Instructables

Homebrewed hard cider - the easy way

Picture of 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.

 
 
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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)
4) airlock
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.
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Djinn41 year ago
Hi, I'm getting ready to make this and I was wondering if it will end up with a sweet or dry taste if made to the instructions. If it is dry, can you give any instructions on how I can make it ugh a more sweet taste? Thank you.
dsisson (author)  Djinn41 year ago
It will be dry. Yeast eats any sugars and turns them into alcohol. Commercial cider that is sweet has been pasturized (killing the yeast) and back sweetened with sugar.

When beer making people sometimes add milk sugar (non fermentable) to make it sweet. Don't know how it would taste in this.
Does it have an alcoholic smell to it? my friend (who may or may not be legal drinking age) and I were contemplating making this and selling it to his 'aquaintances' but we were wondering if it had a strong smell of alcohol. If so, would cloves and cinnamon cover that smell? We were just wondering if the smell could turn some people away, like becasue its not the 'tim hortons' style apple cider.
dsisson (author)  FunkNattidelic5 years ago
well, let's approach this 2 ways. 1) in some(but not all) states it's legal for underage people to do everything but put the yeast in - therefore, there are some underage homebrewers who essentially assist an older/legal person with the process. I don't condone anything illegal, but check the laws in your state. 2) regarding the taste of apfelwein - it isn't necessarily "alcoholic" in smell or flavor, but it doesn't taste like apple juice either - it's closer in flavor to a dry champagne or dry white wine - so I suppose it does taste "alcoholic" in that sense. It does not taste like a commercial cider (which are usually very sweet). 3) and ... in the US at least ... it's ILLEGAL in every state to make your own hooch and sell it, regardless of your age. 4) I don't know about cloves/cinnamon or not. I suspect it won't get the exact result you are looking for, but you are welcome to experiment!
Well, i live in canada, and i can never find the laws and such for my province! =P

i have looked numerous times for laws regarding explosives, and i always just assume its the same as the states.

And, wow, i never knew that putting yest in juice could be illegal... its so simple... =P its kind of amusing how simple it is to make alcohol, and the fact that there is only one part that is illegal for underage people, is the part i find the most amusing. Like, yeast is the most available ingrediant i could find. I actually had more trouble finding apple juice that had no preservatives. I bought everything all at once, and they didnt question what i was doing... although, it was 1 in the morning, and my friend and i were at the grocery store with a respirator/gas mask and a paintball mask on... i guess they have alot of strange purchases there at that time... =P

Anyway, thank you for the help, im about 4 days into the brewing, and it tastes pretty good, its the closest cider to the tim hortons stuff that ive ever had... although, tim hortons doesn't make it alcoholic... wow, i can get off topic.

The cloves and cinnamon give it a really warm flavour, its really nice, i would definitely recommend it. But cloves are powerful, i only put a pinch of them into 2L and its pretty strong.

actually in the US it *IS* legal for any citizen 21 or older to make non-distilled alcohol in their home - up to 200 gallons per year for personal comsumption, not sale. the selling requires a beverage license and those are hard to get especially if you have to do the lottery for one. This right is constitutionally protected and explicitly stated in the 19th Amendment which repealed Prohibition..

That all aside, the instructable looks look and well thought out. -- bread, non-rapid rise yeast will also work... but has a different taste of course.
the 19th ammendment gave women the right to vote.... ?
Kozz dsisson4 years ago
In terms of cloves or other spices, it actually might not be a bad idea to treat them like other "steep-ables" when brewing beer -- put whole cloves or other whole spices (not ground!!) in a mesh bag (aka "sock") during a brief boil (or at least heating) of the cider prior to putting it into the carboy. The one thing I would wonder about is any possibilities of certain spices inhibiting growth of the yeast and acting like a preservative -- more research needed, I suppose. Do you suppose the "dryness" of this recipe could be reduced by choosing a slightly different yeast, and would you have any suggestions on that front?
dsisson (author)  Kozz4 years ago
I might try doing a brief boil (10 min) in say 1/2 gallon of juice - that'd kill any bacteria that'd be on the cloves, etc, but not kill the taste of the apple juice. , then, you could drop the whole thing in the carboy, or just the boiled juice, depends on how strong you want the clove flavor etc. I've never heard of any natural ingredient stopping yeast from doing their thing. I mean, hops are a natural preservative, and they sure don't stop the yeast from fermenting beer! You might try an ale yeast (like nottingham) to change the flavor. The wine yeast will ferment it down further than beer yeast would. However, it's difficult to get something to taste "sweet" when yeast eats all the sugar they possibly can! One possiblity would be to make a mead/cider mix (I forget what that's called) - the honey can give a sweet flavor, even when actually quite dry.
When I was in college, the food sciences building sold fresh pressed cider every fall. With each purchase they included a page that explained how to make hard cider with your purchase. They sold it non-pasteurized by the gallon in glass jugs. Pasteurized cider sold in the store requires adding yeast. Here's how to do it easier and cheaper if you can get non-pasteurized cider.

Take about two cups of cider from the gallon jug, and stir in about a cup of plain white sugar. Drink the two cups of side you removed. Place a balloon over the top of your gallon jug and tape it down to prevent it from coming off.

Place the jug in a cool dark place. Swirl or gently shake the jug each day until you start to see the balloon starting to inflate. Keep an eye on the balloon for the next few days. If you are worried about the balloon popping, place a couple of pieces of tape on the balloon making an "X". carefully poke a hole through the center of the tape "X" with a pin.( I've never had the balloon get full enough to worry me so I never had to do this)

After a few days the balloon will start to deflate. Wait until it's nearly limp and falling over. Then remove the balloon. Take a small taste. If it doesn't taste good and instead has mold on the surface, toss it. You got some kind of contamination. If it tastes good, then add another half cup of sugar and stir. Add a fresh balloon over the top and wait for another week. You should see the balloon inflate, then over a few days deflate again.

This time, remove the balloon and take another taste. You should now find a strong alcohol taste, with a small amount of "fizz" to it. Normally the alcohol runs about 5-6% and can go up to 8% depending on the natural yeasts in the cider.

The "fizz" was formed by the balloon capturing the CO2 being released by the yeast during fermentation and forcing it back into solution under the pressure of the balloon.

I've had many friends make this and I did this for several years before I turned 21. Backs of closets, dark basement corners or any cool dark place my parents didn't look became places to brew hard cider.

Enjoy!
Speidumb5 years ago
I thought this was supposed to be the easy way... There sure are a lot of steps and items I'd have to have to do this. I'd suggest swapping the glass carboy for a new 5 gallon bucket. That would shave a good deal of cost off the project. I know, it's not "Food Safe," but neither is eating dirt, and I survived doing that as a kid. I actually made some hard cider this year - apples from a local orchard, juiced and pitched with no extra sugars, using bakers yeast in a 1 gallon beer growler. It's cloudy, but it packs one heck of a punch.
dsisson (author)  Speidumb5 years ago
I've been very careful to describe each step, however the making takes about 10 minutes, and the bottling about 1 hour - I think reading the instructions may be more of a time investment than actually making it.

Yes, a regular bucket will work, but the plastic tends to allow oxygen through, so it may impart off flavors to the cider. (same story with a 5 gallon plastic 'water bottles')

A plastic food grade fermenter is cheaper than a glass carboy, and would work fine. You can get food grade plastic buckets from most resturants for free, so keep your costs low that way.

If you want to test this recipe without all the costs, try fermenting a gallon of cider in it's own plastic bottle with a cup of sugar. Then, drink it 'still' (IE: with no carbonation). That shaves several steps off this recipe.

The type of yeast does make a huge difference in the final product - if you care to test flavor differences AND kick =)
Be extremely careful with those restaurant buckets.  Generally they contained things like pickles or dishwasher chemical and you'll never remove the smell.  That smell will translate to, at best, dill-pickle-flavoured hooch, and at worst, 5 gallons of vinegar (that acetobacter is nearly impossible to remove).  Also, you want to see your product as it's working, and that's impossible with plastic.

I kicked like crazy about spending money on equipment when i started fermenting stuff a few years ago, but good stuff greatly improves the odds of good results.   My equipment investment has totaled maybe $80 in 4 years, but it's way more than paid for itself in hassle-free, consistent, YUMMY wine, cider, and mead.  You pretty much only need to buy equipment once, and once you taste your quality product, you WILL want to do it again.
Mead?? how about a instructable on that? I have been thinking about making some for way too long and now lack only the ability.

also on the cider note, no need to stop with just great hard cider, freeze that stuff and ditch the ice. whats left is called apple jack and has whole new level of punch. check your local laws to make sure ice distilling is legal where you are.
Ohhh, i like the applejack idea!  I made 4 gallons of cider following approximately this recipe (i have a source for fresh-pressed that i can order w/o K sorbate) and it ROCKS--THANKS, DSISSON!  Next fall i plan to make more and maybe freeze-distill some of that.  What's the approximate yield on a gallon of cider?

I'd be shocked if there's not a mead instructable around here somewhere, since there are plenty of sites on the internets that explain it (too many, imho).  It's about the most foolproof (ok, fool-resistant) fermentable, since honey doesn't like to go bad.  Honey, water, yeast, and acid (blend, which you can get where you get your yeast, or even a bit of strong black tea) is all you need to start, then it's as complicated as you care to make it.  Oh, and patience.  GOBS of patience ;-)
dsisson (author)  wiscobiscuit2 years ago
Mead is easier than beer, but made in much the same way. Yes, it takes forever to ferment but is WORTH it.

I use: 10-20 pounds of honey
acid blend
yeast nutrient
mead yeast or wine yeast (the yeasts for this cider would work I do NOT like the Lavlin EC-1118 Yeast - I think it stops working before the mead is done and also will not have enough energy to carbonate the mead later, if you like carbonated mead - I do.)
water to top off to 5 gallons.

bring honey/water to a boil and turn off the heat. (this kills off any bacteria in the honey and does not kill the flavor)

put cooled mixture in carboy and top off with cold water. pitch yeast when the temp has dropped to 80 degrees or so

ferment in cool place until it is done. might take 6 months or more!

bottle and age for as long as you dare. 1 year is good. more is better.
dsisson (author)  wiscobiscuit2 years ago
AGREE!!! good equipment is worth it and you'll regret using something that had pickles in it.
dsisson (author)  wiscobiscuit4 years ago
good point. I only ferment in glass anyway.
dsisson (author)  Speidumb2 years ago
You certainly can use a 5 gal bucket. You can sometimes pick up used 5 gal buckets for free from resturants that are food grade. Watch out for scratches in the plastic (they harbor bacteria) but otherwise, you should be good to go. The main problem with non-food grade buckets is that they actually allow oxygen through the plastic, which will oxidize your drink, creating a bad flavor.
Plastic bag with a tiny needle hole in it held on with a rubber band can work as an air trap; escaping CO2 keeps bacteria out while out gassing(white bacteria may start to grow on top of cider but isn't a problem unless it has darker color which my be alcohol eating vinegar bacteria, a better air trap seems to prevent that). A tbls. of bleach in 3 liters of water can sterilize bottles in 45 mins. The resultant grog is cloudy and fizzy/tangy after 5 days depending on temp. but drinkable, longer aging 2 weeks, and settling to clarify improves taste.
svincent62 years ago
I gave this recipe a shot without any changes. I fermented for four weeks and have bottled the batch a week ago. So far it tastes like apple champagne but it smells like a combination of vinegar and pee. :(

I used Mott's Apple Juice because it didn't have the potassium sorbate, but I think that's where I went wrong. The cider has cleared up immensely from the time I've bottled it to this week, but it isn't translucent like most ciders I've come across.

I recommend that if you attempt this recipe that you have an outside storage of some kind because it will make whatever room you store it in smell like pee.
dsisson (author)  svincent62 years ago
Hey, this should not smell or taste like vinegar or pee. It might be the yeast you used (which one? the montcharet is the best) or possibly you had a contamination with wild yeast. It should be clear as well after 4 weeks (I mean, clear like the original apple juice). If it is cloudy after sitting for 4 weeks, then it is probably contaminated w/ something. Make sure to sanitize everything REALLY well. Sorry you had bad luck w/this batch.

The fermenting juice WILL put off CO2 that smells a bit horrid, but this goes away after fermentation is done.
mattbomb3 years ago
i thought the fermenting "barrel" was called a demijohn
ortsa mattbomb2 years ago
Depends what country, in england we call it a demijohn.
Old Jake ortsa2 years ago
Demijohn for a gallon; carboy for five gallons.
jjay104 years ago
This is really cool. But do you have to use brewing yeast are can you just use regular bakers yeast?
tinker52 jjay102 years ago
Baker's yeast works fine for me, and I use the apple juice bottles for fermenting, diy airlocks made from clear spice jars, small pill bottles, and vinyl tube. cheers :)
dsisson (author)  jjay104 years ago
I don't recommend it. The yeast you use contributes significantly to the flavor and bread/baking yeast is very different than brewing yeast. Of course, you can always try!
jjay10 dsisson4 years ago
I can't really find brewers yeast where I live all I can find is bakers yeast. But thanks very much for the help.
Wine making yeast is available through the mail on line yadda yadda, keep some from one batch to infect the next batch. Camden tablets are better then boiling a must (boiling changes things) . Try to keep it to 11-12% . Freezing jugs of it after fermenting (1/2 full jugs ) will push the alky to the center allowing you to flip it upside down taking the alk and flavors and residual sugar whilste leaving the water. This is apple jack. Freezer distilled booze.

Just a thuoght
nateO jjay104 years ago
baker's yeast is perfectly safe but it will taste like misery and suffering.  i tried using baker's yeast and granulated sugar (yes, i know, i tweaked two variables during my project) it did not make me blind or sick, but it tasted most foul.  like Mic Dundee said....."You can live off of it but..."
dsisson (author)  jjay104 years ago
Look for a homebrewing supply store. If there aren't any in your area, there are TONS online who will be happy to send you whatever kind of yeast you want.
dhaggerty12 years ago
Here are a couple notes/ideas that I've got from making my own cider... Still easy, and most people seem to really enjoy it.

1. Use 2lbs of Light Brown Sugar instead of dextrose. This is MUCH cheaper and still works really well.

2. Using store-brand apple cider or juice is ALSO generally cheaper as long as you still make sure there is no potassium sorbate.

3. When bottling/kegging, instead of sugar consider using a can of apple juice concentrate. This will add sweetness, and you can also get a mixed apple-whatever concentrate to add other fruit flavors easily.

4. I am pretty positive that in most countries it is illegal to sell home-brewed anything, especially if there is a minor involved.
does the carboy need to be glass? or can i buy a plastic one?
dsisson (author)  guitareviston4 years ago
you can use a "better bottle" but do not use a plastic bottle like the kind that water comes in (they allow oxygen through the plastic and it will contaminate your drink). You can use a food grade fermentation bucket of the kind commonly sold at homebrew stores, they are cheaper than the glass carboy.
suckrpnch5 years ago
This recipe is awesome. I have been making beer for a while now and I have tried small-batch cider from fresh juiced apples, but this recipe is just great. It is very much like a white sparkling wine. It is wonderfully dry, but may not be what some people are looking for. I would suggest adding some lactose or maybe maltodextrin, or some other non-fermentable sugar if that is the case, but I love it as is. The major benefit here is how easy it is though. I don't know of anything as easy as this recipe to make a great, cheap, enjoyable beverage with a kick. Thanks a lot for sharing. This will be a regular for me.
sebtoombs5 years ago
me and some friends made some of this. good evening that was. cheers for the instructable
AndyGadget5 years ago
AARGH . . . It’s happened again !!! I’ve just been taking photos for a “Simple Cider” Instructable, and you’ve beaten me to it. Exactly the same happened with sloe gin. Anyway, Excellent Instructable, and I’ll just add a couple of comments if I may : I’ve found the cheapest place for apple juice in the UK (and most of Europe, I think) is Lidl. I’ve used the cloudy at 88p a litre, quite a lot less for the clear. You’ve added the priming sugar before bottling (in step 7). An alternative way I’ve always used is to add ½ a tespoonful of sugar to each bottle and give it a shake to dissolve. Champagne yeast will ferment down very, very dry. If you find the cider too dry, use a half teaspoon of Splenda sweetener per bottle to take the edge off. This is a sucralose based sweetener and doesn’t have the unpleasant aftertaste which aspartame or saccharin leaves. Did you take an OG on this? I reckon it would have been around 1030 giving 4% alcohol at the end. (This has made me thirsty – I’m off to crack open one of MY bottles of Super Simple Cider ;)
My granddad was telling me he used to use Lidl's juices the other day. Morrisons have 1 Litre of either, orange(prison brew) or apple juice (both made by Princes -- I have both bubbling away in the kitchen) for a measly 50 pence. That's almost as cheap as I am, I am a REAL pennypincher (unnecessary, but fun(for me)), the mrs hates it. lol In Sainsbury's the "basics" 100% Pure apple juice -- apparently anyways, it's 56P. High natural fruit sugar content too it says on the website, so a strongish yield should be had. Sainsbury's also has basics tomato juice for 34P per litre (with citric acid -- isnee a bit thing.) -- wonder what that would be like brewed?! Happy brewing people! 8-)
dsisson (author)  xerxesx205 years ago
heck, you can ferment anything with sugar in it (as long as it doesn't have a preservative that kills the yeast). Will it be good? who knows...but you're welcome to try =) report back on your success.
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