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 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
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
- 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
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
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