The Bootlegger Bottle will allow anyone to ferment any sugary juice into alcohol in 18 to 24 hours — and it’s reusable for five months.
Josh Riley and Tushar Jain are University of Idaho graduates who have teamed up to take Jain’s fermentation invention — the Bootlegger Bottle — to the market. They are currently stationed in a business accelerator — an office space for start up businesses — in Nampa, Idaho.
“It’s cool that we’re both U of I graduates,” Riley said. “They helped push us into the real world. We’re still working with the university quite a lot.”
The Bootlegger Bottle works by encapsulating yeast in semi-permeable “beads.” These BioEx yeast beads sit at the bottom of the Bootlegger Bottle, and when juice is added, the sugar and the yeast interact and ferment to create alcohol. This fermentation is faster and easier, taking hours instead of days. The juice used must have a high sugar level — either natural or added.
“We make the beads with a piece of equipment we build by hand as well — it takes money to scale up that operation,” Riley said.
Denise Dunlap, director of the business accelerator in Nampa, works with Jain and Riley on their start-up. She helps them move their business forward and offers advice. She volunteered to be a product tester for the Bootlegger Bottle when they moved in last summer.
“They were originally looking at targeting microbreweries, but they decided they needed a product that was faster to market,” Dunlap said.
The Bootlegger Bottle began as a novelty item, Dunlap said, but then they realized it was an attractive consumer product by itself.
“There are a lot of people out there who would like to say, ‘Hey, this is my alcohol that I made last night,'” Dunlap said.
Jain and Riley began with product testers in the community, to see how different people would use the Bootlegger Bottle and what recipes they would come up with. They had three different groups of people, and hosted a party where everyone could bring what they made and share tastes.
“I was really impressed with the wide range that people were coming up with, with flavors and alcohol content,” Dunlap said. “This product has a lot of potential.”
In addition to making the fermentation process faster, the Bootlegger Bottle also reduces the amount of byproduct — both foam and yeast “sludge” at the bottom of a drink.
“You’re increasing the amount of finished product you get, and reducing the time it takes to get it,” Dunlap said.
In the beginning, Riley said, Jain invented the technology, but needed someone to help man the business side of it all.
“He needed a business student to write him up a business plan,” Riley said. “I had some experience, and he brought me on to help him out with that.”
The pair spent an entire year going to business plan competitions, and they made it all the way to the worldwide event in Houston, Texas. In Houston, more than 40 teams in various categories competed for millions of dollars in prizes — then, Riley said, they realized they had to refocus.
“We were still kind of dabbling in ethanol production, at which point we were like ‘Okay, we need to actually create a business out of this,” Riley said.
From there, they started working with beer and wine. The results were good, Riley said, but they had to start stepping up if they were to succeed.
“That’s what led us to the Bootlegger bottle,” Riley said. “We’ve been trying to figure out what the best market is since.”
A Kickstarter fund will be used to help the duo become fully operational, and get their product on store shelves.
Alycia Rock can be reached at