Time to Brew Some Cider!

It’s fall. Fall means apples and pumpkins. Right now I’m fermenting both. I wanted to do a quick cider redux, since the first was more musings about driving into the hills and less recipe. Remember that cider is fermented apple juice, or what some call hard cider. It is the quintessential American alcohol, brought to prominence when the water was unsafe to drink and the boiled juice was unknowingly sterilized.

Cider is a crisp, delicious drink; to me the intersection between Champagne and Beer. Perfect for fall and the rich meals that it brings. And if you want to start fermenting your own booze, cider is a great place to start.

For your first cider you will need some equipment, chiefly a fermentor, an airlock, and some siphoning tubes. For the fermentor you can use a wine bucket (with lid) or a glass carboy (a giant bottle). Either will have to be topped with an airlock, which allows the gases of fermentation to escape without letting in air. A bucket and airlock will run you about $25; a carboy and airlock is more like $45.

The other main expense is going to be the apple juice.  And there, the sky’s the limit. Go buy the raw apple juice from Julian (or other local farm). Grab organic, unfiltered apple juice from Costco. Or even go super lo-tech and buy a bunch of Tree Top. Bear in mind that the quality of your cider comes down to the quality of the juice. If you go with the cheap stuff you can always spruce it up with half-gallon to a gallon of premium or fresh squeezed stuff.

For the recipe you will need:
5 gallons of fresh apple juice
1 vial White Labs Cider Yeast
5 drops Pectic Enzyme
1 tsp Yeast Nutrient

If your juice is raw you may want to flash pastuerize it; heat to 160 F for 2 minutes. If you buy commercial juice it’s ready to go.  The Pectic Enzyme ruptures the cell walls in the juice, which aids clarity and fermentation. Opinions vary on the necessity of yeast nutrient, but it can’t hurt.

In any case, let your juice come to room temp and pour it into your sanitized fermentor. Add the Pectic Enzyme, the yeast nutrient, and the yeast. If using a bucket fix the lid and cover the airlock hole (just the top of the bottle if using a carboy) with some cellophane and your hand, and shake the crap out of it. Stop, open the hole, cover, and shake again. This oxygenates the liquid, which helps the yeast grow. After 3 shakings, fill the airlock with water and put it in the fermentor. Stick the whole thing in a pantry or closet or even set it on a counter; it can also be nice to have it in sight. There is something magical about fermentation; the airlock blooping away the whole time.

Now the hard part.  Wait 3 weeks. Then bottle and wait another 3 weeks.  And done! As always, sanitize anything that touches the cool cider (fermentor, siphon hoses, etc). I like my cider to be very carbonated, I use 7 oz of priming sugar. That’s what gives it that real Champange-like quality; crisp, tart, and very bubbly!

4 thoughts on “Time to Brew Some Cider!”

  1. I plan to follow your recipe with unpastuerized apple cider! Do you add the priming sugar when you bottle, before the additional 3 week waiting period? Thanks for your help!

  2. Lisa: I have an unpastuerized cider going right now too! Yes, the priming sugar goes in just before bottling. The yeast will eat that additional sugar and carbonate your cider. Let it sit 2-3 weeks at room temp, then chill 1 bottle and taste it (to judge carbonation level). If it’s very bubbly you can put the rest of the cider in the fridge, if not, wait a little longer. You don’t want to cool the whole batch until you know the yeast is done working.

    Good luck and let me know how it goes!

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