So I came across an old blog that I was working on and thought, I might as well move it over here.
So then, a friend of mine had gotten a cider kit and attempted to make a batch of hard cider. I’m not overly sure of what all happened but she decided to dump it. So I figure that now is a good time to jot down a few notes on making hard cider. First lets start with Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize.
The first step is how far back you are wanting to go in the process. You can start just about from growing your own apple trees to going to the store and buying some juice. Seeing as how my friend didn’t have a hydrometer I’m thinking that for the purpose of this post we’ll just start with going to a homebrew shop and getting a hydrometer. But really for this round of cider making it’ll be easiest start with store brought cider. Now if you have never read anything else on making cider, let me be the first to tell you; check to see if there are any preservatives in the cider you are buying. A number of store brought ciders will add preservatives to stop it from fermenting. Problem is that in attempting to make hard cider, you kinda want to get things fermented. So check your cider, pasteurized is fine, preservatives are not. Not that its the only one that will work, but I have found that the Whole Foods brand (365 something or other) works really well. Plus it comes in its own glass jar.
So now that you are home from the store with your glass jar containing a cider with no preservatives, you’ll need a few other things. I’ve seen a few websites saying that you can do things like you can put a balloon over the top or a sponge in the opening or aluminum foil or something like that. I have no experience with those set ups, they may or may not work, I couldn’t tell you. I use a stopper and an air lock just like any other brew that I’m doing. They aren’t all that expensive but I can tell you from experience that they work. Now we have our liquid to ferment, a container, and a way to keep unwanted bugs out of your creation.
Lastly your going to need is a way to convert the sugars in the cider in the alcohol, this means yeast. Now you can do it the way people have done for years upon years, leave it open, there are yeast everywhere. You might end up with an amazing hard cider. You might not. May the odds be in your favor. Another path to take is to select a type of yeast and pitch it into the jug of cider. So far with every round of cider that I’ve made I have gone with the selecting a strain of yeast to pitch. Off the top of my head I can say that I have tried EC-1118, Nottingham, White Labs English Cider and a Belgian strain. The point being that while there are strains marketed for cider you don’t have to use them. At some point I might go more into detail on what I’ve found on various strains, but you should experiment.
Though lets take a short break before we going tossing microorganisms into the juice. Pull out that hydrometer and take a reading. Note that down somewhere. Sure you can skip this step, but there really isn’t a better way to keep track of your ferment. And shoot, since you pulled some liquid out for your reading, well, you need to leave some of the liquid that was in the jar out any how. So go ahead and drink that sample. Take a few notes on how that tasted. Now that you’ve got that all sorted out, lets pitch that yeast. If you have a dry yeast rehydrate it, if its a liquid yeast toss it in. Now that you’ve added the yeast, we have to keep those yeast happy. You can do a staggered nutrient addition (apple cider doesn’t exactly have everything the yeast craves). You might want to oxygenate a bit. At the same point I did neither for my first batch and got drinkable cider, sure it might not win piles of awards and bring you internet fame, but if its your first run (or second) toss the yeast in, swirl the bottle, get an air lock on it and put it somewhere safe.
We’re looking for somewhere dark and warmish (probably in the 60s would be good). Now for the tough part. Ignore it for a while, 2 weeks, perhaps a month. I would recommend not touching it for at least the first 2 weeks. After that take another hydrometer reading. (While I haven’t mentioned sanitation much yet, be sure everything you use through this entire process is sanitized. ) Take that reading and your initial reading and plug them into an online ABV calculator. If you google it a number will come up. Now we are really getting to a choose your own adventure scenario. Whenever you decide that your final gravity is, you have a range of options. You can bottle right away, you can transfer to a secondary and let it age in bulk for a while longer, you can add spices, you can carbonate.