Hard Cider 101
Making your own hard cider is easy and fun. You just need a few special pieces of equipment and you’re off and running. There are millions of resources out there on how to make cider and entire books on the subject. Here is how I do it and it turns out great:
Makes about 9 bottles of fizzy hard cider
You will need:
1 gallon of preservative free, fresh cider. (in a pinch, you can use all natural apple juice, but cider is the best. The preservatives in the cider will kill the yeast and your cider will not ferment) If you have a juicer, you can make your own juice. 1 bushel = 42 lbs of apples = 3 gallons of juice. It takes 10-15 pounds of apples to make one gallon of juice. I like granny smith for cider making. I purchase my cider from Cider Hill Farm.
1 large soup pot
1 gallon glass carboy container, sterilized
1 airlock (purchase at a brewing supply company)
1 package Champaign yeast (white wine yeast also works, but I prefer the results with Champaign yeast)
1 cup white sugar
1 1/4 cup brown sugar, separated
Funnel (or a funnel with strainer)
1 3-10 foot long plastic tube/rubber hose to siphon off the cider, food grade
9 beer bottles. You can buy these new or save cool old bottles from other beverages. You’ll just need to clean and sterilize them before you bottle your cider.
Take a deep breath, you got this:
Pour the cider into the soup pot and set over a medium flame. You want to keep the cider just below boiling at all times. Cook the cider for 45 minutes. Stir with a plastic or metal spoon (not wood).
Add 1 cup of white and 1 cup of brown sugar and stir well.
Allow to cool to room temperature.
Add ¾ packet of the yeast and stir well.
Using a funnel, carefully ladle or pour the cider into the carboy.
Fill the airlock with water and cap the cider.
Allow to sit at room temperature in an undisturbed place without major fluctuations in heat (not near a heater, cool window, or super sunny spot)
Watch the airlock for frequency of bubbles. In the beginning, you should see a constant stream of bubbles which means the cider is fermenting. After about a week to two weeks, the frequency will reduce to about one bubble per minute. It is at this point that you want to proceed to the next step.
You now need to “rack” your cider. This process makes for a better tasting brew and allows the cider to clarify for one week. Remove the top and siphon off the cider into a pot, being careful not to disturb any of the yeast at the bottom of the carboy. That’s what you’re trying to remove. Now rinse out the carboy and put the cider back into the clean carboy. Allow the cider to sit for one week. No fermentation will happen at this point, this is just to clarify the cider.
Now you’re ready to bottle it. If you’d like fizzy cider, you need to add a little more sugar which will make a little more fermentation happen in the actual bottles. Dissolve ¼ cup brown sugar in ½ cup of water and allow to cool to room temperature.
Sterilize your bottles. Get out your capper and caps.
Add the sugar to the cider and stir well. Using a funnel, carefully ladle the cider into the bottles, making sure to leave about 1 ½ inch of space at the top. Cap the bottles. Now place them in a cabinet for one week. If you added too much sugar or something goes wrong, these bottle CAN explode, so please do not leave them out on the counter where kids could get a face full of glass from an accident. Be safe here.
After one week, open one. It should have a little “pop”. If you’ve got a geyser, then put all of the ciders in the fridge and stop the fermentation process right now. How quickly the cider is done all depends on the temperature of your house and what’s going on in the bottles.
Now, if you had a little “pop” you can let the cider sit for another week or longer, checking on it and recapping. I tend to make cider in early October and it takes one week or so to ferment it, one week to clarify and about two weeks or so in the bottles before I place it in the fridge.
Drink your cider. Better yet, throw a pig roast! (Fair warning – I was DONE after two of these, so be careful!)
Sound intimidating? Here’s my sister capping the cider once it’s bottled: