Pito

How To Brew Pito

This page was created in December, 2008
when Pete KJ, while on a visit to the town of Navrongo, in northern Ghana,
decided to finally learn how to brew this beloved beverage.


1.0 Preparation
1.1 Obtain germinated, dried millet seeds to use for the pito flour. You can do this yourself, or purchase prepared seeds from production centers (there is a large one in Paga). To germinate the seeds, lay them out in a single layer and cover them with a damp, woven grass mat for a few days. After the seeds germinate, dry them in the sun.
1.2 Take the seeds to the grinding mill and make flour. Four bowls of millet flour are required for your pito batch (about 100 cups, or just over 6 gallons of flour).
1.3 Make sure you have about a handful of dried yeast. Most brewers maintain their own yeast culture by allowing the yeast from a previous batch to continue fermenting in a small container for two days.
1.4 Get four or five starchy plant stalks, of a few feet in length each. Okra stalks are commonly used at this time of the year.
1.5 Get two barrels of water.
1.6 Prepare your brewing area. Pito brewing is a two-pot process. Many professional brewers use 30-gallon pots, permanently affixed to fire places. The cooking area is typically covered, to retain some heat and to protect from the elements.
1.7 Get lots of firewood. This will be your most expensive raw material. You will need enough to keep one fire burning for about 5 hours on the first day, and two fires burning for about 9 hours on the second day. You therefore need good-size logs, the ones that are brought into town by truck from the hinterland.
2.0 Day 1
2.1 At 1 PM, pour the millet flour into a barrel of water. Allow it to soak for two hours.
2.2 By 3 PM, have Pot 1 heating with a small amount of water.
2.3 Skim the material floating on top of the barrel, and add it to Pot 1.
2.4 Sieve the top half of the barrel contents. Save the sieved water, and add the collected solids to Pot 1.
2.5 Stir the remaining contents of the barrel and add them to Pot 1.
2.6 Rinse the barrel and add the rinse water to Pot 1. Return the sieved water from Step 2.4 to the barrel.
2.7 Boil Pot 1 for 4 to 5 hours, stirring regularly. The mixture will gradually thicken and become darker. After about half an hour, the mixture will swell to the extent that a bucket of it should be removed and set aside, to prevent the pot from overflowing. The contents of this bucket should be returned once the level of the pot has reduced adequately.
2.8 At about 9 PM, stop boiling Pot 1. Transfer the contents back to the barrel and allow to cool overnight. It is important to cover the barrel, not only to protect it, but also to allow the mixture to cool slowly. If the barrel is not covered, the pito can become bitter.
3.0 Day 2
3.1 At about 6 AM, fire up Pot 1 and transfer the contents of the top half of the barrel into it.
3.2 Prepare starch addition. Break and pound the okra sticks, and soak them in a pan of water.
3.3 Pour the starchy water into the barrel, and stir the barrel.
3.4 Now perform basket filtration of the remaining barrel contents. This is a simple but laborious process. Place a woven basket on a platform of three branches, and position a large empty head pan below the basket. Slowly pour one bucket of the millet suspension into the basket, using your hands to cake the collected millet mash up onto the sides of the basket. Continue doing this until all barrel contents have been added to the basket. On completion, the drained mash will fill the entire basket, and the head pan will be full of liquid.
3.5 Add some of the collected liquid to Pot 1 to top it up. Transfer the remaining liquid to Pot 2, and fire it up.
3.6 Transfer about a third of the drained mash from the center of the basket to a pan, to make room for wash water. Add water to both the basket and the pan so as to re-suspend the mash, and stir with your hands. Transfer to pan contents back into the basket once the basket has drained adequately.
3.7 Transfer all but one bucket of the collected wash water to Pot 2. Return the contents of the bucket back to the basket and stir the sludge, to perform a second wash. Transfer all collected liquid to Pot 2.
3.8 Boil the contents of Pots 1 and 2 for 8 to 9 hours, stirring regularly. As the level in Pot 1 reduces, add liquid to it from Pot 2. At the end of this period, all liquid should be in Pot 1 and it should be nearly full.
3.9 Transfer the contents of Pot 1 to two large head pans, and allow to cool for several hours. Then, sieve the contents into a large plastic container.
3.10 Someone will come by and collect the drained millet mash, for use as animal feed. They will typically make a payment to you, once a month. Of course, you can give it to your own animals if you have animals.
3.11 At about 9 PM, add about a handful of dried yeast to the container and stir. Allow the mixture to ferment overnight.
3.12 NOTE: Yeast addition applies if you are making Kasenna pito. If you are making the weaker Dagarti pito, skip the yeast addition step. NOTE: You are not supposed to add anything else, but some brewers do. Some add sugar to boost alcohol content; this can give you a wicked headache. You can usually tell if sugar has been added if your pito continues to froth after it is served to you. Other brewers add local tobacco leaves, etc., to boost narcotic effect.
4.0 Day 3
4.1 In the morning, sieve your pito and transfer it to serving pots. Retain some of the yeast, soaking it in a small container of broth, to grow your culture for use in a future batch.
4.2 Move your pito pot to your seating area. Pito drinking begins fairly early in the morning. Make sure you have lots of clean calabashes. Employ a girl you trust, or sell it yourself to ensure profit retention.
4.3 Your batch is about 25 gallons. If you sell this in 10-ounce servings for 30 pesewas each (about 320 servings), you can gross about 100 cedis ($83). If you donít sell all of your pito, you can keep selling it the following day. After that, you should dump it.