How to make hard apple cider - An Over View of this Site
You Can Make Homemade Hard Apple Cider!
Welcome to the How to Make 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 bottles, 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.
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 7-8 16oz bottles of hard cider from one gallon of cider. Of course, this recipe 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).
This site will give you what you need 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. It will all cost around $10-$20 total (if you get your glass jugs at the recycle center) and most of this equipment you can reuse for years and 100s of gallons of brew. 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. Blech.
That said, this website 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 resources for your grander pursuits!
This site is broken into the following sections. You will 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 apple juice and yeast strains.
- Carbonation and Alcohol - Sweet or Dry? Flat or Fizzy? 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 - How to get it into from the jug to the bottles.
- 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.
Is making my own hard cider legal?
YES! In the U.S., 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 license... and likely a 12-step program.
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.) 1 Gallon glass Jug ($9 ships free from Amazon.com)
- A rubber stopper with a hole. For a 1-gallon jug you need a Drilled #6 size. Here is a set of 3, for $5 ships free from Amazon)
- An airlock also known as a "bubbler" (Twin bubble airlock Set of 3 $6 ships free from Amazon)
- Brewing yeast (NOT bread yeast)
- Star San for sterilizing. Super concentrated:1 oz. makes 5 gal of sanitizer! ($10 for 4oz ships free from Amazon - free ship)
- 1 Camden tablet (only if you are using fresh, non-pasteurized cider and want to control your yeast - Campden Tablets (sodium metabisulfite) - 50 Tablets
$5 ships free from Amazon)
- 3 to 6 feet of 5/16-inch food-grade plastic tubing (10 feet $8 ships free from Amazon. )
OPTIONAL equipment you might decide you need:
- Extra 1 Gallon glass Jug ($9 ships free from Amazon)
- One-step oxidizer for cleaning
- Large stainless bowls or stock pot
- Frozen apple juice concentrate
- Brown sugar
- Dextrose sugar (for carbonating)
- Stevia, or sugar alcohol like Xylitol (naturally makes your cider taste sweeter without feeding yeast)
- Pectic Enzyme (1oz is $5 ships free from Amazon. Will make the cider less cloudy)
- Natural organic Apple flavoring 4 oz by OliveNation on Amazon.com - this would do ~50 gal.)
- Bottles, if you are carbonating your cider (flip top Cap like Grolsch style beer bottles), or cap style--obviously you would also need unused bottle caps (144 caps is $6 free ship from Amazon) and a capper ($16 free ship from Amazon ) if you go with beer bottles)
- Auto-Siphon tool (about $9 on Amazon, but worth it's weight in gold)
- A bottle filler hose extension ($7 on Amazon,saves a big mess)
- Hydrometer (Spend $6 on Amazon and get this amazing tool that allows you to "see" what your cider is doing.) Helps you to know when to rack or bottle, not guess.
Ready to get started? Let's begin with Clean and Sterile.
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Curious about the Amazon links all over this site?
Because of my remote location, I have been buying my brew supplies online for close to 15 years. If you can't walk in to a local brew store, Amazon is simply the best place to buy a wide selection of brew gear (most of the major vendors are now selling there), and they often offer free shipping. I extensively researched the prices on all of these products to get you the best deals, because hey, if you are making your own brew, you want to brag about how affordable it is, right? Buying on Amazon gets you the same products for less money. For situations where a more affordable option is available, you will find links directly to that vendor.
Don't have a Amazon Prime membership? No problem. Any order over $25 will get these products shipped for free. If you are a college student, Amazon also offers you a FREE Prime membership as long as you have student status. Go you!
Also, this site is connected with Amazon affiliates, so when you click on one of the links, we get a small kickback from Amazon at absolutely no charge to you. If you'd like to say "thanks" for what you learned on this site, you can click into Amazon from one of these links and any purchase you make will help support this site. Some folks have let me know they are bookmarking a link and using it whenever they shop on Amazon! Zowie! I so appreciate your kindness and support in keeping this site growing :-)