipes I've found actually work, and what's the best way to ferment lemon juice. What I'm looking at doing is grabbing some good organic lemon juice from Whole Paycheck, adding some kind of sugar (agave nectar, cane sugar, whatever...), then throwing on yeast and walking away.

From what I've read, yeast like an acidic environment (pH 4.5-5.5), but not as acidic as lemon juice or lemonade (ph 2-3), so I'm confused on how to build my mash if I need to compensate for that.

  • Is the pH something I really need to worry about when making a hard lemonade?
  • If I add water to bring my pH up, it seems like it will take a ton of water since that's also slightly acidic.
  • Do I need to add something like baking soda to bring my pH up, and to what level?
  • Even if it does ferment without adding anything, will the environment cause unwanted flavors or other effects?

Thanks, Mark

  • 3
    I'm pretty sure that hard lemonade is made by adding lemon juice, water and sugar to vodka. Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 2:29
  • 1
    Well you won't be building a mash of any sort. All the hard lemonade recipes I have seen are basically lemonade concentrate, sugar, water and yeast. No mashing of grains needed.
    – brewchez
    Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 3:11
  • Can you provide links to the recipes that you're talking about? Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 4:25
  • @FrustratedWithFormsDesigner By 'mash' I meant the ingredients you listed. Perhaps that's not a real mash, but I don't know what else to call it. Here's one recipe: forum.northernbrewer.com/viewtopic.php?t=56697. couldn't tell if Tobias was serious, and if the upvoters were serious... I'm trying to make something like Sand Creek hard lemonade or (ugh) Mikes
    – MStodd
    Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 6:40
  • 1
    I suspect Tobias was being literal. There's not a lot of tradition of fermenting citrus juice that I'm aware of. And I live in Florida, so if there was any way of creating decent booze from oranges, someone down here would have done it decades ago.
    – GHP
    Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 14:16

8 Answers 8


If you haven't tossed the yeast cake from your Cider yet, you can make Skeeter Pee. You can also make it with a couple packets of Champagne yeast if you have tossed the cider yeast.

You don't want to ferment straight lemon juice, it's way too acidic for yeast and way to acidic for you to drink a glass of, lemonade is heavily diluted with water and sweetened with sugar. The skeeter pee recipe calls for 96oz of lemon juice to 4.5 gallons of water; so it is really diluted and it still tastes plenty lemony.

  • I think I might try that. Seems like with that water to lemon juice ratio, the pH should be high enough. Have you tried this?
    – MStodd
    Commented Mar 8, 2012 at 18:58
  • yes, I've done it 3-4 times, usually with the yeast cake from a previous wine but I did do one on top of a stout yeast cake and it also fermented fine (stout yeast was US-05).
    – Mattress
    Commented Mar 8, 2012 at 19:21
  • I've made this recipe several times, as is, with mixed tropical fruit and with mixed fruit. When you add the fruit, put it in a grain bag and physically squeeze it (after you've dipped your hands and arms into StarSan water) every day. Keg that up and I promise you that the fairer sex will empty the keg at your next party. Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 21:14

The commercial "hard lemonades" are made by fermenting a malt base. That's why it can be sold in grocery stores. If they used distilled alcohol it would be illegal in most states. Then the fermented malt beverage is filtered within an inch of its life to remove pretty much all flavor and everything but the alcohol. It is then flavored with artificial flavorings to make the "hard lemonade" you buy in stores.


Sima is a traditional Finnish drink that is basically hard lemonade...

In a large non-reactive pot (stainless steel or ceramic coated, NOT aluminum), boil 3 liters (+ 1 cup to allow for evaporation, spillage ect.) of water with 2-3 cups white sugar, brown sugar, honey or any combo thereof (more sugar = more alcohol). When dissolved, add 2-4 thinly sliced lemons (some folks carefully peel and add the zest, cut away and discard the pith and add remaining pulp. too much pith can cause bitterness). Let simmer covered 15-30 minutes to allow peels to release lemon oil. Pulp should be partly disintegrated, releasing lemon juice.

Cool to room temp. (75°f/25°c). Placing pot in a sinkful of cool water will speed the process. While cooling, fill a small jar or glass half way with room temp. tap water. Sprinkle enough yeast to cover water surface (baking yeast for traditional low alcohol [1-5%] method, champagne or wine yeast for high alcohol [8-18%]). Do not stir or shake... wait 10 min. or until all the yeasties have become moist and sunk to the bottom. Now add a small amount ( <1/2 tsp., just enough to wake them up) of sugar and stir. Let sit undisturbed until a foamy layer forms on top. When the yeast is going strong, add it to the lemonade. If after 1 hour or so, you don't see any sign of fermentation (ie; foamy layer) you may want to add baking soda (1/2 tsp. at a time) to de-acidify and repeat yeast step. Once fermentation has begun, cover and let sit for 24 hours.

Now it's time to bottle. You'll need bottles, a narrow tipped funnel, a small pitcher (easier to handle than large pot) and optionally, a small screen type strainer (Note: I like to strain mine to remove pulp and seeds but you don't have to. If you do use a strainer be sure the openings are big enough to let the yeasties pass through while catching the larger bits. Use wire screen type not plastic mesh type) I use 4 750 ml. screw top Torani bottles per batch. 2 liter soda bottles work as well, in which case you should make a 4 liter batch (adjust ingredients accordingly). IMPORTANT... be sure your bottles are very clean, contamination can cause off flavors or even make you ill.

Stir lemonade vigorously to get yeast evenly mixed in solution and pour into a pitcher. Place funnel in mouth of bottle and strainer in funnel. Fill bottle leaving a 2 inch air space at the top. (Note: The traditional method calls for adding 2-3 raisins to the bottle. Some claim this provides micro-nutrients that the yeast needs. I have found no difference with or without them and they only serve to clog up my straw when I drink it.) Repeat til all bottles are filled. Place the caps on slightly loose to allow the CO2 gas to escape. Store at cool to room temp. for anywhere from 2 days for kid friendly, very low alcohol [<1%] version to a month for the high alcohol, adults only version. Tighten caps 24-48 hours before serving (less if fermentation is still vigorous) to allow CO2 to make the drink fizzy. Serve cold.


That stuffs all good, but I prefer lemon peels- no rind, lemon juice and vodka jarred for 3-6 months. Then I dilute with water, lemon juice, water and more sugar (that will ferment) with yeast. Ferment until close to zeroed and bottle. It's like a carbonated, dry limoncello. *Sometimes adding vodka mixture with hard lemon for a much more bubbly drink- and maybe a % or 2 more.

*adding just a little of a finished carbonated hard lemonade with the "limoncello" mixture can make a refreshing yet STRONG drink.

I should also note bobtooce's recipe and semi traditional methods are very similar to the blending process of this drink- looking for a good Ph and ability to find flavor, carbonation, along with a drink that can taste amazing and be anywhere from 12%-25%....next to cleanliness timing is everything, as this beverage can carbonate extremely quickly.. I'm trying to use slightly pressurized airlocks to allow Co2 release while still developing carbonation.... They're ridiculously large, and I've used everything from food safe gels to less successful pressurized balloons.


I make citrus wine by first making a simple white wine, then adding a gallon of fresh squeezed oj on top with a pound of sugar. It usually takes another 10 days or so. Rack it for a couple of weeks and bottle that deliciousness.


I Love Schweppes Bitter Lemon. I know it's not sold widely in the US, but is in the UK and Australia (where I am). I make a cordial of 5 lemons cut up, simmered with a cup of sugar (or stevia(I'm diabetic)) and a litre of water for 30 mins. I drink it six to one with tonic and a splash of vodka. Yum.

As I make my own cider every year, I thought about fermenting all the lemons I grow every year.. Then I heard of Sima and concocted this recipe.

  • 4 kg lemons
  • 3 kg sugar
  • water to 36 litres (the size of my fermenter)

In 3 batches in a 12L stockpot, simmer

  • a third of the chopped up lemons
  • 1 kg of sugar
  • water to fill

for 1/2 hour. Cool.

Fish the lemons out with a sieve. Add 1 level teaspoon of baking powder (edit: this is probably to decrease the acidity). Add to fermenter. On the last batch, add the lemon mix hot so that the fermenter is ~ 22-28°C.

Mix 1 packet of Lalvin EC-1118 in a half glass of 40°C hot water and a teaspoon of Sugar. Wait till it foams and pitch. Keep the fermenter at 23°C. It will take up to 12 for CO2 to start bubbling because it's still quite acidic. But when it starts, it really takes off... and will for 7 or 8 day. I ferment dry (i.e., no sugar or CO2). Then I cold crash it and let settle for a few days before bottling wit a half teaspoon of sugar and stevia to taste. It's VERY good.

Cheers Ed


I grow a few Tahiti lime and lemon trees on my place in the tropics. A year ago I began to experiment making fermented drinks such as ginger ale, ginger lemon etc. When making a fermented lime drink I would always add some starter in it such as ginger bug. But recently I had a 50% lime juice mixed in with 50% water in a 1 liter plastic bottle. It was warm and likely around 30c temperatures at that time. I noticed after about 24 hours that the lime/water mix began to ferment. I left it for another 3 days until it stopped producing gas. I chilled it in the fridge and tried a glass of it straight up, no added sugar. Darned if it wasn't quite nice tasting. I sometimes add a tiny bit of stevia to sweeten it a bit and they're great. So my point is that Lime juice with water only will ferment on it's own without the aide of a starter yeast. The ph of the mix was acid as can be and still it fermented really well. I think it will be the same for lemons but I am not sure. I will try those soon I reckon. cheers

  • You are assuming that wild yeast is present, but that is not always the case (ymmv).
    – Philippe
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 20:12

I'm making a fermented lemon cleaner by adding water, brown sugar and yeast to cut up lemons, putting them into plastic bottles and shaking them daily (and leaving the caps on just loosely the rest of the time). After a week it smells lovely. Not sure whether I should strain it after another week, or just whenever the bubbles stop foming, which I guess is the end of the fermentation process. From what I've read here, it might also be worth trying a sip (diluted in water)?

  • cleaner? You're not actually drinking this, right?
    – BozoJoe
    Commented Apr 27, 2020 at 17:48

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