Introduction: How to Make Cider

Picture of How to Make Cider

If you have access to a lot of free apples, you can easily make cider from them. Any apples will do, but they should be as ripe as possible. This instructable shows you a simple method that does not require any special equipment.


Update Oct 2014 - In response to popular demand, I have just published an extra Instructable about how to make the press in step 4. Just wood, a few plastic containers and a car jack - cheap but very effective :)

https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-make-a-cide...

Step 1: Collecting Your Apples

Picture of Collecting Your Apples

The first thing is to get some apples.  You will need quite a lot of large containers, because you need to collect about 4 to 5 times the volume of apples compared to the volume of juice you want to make into cider.  The container shown here is a 5 gallon (22 litre) fermentation bin.  

A sheet or blanket is also handy. Put your sheet under the tree, climb up the tree and shake it.  Lots fall off.  The advantage of this method is that generally the ripest apples tend to fall off, and seriously under-ripe apples stay on.  When you put them into the bucket, pick the apples up by hand, so you don't get all the twigs, leaves, earwigs etc.

Step 2: Containers for Apples

Picture of Containers for Apples

You need a lot of apples.  Here are about 20-22 gallons of apples, which made about 4 and half gallons of juice.

Step 3: Pulping the Apples

Picture of Pulping the Apples

To release the juice, you have to smash up the apples, then press them.  A long piece of timber is good for this (untreated with any sort of preservative!)

Step 4: Building a Simple Press

Picture of Building a Simple Press

Here, a press was made from 4" x 3" (12cm x 9cm) timber bolted together.  This forms a strong frame in which a tub can be placed. 

Step 5: Preparing the Apple Pulp

Picture of Preparing the Apple Pulp

The mashed apple pulp is put inside a nylon mesh, and put into a plastic box, with a single small hole drilled into it (to let out the juice).  The cheapest available was this red mesh, an offcut from the fabric section in a shop.

Step 6: Pressing Using a Car Jack

Picture of Pressing Using a Car Jack

A board was placed on top of the mesh containing the apple pulp, and a car jack placed between the board and the frame to apply pressure.

Step 7: Sterilising the Juice

Picture of Sterilising the Juice

This step is not essential, but is advisable if your apples are already quite mouldy or have lots of soft brown bits.  Here sodium metabisulphite is being added.  This realeases sulphur dioxide, which will kill or seriously retard any dodgy moulds, yeasts or bacteria which otherwise can spoil the juice.
Do not add your yeast for about 24 hours after sterilisation or it may be killed as well!

Step 8: Add Yeast

Picture of Add Yeast

Any wine or beer grade yeast is good for this.  You can add it straight into the juice, but if you have used sulphur dixide to sterilise your juice, you should allow 24 hours before adding the yeast.  The wine yeast you add will quickly crowd out any traces of other natural yeasts.  It will use up the oxygen in the juice to breed, and will start turning the natural sugars into alcohol.

Step 9: Checking Acidity

After a week or so, the yeast in your cider will have turned all the sugar into alcohol.  At this point you can check to see how sour the apples were.  If the apples were not completely ripe, or you only had wild apples the juice can be very sharp. This can be so sharp you can't drink it.  You can make this less so by adding calcium carbonate (aka precipitated chalk). This will react with the acids in your cider and neutralise them.  You may need to add several ounces per gallon, but do this in stages because when you add it, the reaction of acid and carbonate will release carbon dioxide, so it will fizz.

Step 10: Bottling

Picture of Bottling

After you have left your cider for a few weeks, it will clear as the yeast settles, and it will be ready for bottling.  It may not be completely clear, but that doesn't really matter because it can clear in the bottle. 
For each wine size bottle, you will need to prime the bottles by adding just over half a teaspoon of sugar to each. This will restart the fermentation, but because it happens in a sealed bottle, the carbon dioxide released gets dissolved into the cider and creates pressure. When the bottle is opened later, the pressure is released, allowing the gas to esacpe, which creates the sparkle. 
You should use bottle designed to stand pressure such as bottles made for sparkling wine.  Seal your bottles with corks and champagne wire cages.  You can use beer bottles with crown corks, but this needs a special tool.
 

Step 11: Storing Your Cider

Picture of Storing Your Cider

For the first 3-5 days after bottling with, you should keep your bottles in a warm place.  This will encourage the yeast to ferment the sugar, to will make the cider fizzy.  After that, you should store the bottles in a cold place for about 2 weeks to allow the cider to settle and clear.

Step 12: The Finished Cider

Picture of The Finished Cider

Cheap and cheery, but actually rather tasty, and very satisfying to make...

Comments

WillY7 (author)2017-08-22

Phill 23
Hi phill 17% was achieved by syrupping up to 2025-2050 and finishing at 850- 900 using a vodka turbo yeast the main conversion takes 7 days but I left it for 3 weeks taste was very dry so I back sweetened it with some carton apple juice to taste

PhilE23 (author)WillY72017-08-26

That is impressive! I'm new to this, doing my first batch. Exciting stuff!

rosemarybeetle (author)WillY72017-08-24

Blimey, that is impressive. I've got plum wine up to about 16% before now, but some year's ago. Plums seem to be very good for yeast - acidic, whihc it needs and I think they must have lots of nutrients. Certainly, they naturally attract yeast blooms in the wild, so I suspect they do.
The thing I find the hardest with cider and with some fruit wines is getting the acidity right. If you have really ripe apples, it's normally OK, as they tend to mellow out, but sometimes you can't tell when because the sweetness masks the acidity. It's only when you have fermented off all the sugar that you can taste it. I have never quite got into to accurate PH testing, but that is probably the way to go if you want to get it perfect

WillY7 (author)2016-12-11

Fizzy cider

rosemarybeetle (author)WillY72016-12-11

wow, that looks like it worked nice!

WillY7 (author)rosemarybeetle2016-12-11

It was party time in the village from the original 15 gallon I managed 5 gallon of 6%sweet flat 2gallon of17%blow your head off 40 500ml bottles at 9% and 3gallon I put into champers bottles for a bit of fizziness
The apples were free the sugar was £5 $7.5 three bags of yeast £1.75 can't beat that
My philosophy is it ain't wasted when you persevere and do something with it
Word is now out and cider is number 1 and apple crumble is now number 2
Happy boozing people

PhilE23 (author)WillY72017-08-22

How long did you leave the cider to make 17% cider!?

rosemarybeetle (author)WillY72016-12-12

I love that you pushed it in various directions. Good stuff.

Always happy to see pics of stuff made, so feel free to post some more in comments...

Monte Vale Pocinho (author)2017-08-01

I live in Portugal and I am not sure what kinds of yeast I can find. Does active dry bread yeast work?

The apples are picked and ready to go...

LukeL61 (author)2017-06-30

Has anyone had any experience using a sourdough starter as their yeast culture vs the store-bought packages? I like the idea of having my hands in more steps of the process and was curious about anyone else's experiences

PeterB460 (author)2017-04-30

I was wondering if you could bring your juice to the boil to remove any yeast and bacteria. Is this something you would reccommend?

rosemarybeetle (author)PeterB4602017-05-02

You can use heat to sterilise juice, but you might not want to

Boiling does sterilise, but it affects flavour
Cooked apple juice is not as aromatic as uncooked juice. It may not matter too much to you, but the taste and aroma will be much more apple-y and subtle if you don't boil it.

The other thing to be aware of, is that boiling apple juice will release pectin (like when you boil fruit to make jam). This will mean it won't clear. You can get round this by adding pectin-destroying enzyme before fermentation.

Hope that helps!

pm59 (author)2016-09-20

Hope someone can help. I have 20L of pressed apple juice in a fermenting bucket however have been unable to get the fermentation process started ( despite adding three lots of wine yeast and also some sugar) I did sterilise the juice as suggested however left it for over 24hrs before adding the yeast. The juice does taste quite acidic. Does anyone know if this would affect the fermentation process and does anyone have any suggestions (polite please) about what to do

WillY7 (author)pm592016-09-22

Bring the temp up to 25c give the mix 30second stir with a food mixer start a pack of bread yeast in a tall glass of warm water with two table spoons caster sugar when yeast has expanded to top of glass throw it in lid on bubbler in, keep temp steady at 25c by morning it should be bubbling crazy failing that you have put too much PS and it keeps killing your yeast.

pm59 (author)WillY72016-09-22

thanks for the advice. Will give it a go and let you know the result

WillY7 (author)pm592016-09-24

How are we doing?

Don't worry about acidity you can back sweeten it with juice out a carton later. I myself are running 3x5 gallons at present 1 of juice and 2 from the pulp, the juice gave me a SG of 1055 which is normal the pulp gave me SG of1030 which I syrup'ed up to 1080 to produce a scrumpy with floaters. I am on day 10 at moment with the pulp two finishing off at .985 which will give me a very dry cider at just over 12.8% I will back sweeten it with quality apple juice down to 9% then bottle. The juice one is a bit slower and at present is just at 1010 I will bring this down to 1005 which will give me a medium sweet and once clear will bottle. All were started at same time with a turbo yeast with a room temp of 22c. The pulp was mixed 50/50 to water

I sterilize with the same stuff you use for baby's bottles which doesn't need dried off I do not sterilise the juice till after fermentation with one Camden tablet which is plenty for 5 gallons

pm59 (author)WillY72016-10-07

update.

The sg is now .994 however there still seems to be some small bubbles appearing on the surface. I assume that it is still fermenting. Is it still too early to start the bottling process?

rosemarybeetle (author)pm592016-10-07

The key thing to note now is how fast it is changing. If the SG doesn't change in a few days, it is so close to finished you should be OK to prime and bottle

What I sometimes do in this case is to rack (siphon) the cider off the lees (the yeast sludge at the bottom). The remaining cider will still have enough yeast in to continue if it needs to, but it will be clearer when you bottle it.

pm59 (author)rosemarybeetle2016-10-20

Hopefully final question. I now have 30 bottles of cider that have been clearing for just over a week. I put half a teaspoon of sugar in each to start the secondary fermentation process. Should I have seen some response in the bottle?

pm59 (author)rosemarybeetle2016-10-07

thanks for the reply. I think I will rack it off tomorrow and then leave it a few days to see if the sg stays the same or the the fermentation process stops

pm59 (author)WillY72016-09-25

we are fermenting well, lots of activity. I haven't tested the SG however it now tastes sweet so not certain how it will turn out. We live and learn. Thanks for the advice

rosemarybeetle (author)pm592016-09-25

Excellent - it will be about a week before it has got near to finishing, but it will slow down. Even if you haven't taken an original gravity reading, it is best to know the gravity is 1000 or below when you think about bottling. It's worth getting a hydrometer. They are cheap and can save the uncertainty.

rosemarybeetle (author)WillY72016-09-24

You can choose to neutralise some of the acidity if you know the juice is really acidic. Adding some chalk (calcium carbonate) will do this, but it is best to do before fermentation

NJCase (author)2016-10-16

A useful guide, I'm about to have a go. How much sodium metabisulphite needs to be added, say per gallon?

rosemarybeetle (author)NJCase2016-10-16

Hi,

Thanks - hope it works for you.
If you make some, post a pic in a comment. Always good to see.

On metabisulphite, I normally only feel you need about 1/4 -1/2 teaspoon for 5 gallons. You don't need loads
You can use Camden tablet which are 1 per gallon. Like a measured dose

Gilbertdj (author)2016-10-09

Thank you for your instructions, very easy to follow. I have about 8dessert apple trees and this year I threw away about 6wheelbarrows of apples, so next year I will try to make cider following your advice. And before I invest in an apple press, I will try to make one of your design and see how I get on.

rosemarybeetle (author)Gilbertdj2016-10-09

Thanks - the first cider I made was actually juice that seeped out of apples I left in a bin and forgot. It fermented by itself. Was surprisingly just about drinkable.

Next year just go for it. I'm sure you'll get something good out of it

Nerdynerd97 (author)2016-10-03

Just a couple of questions, how could i adapt this recipe for a soft cider? I feel like preserving it would be a bit of a hassle. also, how would one add carbonation to a soft version without yeast? does the sodium meta-sulfate add any sort of salt to the mixture, or is the resulting salt insoluble? Ty for anytime taken to answer.

Minster81 (author)2016-09-17

Hi. My cider has nearly finished fermenting. Im planning on moving it into a clean vessel and adjusting the taste. How long do you leave it after the initial fermentation before bottling. ie. How long does it stay in the new vessel or does it not matter?
Thanks

WillY7 (author)Minster812016-09-24

No timescale What is your FG? how sweet do you want it ?.Has the yeast settled to the bottom ? is it clear ? Unless you use a turbo Klar which clears in 24hours natural clearing can take weeks .All this before you bottle!

Minster81 (author)WillY72016-09-25

Hi. Initial gravity was 1044 and over a week later its down to 1002. I transferred it to another vessel with an airlock to clear. Unfortunately ive got it in a plastic bucket so cannot keep an eye on its progress. (Learning point for next time). I want it medium sweet and putting sugar to prime in bottles. Is a level tsp per 500ml bottle about right? There was plenty of dead yeast at bottom

rosemarybeetle (author)WillY72016-09-24

yes, I agree with WillY7. the main thing is knowing it's finished fermenting so that adding priming sugar is the only way it will get more fermentation going. If you bottle it before it has stopped you can't be sure how much pressure will form in the bottle.

Pretty much, let it stop, then filter off and leave settle to allow to clear a bit, then add some priming sugar

Basd12 (author)2016-08-22

Hey, how much of the sodium metabisulphite do you add to the juice? I'm making my first attempt to this cider business some time soon and I was wondering if too much or too little would be bad..? I read somewhere that it could be poisonous if taken orally, so I'm guising too much isn't good. What ratio do you use? Thanks!

rosemarybeetle (author)Basd122016-08-27

The sodium metabisulphate that releases sulphur dioxide is not something to ear, but is not anywhere near seriously poisonous for the sort of contact you make in cider making. The gas itself is irritant to your lungs (never try sniffing the powder - you'll get a nasty shock!)

I don't worry to much. I use about a third of a teaspoon in 5 gallons. Don't use loads and loads or it will taste vile


You can get something called camden tablets that are mainly sodium metabislphate. the advantage is they are easy to use s you use one per gallon.

Weeze1607 (author)rosemarybeetle2016-09-08

Hi I hope you get this as for some reason the website wouldn't let me write my own comment :(. I'm a complete novice at making cider but I have made other alcoholic drinks (ale, mead etc) and I know hygiene is important. My dad built a press for me but he's used mainly metal, I told him all the presses I have seen are made of wood but you know how dads are. My main concern is that he has used rusty scaffolding tubes which come into contact with the juice. Is there anything I can do to ensure the juice is hygienic despite the materials he has used?

Would really appreciate some advice.

rosemarybeetle (author)Weeze16072016-09-09

Hi there,

in one sense the metal is probably not a health concern unless they were dirty with something - if so you could wash them. The main concern would be in getting iron in contact with the acidic juice that might make it taste metallic. Iron is not that reactive, but apple juice is quite acidic, so there will be some risk.

You could do something like putting plastic bags or clingfilm round the poles. or other metal surfaces. That would greatly reduce the contact while you do the pressing. Even if it didn't completely eliminate it, it would be much less risky

Weeze1607 (author)rosemarybeetle2016-09-09

Thank you that's awesome, I'll get it wrapped up in cling film :)

Basd12 (author)rosemarybeetle2016-08-30

I've got the Campden tablets, going to give it a go this weekend (:

Quick question: I've got this old water bottle (8L), can I use this?
I'm going to get a carboy (?) bottle but I can't seem to find one that isn't really expensive... So I thought maybe I can use this till I got a subsitute.

Thanks for replying so fast by the way (:

that was meant to say not something to EAT, by the way!

Minster81 (author)2016-08-09

Hi. Im looking to make about 5litres for my first attempt. Does the size of the fermentation bucket matter? ie will it be a problem if I ferment 5litres in a 10 litre bucket?

rosemarybeetle (author)Minster812016-08-27

Hi, sorry for taking ages to reply. It is best to ferment in large amounts (like 10+ litres, preferably 25 litres) as the temperature is much more stable, BUT it works fine in smaller containers as long as you keep it somewhere consistently warm.

If you have 5 litres, you could use a demi-john (about a gallon,/ 5 litres)

If you use a container that is much bigger than the liquid in it, there is a risk of more air getting in. You might get some oxidisation where the liquid goes a deeper amber or reddy-brown. In the worst case, scenario, allowing too muich air in can let too much airborne yeasts and bacteria get in.

You should be OK, as long you get it started woth a strong yeast. The CO2 it gives off will form a protective gas layer above the juice. Yeast needs some oxygen I beklieve to reproduce at th e beginning too

Minster81 (author)rosemarybeetle2016-08-27

Thanks for the reply. While you were responding i have decided to make 10litres as ive got my hands on some more apples. When i ferment the liquid then transfer to new container should the level be just below lid of container to minimise air space?

rosemarybeetle (author)Minster812016-08-27

Hi - good plan and yes the short answer is that you are right - the gap between cider surface and lid should be as small as possible

Long answer is:
You should always be thinking about risk of spoilage (can ruin it) and oxidation (can change the taste and colour). The general air around us may have micro-organisms in it. and the juice you initially press will have loads of them in it. It will also have air in it. Fermentation gets rid of both.

The initial sterilisation of the juice is all about killing off those potentially ruinous microbes. Yeast not only makes alcohol from sugar, it also crowds out and eliminates most other micro-organisms, stopping spoilage.

Yeast breeding and fermenting also uses up all the oxygen in the juice (stopping oxidation and browning)

So, after fermentation, if you never take the lid off, then the cider should stay stable and not go off because the years has killed off the micro-competition, used up the oxygen and produced CO2 which sits on top of the cider

Whenever you lift the lid, and even more so when you transfer the cider, some new air gets in and you always risk new microbes getting in.

So, it is always best to have as little air above the finished cider so that the risk is as low as it can be.

If you sterilise AFTER fermentation, then you reduce the risk, but can't make it fizzy in the bottle.

Handy tip - when you transfer the cider, always siphon it with the outlet end UNDER the surface. Don't let the cider pour into the new container from above causing bubbles or you will get loads of air dissolving in your cider and it will oxidise much more.

Hope all that makes sense!

TobiasW12 (author)2016-07-28

Hello Rosemary. We don't use any pesticides with our trees. What about the worms? I guess they need to be cut out during the first steps, or can you recommend a "best practice"?

rosemarybeetle (author)TobiasW122016-07-28

Hi,

If you don't use pesticides, then that is good. The health risks from that are far more dangerous than the odd worm. Even if you ate a maggot, it would be extremely unlikely to do you any harm at all.

To be honest, I don't worry about worms at all. If you have loads of apples, then checking out each one individually is a lot of work. I don't consider the worms themselves a problem. They can cause apples to rot by making holes in them by which germs get in, but it is the rot (especially any vinegar bacteria which will turn alcohol into vinegar) I just reject any apples that are obviously gone bad and are rotten. If you only include good looking apples and sterilise the juice, then you should be fine.

I chuck the bad apples away when collecting and for any that I miss once I have got the haul back, they go on the compost heap.

blanabas (author)2016-02-27

Thanks for the reply, were would you buy an appropriate yeast for cider?

blanabas (author)2016-02-26

Would store bought juice be alright to use?

rosemarybeetle (author)blanabas2016-02-27

Hi.

Yes it can be used. I've actually used diluted concentrated squash (cordial) before now. Not exactly classy, but OK if you are just makign a punch base for a party or something

Here's what to know/ponder...:

- Any apple juice can be fermented, whether pressed or bought.

- Shop bought juice is obviously usually going to be much more expensive than pressing your own apples, but the quality of the juice will be very reliable

- With shop bought juice one thing to watch out for is preservatives. If it has been heated treated (pasteurised) it should be fine.

- If sulphur dioxide has been used to preserve it, it may be tricky to get the yeast started. Sulphur dioxide is there to inhibit yeast and other micro-organisms. - Check the label!

- if it is sulphurised, then it will still work, but you may need to bear some air into the juice before the start. If you do this (and cover loosely to keep out vinegar flies), two things happen

1. the sulphur dioxide tends to be released making the juice more likely to be OK for your yeast

2. the oxygen in the air you beat in helps your yeast breed in the early stages of fermentation. This beting in should be done even if the juice is heat treated

FayeS8 (author)2016-01-03

Hello Rosemary, I'm a total novice, and have simply juiced my apples and left it in a large container for a month. I had a smaller bottle which I have tried and it tastes like beautiful sparkling apple juice, (very fizzy!) I haven't opened the 25 litre container yet...as I'm not sure what I could do next. I have bought campden tablets and cider yeast...? Is there anything I can do to make this more alcoholic at this late stage?

I didn't add anything or interfere in any way.. :) Many thanks!

rosemarybeetle (author)FayeS82016-01-03

Hello,

first of all, we all all novices initially, so good on you for having a go!

You say you have left the raw juice for a month without any treatment. This is risky in that it can spoil, but you could br fine. All apples have traces of yeasts and other organisms on them and so can ferment or spoil depending on which ones take hold.

If your smaller bottle is a bit fizzy and tastes OK, then you probably are OK. It will be fermenting with wild yeast, I suspect. The main thing to check for is whether it is really vinegary. If so, then it is spoiled as far as alcoholic cider is concerned (although you can probably use it as cider vinegar).

For the big load of juice, if it tastes Ok, then you have two main choices. You can:

1. just add a new yeast culture to it and let it ferment, keeping covered, etc
2. sterilise it, then add a new yeast culture.

The first option will probbaly work, but there is some risk of spoilage. Having said that, if it was going to spoil it probably would have noticeably done so after a month, so it might be fine

The second option will kill off any spoilage organisms tha may be there, but not yet got hold. This is good, but you need to be careful with your new yeast that the sterilising doesn't leave too much sulphur which stops it getting started.

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