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.

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.

Step 3: Clean & Sanitize

Sanitize your carboy and equipment. This is VERY important. Bacteria in your cider will create nasty flavors.

I use Starsan (also from your homebrew supply shop). Starsan is a "no rinse" sanitizer, so it's easy to use. Just follow the instructions on the container.

You can also use bleach and water - use about a tablespoon of bleach to 1 gallon of water. If you do this be SURE to rinse VERY WELL after sanitizing.

I keep a 5 gallon bucket on the side that I keep my equipment in - soaking in sanitizer - until they're ready to use.

Step 4: Make the Cider

First sanitize the carboy, airlock, funnel, stopper or carboy cap.

(you did that already, right?)

1) set aside 1 cup of corn sugar. Put it in a tupperware or ziploc bag. You'll use it later.

2) Open one gallon bottle of apple juice and pour half of it into the carboy using the funnel.

3) Pour 2 cups of corn sugar into the now half full bottle of apple juice-using your funnel. Shake well.

4) Repeat Steps 2 and 3, then go to step 5.

5) Pour in the mixture of Apple Juice and Sugar from both bottles into the carboy.

6) Add all but 1 quart of remaining 3 gallons of apple juice to the carboy.

7) Open the packet of Yeast and pour it into the neck of the funnel.

8) Use the remaining quart of juice to wash down any yeast that sticks. I am able to fit all but 3 ounces of apple juice into a 5 gallon Bottle. You may need to be patient to let the foam die down from all shaking and pouring. It's ok fill the bottle fairly full. The wine yeast doesn't create big bubbles.

9) Put your stopper or carboy cap on with an airlock and fill the airlock with water.

Step 5: Ferment

after you've put on the airlock, then put the carboy in a dark corner at about 70 degrees. Leave it alone for about 3 weeks.

During this time, you'll notice that the juice goes from clear to cloudy, and bubbles rise to the surface. This is the yeast fermeting the sugars in the juice. Yes, it will be a bit smelly, especially during the first week.

a layer of yeast will form at the bottom of the carboy. this is normal.

You'll know it's done when the juice becomes clear again. After it clears, leave it alone for another week or so, just to make sure everything's fermented. It takes almost exactly 3 weeks to clear, and another week to be certain, so basically, leave it alone for 4 weeks.

Step 6: Bottle

Now it's time to bottle. During this step, you'll add that cup of sugar you saved back 4 weeks ago, which will create a new tiny fermentation, which will create the carbon dioxide in the bottled cider.

You need a few new things at this point too:

1) pan to boil the sugar in + some water
2) another 5 gallon container - a bottling bucket or another carboy. Use a FOOD GRADE container, not some lame bucket from the hardware store.
3) a 3/8" hose from the homebrew shop
4) a racking cane from the homebrew shop
5) a bottling wand ...yes, from the homebrew shop
6) a bottle capper (guess where you get that?)
7) about 55 bottle caps (new ones, from the homebrew shop)
8) the sugar
9) your handy sanitizer
10) your funnel
11) about 55 clean and sanitized bottles
12) a bottle brush to clean your bottles.

Step 7: Getting Ready to Bottle

first, clean and sanitize your bottles. I find bottles in the recycling. These need to be soaked and scrubbed out with the bottle brush. I find that One-Step (another type of no-rinse sanitizer) does a great job of cleaning, taking off the lables and sanitizing all in one go.

Second, boil the 1 cup of sugar in about 2 pints of water. Boil for 10 min.

Sanitize your bottle caps in some sanitizer. I put them in a bowl to soak while I do other things

Sanitize your funnel and the bottling bucket (or second carboy).

Sanitize your hose, racking cane and bottling wand.

If you have a second carboy, use the funnel to pour the sugar water into the carboy. If you have a bucket, just put the sugar water in the bottom.


Step 8: Siphoning the Cider...

Now, you will siphon the cider from the carboy to the bottling bucket (or second carboy).

1) place the full carboy on the countertop.

2) Place the racking cane (with the tip on it) into the full carboy.

3) Fill the hose with clean water and hold your thumb over both ends.

4) place the cooled saucepan on the floor, next to the bottling bucket/carboy.

5) attach one end of the hose to the racking cane.

6) with your thumb still over the open end of the hose, lower it to the sauce pan.

Now, the water will start flowing, and bring the cider along with it. When the cider starts to flow into the sauce pan, put your thumb back over the hose, and then put it into the bottling bucket.

Allow it to siphon carefully. The siphoning action will mix the sugar through the cider. When it's done siphoning, take the racking cane out of the now-empty carboy, remove the tip, and place the cane into the full container.


Step 9: Bottling

Now it's time to bottle.

Lift the full bottling bucket/carboy up to the countertop. Arrange your bottles nearby, open ends up!

Repeat the siphoning process, except this time, attach the bottling wand to the end of the siphon hose. The bottling wand can turn the flow on and off, and therefore help you fill the bottles.

After you've got the siphon started, just go ahead and fill all the bottles, leaving about 1" of clear space at the top.

NOTE: if there's a big air bubble in the siphon hose, just tap it until the bubble comes down the line and out. If you loose the siphon, just start again.

Step 10: Capping.

Now it's time to cap all those bottles. the capper's pretty easy to use, so I won't explain it here.

Step 11: Aging

Mostly, you need to leave the cider alone for a week or two, to let the bottling sugar do it's work and carbonate the cider.

In this time, the yeast that was roused up through the bottling process will also fall to the bottom of the bottles.

Letting cider age for 6 months or more will improve it's taste, but it'll be good even after a week or two.

Let it age for at least 2 weeks at room temp. Colder temps will stop the fermentation and you won't get carbonation.

Step 12: Drinking

Don't drink too much - cider can sneak up on you! Don't say I didn't warn you.

When you drink the cider, pour it carefully into a glass. Leave about 1/2" behind in the bottle, so you don't pour yeast into the glass.

Nothing wrong w/the yeast, it just makes the cider cloudy and changes the flavor a bit. it's actually really good for you - full of B vitamins.




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    60 Discussions


    10 years ago on Introduction

    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.

    10 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    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 =)


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 1 year ago

    technically it is distilling so it illegal but let get real I doubt your freezer is going to turn you in to feds

    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 ;-)


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    AGREE!!! good equipment is worth it and you'll regret using something that had pickles in it.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    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.

    7 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    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!


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 1 year ago

    it was not the 19th amendment that allowed as home brewing was illegal till Jimmy Carter made home brewing legal at the federal level back in 1978 but home brewing was not fully legalized in all states as it was left to the states to decide so it was not until 2013 that all states finally legalized it


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    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?


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    2 years ago

    Trying some hard cider from local apples, wish me luck!