Cider Starter Kits
Cider Making Kit $70.00 ($87 w/ Glass Carboy)
6 gal Fermenting Bucket / 5 gal. Carboy / Airlock / Stopper / Racking Cane / Racking Tube / Hydrometer / Hydrometer Jar / Pectic Enzyme / Yeast Nutrient / Campden Tablets / 2 lbs Corn Sugar / Champagne Yeast / 4oz Star San
This isn't just apple juice. It's Hard Cider. It starts as the sweet necter from an apple, but then it is sanitized, chapatilized (sugar added), and fermented to make 6% alcohol. You have 3 choices in making your hard cider. One, you can pick apples, crush and press the juice, then ferment it. Two, you can buy juice from the market and ferment it. Or, Three, you can buy a concentrate cider kit. We'll explain all three methods but first you will need some equipment.
You can make smaller batches of hard cider using one gallon jugs but it's hardly worth your time to make less than five gallons. Making hard cider is similar to making wine. In the end, your product will be dry (not sweet), acidy from the malic acid in the apple juice and warm from the alcohol content. After sufficient aging, you have options for bottling. A still (uncarbonated) cider can be corked or screwcapped. A sparkling cider needs to be capped to hold pressure in a beer or champagne bottle. You also can make a sweet hard cider or leave it dry.
Crushing and Pressing:
It takes 20 lbs of apples to get one gallon of cider. If you have an apple tree, it's a fun way to spend an afternoon. We rent and sell the crusher and press. Your first step is to select your apples, most ciders are a combination of apples but a sweet apple will make a very flavorful cider. Pick the best fruit, no worms, no mold, and no fallen fruit. It's best to "sweat" your apples. Lay them out on a tarp to soften up a few days before you press. Before you can squeeze your apples they must be crushed/ground into pumace with an apple crusher. The crusher is a roller mill with knifelike blades that turn you apples into applesauce. Crushing the apples releases the juice for the next step, pressing. A cider/wine press will compress the pumace and juice will run out the bottom. Before pressing, line the press basket with a fine mesh cloth or put the pumace in a straining bag to help separate the pulp from thejuice. When you have collected enough juice, we are ready to begin the fermentation steps. If you decide to not ferment, fresh cider should be stored at temperatures between 35 and 40 degrees to slow the natural fermentation process as much as possible. Fresh apple cider will last 5 to 10 days before it begins to ferment and should be used within this time period. If you want your cider to last longer it is a good idea to pasteurize it (kill bacteria) by heating it to 160 degrees Farenheit but no higher than 185 degrees. Properly refrigerated pasteurized cider will last up to 3 weeks. If you produce more fresh apple cider than you can use it is a great idea to freeze it. Remember to leave room in your container since the liquid will expand as it freezes. Frozen cider will last up to one year.
Yes, you can make hard cider from apple juice or cider from the super market or farmers market. You can even use frozen applejuice concentrate. Choose cider that is pure juice, no preservatives. Pasturized juice is fine. Check the sugar content of the juice with your hydrometer. Some ciders and juices have sugar added already.
Pre-packaged/condensed cider kits are available and easy to make. Kits use apple juice that has been blended and concentrated to make a goof-proof product. All ingredients needed are pre-packaged and pre-measured. Following the enclosed instructions produces a quality product with the least effort.
Making Hard Cider
1. Cleaning: Sanitize your fermenting bucket. Use a solution of 1oz of Star San with 5 gallons of water. Let soak for at least 2 minutes, no rinsing required. When you need it, you can prepare all your equipment using this method. Other than Star San, you can use Campden Tablets, Sodium Bisulfate, or Potassium MetaBisulfate to sanitize.
2. Mixing: Blend 5 gallons of apple cider with 2 1/2 tsps of Pectic Enzyme to prevent haze in the finished cider and 1 1/4 tsps of yeast nutrient to provide for a complete fermentation. Your cider will usually need an additional one pound of corn sugar to make a 6% alcohol content. You can add additional sugar to increase alcohol to 11% if desired. Use your hydrometers potential alcohol scale to make sugar adjustments.
3. Hydrometer Readings: Float the hydrometer in the fermenting bucket. Note where the liquid intersects the hydrometer. You want a reading of about 6% on the potential alcohol scale or 1.050 on the gravity scale. If the reading is low you can add more sugar. One pound of sugar can raise the alcohol by 1% in a 5 gallon batch.
4. Sanitizing The Cider: Before we add the yeast we want to insure that we kill any bacteria or natural yeast that may be living in our cider. We do this by adding sulfites, specifically sulfur dioxide(Campden Tablets). Crush 5 Campden Tablets and add to the cider. Stir well, mixing all ingredients. Cover the bucket with a linen cloth and let sit for 24 hours. As the sulfites do their job they dissipate and leave the must ready for the yeast. Although sulfites are found in almost all commercial wines some people object to them. Sulfites are not necessary for fermentation but they do help to keep bacteria out of your cider and becoming vinegar.
5. Pitching the Yeast: After the cider is sanitized we are ready for yeast. Prepare the yeast by adding it to a cup of warm water, let sit for 15 minutes then add to the fermenter, cover with the lid and attach the airlock. Fill the airlock half full of water.
6. Primary Fermenting: The cider should start fermenting in 12 to 24 hours. Ferment for 7 to 10 days at 70º. Check the gravity reading with your hydrometer after 10 days. The gravity should have dropped to nearly 1.000. Even if the gravity has not dropped in that time, continue to the next step anyway.
7. Racking(transferring): Once the yeast has consumed the fermentable sugar, it falls into sediment in the bottom of the fermenter. You now begin a process of clearing the cider by syphoning and leaving the yeast behind. Use the racking cane and racking tube to syphon from the bucket into the 5 gal bottle. Attach the airlock and stopper.
8. Secondary Fermenting: Let the cider sit in the 5 gal bottle for 2 weeks. After 2 weeks the fermentation will have stopped and more yeast will settle to the bottom of the bottle. You are now ready to bottle or continue aging if you wish.
9. Bottling: 5 gals. of cider will use 25 bottles(750ml). The cider can be corked and aged for 3 months to 1 year. Screw cap wine bottles and jugs work as well. The cider may be sweetened by adding Potassium Sorbate to stop any yeast from becoming active and adding sugar to taste. If you want a sparkling cider, do not add Potassium Sorbate. Instead, you will add 1 cup of corn sugar to the finished cider, cap in beer or champagne bottles and let sit for 2 weeks at 70º. The cider will carbonate and yeast sediment will form at the bottle bottom.
Tips for a better cider:
1. Limit your cider's exposure to air. If after syphoning, you have less that 5 gallons of cider in your fermenter, top up the fermenter with pre-boiled water to eliminate the air space.
2. Make your cider clear faster with fining additives. The yeast and fruit pulp remaining in your cider will prevent it from becoming perfectly clear. You can use fining additives such as isinglass, polyclar, gelatin, sparkaloid, etc. to clear. Filtering units are also available.
3. Flavor and acid levels in cider can be adjusted. If your finished cider tastes bland, add 1/8 to 1/4 tsps per gallon of citric acid to taste. We also carry apple extracts if cider lacks flavor.