What is homemade hard cider?
If you were to take fall’s crisp blue skies, the red and gold sparkle of hardwood leaves, add a subtle touch of wood smoke, and the earthy aroma of heaped baskets from the farm cellar; blend them together into a single sparkling liquid, you would have all of fall’s brilliance and nature’s bounty concentrated in that mellow drink called- homemade hard cider
Homemade hard cider is also called apple wine or Apfelwein (that is the German name for cider) Hard cider is cheap to produce, super easy to make and a really tasty drink that is a cool conversation piece to boot.
There are 4 styles of hard cider:
- Still cider is cider that doesn’t have any carbonation in it.
- Sparkling cider is carbonated when bottled
- Dry Cider is basically when the yeast use up all the sugar in the cider during fermentation, you will have a dry cider. (like a dry wine )
- Sweet cider is cider that is still some what sweet after fermentation
Making Hard Cider
Hard cider fermentation time usually takes only a few weeks depending on the room temperature, the type of yeast and the amount of extra sugar/ingredients added to the cider.
Most hard cider will at best be between 3 to 6 % alcohol content if you don’t add additional sugars. If you are want to try hard cider making to maximize alcohol content, you will need to add additional sugars and use a yeast that can withstand higher alcohol content levels.
Making cider is legal as long as you don’t make over 200 gallons a year and if you don’t try to sell it.
The hard cider you make won’t kill you, cause you to go blind or poison you. The worst thing that can go wrong is that you end up making vinegar instead of hard cider. This can happen from you not cleaning your equipment good enough or not kill off the wild yeast or bacteria. If this happens to you, you will know it from the smell or look of the cider.
Basically you will find that hard cider making is about as easy as it gets.
Hard Cider Making Process
The process and steps to making hard cider are really simple. People have been making hard cider either on purpose or by accident for centuries.
Your first step is to obtain a source of apple cider. This can be from fresh apples that you have from a tree on your property or maybe someone is giving you as many free apples as you can take. Regardless of where or how you are getting your fresh apples, you are going to have to get the juice out of the apples.
If you are lucky enough to have some apple trees or access to free apples, then most likely you are only going to be making hard cider once a year in the fall.
You can easily make your own apple grinder and cider press, but you need to do this in advance. Don’t have bushels and bushels of apples ready to be ground and pressed and you decide to start building your apple grinder and cider press.
If you don’t have your own or if you don’t want to build your own, you will need to have access to a grinder and press.
Grinding and pressing is the hardest part of the whole hard cider making process. There are no short cuts here. There is really only one way to do this is to this. You have to grind up the apples then press out the juice.
Remember that you can use the free plans for the apple grinder and cider press that I have on the site at: Cider Press Plans
(Now if you are using store bought cider or apple juice, then you can skip all of those step and you are ready to get stated fermenting some hard cider.)
Making Hard Cider From Store Bought Cider or Apple Juice
If you are making hard cider year round or in smaller batches by using store bought apple cider or apple juice, try following the recipes and procedures on this site.
Cheap Hard Cider Making Equipment
You are going to need containers to ferment the cider in. The cheapest and simplest thing to use is the 5 gallon brewing buckets with the lids that allow you to put a fermentation lock on.
Depending on how much hard cider you are making, you many need a lot of these buckets.
If you are making small 1 gallon batches, you can use a plastic milk jug with a ferment lock and rubber stopper ( or you can use a balloon or plastic wrap with a rubber band) as a way to keep wild yeast and bacteria out of your fermentation.
After pressing your cider and getting your fermenter filled up, you want to kill off all of the wild yeast and bacteria. You basically crush a few campden tablets up and drop them into the cider and put the lid on.
Wait 24 hour and add either a good liquid cider yeast or a dry wine yeast to each of the fermenters.
(You could also heat the cider up to about 160 degrees for about 10 minutes to kill off all the bad stuff.)
In about 24 hours or less, you should see bubbles coming out of your ferment locks. The yeast are doing their thing converting sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Depending on the temperature and the yeast type, it will take anywhere from a few days to up to a month of complete the fermentation process.
Depending on the style of cider you are trying to make, you need to somehow bottle the hard cider.
If you are just making a still cider, you can probably store you cider in gallon jugs. If you want a sparkling hard cider, you will probably be putting your cider into beer bottles.
These are the simple steps to making hard cider.