Picture of Home Brew Hard Cider from Scratch
Now that it's fall and the apples are ripe in my neck of the woods (New Hampshire), I thought I'd share a recipe for home brew hard cider. It's a very simple first-time home brew and it's very rewarding. I've never liked the taste of beer or any other alcohol for that matter, but a good cider is hard not to like.

Firstly, this Instructable will explain the process for producing all natural, organic, 100% hand made hard cider, an alcoholic beverage made through fermentation of apple cider.

This is for instructional and educational purposes only and should not be attempted by anyone under the age of 21. State laws may prohibit home brewing in your are. Brewing cider involves the use of active yeast culture, which may cause some food allergies and, as always when home brewing, there is always the possibility of contamination. Sterilize all containers and tools and use only fresh ingredients. And always drink responsibly.

Now that that's out of the way, let me explain the basic process. First you get a lot of apples and juice them/press them, etc. or buy a lot of apple cider (this recipe is for 1 gallon of cider). There are two basic methods after you've procured fresh, unpasteurized apple cider:
1. Put the apple cider into a container with a vapor lock and let the wild yeast that occurs naturally in apples ferment the juice into booze. (This takes a very long time and yields unpredictable results, but if you want simplicity, it doesn't get much easier than this. My instructable will deal mostly with option 2)
2. Pasteurize the apple cider with heat or Campden Tablets and then add brewers yeast (champagne yeast works well) with yeast nutrient and put it in a container with a vapor lock (takes less time to ferment and will yield a more stable cider)

In addition, just to clarify, there are 3 primary apple beverages that will be discussed here (not including applejack or apple brandy)

Apple cider - Unfiltered apple juice that contains oxidized pulp, resulting in brown coloration. Comes in many pasteurized and unpasteurized varieties.
Hard Cider (Or just Cider) - Alcoholic beverage fermented with yeast from Apple Cider
Apple Juice - In this country, Apple juice refers to ultra-filtered apple-cider that has been watered down and supplemented with other sweeteners (Such as Motts, Juicy Juice, etc.)

Terminology varies from place to place, which is why it is important to specify.
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I just kegged my last batch of cider (2 - 5galon batches this year). It took about 3-4 weeks to ferment them. I kegged the first one after it stopped fermenting. unfortunately it's a little sweet. The second one i added some fermentis safeale US-05 when it stopped fermenting and it finished out much better. So the addition of yeast shouldn't hurt it. If your doing a small batch you might end up with a little of a yeasty bread smell to it but it's not too bad. Depending on how much sugars your adding, you might want to make a starter next time. We use a ratio of 1lb. white table sugar and 1lb. light brown sugar per gallon of cider to make ours and i made a 1/2 gallon starter with liquid yeast WYeast 4632 dry mead. I might try Champaign yeast next time and see if it finishes better. Oh yeah, first batch was 9.8%ABV and the second was 11.8%ABV and tasted much better IMHO.
I wouldn't think that it would be a problem to add more yeast. Before you add more yeast I would shake up the cider to get oxygen in there again. I've only brewed beer and am looking to try cider and wine. After reading this there are a few things / points that I would change.
You have to stir up the cider after before you add the yeast. This ensures that oxygen is in whatever you are trying to ferment. Yeast need oxygen for the aerobic phase of fermentation. That's where they consume the oxygen and multiply.
Another important note is to make sure that the temperature of the liquid is 78 deg f or lower before you pitch / add the yeast.
I would not add table sugar or brown sugar. If you want to increase alcohol level I would add extra light dry malt extract which you can get at a home brew store. The yeast can handle this sugar a lot better than table sugar.
feel free to add more yeast. most of the inactive yeast will fall to the bottom during brewing anyway. The reason it did not get started could be a few reasons. Not proper oxygen flow, temp at time of pitch. but the one i encounter a bit which is extremely important is keeping the carboy at room temp throughout the first 24 hrs at least after your pitch. It is the most important time in the brew. You need to get the yeast working. After 12-24 hrs you should see the most action.
I have only used white sugar in the past. This year we will be trialing four demijons of the same batch one with white one with brown one with glucose & i will try your surgestion of malt extract. We have found about 4lb/gallon is about right for our dry to medium taste.
Am wondering about how the big boys do it. If they are limited to a volume of apples wont they make it into a high alcohol cider, let it mature then dilute it down to around the 5-8% mark??
Anyone any info on this???
Yeah, after I wrote that I went back and read up on sugars in my home brew book. White sugar is very fermentable. I had just never seen it in a beer recipe. The book said using white sugar can lead to cidery tastes - which in hard cider is not an issue.
For the alcohol content I assume that cider is similar to beer (and wine) in that it all has to do with the sugar content before and after the fermentation. I'm sure the big companies know exatcly what the sugar content needs to be to make a consistent product and they adjust it every time.
If you have a hydrometer you can measure the specific gravity before and after fermentation to calculate the alcohol content. I don't know how fermentable all the natural sugars are in cider. A beer with a starting gravity of ~1.05 will be around 5% alcohol when finished. To adjust gravity / sugar content - add 1 pound of sugar to raise gravity ~0.005.
If you have 4 batches to make - maybe try different starting gravities and see where they end up.
qdurrett3 years ago
Cider issue>
After pitching my yeast, I stored my carboy in my closet over night but the temps got a bit cold (mabe 65f max) now nothing is happening no bubbles in my airlock. What should i do?
ka9qfj qdurrett3 years ago
IMHO, I'd let it go a while longer. I've had the same thing happen, thinking I did something wrong. But, after a day or so I began to see activity. Seems my beer wort always took off faster than the cider does. Further, I think you're OK on the temp issue. Lager beer is fermented super cold (<40F) for a LOOOONG time. Months. So I don't think you killed your yeasties. Hang in and see what happens. One thing I do from day to day is time the airlock "burp" interval time from day to day just to get an idea of what might be going on. Good Luck!
Leeeeen3 years ago
Hi, a newbie here...

I just bottled my first-ever four bottles of hard cider. Now that they're capped, the flavor will no longer change, correct? I'd like to try aging it longer, but if capping is the end of it, then I'll just go ahead and put 'em in the fridge! Thanks.
jconway14 years ago
Hiya, I have just started "messing" with the brewing of cider. I live in Brazil and it's not a very common hobby here so I have a few questions for you guys.
1) what can I use in place of "campden tabs" to carbonate my cider.
2) can I "make" a hygrometer?... or will I have to buy it on the internet?
3) when you say "entire" packet of yeast do you mean 10 grammes?

Please help gang... it looks like you are having an awful lot of fun and I would like to join in.
I've been brewing cider for a couple of years now. Start simple. I began by using the 1 gal. pasteurized apple juice jugs that they come in from the store. I add 1/2 tsp. of bakers yeast (any more than that and it will taste like bread) and 2 1/2 cups of granulated sugar per gallon. Make sure you pour off enough of the juice to get all the sugar in without allowing it to overflow. Shake it up good; it should begin to ferment within 24 hrs. I don't even use an airlock; just crack the caps of the jugs enough to allow the gasses to escape. I usually allow this concoction to ferment from 7 to 10 days before racking. If you are careful not to jostle the jugs too much, most of the sediment will have settled and your cider can be consumed shortly after refrigerating. Some would say that this method is crude and more like a prison made "applejack" but it is a good way to start building your own recipe.
I have found the alcohol content and flavor can be amended simply by adjusting the amount and types of sugar and adding different types of fresh fruit. Trying to make everything too complicated tends to make everything, well...too complicated. Good luck!
actsofsubterfuge (author)  jconway14 years ago
Glad to hear you're getting into brewing cider in Brazil! Maybe you'll start a national trend. I'll see if I can answer your questions;
1. Campden tablets are used to pasteurize your cider, not to carbonate them. I think you're thinking of carbonation tablets sometimes used in beer brewing. You can use heat to sterilize your cider, as I suggested in the recipe, or you can order Campden tabs. For carbonation, you can use priming sugar or carbonation tabs, but you will want to calculate the specific gravity/alcohol content in order to use the right amount -- otherwise you'll have bombs on your hands. There are some good comments on carbonation and priming sugar on this thread and some even better resources out there online. It's a tricky business and I'm not necessarily the most qualified person out there :)
2. Making a hydrometer is relatively easy (http://www.ecawa.asn.au/home/jfuller/liquids/hydrometers.htm) , but it can be tricky to calibrate. I would recommend either buying one online, or simply winging it by following the recipe exactly :)
3. The yeasts that I typically use come in 5 gram packs and are good for 5 gallons of wort, but every yeast is different. If you don't have access to champagne or white wine or cider yeast, you can probably make do with something else, but I can't say from experience how much will be effective. Fortunately the amount of yeast that you use is not of great importance, as long as you're somewhere in the ballpark. Way too little yeast may take longer to get going, and way too much yeast will result in more silt/yeasty flavor, but unless you're way off, you probably won't notice a difference.

Hope that helped. My advice would be not to worry about it to much your first time. Cider is a very easy and cheap beverage to ferment and you can always improve your technique over multiple batches.
That's great... thankyou very much for your swift reply, it's lovely to see an Author still in-touch with his/her blog.

I'm making a list of needs now and off shopping for basic parts tommorow. I've got 5lit water jugs to start with and will end up making a vapour lock of some description (heh), but thanks a million for the Hydrometer site.

As far as yeast goes I've had to start with cooking yeast (which is bubbling away nicely) and one site that I looked at suggested a very heavy dose, but I like the idea of an approximate 1gram/ gallon of wort, that sounds more like it.

Am I right in thinking that with a yeast and "yeast nutrient" (please explain the difference) I'll be looking at about 3 months till I'm drinking it?... when can I start tasting it? ... heheh, sorry, a little too eager maybe!

I'm going to re-read your blog, but thanks again... you've opened my eyes to a whole new game ;)

actsofsubterfuge (author)  jconway14 years ago
Oh right, forgot to mention the yeast nutrient :)

Yeast nutrient is made of food-grade dehydrated urea. It's not needed, but it contains nutrients (ammonium ions) that keep the yeast healthy and productive. Probably something you'll want to pass rather than make yourself.

I haven't used cooking/baking yeast, but I know it can be done. Between 1-2 grams per gallon should do the trick.
Fantastic, thanks again.

Some friends are sending me some toys from the UK to help with the first couple of Batches. I hope to get the various campden tablet ingredient and Yeast types copied and batched by a pharmacy here... then we're off... till then baking yeast will do.
for the carbonation i use 2/3 cup of corn sugar for every 5 gallons, so for a 1 gallon it would be about 2 tablespoons of sugar. this is assuming that the residual sugars are gone.
Guys this is really good feedback. I've been advertising my new game here and tommorrow morning at 5am I'm being taken to the Farmers Export Market in the Capital city where I hope to find decent amounts of "granny smiths"... this is just a dream gone wild for me... "I'm lovin' it" heheheh.
jdowd13 years ago
Excellent instructions, I got a half-bushel of 2nd-quality Cortland apples for about $7 and picked up supplies from Northern Brewer (locations in Milwaukee and Twin Cities, MN with a mail order service) including Cider Yeast from Wyeast Laboratories--with nutrient included! About a day after pitching my yeast I had a blowout (I wish I was home to see it!) and my housesitter helped me clean apple pulp from the cabinets, floor, and ceiling of the kitchen. To prevent this, I reccomend straining your juice--even a juicer or press will leave a good amount of pulp that will float above the yeast and clog your vapor locks.

The apples gave me two half-gallons of apple cider and I've yet to rack and taste the results. I'm going to try pears next and will share the results, but I'll stain it first and leave the carboys inside a dark garbage bag or large cooler to ensure any blowouts are contained.
dowtcha3 years ago
Great thread. I'm just starting out, I've read all the comments but still have a few questions:
1. I want to add pectic enzyme (to clarify), can I add this at the same time as the Campden tabs?
2. How long should it sit with the pectic enzyme before adding my fermenting yeast?
Looking forward to this and thanks for all the great tips.
not sure on your order of questions.
You should add your yeast when you press the apples to make sure you have a good starting fermentation.
If you are going to use campton tabs then they are for stopping any small amount of fermentation before you bottle the cider. unless you want some sparkle in it.
Have a look at the different finished ciders, ie conditioned, non conditioned, still, sparkling.
I dont add anthing but yeast & sugar in different amounts.
Am going to a cider festival at the wknd to ask lots of questions, hopefully i will remember the answers after lots of tasting!!! will let ye all know about any cider secrets!!!
I used the campden tabs right after pressing to kill off wild yeasts, and then a day or so later added a champagne yeast for fermentation. all is well so far, still bubbling away. I want it sparkling so once primary fermentation is over I'll probably bottle with a little dextrose. Someone told me that the dextrose leaves a sediment in your bottles, even with the most careful racking - is there anyway to minimize or get rid of sediment in bottles?

(btw Iadded pectic enzyme to one batch and it hasn't impacted fermentation at all. i'll let you know how the final product looks).
lbragg dowtcha3 years ago
qdd your pectic enzyme when you start
pegonaleg3 years ago
ive just started brewing cider and have put 3 gallons into a intial fermentation bin and have added the yeast yesterday. The lid and and is now clearly fermenting and the lid if bowed. is it going to blow and should i release the gas!!!!!!!!
much appreciate your advice.
ps i have been advised to leave it in there for 5 to 9 days, any other suggestions.
Yes!!! Release the air asap.....your cider should have an air bleed on continuously to release the gases that accumulate while fermenting!! Buy an airlock or throw a balloon over the top, anything that keeps it SEALED and allows air to GO SOMEWHERE!
it probley let it self go by now you should have put an air lock on your primary fermentor
jcoyne23 years ago
ok so when im ready for the second stage what do i do with the sediment ...... can i squeez out the liquid thankx
mitchlu4 years ago
I stored about 12 liters of cider for two weeks and I just finished transporting the liquid into bottles. All the sediment was at the bottom and there were no bubbles after two weeks. I decided to let the cider age in corked wine bottles.

The problem is that my cider tastes quite tart after two weeks and I am afraid it will turn into vinegar. Is this common? Will the cider get sweeter with time? Is there anything I can do? I did put about 7 cups of brown and white sugar into the cider before fermentation.
I imagine this is fairly common. My first batch of cider didn't finish fermenting all the way before it was bottled so it stayed carbonated, but much of the sugar from the apple juice had fermented to alcohol. Of course this means that the tart flavour from your apples (or apple juice) remains behind without the sugar to mitigate the sourness (this is why commercial ciders are rarely sold dry, Woodchuck comes to mind). On the other hand I didn't use nearly as much sugar as you the first time around...

The only way your cider could technically become apple cider vinegar is if bacteria find their way into your cider and start munching on the sugars or alcohol. Provided your corks are intact and your wine bottles were clean when you put your cider in, you should be fine.

However, I've noticed that if you let your cider (or any other fermenting beverage) sit on the sediment for too long you'll begin to notice off flavors. This could be contributing to your cider's flavor as well. I may've racked my cider three or four times the first time around trying to get rid of sediment.
Use an artifical sweetner to make it sweeter, like Sugar Twin available in a liquid form. "Real" sugar can cause it to ferment again and you want to avoid that.
I'm making one-gallon's worth of cider, used a package of yeast and, as one commenter also found, the initial fermentation completed by the fourth day. Now that I've racked and am waiting for fermentation to finish and for the taste to (presumably, I haven't tasted yet) get better, can I go ahead and just start tasting every day and decide when to bottle based on the taste?
This is far too late to be posting a reply but for others you can't go by taste at this point. The taste will change quite a bit for the finished product. Your best bet to see if its done fermenting is to get a specific gravity gauge (looks like a floating thermometer) and once you have 3 days in a row where the reading hasn't changed your good to go. You can either bottle of Keg it at this point. Enjoy!
mbalcer3 years ago
I have found that making hard cider can be a great experience…. Here is the sight I get all my stuff from…

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jconway14 years ago
also... please could someone describe "yeast nutrient" to me... I don't have a "home brew" shop near by and I'm going to have to build a small brewery for this project from scratch, which will also be fun... but I'm trying to cross a lovely crisp Cider with about 3 months brewing... if that's possible... but I think I'm going to have to batch my own nutrients gramme for gramme and use a bread yeast to begin with. Any ideas?
i have been making cider for years until like 3 years ago when they passed this stupid law where it has to be pasturized now. if i wanted apple juice i would buy it in the store.lol. anyway if you can press your apples on your own without having it pasturized you do not need any yeast or yeast nutrients at all. the bacteria in the cider is what makes it work and then the sugars you add turn to alcohol. i add 1 1/2 pounds of sugar per gallon of cider. i use a 14 gallon demilume glass jug so i add 12 gallons of cider then white sugar 12lbs and then brown sugar 6lbs and then a juice concentrate and a couple other ingredients. then place all in my jug put the bubbler on top and let it work. when its done bubbling i bottle it. i tried it with yeast and i didnt care for it at all. it worked way to fast and tasted like crap. so me and my uncle built a homemade press and now the hard cider making resumes. hope this helps.
You should try a couple different yeast strains. If you used bread yeast I would be certain it tasted like crap. I use Premier Cuvee wine yeast for a dry cider and US-05 ale yeast for a less dry cider.

I have been brewing cider and wines for a few years (perry, apple cider, peach cider). I strongly suggest that you use a cider yeast if you want to preserve more of an apple flavor. I have used various forms of yeast in the past, and none are as good as cider yeast, especially if you are making cider, not apple wine (i.e. as long as the alcohol content is under 8%). If you are making apple wine, use the champagne yeast or cote de blanc. Stay away from beer yeasts. Moreover, certain yeasts will die and not function once the alcohol content is over a certain level, so NO BREAD YEAST!!!

Wyeast has a great liquid cider yeast that includes the nutrient.

Hydrometers, PET bottles, air-locks, stoppers, and fermentation buckets are not expensive. If you are going to invest the time to make cider, you should invest the money. There is nothing like waiting months to drink cider, and having to pitch the batch because you cut corners. Trust me, my wife has complained about the amount of $$ that I pour down the drain being impatient/ cutting corners.

Making cider is fun and a hobby that will make you a superstar amongst your friends (trust me). Just keep notes, do sufficient research, and don't cut corners.

P.S. You can make your own equipment. However, it is difficult to do so if you do not have a sufficient frame of reference.

If you can't find yeast nutrient you can just get a handful of raisins and put them in some boiling water. While they are boiling smash them with a fork. You will end up with some brown raisin water when your done. This will supply the yeast with enough nutrients.....you can also use dates
darrenct835 years ago
Has anyone ever tried adding a priming sugar and bottling in beer bottles to get a carbonated cider like "Hornsby's"?
Yes and no.  I actually just bottled my cider before my fermentation was completely done (I'd tested with a hydrometer, the batch was at roughly .02) so it stayed carbonated.  I bottled in 12 oz plastic bottles though.

My question would be this; if you're bottling in beer bottles and your cider is primed, can you just measure off 12 oz with a measuring cup and pour that volume into your bottles without having to worry about bottle bombs?  I don't have a bottler or racking cane, and I'm not sure if this is accurate enough to keep my bottles from exploding.
If you let your cider finish to FG and add 4 oz corn sugar per 5 gal you wont have to worry about bottle bombs
use a hydrometer to calculate starting gravity and finished gravity
when it stops working it should be finished
You can get flip top bottles like this:

A bit expensive to start with but they are nice to have in general. You can also usually find 1 liter ones for fairly cheap.

I would use a food-grade plastic tube rather than a measuring cup, and fill from the bottom of the bottle up--prevents too much oxidation.
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