How to Make Hard Cider
How to Make Hard Cider Right at Home
Making hard cider isn't so tough! Here are the exact steps done in order to turn preservative-free apple cider into delicious hard cider.
Finding preservative-free apple cider may be a little tough. You may choose to make your own apple cider, or you may find some preservative-free cider at your local orchard. I actually found most of the hard cider supplies at my local orchards market.
Be sure to sanitize anything that will touch your cider!
What You Will Need:
Here's what you will need in order to make hard cider:
- Preservative-Free Apple Cider
- Sanitation solution
- Container (size depends on amount of cider—I use a glass carboy)
- Yeast Nutrient (optional, but recommended)
- Pectic Enzyme (optional, but recommended)
- Campden Tablets (optional, but recommended)
1. Add Campden
Put campden tablets into apple cider, leaving the container covered but not sealed. This kills bacteria and fungi as well as removes chloramines. 1 tablet per gallon is plenty. We want to get rid of bacteria and fungi that could cause off-flavors or spoil the cider entirely. After around 24 hours, the campden tablets have dissolved, completed their chemical reactions, and have evaporated out of the cider.
2. Add the Pectic Enzyme, Yeast Nutrient, and Yeast
Empty all the cider into a big container, I used a 6-gallon carboy, which is a big glass jug commonly used by home winemakers and brewers. Add the pectic enzyme, yeast nutrient, and yeast and give good shake or mix. You may want to add only 1 or 2 gallons of apple cider before the other ingredients. This will make it easier to shake or mix.
Adding the Yeast
The last addition is yeast. There are countless strains of yeast out there, most of which can be found online for 5-10 dollars. Each will behave differently and leave you with a unique finished cider. If you feel like doing some research, a great place to start would be at homebrew talk, thanks to user CvilleKevin. I chose a dry ale yeast, US-05.
Yeast Nutrient & Pectic Enzyme
What is yeast nutrient?
Yeast nutrient is exactly what it sounds like, a collection of chemicals, minerals, and vitamins that yeast need so that they can ferment in a low stress environment. The directions on my brand of nutrient suggest one teaspoon per gallon of cider.
What is pectic enzyme?
Pectic enzyme is an enzyme that breaks down the protein pectin. Pectin is a major contributor to haze or cloudiness in ciders. This should make it so we get a more clear finished product. My brand called for 5 drops per gallon.
Agitating the Cider
As you add the cider, be sure to agitate as much as possible. Oxygen is required for yeast to reproduce properly so we want plenty dissolved into solution. (Once the yeast start eating away at the sugar, oxygen is to be avoided. This will cause oxidation and unpleasant flavors.)
Now that everything is combined and has been given a good mixing, we want to place the container somewhere cool, dry, and away from sunlight. Ideal temperatures should be labeled on your yeast container, usually in the mid-to-high 60s(F). Placing an airlock on the container filled with a sanitizing solution makes it really tough for bacteria and fungi to make their way into the container, so if you have one use it. They are not entirely necessary but will reduce chances of getting an infection by quite a bit. Otherwise loosely cover the containers in aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
What to Expect
Time until active fermentation begins and the duration depend on the yeast used. This is the time when the yeast is doing the majority of the conversion of simple sugars into ethanol. There could be a lot of bubbling in this time frame, if you’re worried about messes make sure there’s plenty of extra room in your container or place in a washable environment.
Once active fermentation ends you haven’t finished! Most of the yeast drop to the bottom, but some remain suspended in the liquid ‘cleaning up’ the cider. That means lots of reactions that tend to improve the taste of the cider over time, and ‘mellowing’ the alcohol-y taste. Waiting longer is usually better.
How long will it take until your hard cider is finished?
Your cider should be ready to drink within 2-3 weeks (usually), but waiting longer (a few months) should improve the flavor and reduce the alcohol-y bite of the cider.