Home Brew Hard Cider from Scratch

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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drinkmoretea2 months ago
hey can anyone help me, I'm trying to scale this up to 264 gal~ 1000 L (US), for an ible in the homebrew contest, do you guys reckon you could help me?
isaacwilk3 months ago
I tried this recipe, except with plums... wow. I think I made plum wine instead of cider!! veeerrryy strong! any suggestions to make it more of a fizzy drink (like ginger beer) rather than alcoholic?
chefinblue5 months ago
So I know this is a rather old post but I thought I would mention this. This is my second year making cider now that I live in the PNW and am surrounded by such great apple and pear trees. Currently working on a 5 gallon batch of apple & pear cider. Anyway, after my first wracking I was curious about the sludge at the bottom of my barrel, which smelled really, really good. So I decided to turn it into sourdough starter. So I mixed about 4 cups of the stuff with some extra durbinado sugar, whole wheat flour, dark rye flour, some spices and a little white flour. Covered the container with plastic wrap and then a towel and left it for two days by my wood burning insert for a bit of warmth.

I ended up with a nice, fragrant, bubbly mass that I then used to make two loaves of bread with. The bread is amazing and didn't need any additional yeast for rising. It's dense due to the mixture of flours (again mostly whole wheat and rye..but wow..and it's amazing with some pear butter I made last month. So don't toss your sludge! :)
1whitefeather6 months ago
Good info, have a press made hard cider ummm 7 years or more... if you like it sweet like said in brewers techno terms some what.. When fermentation is complete then pasteurize (maybe again).. pasteurize fresh press cider, add it to the hard cider.... mmmm not so dry any more and you have more of the cider taste. Or use any other type of sweetener (sterile) after pasteurized fermentation. Farmer-T
GxB1 year ago
Apple Jack! And a correction to my previous post(checked my notes). For the 2- 5 gal. batches of hard cider made from the Mac's we used 3 lbs. of brown sugar. In the 5 gal. batch of cider made from Jonathans we used 2 lbs.
We racked all of it a week and a half before Christmas and added Super Kleer KC clarifying agent. The cider clarified very well to a beautiful amber. The Jonathan batch ended up at 7.5% ABV and the Mac batches at 11.75%. We bottled and labeled the Jonathan batch for Christmas presents.

Last night the temperature dropped to -8 so we decided to try making apple jack from 2 gallons of the 11.75% batch. We set it outside in a stainless steel kettle. This morning I skimmed off the ice and the volume was reduced to 1 gallon. I didn't do an SG check, but I assume the ABV is now around 24%. The taste is excellent. You can tell it has a high alcohol content, but it is very smooth, but I also enjoy good bourbon and single malt scotch, so it might not be to everyone's liking. Just another thing to try if you live in a cold climate (or have a freezer). Apparently apple jack was common in the north country during colonial times!
Doopus1 year ago
I used these instructions for my batch of cider (2 1-gallon jugs) with these exceptions: Used organic apple juice (no preservatives) and a Nottingham beer yeast. I'm trying to get more of a sweet, beery cider than a high ABV apple champagne. My beer-brewing buddy suggested "crashing" (refrigerating the brew to stop the fermentation) after about a week, then racking it for another week before bottling/aging. Any comments?
GxB1 year ago
This is our second season of hard cider making. Last year's batch went so well we decided to do 3- 5 gallon batches this year. Pressed mostly Mac's this year , but some Jonathan's and Jonamac's. Pasteurized at 150 for 45 minutes. Added 2 lbs.light brown sugar per 5 gal. Used 1 pkg. EC 1118 yeast per 5 gal. Started fermenting at ~65 degrees. Starting SG of 1.085. So far so good.
Fermentation rate was way slower than last year and after 4 weeks had pretty much stopped. Transferred to glass carboys, SG was ~1.030, or ~6.75% ABV. We wanted to end up with dry still cider at an SG of close to 1, so we added 4 tsp. Yeast Nutrient dissolved in boiled water per 5 gal. It kicked the fermentation into high gear and all the carboys have been bubbling away for a week now.
Just wanted to add this comment in case anybody's fermentation stalls halfway through.
GxB GxB1 year ago
Correction-just looked at my notes. We used 3 lbs. brown sugar per 5 gal.
1Birdman1 year ago
Add a simple syrup based on the volume of cider you have, just prior to bottling. Proportions are available in most wine making/brewing guides.... Make sure the bottles and their caps (swing-top bottles work great for this) can deal with the pressure created from the additional gasses produced from the fermentation taking place after the bottling.
Fluffy Mae2 years ago
Ok, this is my 2nd year of home brew cider. Last year's was delish. I did everything the same way this year except I invested in a 5 gallon carboy and brewed it all at once.

This year it is soooo dry and "alcohol" tasting. I used the same champagne yeast both years plus it was the last pressing of the season...the cider was really sweet! I don't get it? I used 5 lbs of sugar for 5 gallons of cider.

We drank 2 of the 5 gallons over the holidays, it was 4 weeks old and had 2 rackings. It yielded a great buzz w/no hangover but we ended up making spritzers with sprite to really enjoy it.

Is there any way to sweeten it up at this point? It's done brewing (needs to racked again!) and ready to bottle. I'd appreciate any help here! Thank you! :)
Hello Fluffy Mae!
I would be interested to know how you did it last year w/o the 5 gallon carboy, since I am struggling to come by such a thing. Did you simply use a smaller volume carboy (something I already have) and adjust the ingredient amounts accordingly whilst keeping the ratio the same, or did you use a different container?
Thanks for your help! :)
We have a beer/wine making supply store right here in town, so I guess I'm lucky. I just bought the carboy right off the shelf. It was $35.00.

I'm trying to choke down the last of the brew. :( Soooo dry!

As for my process, I did low heat pasteurization for all 5 gallons. Slow and tedious but better than the Camden tablets in my opinion. To the last 2 gallons of hot cider, I dissolved the 5 lbs of sugar. Let it cool, then added the yeast. Topped w/the airlock valve and watched the "party" start. That's it. Rack it every 2 weeks and enjoy.

I'm doing 10lbs of sugar this year. Hope it's better!
bcull2 years ago
I have noticed a number of questions regarding how to get sweet cider versus dry cider. Added more refined sugar (white or brown) is NOT the answer. The issue is whether the type of sugar is fermentable or not and refined sugar ferments completely meaning that there will be no sweetness left after the yeast does its work.

You need to add an unfermentable sugar. When making beer we do this by adding adjuncts that contain sugars that yeast can't ferment. Two unfermentable sugars that we beer brewers us are: Maltodextrin and Lactose. Both will be available in extract form from your local homebrew supplier. The latter, Lactose, will provide a light sweet flavour, akin to what you would taste in milk. You'd want to stay in the 10% range (estimated from your specific gravity readings) and experiment from there. Hope this helps.
pecunium bcull1 year ago
The other, and easier way; when dealing with something like apple juice, is to have more sugars than your yeast can digest.

Champagne yeast has a very high tolerance for alcohol, but a yeast with a lower tolerance (a lager yeast, or a kolsch yeast, etc) will go dormant well before you run out of sugars.

When using beer/ale yeasts you will need to use a yeast nutrient (like FerMax), because fruit juices (or honey, if you choose to use it as an adjunct sweetener; when using a wine yeast) don't have the potassium and nitrogen needed to make strong cells in the reproductive (known as "lag) phase.
78082 years ago
how do i make this stuff at least 30-40 proof?
One easy and legal way to increase the alcohol content to any home made cider or wine is to freeze it. not all of the cider will freeze and what you are able to draw off is mostly a flavored alcohol with a high concentration of what ever sugars are left over after fermentation. What your left with is kind of a poor mans brandy.
55galhard 78082 years ago
You might consider adding grain alcohol to the bottling process, that will put a jump in your step.
waternimf1 year ago
Really very interesting article!
55galhard2 years ago
I have fermented 55gals of cider in one container- ingredients / 12lbs brown sugar/ 10lbs white sugar/ 96 ozs clove honey/ ( 15 pkg ec 1118 yeast), in the basement at roughly 45 degrees. Started 1/16/2011 done 1/29/2012. beginning pa 15% / ending 2% .( scale 1 to 10) sweetness 4 / dryness 5 / tartness 5 / Alcohol taste 8 / I like the darker flavor with br sugar, I had to add a second batch of yeast to finish it off,( no activity) that's were the other 5 pkg came from out of the 15 pkg. The color is a nice amber, it needs to rest for awhile, I bottled 8gal. on 2/27/2012, This only my second time in a barrel, it's quite a choir moving it. hahaha I would suggest 5 gal. pails, for ease of placement and different recipes if you have the room. I'm a new member, I've enjoyed all the comments of the so many home brewers, keep on bubbling!
swesbur2 years ago
Hello there!

I am a first time brewer, and I decided (due to the recommendation of many brewers) to try three micro-batches the first time. Though the suggestion was to use multiple types of apples, we have Haralson trees in our back yard, so I used those for the juice.

After sanitizing the equipment, I filled each of my three gallon carboys with juice from the apples, added 1/2 tsp of pectinase, and a crushed campden tablet, with varying amounts of added sugars (as per other suggestions online).

Question 1: After I added the campden tablets, I covered the carboys (sealed); campden tablets release SO2, which is what kills the microbes. . . was I supposed to not cover them during this step?

For the sugar added, each of my containers were as follows:
A: 1 cup white, 1 cup brown sugar
B: 1 cup white, 1/2 cup brown sugar
C: 1/2 cup white, 1 cup brown sugar

I did not check the pH/gravity of the solutions, as I did not have pH strips, or a hydrometer.

After 2 days, I pitched the yeast (using a Wyeast sweet mead/cider yeast) into each of the 3 containers, after letting it sit for 3 hours (as per instructions) and confirming (by inflation of the bag) that it had been activated.

By the next morning, container C was bubbling at a noticeable rate (about 0.2 hz bubbles), while the other two had no pressure differential (as noticeable per an S airlock). After another day, I pitched additional yeast into both A and B, and waited a day to check them. (at which point C was at about 1 hz bubbles)

A day after the additional pitch, B has started bubbling at a rate of about 0.01 hz (almost unnoticeable) and A has yet to move.

Question 2: What could be causing A or B from taking the cultures?

(A few notes:
I pitched C first from the premade packet, which was made to treat 6 gallons, then B, then A;
though I had shaken the packet of Wyeast yeast, it sat for about 50 seconds before I pitched it;
the packet included nutrient for the yeast;
As I stated before, the S airlocks were in place immediately after the campden tablets were added;
My concerns were mainly that maybe SO2 was still in the environment when I pitched, and that maybe either the yeast or the nutrient in the packet was not evenly distributed through A, B, and C, though an even amount was delivered from the packet to each, due to quick separation (I haven't looked into their relative densities, or anything))

Thank you for your help! ~Steven
You will notice you added 1/2 cup extra of the brown sugar to batch A, The higher levels are retarding the yeast form conversion, add a yeast hulls or some other yeast nutrient to give them a better chance.
Hey S, how did your hard cider turn out? I am getting ready to do this and am wondering! Thanks! Maria.
swesbur swesbur2 years ago
A note: During the original pitch, though I did shake each jug, the locks were still on when I did this. I removed them only momentarily to pitch the yeast, after which point I replaced them. During the second pitch, I removed the airlocks, and shook them for about a minute each.
I had some of that expensive Martinelli's cider, and added yeast a while back. It sat and sat. I thought it would be spoiled, but it was par with a $1200 bottle of wine a friend smuggled into the USA back in about 1983. I am OK with some high end beer, but think most alcoholic beverages are awful. I got a cap crimper years ago at a Goodwill store when I was trying to brew beer. The cider turned out great. I was unsure if it had done it's thing, was rotten, or good. My dad had died a couple weeks before, and he knew more about what was going on with it than I did. It tasted so sweet, and not much of the alcohol yuckiness was there if any. After about 20 fl oz, I was ready for bed. I did wake rather hung over. I only drink maybe every year, or two. Sometimes I will drink every couple months, but that is the most frequent since about 1995. I guess that makes me a lightweight.LOL. Wilcox Az. grows apples, but they are nothing I would call great. I am in Phoenix Az. I still have my airlock breathers and other brewing stuff. I got about 12% alcohol, and a great tasting beverage. Dad started this small batch. It is sparkling hard cider. Since he is gone I checked this site out. Thanks!
dstowell2 years ago
I followed this recipe very well, I thought, however I'm about a week and a half into fermenting and there is no activity in my airlock :( I never had a "vigorous" bubble, or had frothy foam, just subtle movement and a bubble every 5-10 seconds out of the airlocks. Did I perhaps not add enough yeast? Does it ruin the batch to add more activated yeast in now, even though the jugs have been sitting for a while? Any help is appreciated!
ka9qfj dstowell2 years ago
I wouldn't fret just yet. My bubble interval went from 12 seconds yesterday to 15 today, after 6 days in the carboy. I think you're doing fine. One thing I did do with this batch was to add 1lb. brown sugar (dissolved in hot water) to 2gal. unpasteurized cider. More sugary goodness for the yeasties. One packet of yeast is good for a 5gal batch. I'd watch the airlock a little longer, and pay attention to the bottom to see if sediment is building up, or if your potion is looking clearer over time. Remember, if you had a good bubble going on for a few days, the potion is in an anaerobic environment. Nothing icky can grow on the surface, TTBOMK. Good Luck!
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.
qdurrett2 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 qdurrett2 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!
Leeeeen2 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.
jconway13 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)  jconway13 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 ( , 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)  jconway13 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.

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