What’s so cool about using a kit to make hard cider?
Well, I like a lot of people who have been making hard cider a while, tend to look down on hard cider kits.My personal adventures in cider making have varied from results that can be positioned as nectar of the gods, to “aaahhhhhhhggg”, as my wife once gagged!Oh, but when it’s good it is good.There is a lot of fun in experimenting and tweaking your recipes and processes.
The biggest difficulty for the beginner who wants to make hard cider for the first time is that they may be put off when a result turns out to be drinkable only with determination.After 2-4 months of waiting, a vinegar like, or slimy result can be very disappointing. I can’t help but smile wryly as I remember the occasions when after spending months nurturing a batch only to have it taste like the bottom of a mouse cage.You may be thinking, “What does a mouse cage taste like for goodness sake?”Trust me; you really do not want to know…
There are lots of things that can go wrong during the process of making hard cider; most of them though are associated with the ingredients; wrong mix or type of apples, natural yeast issues and bacterial contamination.Also using equipment made of the wrong materials can taint the result.
So how to get it right?Or more importantly, how to produce great hard cider first time, whilst learning and getting a feel for the process?This is where a kit comes in; with a kit you have in one swoop removed 90% of all the variables that cause disasters.The results can therefore turn out to be remarkably drinkable and consistent.You are left with the ‘one big rule’ and if you observe the ‘one big rule’ it actually takes quite an effort to mess this hard cider up.
The one big rule of successful hard cider making.
This cannot be over stated.Cleanliness, cleanliness, cleanliness.In our experience more batches of hard cider go wrong due to this one issue than any other single reason.As the fermentation process is one where the product is kept for an extended period at room temperatures, any contamination will be given the opportunity to grow and spoil the hard cider.Just as you would a baby’s bottle, all of your equipment should be sanitized including your work surface.This means starting with clean equipment and then sanitizing it, all of it.Follow this one simple rule and you should be free from the many hazards that await the naive first timer.
The rewards are worth the effort; home made hard cider is active and can be naturally carbonated.This is unlike bottled and canned beverages typically purchased in stores which are almost always pasteurized and artificially carbonated.Pasteurizing is usually done by heating the liquid to kill the majority of the bacteria and yeast, this process significantly affects the resulting flavor but enables mass production, transportation and extended storage life. While it is possible to get draft beers that are unpasteurized, hard cider of this type is a very rare find in the U.S.
Enjoy the results of your home made cider, whatever you think of it you will notice that it is quite different from hard cider you might purchase in stores.If you are like us you will be hooked on an entertaining, tasty and productive new activity.
It’s a great way to start, everything you need in one package
You will probably get good results on your first attempt
The equipment is good and the result is predictable
The equipment can be used for subsequent more experimental recipes and the production of batches with stronger alcohol contents, this method will typically come out around 3-4%.
On the negative side
It’s a little expensive initially; you can reduce the costs of subsequent batches by using real apples or unpasteurized apple juice.
Considerations and variations
This cider can be enhanced by the addition of sugar when bottling to cause the hard cider to naturally carbonate and or using one of the variations of the hard cider concentrates above.The longer the bottles are left after this step the better the result, up to several months.
According to the manufacturer the base kits and flavors variations are gluten free. However some of the additional hard cider recipes contain barley which is a source of gluten. Always check ingredients to be sure.
Share your experience
Have you used a kit to produce you own hard cider? We are interested in your experiences, whether good, bad, fun or mishap. Share your experience, either comment below or use the contact us link to submit your story.
Recent questions regarding Hard Cider Recipes and Natural (Wild) yeast starters
“I just watched both of your cider yeast starter videos, I thought they were great, very helpful. Is it possible to make the yeast starter with the by-products from when you press apples or use a juicer?” Paraphrased for brevity
The process I performed in the videos is one way to create an apple yeast starter when you do not have access to sufficient apples to press or do not have an apple press.
When using an Apple Press, theoretically wild yeast will already be in the resulting juice as it should have been present on the skins of the pressed apples at the start, therefore you shouldn’t need to add additional yeast from anywhere else. That is of course unless you are looking to produce a specific result such as driving up the ABV (Alcohol By Volume content). Pressed apple juice is exactly what you need and theoretically all that you need to make hard cider. If you have insufficient pressed juice to make a full batch of hard cider then you could simply add additional purchased juice once the starter is working. Bottom line, pressed juice should contain enough natural yeast to start fermentation.
Factors that may affect how well the apple juice actually ferments are many though, i.e. your source of apples, if they have been grown without insecticides, you have not washed off most of the yeast and what varieties of wild yeast happen to be present on them.
Using a juicer may produce the similar results in terms of fermentation. The resulting mix though may produce quite a different and probably very cloudy cider as juicing liquidizes everything and the resulting mix is quite different from pressed apples. Most people seem to see a better clearer result from pressing though I personally have not tried producing cider after liquidizing apples.
Full question – mvolke1 at MakeHardCiderEasy Youtube Channel: “Great videos on the yeast starter. I’m definitely going to use your method. I have a local orchard that presses a hard cider blend around Thanksgiving.
I have made cider a few times. The first was from a kit. The results were pretty good. It was dry, but bland. The next, I made a New England style, and added too much stuff to it.
I want a semi-sweet cider that has apple flavor and isn’t too complex. I was thinking of just using the cider and the yeast starter you suggested. Will the starter work on a 5 gallon batch? And when I pitch the yeast, do I put the apple peelings in the carboy along with the liquid?”
A good batch of yeast starter produced as in the Yeast Starter Experiment should be ideal for a 5 gallon batch. Do not put the peel from the apples in the carboy; if necessary use a sanitized sieve to separate the peelings from the starter juice. As much as possible be careful to avoid exposing the juice and the starter to the air as this will increase the possibility of introducing airborne bacteria.
A good gadget to aid in this process if your container has a wider neck is an Auto Syphon.
Don’t be tempted to simply suck on a hose as this will almost certainly contaminate the juice. Transfer it before it stops fermenting, the ideal time is as soon as it slows down, usually 5-10 days. If you are not quite ready, simply put it in the fridge and this will temporarily stop the fermenting process without killing the yeast.
If you are doing this for the first time with a particular type of yeast, juice and or particular process, our suggestion just as in the Hard Cider Recipe experimenting with Natural Yeast Starters videos for the yeast starter is to make several separate fermenting batches at once, in smaller than 5 gallon quantities. Essentially repeating the idea used to produce the yeast starter, but this time kicking off at least 3-4, 1 gallon fermenting jugs side by side. Make each one slightly different using different types of yeast and or juice. This is a great way to try using other additives to the mix such as cranberry, peach or mango juice. Avoid the mistake I made when I first started doing this though. Do take the time to keep detailed notes of what you used for each batch. As I know from experience there is nothing worse than getting a great result but then not being able to recreate it in a larger quantity. A personal favorite of mine is to add small quantities of berry juice of one type or another.
When you have a batch that is really good you can re-use the yeast starter from the successful batch and make a larger quantity with a much greater probability of success. Also the second generation yeast starter saved in this way will generally be more concentrated and you should have more of it, see What is the process for storing and reusing a successful yeast starter? for detail on this method.
We advocate the multiple batch method as it can be very disappointing to realize several weeks into the process that you have a whole 5 gallons of either a pungent horror story or simply a poor tasting product. If on the other hand, if one or two of your jugs fermenting in parallel turn out ‘not so good’ it’s not such a big deal. Apple Juice obtained from a local Orchard
If you are using juice pressed locally the rules may change, depending on whether they have pasteurized it. If they have pasteurized it they will have killed the wild yeast and you will indeed need to use a Yeast Starter. At the risk of stating the obvious make sure they have not added any preservatives, take nothing for granted.
Unpasteurized Apple Juice
If on the other hand if you can get unpasteurized juice then it should at least in theory have sufficient wild yeast already in it to kick off the fermentation process. Generally it is rarer nowadays to be able to obtain unpasteurized apple juice as local laws often prohibit orchards from selling it. This is mainly due to potential health hazards usually associated with new strains of E-coli and similar potentially dangerous bacteria which can sometimes be found in some unpasteurized beverages. It should be noted though that until very recently, almost all Apple Juice sold in the States was in fact unpasteurized.
The whole pasteurized / unpasteurized debate is a contentious one, with unpasteurized advocates convinced that pasteurizing significantly affects the flavor. Pasteurized advocates on the other hand will argue that there is a significant health risk and that modern methods of pasteurizing do not significantly affect the flavor. Also, for many, it’s preferable to control the fermentation by adding a specific strain of yeast. Generally these cultured yeasts produce a dryer more alcoholic product.
Our own experience is that no two apple juices produce the same result regardless of whether they are pasteurized or not. Everything affects the flavor: the type of yeast, the temperature of fermentation, the specific juice or blend of juices and many other factors. This is one of the things that makes the process of making hard cider so much fun! Also we prefer a Hard Cider around the 3.4% ABV (Alcohol By Volume) range, as not only is it easier and quicker to produce, we like to drink it like beer, by the pint and still be standing at the end of the evening albeit with a bit of a wobble!
The bottom line is that the benefit of making a yeast starter is to kick off, accelerate and control the fermentation process. The longer a batch of apple juice sits waiting for fermentation to start the greater the possibility the bacteria will multiply. As fermentation starts and alcohol is produced it inhibits the bacteria from multiplying acting as a natural preservative. So even if you use unpasteurized juice a yeast starter will help the process.
Once you have a great batch of yeast starter you are in a good position to consistently produce great cider in larger quantities.
“What is the process for storing and reusing a successful yeast starter?” Paraphrased for brevity
In practice it is really simple, just take the remains, that is the sediment and remaining juice on the bottom of a successful fermented batch of hard cider and store it in the fridge, when ready add some fresh juice (which will naturally contain sugar) and start the process again just as in the videos.
I have successfully reused sediment that was around six weeks old; I have no idea what the limits are though.
The really cool thing about this process is that you can play around generating various yeast starters, just as in the Natural Yeast Starter Experiment until you get one that produces a really good hard cider then keep reusing that particular starter over and over again, each new batch effectively producing a new Yeast Starter for the next. Each time you do so the yeast starter can actually get more concentrated and in greater quantity depending how large a batch of cider you make and how much sediment you keep. Due to this I have found that second or third generation yeast starter can actually work better than the first!
Even at that point the fun and experimentation can continue, try different hard cider recipes i.e. use combination’s of different fruit juices to create really unique results. My personal favorite is to add about 20% redcurrant juice to the mix and call it Red Apple Cider! Lovely…
I’m also assuming that the question is not asking if you can make cider using a yeast starter from yeasts found on grapes?If you are, then the short answer is, yes.A lot of people use wine yeast when they ferment cider.They do this mainly because wine and champagne yeast is inexpensive; available everywhere and generally produces a good and reliable result.
On the subject of producing a wild yeast starter using fresh grapes, either to ultimately ferment cider or wine, the first point to clarify is that purchased (cultured) yeasts are not unnatural. What we are really talking about is making use of the wild yeasts found on the skins of fruit rather than making use of yeasts that are refined and sold commercially for the purposes of fermentation.
The first thing to appreciate is that there are many, literally hundreds of yeasts that can be found on the surfaces of grapes and fruit generally.Historically, making use of these is how Hard Cider and wines were originally made.Over time though it was discovered that certain strains of yeast performed much better than others, these were then refined and improved for certain desirable qualities.
You can at least in theory take any fruit, being careful to choose ones that have not been treated with chemical pesticides and create a natural yeast starter . Hopefully most organically grown fruits will fit this bill.The resulting yeast starter can then be used to ferment Hard Cider or wine.
The difficulty of the process is in the unpredictability of what particular strains of wild yeast happens to be present on the fruit in question.Hence the Natural Cider Yeast Starterexperiment and the 1 in 4 success rate we achieved.We have previously achieved a 50% success rate but each time we do it we get a different result.
In making Hard Cider we chose to explore the wild yeast starter process due (apart from the sheer fun of experimentation) to the unique nature of apples and the more limited availability of commercial cider specific yeast.Also we have found that the resulting taste that can be achieved with some wild yeasts found on apples produces a uniquely appley taste quite different from wine yeasts. We have also done this successfully with pears, in that case producing a very smooth and pleasant Hard (Pear) Cider.
Bottom line, our recommendation is that if you are looking to experiment with wild yeasts, get several batches going at once using different sources for your fruit as you are bound to get failures or poor results with some of them.Also the comparison between the batches provides good perspective on what is good and what is not.It is also good fun to try different juices such as pear, blackcurrant, mango etc. and ferment them.If on the other hand you want to produce only one larger batch and therefore want predictability it might be a much better bet to work with a commercially produced yeast of which there are many to choose from.
As the example above shows there are many commercially produced yeasts to choose from.
A recent question regarding Hard Cider Recipes and Natural (Wild) cider yeast starters
Question: “At what level of ABV will natural (wild) cider yeast die off?” Paraphrased for brevity
Answer:Commercial yeasts are usually selected at least in part for their high tolerance to alcohol, wild yeasts are therefore more likely to die off sooner due to their lower tolerance to alcohol concentration, so if high alcohol content and predictability is the goal then probably a champagne yeast that is more alcohol tolerant may be the best bet. Wild or natural yeasts on the other hand inherently add a level of unpredictability to the process but can also produce distinctively different result.
Given that natural (wild) yeasts are many and vary from location to location I guess it’s not surprising that each time I have created a natural (wild) yeast starter I have got a different result as have several of my friends. Although 3-4% ABV (Alcohol By Volume) is generally easily achieved with natural yeast starters I have on occasion successfully achieved a 7% ABV and may have been able to take it further had that been my intent. Most of mine get consumed pretty quickly though…
One of the problems of fermenting cider is that (in my experience) people, particularly those new to the process can get turned off due to a bad result, this being particularly frustrating after investing several weeks in the process. The philosophy of the ‘Hard Cider Recipe experimenting with natural yeast videos‘, indeed the site itself is to suggest ways to make the process easier for beginners.
Given the inherently unpredictable aspects of natural yeast cultures and many opportunities for even the purchased yeast based batches of cider to go wrong, my belief is that a good way to approach the process is to experiment with several batches at one time, thus allowing for some to go wrong. This can accelerate learning; it’s the ones that don’t work that teach us the most? At the same time a positive result encourages further efforts.
Thus for anyone starting out I would encourage them to create a batch or three using natural yeast starters alongside one or two using packaged cider yeast products. If some fail it’s no big deal, it’s good to go into this expecting and allowing for some failures. The benefit of running multiple batches is that it builds up experience fast and the process itself can become fun and extremely interesting. The alternative being to invest several weeks (at least) in one batch which may or may not be a winner.
Once a good batch of hard cider is produced from a natural yeast starter the opportunity presents itself to reuse that batch in its more concentrated form. This then can increase the probability of further success. Even then I would use it to get multiple batched going.
From there we get into the issue of preferences, which type of yeast starter produces the best result? I have produced both good and bad hard cider from both. My personal and highly subjective favorite was made using a natural yeast starter, sadly it was all consumed some time ago .
What’s so cool about this Make Hard Cider recipe and why is it an experiment?
Well, it’s more interesting than using a kit, more risky and kind of a crazy thing to do!
Why risky? Well because it is easy to mess this up and still get a good result and that is in fact the point. I’ll admit the first couple of times I tried to make cider the result was somewhat noxious. So you could say that this is a Make Hard Cider Easymess it up and still get a good result recipe, a bit of a mouthful though. On the other hand, this is simple and fun to do.
During this process and amongst several dubious results, I have experienced explosive jets of fermenting juice and in one case, on opening my bottle of yeast starter too quickly discovering the pressure so great and the jet so strong that it actually hit the kitchen ceiling, covered the counters, dripped into the drawers and well, let’s just say that the cat did not seem willing to come into the kitchen again for several days! On the plus side, the house was permeated with a rather nice smell of fermenting apples; well I thought it was a nice smell anyway. In my opinion this effect can sometimes be easier to achieve than actually getting a great drinkable result.
There are a number of ways to go about making Hard Cider and all will potentially produce quite a different a result. We are going to concentrate on doing it the easy way, assume that we do not have access to orchards or farms producing fresh unpasteurized juice, an apple press or anything else not immediately available outside a typical city or a local store. One thing I will say though is that when you do this and get a great result, you are likely to be hooked and want to experiment further.
Here is a classic video where “Green Deane” makes the core process look really easy.
Now the first time I did as Mr. Dean suggested I got quite a different result. One of the keys to success is the yeast starter. So let’s focus first on that. Here is the process that we followed that got us a great result and also taught us the most.
Now because the process takes a week or two, if you try it just one way you could potentially be disappointed if you get a poor result. So to learn the most, quickly and maximize the probability of a good result we ran this as an experiment with four small concurrent batches going at the same time, each one slightly different. This was very easy and as it turns out and much more satisfying in the long run.
Potential variables are
• The juice used (variations in brand and type)
• The temperature (location of the fermenting juice)
• The apples (lots of different kinds of organic apples)
• The yeast starter (natural, ‘from the apple skins’ and purchased yeast starter products)
Simple summary of the process of Making Hard Cider
1. Make a yeast starter
2. Add to apple juice and attach a fermentation lock and leave for a week in a warm place
3. Bottle and add sugar, allow to charge and refrigerate
4. Drink! Easy! Well maybe, the devil is in the details though.
5 gallons Apple Juice (preservative free) In separate one gallon bottles
4 Organic Apples
1 packet yeast starter (Apple, Champaign or Wine)
2 oz Sugar
Equipment, if you live in an area where getting some of this stuff is hard to do, click on a picture and it will take you to a cheap online store.
• 4 one gallon demijohns
If you buy your apple juice from a farmers market or health food store you can buy it in one gallon glass jugs known as ‘demijohns’, they usually have a circular handle on the neck. If you are very lucky your supermarket may even carry them though they usually have their apple juice in plastic bottles.
• 4 fermentation traps
• 6 ft of 5/16" (3/8") racking / Siphon hose
The hose above can be used with this useful siphon, it saves sucking on the hose to get it going and thereby possibly introducing bacteria.
This 5/16" auto siphon pump starts a siphon with a single stroke in as little as an inch of liquid, eliminating siphoning woes and making it easier and faster to transfer cider to bottles.
• Funnel, about 5 inches give or take
• Simple strainer to stop the peel getting from the starter to the demijohn
• Empty plastic soda bottles
o 12 x 1 liter size – Ideal for bottling (Half liter will do, the size is not so important as using whatever you have to hand)
o 5 x 2 liter size – Ideal for Yeast Starter
First, what you should know about a Yeast Starter
There are two schools of thought here, whether to use natural yeast from an apple skin or a purchased yeast starter product. We therefore decided to try both, the goal being to observe and taste the difference.
Natural Yeast Starter
Yeast is really fungus, plain and simple. Apples (organic) have yeast naturally occurring on their skins. Non-organic commercially produced apples have various chemicals sprayed onto them to increase yields; these typically kill the yeast. It’s also important to wash apples of this type before eating not because they are dirty as such but because they can have a residue of these chemicals which are harmful to humans. It’s ironic that commercially produced spotless looking apples are potentially more harmful than a non washed apple grown naturally even if it has rolled around in the dirt. This is a key point as in order to make a yeast starter you must use organic apples and it is important NOT to wash them. The yeast sits on the surface of the skin and if you wash them you will probably wash away all the natural yeast, defeating the object. I learned this first hand as on my first attempt I did not get a fermentation reaction, the starter simply went moldy. It was only after discussing this with my wife several days later when she said rather guiltily “you can’t eat apples that have not been washed!” that was when I realized what had happened….
Benefits of making a yeast starter using organic apples
When you make a yeast starter this way you have taken the first step in making Hard Cider naturally and it has cost you only one apple. Historically this was the way Cider was made before the advent of modern methods of processing and packaging yeast products. The next point is admittedly subjective but those that have created a good batch of natural yeast starter will tell you that the taste of the resulting cider is quite different, more ‘appley’ and sweeter than when using packaged yeast. This is certainly true in our experience, this effect being noticeable in the smell of the starter within just a few days of starting the fermenting process.
Problems of using a natural yeast starter from organic apples
It takes a little more effort to peel the apples and the result is unpredictable. This is because there is no way to know what kind of yeast is on the apple and whether it has been contaminated with a disruptive bacteria. By way of perspective though it’s worth noting that all organisms are carrying bacteria, all produce, all animals and people. It’s in your body, on your skin and perfectly natural, in fact your body depends on them to function. There is a growing weight of evidence that suggests that environments that are too clean can lead to illness and reduced ability to fight infection. So the bacterial is natural and nothing to worry about. Sometimes though there will be too much bacteria and too little natural yeast to ferment effectively. When the apple peel is put into the apple juice the yeast will start to grow by processing the natural sugar in the apple juice and produce alcohol quickly reaching a tipping point and killing residual bacteria. On the other hand, if there are too much bacteria and too little yeast the bacteria will multiply and the juice will go bad before the yeast has multiplied sufficiently. Which way this process will go is inherently unpredictable. Each apple you purchase will have a different type and quantity of yeast and bacteria on its surface. The part of the country the apples were grown in, where you live and the time of the year will all play a part in what type of bacteria your apples are exposed to.
The good news
Once you have a good yeast starter it can be stored and reused many times, so you only have to do this once. Also as it is the yeast starter that is the foundation of the Hard Cider you eventually make it is worth taking the time to get a good one. Whether or not a yeast starter is going to be good is usually quickly apparent, so you will not waste too much time on a duff batch. You should be able to smell the difference between a good batch and a bad one within just a few days. This is one of the reasons we recommend that when starting a batch of natural yeast starter you get at least four going at once using different apples. You will be able to discern the bad from the good by comparison. Also, as long as at least two or more are successful you will have more than enough and have the benefit of subtly different tasting Hard Ciders.
Use organic apples, do not wash them and get several different batches going at once.
Purchased yeast starter
There are quite a few different products available of this type. Typically they are dried and sold in small sachets and are relatively inexpensive. They are usually formulated to produce a certain type of wine, beer or champagne. Generally wine or champagne yeast can be used to Make Hard Cider. However the resulting Hard Cider is usually quite different and often fairly dry and wine like. There are a few places selling yeast specially for making Hard Cider but in our experience we have not found them significantly different from champagne yeast. Hence we recommend purchasing at least one of any kind and getting it going alongside the natural batches, this will give you something to compare to.
Benefits of making a yeast starter with a commercial yeast product
Generally the results are more reliable, predictable and the fermentation process will be likely to take off more quickly.
The downside of making a yeast starter with a commercial yeast product
The resulting brew tastes quite different, dryer and less ‘appley’ though it has to be said that some people prefer this result. In the opinion of the authors it is however less interesting and satisfying than making cider with purely natural ingredients.
Create at least one batch of yeast starter from purchased yeast to act as a comparison to your natural starters.
1. Buy four different types of organic apples and 5 gallons of apple juice, make sure they are 100% juice, not “from concentrate”. Also be sure that they are preservative free; if the juice has preservatives in it, it will kill the yeast and therefore be a non-starter! If this in not made clear on the label it is worth taking the time to call the supplier to check. We have successfully used the Kirkland brand found at Costco.
2. Sanitize all your bottles and utensils.
3. Pour your apple juice from one of the gallon bottles into five plastic soda bottles half filling each (2 liter size).
4. Peel each of the four apples and pop the peel from each apple into a different bottle (ie one apple type per bottle, don’t mix them). You can go ahead and eat the peeled apples as it is only the peel that is used. Seal each and put them somewhere warm away from direct light. Pick the location carefully, you will want to get to them easily and examine them each day for about a week. Depending on the time of year and your local climate this may vary, in the winter we have found that a kitchen cupboard above a forced air vent worked particularly well.
5. Add your purchased yeast as directed on the packet (usually a small amount is all that is needed) into the fifth bottle, seal and place with the rest.
6. Label each bottle with the date and type of apple or yeast starter.
7. After about 1-4 days you will notice that the bottles get very hard and you should notice the fermentation process taking place. Now this is where things will get interesting! You will probably find that the purchased yeast will start first. You are also likely to find quite a difference in how quickly the fermentation process kicks off in each bottle. Also, as the fermentation process starts you should notice that the peel will rise to the surface.
8. Carefully release the pressure on the bottles that go hard by partly unscrewing the cap and smell the gases that escape. If all is well you will notice a fairly strong and health ‘appley’ yeast smell. You will also see a fuzzy cloud of froth on the surface of the juice. If one or more of the starters do not start within 5 days then the most likely reason is that the temperature is too low or the juice has preservatives in it. It is usually pretty apparent if there is too much bacteria in the any of the starters as the smell will be quite different and noticeably unpleasant, you may even see green or brown mold forming. This is another reason why getting five batches going at once is a good idea as you will notice the difference between a good batch and a bad one by comparison. Expect to have some failures here but don’t despair as you only need two good ones to be successful. Each gallon of apple juice will require about half a liter of starter, hence3 filling half a 2 liter bottle with apple juice and peel to get enough starter for 2 gallons.
9. Check them every day and release the pressure on each as necessary. Once you have a starter which has been fermenting this way for 4-5 days, usually around 5-8 days total, it is ready for the next stage.
10. Carefully transfer the successful yeast starters into the one gallon demijohns, using a sieve to catch the peel. We are assuming that you will have at least one, and worst case three, failures therefore you will either pour one starter into each demijohn or half of each (half a liter) into each. In either case it should be enough (don’t forget to make sure everything has been sanitized.)
11. Add the juice from the rest of the gallon bottles filling each demijohn to about an inch short of the top. It is usually best to siphon the juice into each as the object is not to aerate the juice as which is too easy to do when pouring a gallon of juice and if the juice is exposed to too much air you increase the risk of adding harmful bacteria to the mix.
12. Attach a fermentation trap to each demijohn making sure that there is a small air gap under the trap.
13. Make sure you label each bottle so that you can keep track of which type of apples you used and which is the batch with the purchased starter.
14. Place the demijohns back in a warm place away from direct light. The temperate of this location will make a difference to the result and how fast the fermentation takes place. Some people prefer to make a slow fermented Hard Cider some just want to get the result quickly. We have found that anywhere from 65F (18C) – 80F (26C) is ideal. The higher temperate producing a much more vigorous fermentation. Generally, you will notice fermentation starting with 2-4 days and ideally you want to let it go for another 3-6 days. Once the fermentation slows it is time for the final stage.
15. Siphon the fermented cider into one or half liter plastic soda bottles adding about half to a full teaspoon of sugar to each. Again be sure to label each as you go, there is nothing more frustrating than mixing up your batches at this point. Seal the bottles and put them back into a warm place. Be sure to check them regularly as the sugar will re-initiate the fermentation. As soon as the bottles get hard put them into the refrigerator and this will stall the fermentation process. This step adds a little extra alcohol and naturally carbonates the cider.
Your Hard Cider is now ready to enjoy and is likely to be about 2-3% alcohol.
Considerations and variations
Now this is when the fun really starts. When you have done this once you will have gained a great insight into the process and no doubt have an opinion as to what type of cider you prefer.
We like to use plastic bottles as that allows us to know when the time is right to refrigerate without opening them. All you have to do is squeeze the bottle, if it’s hard, it’s ready. Also as we are recycling soda bottles, they are effectively free. Another problem with glass bottles is that they require a special gadget to cap them; they typically do not have a screw top and can explode if left unattended in a warm location. Because this process takes place over several days it is easy to forget to check on them.
Re-using the Starter
You do not have to go through the starter creation process each time you want to make Hard Cider, you can use your successful batch of cider to kick off your next batch or even make a much larger quantity. You will be left with some sediment in the bottom of each demijohn. If you liked the cider DO NOT THROW THIS SEDIMENT AWAY. Instead leave about an inch of liquid on the bottom of the demijohn and pour as much of it as you can into a plastic soda bottle, making sure to avoid too much air space. This is now your starter for your next batch. It will keep quite well for several weeks in your refrigerator. When you are ready to start a new batch, add some fresh apple juice and repeat the starter process if you want to create a greater volume of starter. As you now know what the cider will be like from this particular yeast starter and you can be sure no bacteria has contaminated it you will be much more likely to get a consistent result.
It is however a lot of fun to repeat the 4-5 batch process adding further variations. Use Pear or Mango Juice instead of Apple for example. Try a brown sugar or add cinnamon. Add additional sugar during the fermentation phase. Allow the juice to ferment longer in the second stage. This is done by placing it in a medium warm place, adding sugar and releasing pressure regularly. This will produce a more alcoholic and less sweet result and be the subject of further articles.
All of the ingredients; apples, apple juice, yeast and sugar are by nature gluten free.
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I have made this hard cider recipe a couple of times with great results.Every other Saturday night it is a bit of a tradition in our house to have some friends around for drinks or maybe dinner.These evenings have tended to vary in style from a formal dinner party to a BBQ to a somewhat inebriated evening where we will play silly games. The type of evening depending to a large extent upon the type of people we have invited and what we think they will enjoy.One particular Saturday I found myself responsible for organizing the drinks for the evening’s entertainment.This particular evening was to be a ‘come around for chat, drinks and snacks’ evening.We call this ‘the quiet Sunday after evening’, I’m sure you get the idea.Now I had a selection of beer and wine, the usual staples, but wanted to do something to make the evening different.I had some hard cider bubbling, brewing away nicely but it was at least a month away from being ready to drink.What to do?
It is not unheard of for us to play tricks on our guests and with that in mind I formed a plan.
A quick trip to the store and a raid of our cold room produced the ingredients I needed.I put a few cartons of apple juice into a large mixing container, added an assortment of spirits including Vodka and Rum, Cinnamon sticks, Honey and fruit and adjusted for taste.I then poured the concoction into a keg style barrel so that I would be able to serve the result as a draft beverage without anyone being able to see the mix before it hit their glass.
As our guests arrived I offered them a drink asking if they would like to try my latest brew.The typical response, especially from the guys was, “err, got a regular beer?”“Sure” I would say, “would you mind just trying a small sample of this hard cider and tell me what you think?”I then proceeded to pour a small, very small, tumbler of the mix.The one consistent reaction to the sample was a kind of eye rolling accompanied with an intake of breath.“More?” I would ask innocently reaching for a larger glass.
I feel no guilt whatsoever, probably because I have never admitted the true nature of this concoction before.Maybe I am simply an immoral person but I have created a whole mystic around my cider making abilities, embroidering the nature of this particular brew with comments such as “yep, that brew took me eleven months to ferment.It’s a secret recipe handed down through my family for at least three generations, I’m glad you liked it.”
This really is a 10 minute process from start to finish.Essentially it is actually a kind of fruit punch though it still has all the apparent attributes of a home brewed hard cider.I’m sure lot of hard cider enthusiast(read snobs), are rolling their eyes in dismay upon reading this far.
There was a scientific experiment conducted upon wine connoisseurs, where, with the usual double blind process, these experts were consistently fooled by white which was wine colored red.The experiment demonstrated that our vision will overpower other senses in deciding what is real.I think one of the keys to making this drink work so successfully was dispensing the liquid from a barrel as one would a draft beer.
Here is the specific recipe I used on that first evening, though I have to say the fun in this particular recipe is experimenting and making your own mix, adjusting to individual taste as you go.Also I would never suggest that anyone mislead others as I have unless you all share a good and strong sense of humor!
What is the essence of the recipe?
Yep, this really is a 10 minute, start to finish job.Normally apples are fermented to produce the alcohol however it this case the alcohol is added separately short circuiting the process.It is really better described as a fruit punch, however as it is made of apple juice and has alcohol in it can be referred to as hard cider.Take apple juice, add a spirit or two, maybe fruit and cinnamon and away you go.Great recipe for parties!
1 gallon apple juice
1 bottle of Vodka (750ml)
4 – 8 tbsps clear honey (according to taste)
Directions Nothing too strenuous here
Mix it up and chill
Considerations and variations
Real brewed hard cider is usually cloudy so using apple juice with pulp will add an air of authenticity.Any spirits will work, Port, Rum, Spiced Rum, Schnapps and Goldschläger can be particularly good.Avoid Gin as its distinctive aroma is a bit of a giveaway.Use the alternatives or additions to honey below to obscure the taste of stronger flavored spirits.
Try alternatives to honey to create your own unique result.Add cinnamon, cloves and or ginger.Add real fruit, liquidized fruit and or small proportions of other fruit juices.Use pear juice as an alternative to apple juice.
Keep quantities proportional, 10% – 20% spirit to apple juice works best.Typically one bottle of spirit per gallon of juice is about right.Add other ingredients to taste.
Use a brewing keg available for just $10-$15 to dispense.Appearance is everything, if you dispense from one of these your guests will not question your brews pedigree.
Lastly drop a few cubes of previously frozen apple juice into mix to keep the brew chilled all evening.
Hard Cider is a great long drink for Celiacs because it is made from apples which contain no gluten.This recipe can be made gluten free simply by being careful regarding which spirits are added.Here are some suggestions.It should be noted that because manufacturers can change their ingredients without notice care should be taken to check individually before use.As a guideline the following spirits are usually gluten free.
Why indeed, I’m a beer lover and so is my wife, so why on earth would we want to make hard cider? The reasons we discovered the secret art of cider making has to do with religion, and wheat.
It was many years ago when I first introduced my wife to real ale. It was a hot sunny day in the south of England; we had just spent a few hours hiking in the rolling hills of Hampshire. On our way home we did what most English people do, we stopped at a pub. English country pubs have a unique atmosphere that is at once sociable and calming. Not the sports bar environment so prevalent in the U.S. but more of a cross between a Starbucks and someone’s front room.
As we entered the pub we were greeted by a pleasant beer and hop smell, we were hot, pleasantly exercised and ready to relax. I watched as the barmen poured my pint of chilled real ale. This was not I should point out, cryogenically frozen to minus eight million degrees below zero and irradiated to remove all traces of life, it was not so to speak "American beer". As the amber nectar flowed gurgling into the glass my wife hesitated, clearly she could order her usual glass of white wine but somehow this just didn’t seem to fit the occasion, she needed a long drink.
"Go on, have a pint", I prompted. She hesitated not having really enjoyed it the last time she had what she considered "a beer" some time ago, actually it was a lager. I handed her my pint; she held it studying it dubiously. Both I and the barman stared at her, wondering what was going to happen next. In fact the whole pub went very quiet; everyone seemed to hold their collective breaths. English pubs really are that intimate. An older couple, sitting at a big wooden bench, their dog lying by their feet nodded in our direction. The dog’s ears pricked up noticing a change in the room.
The ale was crystal clear and was just beginning to develop a little frosting from the humidity as it hung in the air. As she put it to her lips I could see it was her intention to sip it as one would a glass of wine, then it happened.
Once the first mouthful washed in and down, her eyes widened and there was simply no stopping the rush. Within three seconds the pint was gone and with a sigh she put the now empty glass back onto the bar. Without so much as a pause the barman inquired "another"? "Yes", she nodded; the rest so to speak, is history.
I should explain, English real ale is flat, as in not carbonated. That is one of the reasons it is called ‘real’ ale, it is brewed in a similar way to how it was brewed hundreds of years ago, long before the time of carbon dioxide pressure systems. It is also non-pasteurized, it is a living drink. You cannot buy this stuff in cans or bottles. The evil elixirs they put in these containers are in no way equivalent to the real thing, not even close. This is why she was able to down the pint with such ease, no gas and no brain freeze!
In recent years much has changed with our personal circumstances. We have relocated to Utah in the U.S. and my wife has discovered that she is allergic to Gluten. She has plenty of company as a sufferer of this malady, it is estimated that around 1 in 133 Americans suffer from Celiac Disease (Gluten intolerance).
So here we are in LDS land, Utah! Utah’s unique licensing laws and gluten intolerance combine to make most beers undrinkable. What’s a girl to do? The answer my wife discovered is to make cider! Or more accurately, make hard cider.
Before I get into this I should point out that it is possible (technically) to purchase gluten free beer, and if you are the kind of person who will drink anything as long as the word beer is printed on the bottle and someone else is paying the inflated prices to boot I suggest you go ahead. For the rest of us, gluten free beer is a non-starter.
So, what’s so good about making and drinking hard cider? For starters, it’s easy and has no gluten. This is because it’s just apples. So what ingredients do you need to make cider? Get your pen out, find a large clean sheet of paper, at the top write carefully "INGREDIENTS NEEDED TO MAKE HARD CIDER" and under it write "Apples" and you are done!
There are other sound reasons it is a good idea to make hard cider. First hard cider tastes good, second is that hard cider tastes very good. Third, it can be made sweet or dry, strong or mild. So when I say it tastes good I mean it because you can make hard cider to your taste! For those people who prefer not to be able to stand up at the end of an evening 10%+ alcohol content is easy to achieve, for the less adventurous, a mild and warming 3% is probably the most appropriate and just happens to be quickest and easiest hard cider to produce. For those that have a sweet tooth, no problem, on the other hand if you like a dryer tangy flavor this is easy to achieve too.
Hard cider can also be made flat, just like real ale, it can be naturally bubblefied or it can be artificially carbonated. The only limit to the variations in the taste of your hard cider is your imagination. You can blend different types of apples together; this alone produces surprisingly different results. You can blend different juices together anything from pear, to lemon to orange. You can add honey, cinnamon, spices or raisins to your hard cider brew to get really unique and sophisticated results.
You can use store bought apple juice, press your own apples with an apple press, learn the process and buy your own fermenting equipment or if you are just starting, a good way to make the process easy is to use a complete hard cider kit.
Another great reason it’s a good idea to make and drink hard cider is it’s made from apples! Apples are good for you. It is thought that apples may protect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Apples have no fat, cholesterol or sodium, but they contain potassium. Many studies associate heart health and decreased blood pressure with apple consumption in part thanks to the potassium. Also low potassium is thought to cause muscle cramps, so hard cider can assist there too.
Bottom line, you really can say "I’m just taking my daily medicine"!
For all these reasons this web site is dedicated not just to the art of making hard cider but to make hard cider easy!
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