How to Make Cider





Introduction: How to Make Cider

About: I like making all sorts of stuff, out of found materials: furniture, wild food, whatever! I've learnt loads from generous people out there, so reuse any useful ideas that you find here...

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 :)

Step 1: 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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193 Discussions


10 months ago

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

2 replies

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

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

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

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

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...

To check the acidity, I assume that the fermination must be visibly finished or the cider will ruin when I take the bung out of the demijohn?

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...

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

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

1 reply

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!


1 year ago

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

6 replies

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.

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

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


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?

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.

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?