Having a glass of hard cider is the perfect way to spend an autumn or winter evening, or if we’re being honest, any evening. There’s a simple pleasure in enjoying the crisp, apple goodness of this alcoholic drink. That’s even more so when a person takes the time to make their own hard cider. To help our readers discover the simple pleasure of making their own hard cider and enjoying it while sitting out on their porch or around a roaring fire, we’ve decided to write this guide on the subject.
Step One: Gather Your Supplies
Before you can make your own hard cider, you first have to gather together the supplies needed to make it. The most important ingredient that you’re going to need is sweet apple cider, and it’s up to you how you want to source that ingredient. Some people press their own cider from apples, and some people buy already made sweet cider to use to make hard cider.
If you’re going use a cider that you didn’t press yourself, then it’s extremely important that it doesn’t contain artificial preservatives in it. Artificial preservatives will kill the yeast in your cider and prevent it from properly fermented. You can tell if a particular cider has artificial preservatives in it by checking the label and looking for potassium sorbate or sodium benzoate. Both of those ingredients are artificial preservatives.
When using a cider sourced from a commercial cider-maker, you’re also going to want to find out how they pasteurize their cider. Pasteurization is a process that kills harmful bacteria and makes the product more stable and less likely to spoil. Most of the ciders commercially produced nowadays are required to pasteurize their ciders. If possible, it’s best to choose a cider that’s been cold-pasteurized rather than pasteurized in the normal way to preserve the natural flavor of the cider.
If you do decide to press your own apples, then you’re going to have to make sure that you keep enough in stock. For each gallon of cider, you’re going to need approximately 20-pounds of apples. That means if you’re brewing a standard 5-gallon bucket of hard apple cider, then you are going to have to press 100-pounds of apples.
Another important ingredient needed for hard cider is yeast. And as far as yeast is concerned, you have a lot of options available to you. There are all kinds of different brewing yeasts that can be used for creating cider.
If you want to make a hard cider starter, then you can do so by opening a bottle of preservative-free apple juice and pouring out approximately 2-3 ounces. This is to make room for the contents of one yeast packet, which should promptly be opened and added to the juice. When that’s been done, reseal the bottle and give it a good shake for several seconds. In about 5-hours, you should begin to see some bubbling within the bottle. When you see that bubbling, open the lid and release the pressure within the bottle. Now place the bottle in the refrigerator. Before using it as a starter, be sure to remove it from the refrigerator approximately 3-hours before starting the brewing process.
Additional Items Needed
Of course, the consumer is going to need more than just sweet apple cider and yeast to make their hard cider. They’re also going to need a few other pieces of equipment and supplies, some of which we’ve listed below:
- Brewing Bucket
- Bottling Bucket
- Temperature Gauge
- Venting Plugs
If you don’t want to purchase all of these items separately, then you can always purchase one of the many Hard Cider Kits that are currently available for purchase. Some of these kits are meant to have everything that you need for brewing hard cider, while others only have some of the items needed. Just be sure to check with each kit to make sure it’s going to have what you need.
Step Two: Begin Brewing
The next step in the process is to begin brewing. Start off by pouring your sweet cider into a brew pot and simmering it for about 45-minutes to kill off the wild bacteria and yeasts that might already be living in it. This will give you a sterile medium for adding your own. Just be sure not to bring the mixture to a boil because that will set the pectin in the sweet cider and make the resulting hard cider very hazy.
While that’s simmering, sterilize a fermentation bucket and have it ready to receive the cider. Once the cider is done simmering, transfer it into this bucket. Allow the cider to come to room temperature and then add your yeast, or your hard cider starter to the cider. Stir the mixture for approximately 60-seconds with a sterile spoon, and then seal the lid and add the airlock. The bucket should then be placed in a dark room where the temperature is between 60 to 75-degree Fahrenheit.
After the cider sits for a couple of days, you should start seeing the airlock on the container begin to bubble. That means it’s releasing the main byproduct of the fermentation process: carbon monoxide. Allow the cider to brew in this manner for approximately 3-weeks. After two weeks, the fermentation process will have come to an end, but the extra week is for letting the sediment settle.
Making Hard Cider Is Wholesome Fun
As can be seen from our above steps, just about anyone can make a hard cider they can be proud of. All they have to do is to assemble the right equipment, some apple juice, and some yeast. Once they have all of that gathered together, they can then brew their own hard apple cider. An apple cider that they can enjoy any time of the year and any time of the day or night. And brewing your own hard apple cider is not only fun, but it’s also rewarding as well.