Make Your Own Hard Cider

cidergroupAre you buying six packs of cider at the store and want to save money and make your own unique product to share? You can brew your own hard cider at home with a couple of ingredients. Let’s get started.

You Need

One 1-gallon carboy with airlock or 1-gallon plastic jug with screw cap.

Enough half-gallon glass “growler” jugs or other bottles (including caps or corks) to store the finished cider. I use only plastic to bottle because of potential explosions. 🙂 I keep my finished cider in the plastic jug or carboy and drink it from there or I pour into smaller plastic bottles to store.

Hard Cider Ingredients

  • 1 gallon of preservative-free, sweet apple cider, preferably unpasteurized.
  • Optional one packet of wine or cider yeast (Lalvin 71B or Red Star Cote des Blancs are good choices)
  • Optional for sparkling cider:3/4 cup honey or brown sugar

cider strainYou need to start out with cider either purchased or homemade or half and half which is what I do.

If you’re buying sweet cider, start by checking the label to be sure the cider doesn’t contain chemical preservatives, because these will kill your yeast and your cider will not ferment. (The cider is chemically preserved if sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate are listed on the label.) Buy cider in season from a local orchard or natural grocer.

Also, be aware that most commercial cidermakers are required to pasteurize their cider, and the process they use will affect the flavor. Preferably, your sweet cider should be “cold pasteurized,” which kills microorganisms with ultraviolet light but will leave enough natural ingredients so you can still use the juice.

A variety of dry and liquid brewing yeasts will work for making cider but I prefer the wild fermentation method because it’s easier and free. It can be more unpredictable and if you want to control the whole process you should likely buy yeast to use. If you buy a package of cider yeast from a homebrew store MAKE SURE TO READ THE DIRECTIONS. Usually add 1/6 of the packet since you are only making a gallon.

Pour out ½ the cider directly into a one-gallon glass carboy. Or empty half the jug of apple juice and replace with 1/2 of fresh squeezed apple juice. The amounts can vary but I usually add about half a gallon that i juice. If you don’t have a juicer you can cook the apples in water, cool and puree in a blender too. If the cider is chunky it’s not bad. You will strain it before bottling.

Place your carboy/jug in a room where the temperature is 60 to 75 degrees. Stay within this range so the fermentation doesn’t go too fast or too slow.

Within a day or two you should see the airlock start to bubble. The gas it’s releasing is carbon dioxide, a byproduct of the fermentation process.  This bubbling should subside within a week or more and that will be the end of the primary fermentation. After that, let the cider sit another week to allow the yeast to settle out.

Rack the Cider to remove the bottom yeast. If you want to bottle the cider immediately, affix the rinsed food-grade tubing to the spigot on your fermentation bucket and pour the cider off into a sanitized plastic jugs or plastic bottles leaving the yeast and fruit sludge at the bottom and discard.  You can also filter it with cheese cloth and a funnel.

Let the bottled hard cider sit for another two weeks and then it will be ready to drink. Your cider will probably be “still” (i.e., not fizzy) unless you let it age for several months. Hard cider is more like wine than beer, and the flavor will improve as it ages.

Make it Sparkle. To make the cider sparkling before bottling it first bring 1 cup of water with 3/4 cup honey or brown sugar to a boil. Pour this mixture into a sanitized jug/ bucket. Then, siphon your cider into it. Then, bottle as you would normally. You’ll have to let this sit a bit longer than the still cider, so the residual yeast will have time to ferment the sugar you added and carbonate the cider inside the bottle.

Drink Up!

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