Simple Hard Cider





Introduction: Simple Hard Cider

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********

Step 1: The Juice

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,  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

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

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

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

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

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:

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

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

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



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I'm doing this process, and am super excited! Quick question though: I couldn't find a apple juice bottle with a mouth small enough to fit my rubber stopper, so I had to transfer to a different container (1.25 gallon jug). Will the little extra empty room make a difference?

No, that should be fine. A little head space is okay.

I'm new at this but should all the yeast be at the bottom?

The yeast can float around while it's fermenting, but most will be at the bottom. When you put it in the fridge, everything with drop to the bottom.

I'm doing my first hard ciders using your recipe. From my research, it
seems that the results should be kept refrigerated? The yeast is not
dead but just asleep due to cold shock and racking? In other words, more
would need to be done to bottle this recipe like pasteurization or
chemicals to kill the yeast for sure, correct?

Yes, when it's done, keep it refrigerated. I refrigerate the cider and rack to a new container when the yeast drops out. There's still going to be some yeast in there and they will be a little active in the fridge. I've noticed that after I let the cider age 6 months to a year, the yeast that's left over actually carbonates it nicely. I've never bottled it in glass, if you do, you want some yeast in there for carbonation. If you force carbonate, you don't need the yeast but they won't hurt anything. It'll be an extra step to get rid of them.
Good Luck.

Seems that's the hardest part of all that probably will be just experience that will tell. I don't know if I can wait 6 months to a year, but maybe eventually. :-)
When you say "when the yeast drops out". What are the symptoms of that? I'm assuming the bubbling will be almost stopped?
Is it your experience that this particular recipe is dry, sweet, semi? I've got four 1-gal. batches going; two with S-04 and two with M02 cider yeast. I guess this is my biggest confusion as to whether to wait til it's "done", but then will it be too dry? I don't care for dry cider. Or should I start checking SG after about two weeks, maybe tasting as I go?
Thanks for getting back to me and thanks for the recipe.


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Once you refrigerate it, all the yeast will drop to the bottom. It makes it easy to move the cider to a new container. Most of the bubbling will have stopped. My recipe is semi-sweet even after sitting in the fridge for a year. If you let them ferment longer than 3 weeks, then it will get dryer as the yeast eat the sugar. Taste it in 3 weeks or earlier, if it tastes good, you're done. If the sweetness is good but it tastes a little bitter or has an off flavor, that's when you need to let it age in the fridge. Fill up a 2 liter bottle and stick it in the back of the fridge and forget about it.

Thank you. Thanks exactly the kind of info I need. It's all new here. I guess I'm also wondering what risk I'm taking at 74 degrees. I noticed a number of brewers say they run at 60 to 68. Are the higher temps really that risky for funky flavors creeping in? It really is quite a difference to brew at home temp vs having to construct some kind of cold house for brewing. It gets into a whole new level of investment.

Thanks again.

Do you *have* to carbonate it, or can you drink it after the three-week fermentation is done?