All across the nation, markets are currently flooded with all manner of local apple products. Have you ever looked at a jug of fresh apple cider and wondered how to make it boozy? Look no further!
Making hard cider at home is surprisingly simple, arguably the easiest home-made alcoholic beverage, and a nice year-round treat. This edition will contain four recipes, one for each season.
Before we get to those, there are a few important things to consider before any cider fermentation.
Type of Cider
The type of apple cider you choose is the most important part; it should be as fresh as possible and completely devoid of preservatives, as they kill yeast and will lead to fermentation issues.
You can seek out specific apple varieties, or whatever blends your local cidery chooses to make. Try to take notes on different ciders post-fermentation to find the right combination of yeast and apple types.
24 to 48 hours before you intend to pitch your yeast, open each jug and drop in ½ a teaspoon of Pectic Enzyme per gallon of cider. This will help your cider clear up post-fermentation, and make sugars more readily-fermentable. 12 to 24 hours before pitching, add ¼ of a teaspoon of Potassium Metabisulphite (or crushed Campden Tablet) to kill any wild yeast in your unpasteurized cider before you add a clean-fermenting strain.
These items can be purchased from local or online homebrewing/winemaking stores.
Most ciders are quite tasty up to 8 or 9% ABV (OG 1.065-1.070), but a lot of juice you will find will produce something around 5.5% (OG 1.050). If you’d like to increase alcohol volume, take approximately ¼ of your juice and warm it at a low setting in a pot on the stove. Add ½lb of sugar (brown is best) per gallon of final volume and heat just enough to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved, combine with the rest of your juice in a sanitized fermenter and prepare to pitch your yeast.
There are hundreds of possible yeast strains to experiment with, but the most common are Champagne, Nottingham Ale and Cider strains. Champagne will ferment very dry, wine-like and retain the least apple flavour. Nottingham has less alcohol tolerance, will leave residual sugars and more apple flavour; this yeast is less advisable if you added sugar in the step above. Cider yeast will ferment fairly dry, retaining more apple flavour than wine yeast but less than beer yeast; this is a good option if you want to back-sweeten (see next step).
Back-sweetening is dependent on personal taste. Depending on yeast selection and alcohol volume, most homemade hard cider will finish quite dry and devoid of apple character.
If you’d like to add a little more aroma, flavour and sweetness to the finish, you can either keep some of your initial cider unfermented in the fridge or use store-bought apple juice. Add this into your bottling bucket or directly to your keg. As little as 1 cup per gallon of cider can make a substantial difference, so tread carefully.
Now that we’ve got the basics down, let’s check out some recipes.
Fall – Apple Pie Cider
A little bit of fall spice adds depth to a nice, sweet apple cider.
Ingredients: Cider, fermented with Nottingham Ale Yeast (FG 1.008-1.016)
Ferment cider at 68F. At the start of cider fermentation, take 1oz of vodka per gallon of final volume and put it in a small jar with cinnamon sticks and cardamom seeds. When the cider reaches FG and holds steady for several days, strain the spices off the liquid tincture and dump it into your bottling bucket or keg before filling with cider. Package and carbonate with 2.5 volumes C02.
Winter – New England Style Cider
This classic style of type of cider uses brown sugar and raisins to ramp up the flavour and alcohol volume. Optionally, it can be aged on oak chips or in a barrel, but this is not necessary.
Ingredients: Cider, 1/2lb of brown sugar and ¼ cup of raisins per gallon, fermented with Cider Yeast (FG 1.000-1.006)
Combine sugar and cider as noted above. Bake raisins for 20-30 mins at 200F to sanitize them and add to other ingredients in a sanitized fermenter. Ferment at 68F for 3-4 weeks. When gravity holds steady for several days, package and carbonate with 2.5 volumes CO2.
Spring – Session Cider
Simple and clean, this is your go-to cider for the first warm, sunny day of the Spring.
Ingredients: Cider, fermented with Cider Yeast (FG 1.000-1.006)
Ferment cider at 68F for 3-4 weeks. When gravity nears finish and holds steady for several days, back-sweeten with 1 cup per gallon (or to personal taste) store-bought apple juice, package and carbonate with 3.5 volumes CO2.
Summer – Dry-Hopped Cider
For the hoppy beer lover, this is a must-try. It’s crisp and citrusy with a light apple backbone.
Ingredients: Cider, fermented with Champagne Yeast (FG 0.996-1.002), 0.6oz Citra hops per gallon.
Ferment cider at 68F. When gravity nears finish and holds steady for several days, put your hops in a tightly-bound muslin bag and place into the cider. After 5 days remove the hops, back-sweeten with ½ cup per gallon store-bought apple juice, then package and carbonate with 3.5 volumes C02.
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