How to Make Hard Cider

Learn how to make hard cider using this guide. Making delicious hard cider is fun and simple, and if you press your own sweet non-alcoholic cider, you’ll have the perfect starting place to brew your own intoxicating hard cider.

| October/November 2007

  • How to make hard cider. Some of the best hard cider comes from apples chosen specifically for their cider-making qualities.
    How to make hard cider. Some of the best hard cider comes from apples chosen specifically for their cider-making qualities.
    Photo by PhotoDisc/Getty Images
  • Brewing equipment is surprisingly inexpensive, and can be found online or from homebrew stores.
    Brewing equipment is surprisingly inexpensive, and can be found online or from homebrew stores.
    Photo by Matthew T. Stallbaumer
  • Look for fresh sweet cider from local sources, such as this cider from a small orchard in Johnstown, Ohio.
    Look for fresh sweet cider from local sources, such as this cider from a small orchard in Johnstown, Ohio.
    Photo by AP Photo/Dispatch, Eric Albrecht
  • cider6
    The finished product: homemade hard cider!
    LYNN KARLIN

  • How to make hard cider. Some of the best hard cider comes from apples chosen specifically for their cider-making qualities.
  • Brewing equipment is surprisingly inexpensive, and can be found online or from homebrew stores.
  • Look for fresh sweet cider from local sources, such as this cider from a small orchard in Johnstown, Ohio.
  • cider6

Learn how to make hard cider. You can make delicious, intoxicating hard cider at home with this simple process.

How to Make Hard Cider

Brewing hard cider from non-alcoholic, or “sweet” cider is a simple process, and the inebriating end product is as delicious as it is discombobulating. Here are the steps you’ll follow to make hard cider of your own.

Find the Ingredients for Hard Cider

Choose Your Juice. The best hard cider is made from sweet apple cider fresh from the cider press — whether your own, or a local cider mill’s. If you’re buying sweet cider, start by checking the label to be sure the cider doesn’t contain chemical preservatives, because these will kill your yeast and your cider will not ferment. (The cider is chemically preserved if sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate are listed on the label.) Your best bet for preservative-free cider is to buy it in season from a local orchard. In a pinch, you can also make hard cider with grocery store apple juice, as long as it doesn’t have preservatives.

Also, be aware that most commercial cidermakers are required to pasteurize their cider, and the process they use will affect the flavor. Preferably, your sweet cider should be “cold pasteurized,” which kills microorganisms with ultraviolet light. The usual method of pasteurization kills microorganisms with heat, which affects the flavor of the juice. If you’re not sure which method a local cider mill uses, it doesn’t hurt to ask.



Choose Your Yeast. A variety of dry and liquid brewing yeasts will do the trick, and you can find them online or from homebrew stores. Although you can buy specialized liquid yeast packs for fermenting cider, dry wine yeasts do an excellent job and are much cheaper. (You can get a pack for less than a dollar.)

Make a Hard Cider Starter. The day before you brew your cider, make a starter. This step is optional, but it ensures that your yeast is proofed (i.e., alive) and will start fermenting your cider right away. To make a starter, open the bottle of preservative-free apple juice and pour out a few ounces. Pour the contents of one yeast packet into the bottle, reseal it and shake for a few seconds. Within five or six hours, you should see a bit of bubbling within the bottle. Once you do, release the pressure within the bottle, reseal it and put it in the refrigerator. Get it out a couple of hours before you brew.

MoonMama
1/16/2020 11:38:09 AM

My people come from Norway and Germany. We know how to brew a strong drink! My late father grew up in Washington state, and they had LOTS of cheap apples! He passed this technique to me, and I will pass it to you. This is the "real" apple jack! If you live someplace it get very cold in the winter, you can do this the easy way. The rest of us will have to figure something else out. The winter after you have the cider brewed, take the finish barrel outside and loosen the top to allow expansion. Get a fire going nearby, but not close enough to heat the cider. Once the barrel contents have frozen solid (more or less), heat a metal bar that is long enough to go through the barrel from the top. Once the bar is hot, plunge it into the frozen cider. Drain the liquid off. That is the good stuff. You can repeat this process, but keep them separate so you don't water down the 1st batch. The cider left in the barrel will have almost no alcohol left in it, and the rest will be nearly pure alcohol. This is great if you have mixed company, some who like the booze, others who don't. My dad said it was safe for kids by this point, but you should check that for yourself. He also said it tastes amazing, unlike anything store bought. Since alcohol freezes ar a much lower temp than the rest of the cider, it is an easy way to separate them. Certainly easier than distillation! Less fuel, too. Good luck & happy experimentation! Even the mistakes will taste good, so experiment away! BTW I have no proof, but I think he said that the sour apples give it better flavor, but the sweet ones enhance the alcohol. I have no proof either way. ;-) Happy brewing, Moonmama


Roger
10/24/2019 1:19:13 PM

I remember my grandfather made some fairly lethal cider, but it came out yellow. No fancy filtration or anything, all in an enormous barrel. But that was 70 years ago and needless to say, he is not around any more to ask. The apples came from a large area where there were pears as well. Could the colour have come from the pears ? Just a thought.


diyhardcider.com
5/29/2018 1:17:03 AM

Another good resource for making your own hard cider not mentioned in this write up is diyHardCider.com.




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