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Simple Hard Cider

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I love hard cider. It's easy to make and rewarding.
I've perfected a recipe to my taste and it takes about 3 weeks from start to finish.

*******Please do not attempt this unless you are 21 years or older********

 
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Step 1: The Juice

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The first time I made hard cider, I bought fresh squeezed cider from an orchard, it worked fine but it was expensive and not cost effective. You could press your own apples for juice but you would have to add an extra step of pasteurizing it.  Today we are going simple.

After researching cider at a home brew forum http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f32/,  I discovered that Treetop Apple Juice contains no preservatives, which will affect your yeast.  Most store bought juices contain preservatives. Treetop contains only juice and water. I buy it from Costco, 2 gallons for about $7.

Step 2: The Yeast

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I've tried several different types of yeast for cider including champagne yeast but the one I like the most is Safale s-04.  It's not as dry as champagne and doesn't leave the cider too bitter.

For 1 gallon of juice I use 1/2 teaspoon of yeast. The temperature range for this yeast is 15-24C (59-74F)

I keep mine at 20C (68F)

Step 3: The Equipment

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The only equipment I use for this is a rubber stopper, an airlock, and a hydrometer.
All of these can be bought a brewing store and they are very cheap.

The rubber stopper is a 6 1/2. Don't use anything smaller than a 6 1/2 for the tree top bottle or it will fall in.

The hydrometer is used to determine alcohol content and it's optional.

You will also need a couple of old, clean,  2 liter bottles for carbonation.

Step 4: Alcohol Fermentation

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I like to boost the alcohol content and slightly sweeten my cider. I remove 2 cups of cider and add 1 1/2 cup of white sugar. You can add brown sugar to make a caramel apple cider or you can add honey.  It's up to you to play around with different flavors.  What we are doing is giving the yeast more food.  More food equals more alcohol.

If you want to determine the alcohol content, you will need to take a sample in your hydrometer before and after fermentation.

Step 5: The Process

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Here's what you need to do.
  • Starting with 1 gallon of tree top apple juice, remove about 2 cups juice, save for later.
  • Add 1 1/2 cups of sugar to the juice.
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon yeast to the juice. Wait a few minutes for the yeast to sink.
  • Put the cap back on the bottle and shake shake shake the bottle. Make sure all the sugar has dissolved.
  • Add back some of the remaining juice, about a 1/2 cup, until there is a couple of inches of space at the top.  If you are taking a hydrometer reading, now is the time to do it.
  • Give it a quick shake again and put the rubber stopper with the airlock on it. I fill the airlock with vodka because its more sterile than water. You can use water but if it does bubble over you are only adding more alcohol to your cider and not diluting with water.
  • Keep the juice in a cool location between 15-24C (59-74F) I keep mine at 20C (68F). If the temperature rises too high the yeast can produce some off flavors and ruin the cider.
  • Let the yeast do its job for three weeks. Check periodically especially in the first week when fermentation is most vigorous. If the cider bubbles into your airlock, just carefully remove it, rinse it and refill it with alcohol or water.

Step 6: Carbonation

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In beer/cider making, when fermentation is done you rack it to a secondary bottle for carbonation but that takes more time and equipment.  I go the easy route and force carbonate the cider. I built myself a carbonator similar to this one:
http://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Soda-Water-%26-Home-Carbonation---Pays-For-Itsel/

You've got three weeks until your cider is done, this should be your in between project. They are very handy, you can make your own sodas, you can re-carbonate flat soda, they really do pay for themselves.

I bought a 20lb CO2 tank at a swap meet for $10 and it had a regulator. I traded that tank in for a new full tank for another $30. I bought a cheap air compressor kit from Harbor Freight

Another thing you will need is a carbonation cap that fits a 2 liter bottle.
Here is a good video of how to make a carbonation cap.

Step 7: The Process continued

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Okay, it's been 3 weeks, fermentation should have slowed down but still be a little active. Did you build that carbonator? Great!!

Here's what to do next:
  • Remove the airlock and put the cap back on. Place the cider in the refrigerator to cold crash the yeast. The yeast will all settle to the bottom. I leave it for about a day.
  • Next, siphon or carefully pour off the cider leaving the yeast behind. I use old 2 liter soda bottles for the carbonation process.  Leave about 4 inches of space at the top of the bottle. If you took a hydrometer sample at the beginning now is the time to take a final gravity reading.
  • Put the 2 liters in the freezer to rapidly chill. You don't want them to freeze but you want them very cold. CO2 dissolves better in cold liquid.
  • Once chilled, put the carbonator cap on and squeeze all the air out of the bottle.
  • Carbonate, I use 50 PSI in my carbonator. The bottle will be rock hard and you won't here any more gas.
  • Shake the bottle a lot. As the CO2 dissolves the bottle will become softer.
  • Repeat the process a couple of time until no more CO2 will dissolve.
  • Put you bottle in the fridge to rest or you can be brave and open it right away, it will release a lot of gas.

Step 8: Drink your cider

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Pour you cider in a tall glass and enjoy. If its not fizzy enough, carbonate some more.

I have found that this process produces a cider at about 7% ABV

Play around with the ingredients and fermentation times if you want it stronger or less sweet. Once you perfect your recipe you can scale up to a 5 gallon carboy.



REMEMBER:  Please drink responsibly
GabrielL33 months ago

yeah by now this is an really old post but anyways I've been thinking about making my own legal alcohol and but I have and old shine shack that my pop built and it has a hole in the ground and id say its pretty cool in the hole would that work and a good place for hard cider like for shine mash?

target022 (author)  GabrielL33 months ago

Should work but you should see what the temp in the hole is during the hottest part of the day. If it stays between 60-70F it should be fine. If it goes below 55F at night you may have to let it ferment a little longer. Maybe 4 weeks instead of 3. You could also test it with a hydrometer every week to determine alcohol content and stop it when it gets to 7-10%

Good Luck!

krobison6 months ago
this is an old post, but would a soda stream work to carbonate it?
target022 (author)  krobison6 months ago
Yup, just have to put it in their container.
ljtexeira2 years ago
This is my favorite, and simplest recipe. I usually wind up with 10% ABV using Safale S04. I use 5 and 6 gallon carboys and alternate between S04 and White Labs WLP099. Thanks for posting this!
asteadman2 years ago
One more day and my cider will be ready! Took a sample two days ago and couldn't believe how tasty it is.

Couldn't get Safale 04 locally, so used Safale US-05.

I also used 1 cup white sugar and 1/2 cup brown.

Started two more batches yesterday. One all white sugar and one all brown sugar. Curious to taste the difference.

I also built (basically) the same carbonator while waiting for ferment. (I did order/use the prefab carbonator cap and related valve connector.) can't seem to get a beverage to hold carbonation for more than a few seconds in the glass. Still playing with it.

Oh... And I purchased the Tree Top juice from Costco, but the 6.5 airlock plug was too small. Ended up using a size 9. I'm guessing they redesigned the bottle?

Thanks so much for taking the time to post this! I've had a great time playing with it and even got my 70+ yer old dad to start a batch today.

Cheers!
Greetings, I also carbonate at home, and have made this cider. It's AWESOME when carbonated. Here is how I carbonate everything (water, cider, grape juice, apple juice, etc.). Only use a 2-liter bottle from soda pop. They are designed to handle the pressure. Never, ever use the juice bottle. Ever. It WILL blow and you'll have juice (and ants) everywhere. Seriously. Anyway, fill the bottle with liquid only up to the shoulder. Make sure your liquid is COLD. The colder it is, the more CO2 it will absorb. As you screw on the carbonator top squeeze the air out of the bottle. At this point you should have a slightly flattened bottle with no air in it. Now attach your CO2 hose and turn on your ball valve and start shaking the crap out of the bottle. Watch your pressure guage. It will bounce around in the 20-30 psi range as gas goes in and gets absorbed by the liquid. Keep shaking! When the pressure get to 40 psi and you can't get it lower by shaking, turn off the valve. Now you have a bottle with 40 psi inside. Shake it for another 20 seconds. Now SLOWLY bleed off the pressure. I unscrew the cap until I just hear it start to hiss. I let it sit until it stops hissing and unscrew a little more. With water it's fairly quick, but with apple anything it takes longer because it tends to foam. When I do juice or cider, since I use tire valves, I can press the stem and release a little pressure until the foams get near the top of the bottle, then I wait until the foam settles down to continue. The slower you release the pressure the less foam you'll have to deal with. When all the pressure has been slowly released, you can go ahead and swap the cap for the original soda cap. Put it in your fridge and you should have great fizzing for over a week.
kmartin-12 years ago
You forgot to mention the venting process if you carbonate with compressed gas.

Do a light fill, then release pressure and repeat a few times to get the O2 content lower before pressurizing to carbonate.