Make A Small Batch of Hard Cider!
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?