As Autumn appears, there are always plenty of people watching their apple trees laden with fruit, wondering what to do with it all! Cider making is an excellent way of using up apples to produce a refreshing tasty drink! And believe it or not, it is really not that difficult!
This Instructable shows you the process of making basic cider. As with most things, there are more complicated methods of creating a refined product but this shows the basic principles which in fact with produce a very tasty drink indeed!
Please have a look at my other instructables and other designs on www.philreillydesigns.com.
All the best and happy cider making!
Step 1: What You Will Need
All of the equipment needed to produce your own cider is relatively cheap. Usually the most expensive piece of equipment is the cider press and masher but don’t worry, I will show you a cheaper alternative that will get the job done just fine!!
Here is what you need:
• Sterilising Solution
• 25 Litre (5 gallon) fermentation bin and lid
• Airlock (and grommet if needed)
• Straining bag or muslin cloth
• Campden tablets
• Pectolase (optional)
• Cider yeast
• Siphon tube
• Cider press (I will show you how to make one!)
• Mashing stick (a heavy fence post with a couple of bin bags wrapped around the end will do!)
Step 2: Collecting and Crushing the Apples
The main ingredient to get started making your own cider is apples!! Traditionally, cider was made only using windfall apples (apples that had fallen to the ground via natural causes). The cider that I produced used hand picked apples from the tree as I could guarantee that mostly every apple I picked would be ok (there are a lot of rotten apples on the floor so distinguishing them from windfall takes a while)! A mixed selection of eating and apples and cooking apples will produce a nice blend of cider!
Generally speaking, as a rough guide, you need four times as many apples as you wish to make juice. To make 25 liters of cider we collected about two dustbins full!
Make sure you wash the apples before crushing and discard any apples that look like they may have things living in them.
There are a number of ways you would crush the apples. The method that I used that worked very well indeed was to get a large wooden pole (a fence post) and wrap one of the ends in bin bags to create a nice barrier between the wood and the apples. Some of the apples were then placed in a container and the fence post was used in an up and down motion to smash the apples and create the pulp. Not a lot of force it required to do this and in fact the weight of the pole alone is enough to crush them!
This part of the process is good fun and surprisingly quite quick to do!
Step 3: Pressing the Apples
This part of the process involves squashing the crushed apples so that they release all of their juice. You can buy proper cider presses for this job but they are expensive (About £130 plus!)!! A very simple but effective press can be made for as little as £20.
What you need to create the press:
• 2x3" wood sections
• A wood saw
• A heavy duty storage container
• A car jack
• Wood screws
• Coach screws
The press comprises of a solid wooden frame that is made from timer and screwed together. A wooden paddle is created which has a flat bottom and this is used to press into the fruit. A car jack is used to press the wooden paddle into the fruit by applying force between the top of the frame and the paddle. The storage container holds the apple and carefully channels the apple juice to your container.
The press and storage box should be positioned above the bucket that you are going to collect the juice in. With a couple of holes drilled in the bottom of the container you can channel the juice straight into the bucket that is located below.
Before you start pressing, remember to sterilise the bucket using sterilising solution.
The apple pulp should be placed in a netted bag (similar to that used to store fruit in the supermarket! we actually used a bag that some logs came in!) and placed into the box. As the car jack is pushing the apples down, the juice should start flowing out and into the bucket below. Although this part of the process may take a while, it will be rewarding!! Keep going until you have filled the bucket with juice!! The press actually works most efficiently when you don't over fill the bags! This requires less force to crush the apples and prevents too much strain from being places onto the press!
Step 4: Adding the Campden Tables (Optional)
Campden tables will kill off any microorganisms that may be in apple juice and will prevent the juice from going off. If you are making proper organic cider then I would avoid this step although if you are a first time cider maker I would recommend this as you don't want all of your juice to become spoilt!
Follow the instructions on the tables, it is usually 1 tablet per gallon.
If you add the tables, make sure that you wait at least 24 hours before adding the yeast other wise the campden tables will kill the yeast also!
Step 5: Hydrometer Reading
Using the hydrometer stick, making sure it is sterilised first, drop it into the apple juice and read the reading. This stick will tell you the S.G (specific gravity) of the liquid. In simple terms, the more sugar that you juice contains, the higher the S.G reading (more buoyant) . The more sugar that is in your cider, the stronger it will be. This step isn't vital but it will give you a good indication of the possible strength of your cider from the juice that you have collected!
S.G. Potential; Amount of
Alcohol % Sugar in
by Volume the Gallon
1.010 0.9 --2
1.015 1.6 --4
1.020 2.3 --7
1.025 3.0 --9
1.030 3.7 -12
1.035 4.4 -15
1.040 5.1 1 -1
1.045 5.8 1 -3
1.050 6.5 1 -5
1.055 7.2 1 -7
1.060 7.8 1 -9
1.065 8.6 1 -11
1.070 9.2 1 -13
1.075 9.9 1 -15
1.080 10.6 2 -1
1.085 11.3 2 -4
1.090 12.0 2 -6
1.095 12.7 2 -8
1.100 13.4 2 -10
1.105 14.1 2 -12
1.100 14.9 2 -14
1.115 15.6 3 -0
1.120 16.3 3 -2
1.125 17.0 3 -4
1.130 17.7 3 -6
1.135 18.4 3 -8
Step 6: Fermentation
If you have used Campden tables then remember to wait at least 24 hours before adding the yeast. Sprinkle the yeast in and give it a good stir with a sterilsed utensil. Don't worry if you have bits of apple floating in the liquid. Many brewers add the apple peel into the juice for the primary fermentation as it all equates to more flavor!!
It is best to place a lid on the bucket to prevent any flies or pests getting into your beloved cider! If you do this, remember to add an airlock (as shown in the picture) as this will allow the gas to escape without letting anything get inside. These are really cheap and can be bought for around 60p! If you don't have an airlock, the carbon dioxide being released will cause the bucket to explode!
Make sure that you store your bucket of cider somewhere warm - An airing cupboard would be ideal. If it isn't warm enough then the yeast will not come to life and do its job! About 22 degrees C is prime fermentation temperature.
The primary fermentation will take about a fortnight. You can use the hydrometer stick towards the end of the two weeks on consecutive nights and if the reading doesn't change then all the sugar has been converted to alcohol and the fermentation is over.
Step 7: Adding Pectolase (Optional)
The pectolase, or pectolytic enzyme, breaks down the remaining pectin in the liquid. The pectin that is in the cider gives it that cloudy appearance (also known as scrumpy cider). For a clear cider, pectolase should be added to remove that cloudy haze. This will usually take a couple of days or so but you should ideally follow the instructions on the pectolase packet!
Step 8: Siphoning and Bottling the Cider
When there are no longer any bubbles passing through the air lock and the cider tastes dry, then the fermentation is over and the hydrometer should read close to 1.000.
Pass the liquid through the muslin cloth to remove the majority of sediment and remaining pieces of apple. This should also help to clear the cider.
Using the siphon tube, siphon the liquid into sterilised bottles. This is the stage to decide whether you wish to have fizzy cider or flat cider. If you want flat cider then continue bottling the liquid. If you wish to have fizzy cider (carbonated), then add half a teaspoon of brewing sugar to each bottle. Over time this will turn to alcohol and cause carbon dioxide to build up inside the bottle (carbonation). If you choose the carbonated option, remember to choose a bottle or vessel that can handle pressure! We decided to use 1 Litre plastic bottles as they were cheap. We put brewing sugar in half of the bottles and then honey in the other half for a bit of added flavor!
If you wish to sweeten your cider then you can add non-fermentable sugar such as lactose or saccharin.
For an added touch, we decided to create some labels and printed them off and stuck them too the bottles using double sided sticky tape. It is cheap and actually works a treat!
Most people leave their cider for a couple of months to mature. If you are doing this, either store your clear bottles in a dark place or use green / brown bottles (UV resistant).
I hope your cider turns out to be as tasty as mine did! HAPPY SCRUMPING!
All the best,