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 :)

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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.
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brianc64 years ago
thats why here in aus it's legal to brew beer and wine but not distill alcohol fenris is because most of the blind and death situations were due to illegal bootlegging not from brewing cider, beer or wine mate i brew beer like most australians and yeah have had a few infected brews but worst case was a taste that you wont like not blindness or death stop trying to ridicule home brewing it's a safe and fun thing that most people that drink be it wine or beer should have a go at !!!!!!!
SteveW9 brianc621 days ago

Legal or not, it isn't a good idea to hit higher alcohol levels than wine .. 10% to 15%. re: apple jack. Do not use freeze distillation of you want to get above 20% ABV .as you approach 40% it gets really dangerous. .Just don't try. although 'legal' in some countries .. it is not recommended because the bad alcohols get concentrated. You can read about it. It can also give you an intense hangover in the short term, and wood alcohol problems in the long term. Also, I've read a lot about apple brandy. Even if you know what you are doing, and get something safe to drink, homebrewers who tried it report that it surprisingly tastes like grain alcohol .. tastes like everclear tm..Initially it is indeed 'shine' It is probably 10 to 100 times harder to get something good tasting when trying to make apple brandy than doing the wine.. First you must make the wine, then you must distill it, then You have to add the right ingredients and age it for a few years usually in an oak barrel.

PeterHarrop6 months ago

Hi rosemarybeetle,

Firstly, thanks for sharing your knowledge and advice reading through the comments has got me excited to begin my first brew. I have a couple of questions...

We have bought a couple of glass bottles from Ikea that have the swing top seal, like the Grolsch lager bottles. Do you think these will be sturdy enough when bottling and hopefully won't explode?

Also, once (and if) successful, is there any simple methods to gauge the abv of the brew without obviously consuming and seeing what happens? :)

Many thanks

1. Abv .. get a hydrometer and measure before and after fermentation. Inexpensive, about $10 usd.

2. Ikea will have to tell you if those bottles can sustain pressure. Your beer/wine store or online can sell you bottles with the swing top that can sustain pressure .. or bottles and caps. etc. They are fun and reusuable

3. if you do get too much sugar in your cider, the bottle will blow up. It really can be dangerous and certainly messy. A very good way to avoid this is as she mentioned, store in a cool to cold location. The cooler, the less yeast activity. Or, you can kill the yeasts before bottling. If you put your bottles say in a root cellar, some people put the bottles in a box in case of accidents.

4. There is much good info below this post.


kirstenmia3 months ago

Love this... I was just kind of winging it in making cider this year (for the first time).... It's in a carboy with an airlock, really beautiful color and it's now stopped fermenting... I needed instruction on how to finish it! Thanks

How much sodium metabisulphite needs to be added to the juice?

How much sodium metabisulphite needs to be added to the juice?

Hi, this is my first time making cider. My problem started at the pressing stage, it took quite a time (over a few days) . I added the yeast clearing powder and left for about 36 hours ! Then I added the yeast for fermenting but nothing seems to have happend . Can I start fermenting again or have I left the pressing too long .

hi. you might get way with it. before anything else keep it covered to stop flies getting in.
you need a new yeast starter. get half a pint of warm water add 2 teaspoons sugar and some yeast (cider yeast is best but any brewing yeast should work)
put it im a warm place and give it 2-3hours to grt going. then stir that into thd juice. your fermentation needs to be in a reasonably warm place.
try it. it may just work.
Good luck!
flavvvv6 months ago

hello, im having a second attempt at the cider making, last years didn't go well! iv read somewhere that you need to fill your fermentation bucket full once the yeast has started to work its magic, else the air contact will ruin the cider, is this correct? any help greatly appreciated!

kakashibatosi6 months ago

Hi! Have you tried aging any of your cider, and if so for how long? Have you tried back-sweetening any of your batches? Keep brewing!

JacobC17 months ago

Hi, Just wondering if I can use plastic bottles as pressure vessels, don't want to risk the glass bottles breaking!

rosemarybeetle (author)  JacobC16 months ago

Hi there. yes, as long as they are bottles designed for pressure (in other words fizzy drinks bottles) They can still burst though. A friend of mine blew a hole in her ceiling when a plastic bottle blew its cap off.

The best way to be sure is to use a hydrometer to keep an eye on the fermentation. Alternatively, a cider that has stopped visibly fermenting and has been left for another week is very unlikely to ferment much more.

Finally, if you add camden tablets of a small amount of sodium metabisulfate after the fermentation, it will eliminate this risk, but you will have still cider (which is OK. I like still cider)

Never bottle when the fermentation is bubbling actively.

hope that helps

jclipstone1 year ago
Hi, I pressed my cider a week ago, sterilised everything and added sodium metabisulphite to it, then cider yeast I got online. Should I see the fermenting process happening in the containers yet? I have left it in my kitchen, which can be a little cold.
Thanks :0)
rosemarybeetle (author)  jclipstone1 year ago

The sodium metabisulphite may have killed or retarded the yeast. It needs a day or so to dissipate the sulphur dioxide before adding. If you added directly, then that can make it start very slowly too. If you made a yeast starter, and that was fermenting, but nothing happened after 4 days after you added it, then it sounds a bit dodgy. If it's really cold, that may be a factor, so some form or heat helps, but not too high obviously.

Evene if yeast has failed, It's not that bad though. If you have more, then make sure the must is in a reasonably warm place first (it can take half a day or so to come up to temperature), keeping covered. Then make a new starter. give it at least 3 or 4 hours to get going strongly then add.

If you can't get brewing yeast in time, you can use breadmaking yeast. Slightly less subtle taste, but to be honest, not that noticeable

Good luck!
Sorry never done this before , do you put a lid on the drink after the yeast is put in?
rosemarybeetle (author)  Elliot_Steward1 year ago
Hi Elliot,

yes, you should keep it covered or flies get in it and potentially introduce vinegar-causing bacteria. It is best to have it airtight (but you need a fermentation lock to let out the gas if it is sealed!)

Alternatively, cover with a lid that is not sealed, but weighted down to stop creatures getting in. The gas will seep out as it builds up. This is the simplest way :)

Good luck
Just a quick question – I have pressed 10 litres of apple juice and added 1 campden tablet to the lot (which was my educated guess that just 1 tablet will do) and when 24 hours will pass I am due to reintroduce the yeast. I have a sachet of cider yeast which is 5g.... and it says it is not enough for up to 23 gallons or something like that.... however, nor recipe or instruction on the sachet, or any website actually states how much yeast do I need to mix per litre, or per gallon of juice? Do I just chuck in the whole 5g sachet into my 10 litre bucket??? And also, as I pressed my apples with the home juicer, at the moment there’s about an inch of thick foam floating on top... do I just sprinkle the yeast on top of foam and then mix it all up after 10-15 minutes??? Your advice would be highly appreciated! Thanks
rosemarybeetle (author)  luckycapricorn3 years ago

a few things. You should get the yeast started separately with half a pint of juice in a clean covered jug in a warm place until frothing. Make sure it is going before you add to the main juice. I am not sure if you meant to say the sachet says it IS enough for up to 23 gallons, but 5g should be enough for 10 litres (5 gallons or so).

In terms of how to mix, you should beat the yeast in and in doing so you beat some air (oxygen) into the juice. Although this sounds a bad idea, the oxygen allows the yeast to reproduce in the early stage of fermentation. This means plenty of yeast to metabolise the sugar. It will use up the air (and this prevents the cider oxidisng) at the beginning, then fermentation will slow as the yeast breaks down the sugar into alcohol and CO2. As soon as it is added, cover closely to prevent flies getting in (This is important - use an air lock if you have one. If not, just keep the lid on at all times. It shouldn't be tightly sealed (or the gas pressure will build up. It is to keep put germs on the flies or in the air and to stop more oxygen getting in.

Oooh aarr ooh arr !
Rosemarybeetle - apologies for writing to you but have just found this "Instructables" website in search of some "cider advice" and reading all the comments it appear that you seem to be a well-informed cider-maker ?!
Hopefully, if my assumption is correct, could I therefore pose a question to you in regards to my first cider-making attempts please!
Briefly, for years have noticed a fair number of apple trees growing around where I live, roadside, and as I particular enjoy a cider or two, in fact anything that's alcoholic, thought it about time I put these apples to some use !!
So, last week, with neice and nephew in toe scrumped the afore-mentioned apples (no idea make/model - some green, some red, some ripe, some not so ripe). And, as per a YouTube thingy I found..."how to make your own cider", washed, chopped and mushed the apples (using a hand blender no less - took a while and the darn thing got a little hot, but thankfully the Boss was at work so got away with it ! Anyway, squeezed out the pulp through muslin cloths and ended up with over a gallon of juice in my bucket (rinsed clean with a campden tablet). Made up half glass of "yeast starter" as per instructions (dissolving spoon full of sugar in warm water and adding spoonful wine yeast) After an hour added yeast mixture to bucket, mixed and covered with clingo then placed in airing cupboard. Within an hour or so it looked like the primary fermentation bit had started as was frothing slightly. Anyway, next day checked it - nowt ! Liquid looked still and as if nothing was happening. Therefore, thinking I may start up the fermentation process again, added three teaspoons of sugar.
Checked it again this morning - still lifeless!
Now, here comes the question....any idea what I should do now ?! Do I need to syphon it off to the demi-john, even though it's not bubbling away or is there something else I should do to try and restart the fermentation ? Or do you think I've blown it cos my apples weren't all ripe ?
Anway, if you can help in anyway, be greatly appreciated after all the efforts so far !!
yours, beginning to wish I bought some cider from the local,
I realize it's quite late for the batch you were working on in this comment thread, but temperature can also have drastic effect on the speed with which yeast works. If you try again, make sure it's not too cool for the yeast. Beer and making yeasts at the homebrew shop near me have a chart with their effective fermenting temperatures posted, as well as alcohol tolerance... the percentage of alcohol that will finally kill the culture and stop further fermentation. If it became too cold, it likely didn't kill the yeast just slowed it to the point you couldn't notice any action.

My cousin's first batch of Mead did the same thing and he tried re-pitching (adding more yeast), adding yeast nutrient, changing the temperature. When he finally finished the batch and printed labels, it was "Probably Toxic Mead." I heard it was pretty good, but wasn't privy to any of this batch. His "Baby Slobber Red" wine came out very nice, though.

My own first batch of mead and cider are both going right now at about 2 1/2 weeks. Mine foamed very little, but I daily check it with a backlight and can see very tiny bubbles making it to the surface, so I know it's still doing something, even though there's not enough CO2 coming off it to make the airlock bubble anymore.

Good luck, and happy brewing.
rosemarybeetle (author)  Dommcnulty2 years ago
First of all - respect for just going for it!

I am not quite sure what is happening here in your juice, but it sounds like you have done everything properly. In particular you have sterilised the juice and bucket, which should mean you can still get this to work. You should have plenty of time to restart this before the juice has time to spoil.

The issue is with the yeast not getting going. It may be a faulty batch, but it sounds like it did start, but then has either failed or slowed right down. This probably either the shock of the sugar or the traces of sulphur dioxide in the juice from the sterilisation tablets may have retarded or even killed the yeast. If that was the cause, this is not too bad, as the juice will definitely have been sterilised.

There are two things you can do. Either add new yeast or hope the yeast is fermenting and take a chance. It may have slowed down as adding to the juice can be a shock to it.

I think you are saying you added the yeast directly to the juice. This does usually work with apple juice for cider making BUT can sometimes fail.

Sugar acts as a preservative in high concentrations (which is why jam doesn't go off). Given that you suggest the fermentation started I suspect your yeast is struggling. Adding more sugar won't help restart it if that is the cause.

I recommend you just assume the yeast has failed and just add more.

Note - any effect of the sulphur dioxide should have faded away over a few hours, so the juice will be OK to use without killing any new yeast.

Enough theory/diagnostics, the remedy that has the best chance of saving your precious juice is to just add a new batch of yeast


To do this:
Quarter-fill a clean tall pint glass with some of the juice and add boiling water to make it up to about half a cup. Let it cool for 10-15 minutes, then add a fresh batch of yeast. Cover it (to keep out fruit flies) and leave in a warm place. After half an hour you should see it frothing. Leave for at least 4 hours to really get going. Make sure it is really frothing or fizzing.

Once the culture is going for it, it will be strong enough to take the shock of being added to the main juice. When you add it, beat some air in. This is used initially by the yeast to reproduce. It will use up the air (which then prevents oxidisation!).

One other thing to note is that you must keep the main bucket of juice covered in the meantime to avoid spoilage. Cling film is good as it keeps out fruit flies. They are the highest risk of contamination, but airborne germs can get in too otherwise.

I have had this happen occasionally with wine before and it can be saved. You have just been unlucky I think.

PS, if you can't quickly get more wine yeast, you can use bread yeast. It is usually hardier than wine yeast, although is rougher. For scrumpy, that is OK. Better to have produced something at all I would suggest

Don't give up!
I don't know if any one else has posted this yet, but the foam on top may have been natural fermentation. I was taught that you need 1 tablet per gallon.
rosemarybeetle (author)  kakashibatosi3 years ago
Hi, thanks.

if you have any juice that has been agitated, you will get foam. It can be fermentation causing it, but it may just be the froth of mixing it up. I think I have read the same advice on 1 tab per gallon, so I suspect that is a sound approach.

You can add pectin destroying ennzymes as well (before the yeast), to break down the jelly-like pectin, which traps particles causing cloudiness. Again, not essential, but increases chances of clear brew.

could you tell me the ratio of sodium metabisulphite to juice, for sterilization. thanks
Hi, I tend to use about a teaspoon in a 5 gallon batch, but I don't measure it very accurately. I just sprinkle it in. If you buy it from a wine making supplier, it may have more accurate instructions. You can also buy Camden tablets, which are the same thing in pill form. These are usually added 1 tablet per gallon

Hope that helps!
nirwin3 years ago
u dnt wnt to pulp the apple seed with the apples the seed can be dangerres to consume to your helth
rosemarybeetle (author)  nirwin3 years ago
hmm.. I think that while you may be right that there are some potentially dangerous substances in apple seeds (something that can be metabolised to cyanide, I believe), this is not something to worry about too much. You can (and I have done for years) eat apples including the core and seeds with no ill effects.

Even if there was a serious risk from these chemicals (which there probably isn't) they are locked up inside the seed casings and little gets out anyway.

I think you are right to raise it, but I don't believe it is a serious problem. Alcohol will poison you ages before anything else can in cider!
Off topic, but I never eat an apple without also eating the seeds. While we've been enculcated to believe these are dangerous, apple seeds are a great source of a very rare B vitamin that is almost non-existent in most diets today--with apples being about the only way to get this vitamin naturally these days.

I can't say what's right for others, but I have eaten apple seeds all my life and will continue to do so.

Great Instructable.
Langarulz3 years ago
Is there a way to make it so the yeast DOESN'T turn the sugar to alcohol? I dont drink beer or wine and I dont want to.
rosemarybeetle (author)  Langarulz3 years ago
Hi there,

no. The reaction is (simply put)
sugar + water -> alcohol + carbon dioxide.
The yeast will always make some alcohol if you get a fizz. It's true with breadmaking too, but hardly any alcohol is produced and it gets evaporated off by the cooking.

To be honest, if you use raw pressed apple juice, it is quite high in sugar, so is not usually watery.

If you wish, you can add glycerol, which is naturally produced by fermentation in small amounts and is essentially a thickener. It is very viscous in it's undiluted state. You can buy glycerol from home brew suppliers (and sometimes chemists/drug stores)

good luck and have fun trying
rosemarybeetle (author)  Langarulz3 years ago
Of course it won't be fizzy if you bottle it as juice.

If you use yeast fermentation to produce CO2, then you always get alcohol. One thing you should NOT do is add yeast and bottle it immediately, to get a very low alcohol fizz. That is very dangerous as there is enough sugar in the juice to easily produce more than enough CO2 to easily explode a bottle.

You can however use a soda stream to make the juice fizzy. There are also beer kegs that allow you to inject CO2 to produce draft fizzy.

Whichever you do, the sterilisation is important. Apples have wild yeasts on them and may ferment even if you don't add a proper brewing yeast.

I hope that helps
well could u still ferment it but not with yeast so it still releases CO2 but doesnt have the watery taste of adding carbonated water?
rosemarybeetle (author)  Langarulz3 years ago
Hi. Fair enough. Making it without it being alcoholic is really the same process up until step 7. That is, you are just extracting the juice without fermenting it.

In principle, you could bottle it at the point at which you sterilised it. I have not tried this, but I would expect that to work fine.

If you don't fancy using sulphites, you could boil it instead, but this will change the taste. Typically the subtle fragrances are lost by boiling.

Alternatively, you could freeze it, instead of bottling. You can do this using tapered plastic cups so you end up with big cup-sized juice-ice cubes! Once frozen they can be removed from cups and put in a bag and kept in the freezer until you want one. Defrost in batches or by the cup (a microwave is good for this)

I hope that helps
tmcgonagall3 years ago
can i use the juice from the electric juicer ?
rosemarybeetle (author)  tmcgonagall3 years ago
Yes, it is probably more efficient to use a juicer, but it may be a bit time consuming and be careful not to burn out your juicers if you are doing lots of juicing for a long time.
I believe traditionally there were all sorts of handcranked mechanical mills, but I only had wood,
sunshiine3 years ago
This looks so good! Thanks for sharing.
rosemarybeetle (author)  sunshiine3 years ago
Hey thanks - Halloween is a great day to receive a nice comment like that - cheers!
Eragon333 years ago
Fenris - Methanol boiling point : 65 °C, Ethanol is 78 °C. This means that as you heat up your liquid, the first thing to boil and evaporate off will be methanol - the optic nerve poison you mentioned earlier. As such, the first drops will be methanol - meaning that you are effectively telling us to get methanol and drink it. If you want to blind/kill yourself, be my guest, but I'd rather that you didn't tell others to do the same. Also, saying about making poisons from trying to make cider is insanity - yes, fermentation does produce some methanol, but unless you distill it, it is in such small proportions that you would have to drink insane amounts to get anywhere blinding/fatality. so, I'd appreciate you double checking your facts before saying things which someone impressionable would try to replicate, and injure themselves - or worse.
rosemarybeetle (author)  Eragon333 years ago

thanks Eragon33.
Yes, I agree that getting methanol poisoning by drinking homebrew cider is completely preposterous, given the ratio of ethanol to methanol. You'd be long dead of standard ethanol poisoning before methanol did anything.

My recommended basic safeguard (and catch-all disclaimer!) is not to get completely drunk!

PS - Your distillation comments makes sense to me, although I don't go near distilling. It's illegal here anyway.
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