How to make hard apple cider - An Over View of this Site
How to Make Homeade Hard Apple Cider
Welcome to the Homebrew Helper's Hard Cider web site! This site was created to help you with your first adventures in hard cider making, even if you have never brewed any wine or beer before. I was first bitten by the cider-bug after I had been pressing and putting up my own wine for 40 or so gallons. My sister had returned from college at Oxford, and was missing the fantastic hard ciders you can find with ease all over the UK. I read over dozens of brew sites and blogs, and then I took the plunge with a few gallons of sweet cider from the health food store. Wine makers are often intimidated by carbonation--and stories of exploding bottle bombs, so I was surprised and delighted at how easy (and quick) making hard cider is! I made some mistakes as a first timer (and second and third timer) that I would like to share so that you can avoid the pain of having gallons of a less than tasty brew. Is it legal? YES! As long as you don't sell it, every adult in your home may brew up to 100 gal. of wine, beer or cider per year. More than that, and you need a liquor licence... and likely a 12-step program.
How this website works
This site covers the very basics of cider making for the home-scale hard cider lover. We will be starting by describing what it takes to make 6-8 16oz bottles of hard cider from one gallon of cider. Of course, this scale is infinitely expandable, but if you are a first time cider maker I strongly recommend starting small so that you can make smaller, inexpensive mistakes, and not ruin $50 worth of cider by doing something silly (note the voice of experience here). The objective is to get you exactly what you need to know to start brewing, and also provide you with enough knowledge that you can experiment until you archive some pretty tasty hard cider! I do have a minimum of equipment I recommend. If will all cost under $10 total (if you get your glass jugs ar the recycle center) and most of this you can reuse for years. Yes, you can make simple "hard cider" with bread yeast, a plastic jug and a balloon on top. If you want help with these crude methods, look for another website, and don't invite me over for a taste.
That said, this site is not intended to be the ultimate word in hard cider making. Brewing can be a complex trip down the paths of chemistry, pH, specific gravity, temperature regulation and microbe management. If you are wanting to learn more about pressing your own apples, large scale production or micro-tweaking your hard cider to carbonation perfection--well that is beyond the scope of this website, please check out the links section for some helpful recourses in your grander pursuits!
This site is broken into the following sections. You will likely have the most success if you read them all before you begin:
- Clean and Sterile - This section covers the basics of keeping your equipment (and thus your cider) uncontaminated.
- Fruit and Yeast Selection - This sections examines the options you have for your starting juice and variations in different yeast strains.
- Carbonation and Alcohol - Sweet or Dry? Flat or Fizzy? Apple Wine or Apple Cider (or, oops, vinegar)? This sections looks at the basics of cider chemistry so you end up with the style of brew you like!
- Making Your Cider - Here we take a step-by-step approach to taking what you learned and making, and bottling a gallon of homemade hard cider.
- Racking and Bottling - After you have your cider in a jug, here is how to get it into the bottle.
- Links and Credits - A section of equipment resellers and other useful cider making links, also a works sited list.
First of all, what is cider? In the USA and also in Canada, 'cider' is used to describe a cloudy but unfermented (non-alcoholic) apple juice, often from an orchard stand or farmer's market. The term 'hard cider' is used to denote that this cider has been fermented, and now contains alcohol. To differentiate between hard cider and cider, sometimes you will see the terms "sweet cider", or "soft cider" used. In most of the rest of the world, including the UK and Europe, just saying plain 'cider' means alcoholic hard cider. The word 'cider' itself is supposed to be derived from Greek or possibly even Hebrew sources meaning 'strong drink', although over the millenniums the term has come to mean a drink made from apples . Click to read an interesting history of hard cider on Wikipedia . On this site I will try to use the terms "cider" or "juice" for the sweet cider, and say "hard cider" when I am talking about the brew. Just remember, after you add the yeast, it is no longer sweet cider, so I might just call it "cider" by that stage in the process out of habit.
Here is what you will need to make hard cider
Here is an equipment list for one gallon of hard cider (each item will be described in detail later in the site):
- 1 gallon of apple cider (fresh pressed, or store bought--without preservatives!)
- TWO GLASS 1 gallon jugs. (if you buy cider (juice) in plastic, you will need to move it into glass to ferment. If it came in a glass jug, this counts as one of your jugs, but you will need another jug too.)
- A rubber stopper with a hole (#6 drilled for 1 gallon jug, $.99 from MidwestSupplies.com)
- An airlock also known as a "bubbler" ($1.29 from Midwest Supply)
- Brewing yeast (NOT bread yeast)
- Star San for sterilizing (from your local brew store or from Midwest Supply --not bleach)
- 1Camden tablet (only if you are using fresh, non-pasteurized cider and want to control your yeast - $2 for 50 from Midwest Supply)
- 3 to 6 feet of 5/16-inch food-grade plastic tubing ($1.29 a foot from Midwest Supply)
OPTIONAL equipment you might decide you need:
- One-step oxidizer for cleaning
- Large stainless bowls or stock pot
- Frozen apple juice concentrate
- Brown sugar
- Xylitol (naturally makes your cider sweeter, without making bottles explode)
- Pectic enzyme (will make the cider less cloudy)
- Natural organic Apple flavoring ($11.95 from Nature's Flavors - this would do ~50 gal. See Links page for a free shipping code)
- Bottles, if you are carbonating your cider (flip top like Grolsch style beer bottles, or cap style--obviously you would also need unused bottle caps (60 for $2 at Midwest) and a capper ($12.99 Midwest) if you go with beer bottles)
- An auto siphon tool (about $10, but worth it's weight in gold)
- A bottle filler hose extension ($3 at Midwest, but saves a big mess)
Ready to get started? Let's begin with Clean and Sterile.
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Text and images on this page by Jessica Shabatura