Champagne Cider

Follow this technique to create your own unique "vintage" of champagne cider.

| July/August 1981

In just a month or two, apple season will arrive. If you live in or plan to visit an area that's anywhere near a producing orchard, you'll soon have access to the incomparable taste of freshly pressed apple cider. Unfortunately, the pure flavor that most folks associate with unpasteurized juice doesn't linger long unless the drink is preserved in some way. However, if you can get your hands on a few gallons of fresh cider this fall, you could end up with a cellarful of delicious, sparkling "apple wine" to enjoy all through the coming year.

The process of preparing homebrewed champagne cider is really quite simple. You'll need only a few pieces of bottling equipment in addition to the "raw material." Once you've located a nearby source of unpasteurized cider, gather several gallon wine jugs, a plastic fermentation lock for each one, a case or two of empty champagne bottles, about 1 1/2 yards of 1/4" or 1/2" plastic tubing (or a siphon), a large wooden mallet, and some plastic champagne corks with wires.

It's Easy to Brew ...

When you purchase cider for "bubbly," try to find some that's been made from a variety of apples, including tart crab apples and mellow Delicious. I've found that a blend of flavors produces an especially full-bodied champagne. I also think that it's worth waiting for late-season pressings, because mature apples tend to yield a stronger beverage.

In preparation for your first batch of the sparkling nectar, it's best to buy only a small amount of juice — say, three gallons. That way, you can reserve one jug for drinking right away—as sweet, unfermented cider—and experiment with the other two. Transfer the fresh juice into clean gallon wine bottles and fit an airlock cork (see the manufacturer's instructions) snugly into the neck of each container. This arrangement will permit the gases produced during fermentation to escape without allowing outside air to enter, assuring that the natural sugars in the juice will turn into alcohol and not into vinegar!

Place the jugs on a level surface, and let them stand at room temperature—anywhere from 60 to 70 °F—for about a week and a half. After the first couple of days, you should notice a lot of bubbling action as CO2 is released by the fermenting cider. When that activity slows to about a bubble a minute, the process is finished. Remove the airlocks and close each jug with a solid cork until you're ready to bottle the newly brewed potable.

... and Bottle ...

To "put up" the champagne, first collect the plastic tubing, champagne bottles, wires, corks, and mallet ... and a few good friends, since half the fun of bottling your own bubbly is tasting and judging as you go.

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