Monday, October 15, 2012

Make A Small Batch of Hard Cider!

Every year my friends and I gather to hand press gallons of fresh apple cider at our good friend Dave's home in Vermont. Sadly, this year a late spring frost ruined our apple harvest and few if any local apples were around in the wild or at orchards to forage or pick. Which meant no hard cider, the real reason we all get together to crush and press.

But today I decided no late frost was ruining my favorite Yuletide drink. I decided to just buy some fresh-pressed cider at Saratoga Apple, get a small fifty-cent package of champagne yeast at my local Zymurgist, and make my own small batch. It's so easy, folks. You should try it. It's not like beer brewing that requires timed boils and measurements. It's more like making wine. You just pour, add yeast, and let it sit. The yeast does all the work for you! And while it does require a small upfront investment in brewing-grade sanitizer, fermentation bucket, airlock, and some yeast it isn't a lot of cash. I think all of those things are under 25 dollars and nearly all of it is reusable for your next batch.

Making a small batch of hard cider is a great way to get into homebrewing in a fearless way, and a great way to support your local orchards. For this small batch kit you need very few supplies, but it will grant you nearly 2 gallons of the good ol' scrumpy ready to bottle for the holidays! Not a bad way to show up to a Christmas party.

To make the hard cider you just need a gallon and a half of fresh pressed cider. You want the kind that has no additives or "nutrition facts" on it. The best place to get it is from a local orchard that presses their own apples and sells it from their farm. Around here, it is everywhere. But even if you live in an urban area I'm sure the orchards ship it to local co-ops and natural food stores. Just make sure what you are buying is plain apple cider, nothing fancy.

Now, to turn that cider into alcohol you just need a few tools and any brew shop online can ship them out to you. You need a small 2-gallon fermentation bucket with a lid that has a grommeted airlock hole in it. Northern Brewer sells these for a few bucks, and I suggest buying one from the pros as they aren't expensive and you are certain to get a fresh and air-tight seal. You also need an airlock, Star San Sanitizer, a pound and a half of honey, and a package of champagne yeast. All of these can be ordered online or found at your local brew shop.

Now, let's make cider! To prepare in advance make sure you set out your cider on the counter to come down to room temperature before brewing. It makes the process faster and the yeast more active if the cider isn't cold.

1. Sanitize you bucket and airlock (just throw it in the bucket) by filling it nearly full with clean tap water and adding in a little over a 1/4 oz of Star San. Cover bucket and seal lid tight. Cover the grometted hole with your finger and shake a little to make sure all parts of the inside lid and sides of buckets get contact with the sanitizer. When done, pour out foamy liquid (foam is okay) and set aside. Do NOT rinse with more tap water. Take out airlock and set it aside on clean plate.

2. Pour in your gallon and a half of fresh cider. Dump pound and a half of honey in after. No need to stir.

3. Pour in half a package of champagne dry yeast. No need to stir that either.

4. Place lid on tight. Check all around so seal is good.

5. Insert airlock in lid. Make sure seal is also good.

6. Set in a dark, quiet place to ferment and bubble.

That's it. It really is that simple. You can make it more complicated if you like and heat up the cider first and stir in warm honey and so on. Mixing ingredients will make it ferment faster, but I am all about spending as little time as possible brewing and more time farming. In about a day or two you will see bubbling coming out of your airlock. That means it is working! Right there in your own home or cabinet you are creating alcohol, and not just any alcohol but really, really good apple ciser (honey based cider is called ciser). When bubbling stops (two weeks to a month later) let it remain in the same place at least another week. The yeast will settle and you can siphon it into sanitized bottles. At this point it is ready to drink but I like letting it season a bit longer. It sits in dark green or brown beer bottles or wine bottles in a cabinet until I am ready to pour it out and enjoy it. But be mindful and responsible folks. Homebrew cider is usually around 12-15% alcohol. So don't down a wine bottle and go drive a school bus.

So, Anyone going to try it?

31 Comments:

Blogger Rosetta Keith said...

I think I just might try it. I have some old dark color root beer bottles. What do you use for caps? About how many gallons does the finished product make?

October 15, 2012 at 6:48 PM  
Blogger Rosetta Keith said...

I think I just might try it. I have some old dark color root beer bottles. What do you use for caps? About how many gallons does the finished product make?

October 15, 2012 at 6:48 PM  
Blogger Rosetta Keith said...

I think I just might try it. I have some old dark color root beer bottles. What do you use for caps? About how many gallons does the finished product make?

October 15, 2012 at 6:48 PM  
Blogger Rosetta Keith said...

I think I just might try it. I have some old dark color root beer bottles. What do you use for caps? About how many gallons does the finished product make?

October 15, 2012 at 6:48 PM  
Blogger Rosetta Keith said...

I think I just might try it. I have some old dark color root beer bottles. What do you use for caps? About how many gallons does the finished product make?

October 15, 2012 at 6:50 PM  
Blogger Rosetta Keith said...

I think I will try it we have had a pretty good apple crop here in SE Missouri . I have some old dark root beer bottles that would probably work. What do you use for caps? How many gallons does a batch make?

October 15, 2012 at 6:57 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

So you'll end up with around a gallon and a half of cider, maybe a little left if it has a lot of honey dregs and such. You can use any beer bottle or root beer bottle long as it doesn't have a twist cap! you can buy new caps and a capper (awesome homesteading gear for anyone who likes to re-bottle anything like homemade lemonades or iceteas in a cooler for travel) for around twenty dollars. they are easy to use!

October 15, 2012 at 6:58 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

You can also re-use cork wine bottles you have laying around. Wax seal the cork and you are set!

October 15, 2012 at 6:58 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

more details here!

http://www.motherearthnews.com/Real-Food/2007-10-01/How-to-Make-Hard-Cider.aspx?page=2

October 15, 2012 at 7:00 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth from the Berkshires said...

Oh, hell.

October 15, 2012 at 7:42 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Ha! Elizabeth! I HEARD that from here!

If anyone wants to make a larger batch, the rules would change to: every gallon of cider gets a pound of honey and you need a full yeast package at ferm time.

October 15, 2012 at 7:49 PM  
Blogger Katie said...

Hi Jenna! (First time comment, btw. Long time reader though; love your blog :)

My husband is an obsessed homebrewer, so I think I just might steal some of his equipment and give this a try! Your laid back style with this cider makes it sound quite appealing. I'm pretty sure that holiday family gatherings would be made much more merry by a bottle of my own apple lady, eh? :)

October 15, 2012 at 8:07 PM  
Blogger KnitItBlack said...

I second the "oh, hell" comment. You've provided us with an easy way to try homebrewing, darn it! Now we have to DO it!

October 15, 2012 at 8:32 PM  
Blogger Lara said...

You must have been reading my mind with this post. I've been thinking about getting some cider going after taking a few years off now that I've finished the last batch of beer (only one set of brewing things). Just because I have to buy some fresh press instead isn't going to stop me—I’m definitely game.

But I’ll have to make it my way. The way I've made it in the past is with just cider and raisins...before air locking it has to sit fermenting in the open for a few days being topped off with more cider, then air locked after its stops boiling so much. It took a little over 2 months to finish almost 5 gallons, but it was the "family tradition" to do it that way—and it tastes oh so very good. In the last few batches I made I added honey or sugar and it seems to make the alcohol content increase, although I don’t like mine much if it’s over 8% so I've never added more than 4 cups of either to an about 5 gallon batch—I do like a dryer cider and more sweet stuff helps that along. It depends very much on the apples used, and so the recipe could be the same each time, but will result in slightly different results.

October 15, 2012 at 9:15 PM  
Blogger Lara said...

Jenna’s cider technique sounds simple and easy too. For those thinking brewing is hard...I think cider is the place to start--I can't remember not knowing how to do hard cider. Beer on the other hand is something I've recently started, and I find it a lot more finicky--but still fun and worthwhile for sure.

October 15, 2012 at 9:20 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

Doin' it!!!!

October 15, 2012 at 11:43 PM  
OpenID igneousidol said...

sounds good to me

October 16, 2012 at 12:03 AM  
Blogger kwdiving said...

If I can find natural cider down here, I will. Have to check health food stores. I can't wait to try this, Thanks for the recipe! If I don't do it here, then I will once we move. Thanks again!

October 16, 2012 at 6:55 AM  
Blogger kwdiving said...

If I can find natural cider down here, I will. Have to check health food stores. I can't wait to try this, Thanks for the recipe! If I don't do it here, then I will once we move. Thanks again!

October 16, 2012 at 6:56 AM  
Blogger Alison said...

This made me smile. We have a 5-gallon brewmaster bucket of local cider about 10 days into fermentation. It smells wonderful! It will be part of our Thanksgiving feast.

October 16, 2012 at 7:03 AM  
Blogger Peacemom said...

Yep! Thanks for posting this, Jenna! I've been missing my "Fall" flavored Woodchuck cider, so I might even try it with some cinnamon & nutmeg added. Yippee! Winter snog for the larder! ~Vonnie

October 16, 2012 at 7:56 AM  
Blogger Cathy said...

Tim is very excited about this new venture. We've only had the store bought stuff and I wasn't crazy about it. I'm hoping the homemade brew is better.

October 16, 2012 at 10:04 AM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

I use Whole Foods 365 Brand Organic cider to make hard cider and it works great, for those who can't find raw cider. It does not contain preservatives. I bottle mine in the Ikea "SLOM" Glass bottles with the stopper latch top. Works great and strong enough to handle the carbonation pressure. I would not re-use cork as you run the risk of contaminating the cider with a different variety of yeast.

October 16, 2012 at 10:33 AM  
OpenID nytesong said...

Oh I am definitely going to try this. Fate, the Universe or whatever must be trying to tell me something because just yesterday I passed by a homebrewing store that I had never seen before!

Thanks for sharing..I'm going to check there for all the supplies first.

I'm very excited!!

October 16, 2012 at 11:06 AM  
Blogger Sylvia said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

October 16, 2012 at 12:20 PM  
Blogger Sylvia said...

My husband bought me a small apple press for my birthday this year. We too have a jug of Scrumpy bubbling away on our countertop from our homegrown apples.

Cheers!

October 16, 2012 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger Candice said...

I wish you had posted this a week or two ago! I went to my local brew shop to inquire and buy what I needed for a small batch of cider and was just handed a 1 gallon jug, some yeast, and an air lock and zero directions, no sanitizer, etc. I ended up just kind of winging it, with having a basic vague idea of what I'm doing, and I *think* I did okay for a first batch but, after seeing your directions, I'm realizing that I should have put way more sugar in my cider mix. I'm guessing what I have now hanging around the house is going to be a very mild cider rather than a nice 'hard' cider like I had hoped I'd get.

October 16, 2012 at 12:25 PM  
Blogger Melanie Allen said...

Phil in California is gonna give this a try with my home grown apples - Fuji and Granny Smith blend.

October 16, 2012 at 1:35 PM  
Blogger Melanie Allen said...

Phil in California is going to try making cider with apples from my orchard - Fuji and Granny Smith. Lucky dog, he has a PRESS!

October 16, 2012 at 1:48 PM  
Blogger singinggardengirl said...

Just put in an order at Northern Brewer. Can't wait to finally try this!

October 22, 2012 at 1:08 PM  
Blogger Bitha said...

Just put this together a couple of days ago. So excited.

October 24, 2012 at 10:46 PM  

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