Introduction: Homebrewed Hard Cider - the Easy Way
Ok, in this instructable, you'll make 5 gallons of tasty sparkling hard cider. This is often called apple wine, or apfelwein. It usually costs me about $20 to make a 5 gallon batch, which is about 2 cases of cider.
Step 1: Equipment
First, the equipment. Most of this comes from your homebrew supply store, although you can also try craigslist:
1) 5 gallon bottle (carboy) - this is what you'll ferment in.
2) Funnel (the one that comes from the homebrew store has some ridges on it that allow it to have a bit of airflow around the base of the funnel - this is a good thing - if you get a regular funnel, then you'll have to hold it slightly above the mouth of the carboy)
3) 1 hole stopper (usually a 6.5 size, but get the right size for YOUR carboy's hole)
5) measuring cup
Step 2: Ingredients
Now, assemble your ingredients:
1) 5 gallons of apple juice from the grocery - the cheapest you can buy - WITHOUT potassium sorbate (check the ingredients - should be only water & apples. ascorbic acid is OK, but not sorbate - sorbate kills yeast, so if it has sorbate, it won't ferment.) I usually can find it in 1 gallon jugs for about $3.50 per gallon = $17.50
2) corn sugar (dextrose) - you'll need 2 pounds. I usually buy 5 pound bags from my homebrew supplier. Table sugar works, but corn sugar ferments cleaner. You can experiement with a mix of half and half table to corn sugar, if you want. The sugar will cost maybe $3 or even less.
3) 1 packet of wine or champagne yeast from your homebrew supplier. I recommend Red Star Montrachet Wine Yeast or Red Star Premier Curvee. Another option would be Red Star Pasteur Champagne. This shouldn't cost more than $1.50.
Step 3: Clean & Sanitize
Sanitize your carboy and equipment. This is VERY important. Bacteria in your cider will create nasty flavors.
I use Starsan (also from your homebrew supply shop). Starsan is a "no rinse" sanitizer, so it's easy to use. Just follow the instructions on the container.
You can also use bleach and water - use about a tablespoon of bleach to 1 gallon of water. If you do this be SURE to rinse VERY WELL after sanitizing.
I keep a 5 gallon bucket on the side that I keep my equipment in - soaking in sanitizer - until they're ready to use.
Step 4: Make the Cider
First sanitize the carboy, airlock, funnel, stopper or carboy cap.
(you did that already, right?)
1) set aside 1 cup of corn sugar. Put it in a tupperware or ziploc bag. You'll use it later.
2) Open one gallon bottle of apple juice and pour half of it into the carboy using the funnel.
3) Pour 2 cups of corn sugar into the now half full bottle of apple juice-using your funnel. Shake well.
4) Repeat Steps 2 and 3, then go to step 5.
5) Pour in the mixture of Apple Juice and Sugar from both bottles into the carboy.
6) Add all but 1 quart of remaining 3 gallons of apple juice to the carboy.
7) Open the packet of Yeast and pour it into the neck of the funnel.
8) Use the remaining quart of juice to wash down any yeast that sticks. I am able to fit all but 3 ounces of apple juice into a 5 gallon Bottle. You may need to be patient to let the foam die down from all shaking and pouring. It's ok fill the bottle fairly full. The wine yeast doesn't create big bubbles.
9) Put your stopper or carboy cap on with an airlock and fill the airlock with water.
Step 5: Ferment
after you've put on the airlock, then put the carboy in a dark corner at about 70 degrees. Leave it alone for about 3 weeks.
During this time, you'll notice that the juice goes from clear to cloudy, and bubbles rise to the surface. This is the yeast fermeting the sugars in the juice. Yes, it will be a bit smelly, especially during the first week.
a layer of yeast will form at the bottom of the carboy. this is normal.
You'll know it's done when the juice becomes clear again. After it clears, leave it alone for another week or so, just to make sure everything's fermented. It takes almost exactly 3 weeks to clear, and another week to be certain, so basically, leave it alone for 4 weeks.
Step 6: Bottle
Now it's time to bottle. During this step, you'll add that cup of sugar you saved back 4 weeks ago, which will create a new tiny fermentation, which will create the carbon dioxide in the bottled cider.
You need a few new things at this point too:
1) pan to boil the sugar in + some water
2) another 5 gallon container - a bottling bucket or another carboy. Use a FOOD GRADE container, not some lame bucket from the hardware store.
3) a 3/8" hose from the homebrew shop
4) a racking cane from the homebrew shop
5) a bottling wand ...yes, from the homebrew shop
6) a bottle capper (guess where you get that?)
7) about 55 bottle caps (new ones, from the homebrew shop)
8) the sugar
9) your handy sanitizer
10) your funnel
11) about 55 clean and sanitized bottles
12) a bottle brush to clean your bottles.
Step 7: Getting Ready to Bottle
first, clean and sanitize your bottles. I find bottles in the recycling. These need to be soaked and scrubbed out with the bottle brush. I find that One-Step (another type of no-rinse sanitizer) does a great job of cleaning, taking off the lables and sanitizing all in one go.
Second, boil the 1 cup of sugar in about 2 pints of water. Boil for 10 min.
Sanitize your bottle caps in some sanitizer. I put them in a bowl to soak while I do other things
Sanitize your funnel and the bottling bucket (or second carboy).
Sanitize your hose, racking cane and bottling wand.
If you have a second carboy, use the funnel to pour the sugar water into the carboy. If you have a bucket, just put the sugar water in the bottom.
Step 8: Siphoning the Cider...
Now, you will siphon the cider from the carboy to the bottling bucket (or second carboy).
1) place the full carboy on the countertop.
2) Place the racking cane (with the tip on it) into the full carboy.
3) Fill the hose with clean water and hold your thumb over both ends.
4) place the cooled saucepan on the floor, next to the bottling bucket/carboy.
5) attach one end of the hose to the racking cane.
6) with your thumb still over the open end of the hose, lower it to the sauce pan.
Now, the water will start flowing, and bring the cider along with it. When the cider starts to flow into the sauce pan, put your thumb back over the hose, and then put it into the bottling bucket.
Allow it to siphon carefully. The siphoning action will mix the sugar through the cider. When it's done siphoning, take the racking cane out of the now-empty carboy, remove the tip, and place the cane into the full container.
Step 9: Bottling
Now it's time to bottle.
Lift the full bottling bucket/carboy up to the countertop. Arrange your bottles nearby, open ends up!
Repeat the siphoning process, except this time, attach the bottling wand to the end of the siphon hose. The bottling wand can turn the flow on and off, and therefore help you fill the bottles.
After you've got the siphon started, just go ahead and fill all the bottles, leaving about 1" of clear space at the top.
NOTE: if there's a big air bubble in the siphon hose, just tap it until the bubble comes down the line and out. If you loose the siphon, just start again.
Step 10: Capping.
Now it's time to cap all those bottles. the capper's pretty easy to use, so I won't explain it here.
Step 11: Aging
Mostly, you need to leave the cider alone for a week or two, to let the bottling sugar do it's work and carbonate the cider.
In this time, the yeast that was roused up through the bottling process will also fall to the bottom of the bottles.
Letting cider age for 6 months or more will improve it's taste, but it'll be good even after a week or two.
Let it age for at least 2 weeks at room temp. Colder temps will stop the fermentation and you won't get carbonation.
Step 12: Drinking
Don't drink too much - cider can sneak up on you! Don't say I didn't warn you.
When you drink the cider, pour it carefully into a glass. Leave about 1/2" behind in the bottle, so you don't pour yeast into the glass.
Nothing wrong w/the yeast, it just makes the cider cloudy and changes the flavor a bit. it's actually really good for you - full of B vitamins.