When you think of cider, chances are you are thinking of a non-alcoholic apple juice beverage from a farm or farmer’s market that you often drink on crisp fall days in the autumnal seasons. However, the game changes when you put “hard” in front of it. In America, “sweet” cider is considered to be non-alcoholic. Hard cider is, in fact, fermented and does contains alcohol, and you might not be able to find this kind being sold on the side of the road or at pumpkin patches. That being said, if you are craving a hard cider, you can take to your own devices and brew at home.
If you’ve been wanting to try your hand at homebrewing a hard cider, today’s blog post is for you. We’re going to be sharing the simple steps of making a hard cider and providing directions for brewing it in your own home. The process is simple and easy, so you can get to sipping the hard cider quickly. So set up your homebrewing systems and equipment — shop BrewPerfect for homebrewing hydrometers and more — and get ready to enjoy a delicious and flavorful brew, perfect for a chilly autumn evening.
Step 1: Select Your Juice
You can make a hard cider straight from a nonalcoholic cider, also known as “sweet cider.” So when you select the juice for your alcoholic cider, you’re going to want to find a sweet one. You can either get some from a local cider mill, the farmer’s market, or your own, or you can purchase a sweet cider at the store. If you decide to go the store-bought route, make sure that the cider is free from chemical preservatives, including sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate. This is especially important because these added chemical preservatives will actually kill your yeast, preventing your cider from fermenting. Also, you will want to make sure that whatever sweet cider you get is “cold pasteurized.” Certain pasteurization processes can actually affect the flavor of your cider.
The best way to avoid this is to purchase a sweet, preservative-free cider from a local orchard or farm. If you’re confused about their pasteurization processes, just ask. This way, you’re ensuring the quality of your homebrewed cider, and you’re supporting local farms.
Step 2: Select The Yeast
Yeast is fairly easy to select for brewing ciders at home. Both dry and liquid ciders will work excellently. There are liquid yeast options available specifically for ciders, but dry wine yeasts work just as well and are less expensive.
Optional Step: Make A Starter For Your Cider
You don’t have to do this, but making a starter ensures that your yeast is fermenting correctly and quickly. In order to do this, take your bottle of sweet cider, pour a little bit out, and put one packet of yeast into the bottle. Shake it for a few seconds. If the yeast is proofed (meaning that it is alive), the cider should start bubbling in the bottle within a five or six hours. If this is the case, open the bottle to release the pressure, reseal it, and refrigerate it until a few hours before you start your brew the next day.
Step 1: Start With A Starter
It’s time to brew! To start, pour the cider (if it is unpasteurized) into a brewing pot and let it simmer over medium heat for about 45 minutes at 185º, but don’t let it boil. This process actually kills the bacteria in the unpasteurized juice. If you want to sidestep this part, you can start by pouring the sweet cider into a plastic bucket and directly pitching the yeast.
If you do choose to simmer the cider over heat initially, you then have the option of adding in 2 pounds of brown sugar or honey. This increases the fermentable sugar, which boosts the alcohol content.
Step 2: Begin The Fermentation Process
Next, you’re going to pour the cider into your sanitized fermentation bucket. Make sure it’s sanitized because you don’t want to spoil the cider. Cool the cider in the bucket until it’s at room temperature. Then you’ll add your yeast, or the starter, if you had made on the day before. Stir the mixture together for about a minute or two before you seal the lid on the bucket and affix the airlock. Store the bucket in room at a temperature between 65 and 75 degrees.
Step 3: Let It Sit
The third step is to let the cider ferment. After a couple of days, you should notice some bubbling. This process takes about two weeks. After the bubbling stops, let the cider sit for another week so the yeast settles.
Step 4: Bottle It Up
It is now time to bottle your hard cider! Once you bottle it, let it sit for an additional two weeks until it is ready to drink. The longer you let it sit, the more still and less fizzy it will be. If you let the hard cider sit for a few months, the flavor will improve, similar to wine.
Step 5: Enjoy!
The last step is to drink the hard cider! You’ve just homebrewed a delicious alcoholic beverage that can be shared with friends and family. The process of brewing a hard cider at home is pretty simple, so you can get started on your next batch whenever you’d like.
We hope you enjoying brewing your own hard cider as much as you’ll enjoy drinking it. If you’re looking for homebrewing systems and equipment, including hydrometers, shop BrewPerfect today. Happy cider drinking!