How to make cider from apples at home.
Making hard cider from scratch at home is actually quite a simple and straight forward process! The hardest part is getting all of that lovely juice from your apples! But that will be the best tasting apple juice you have ever drank. Then just a few more steps to turn that juice into the best hard scrumpy cider that will be powerful, potent and more importantly, taste amazing.
As a rough guide, 20lb of apples will give you 1 gallon of cider.
Here's what you'll need:
You can make cider from pretty much any variety off apple. They could be cookers, eaters or a blend of many different types. In an ideal world, cider apples would be best but again any type of apple is capable of making you a nice, real home made cider!
So, you’ve got your apples, you’ll need around 20lbs of apples to produce around 1 gallon of apple juice. You’ll always need more apples than you think! Discard any rotten or nasty looking apples as these could reduce the success of your cider. Wash, cut away any bad bits and quarter your apples.
Now, depending on your equipment there are two ways of extracting the juice. If you have an apple press then the best way to get the juice out is to pulp your apples first which will make them much easier to compress and squeeze in the press. Do this by using a food processor for the easy approach, or you could bash them with a piece of wood or sterilised equipment. Once pulped you can press the apples and release all the natural juices. Collect this in a sterilised container and transfer to your fermenting bin.
If you don’t have a press then you could always cheat and use a juicer! This works quite well, although not that traditional, you’ll still be able to get the juice from your apples which is the main point here. If you use a juicer let the juice stand for a couple of hours such that all the bits and pips go to the bottom and the foam goes to the top, in the middle will be your nice juice. You can then syphon the clean juice out of your container into your fermentor leaving all the bits we don’t want behind.
Great! You’ve got your 1 gallon of apple juice. As hard as it may be, don’t be tempted to drink it, we’ll need every last drop! The next step is to add a crushed campden tablet to your juice (use two spoons to crush the tablet into a powder). This will kill off any natural yeasts in the juice which will then allow us to add our own yeast of choice. Using the campden tablet will help to ensure a successful brew! Sprinkle into the juice, give it a stir, put the lid on your fermentation vessel and leave it for 24 hours to get to work. Don’t add your own yeast until 24 hours have passed otherwise the campden tablet may kill that as well as the natural yeasts.
After 24 hours it’s time to get going with the fermentation. It’s good to test how much sugar is in your juice before we add any yeast or additional sugar. Take some juice into your sterilised trial / sample jar and pop in your hydrometer, this will test the specific gravity of the liquid. We need to take this value and keep it safe as we can use it when the fermentation is complete to work out how much alcohol content our cider has. Depending on how strong you want your end product you could add more sugar to your juice. If the hydrometer reading comes out at around 1.040 before adding sugar and you ferment until dry (no residual sugar left) then you should end up with an approximate ABV of 5%. If you want it stronger just add more sugar.
Whether you’ve added sugar or not it’s now time to add yeast. Grab some cider yeast from your local home brew shop and add around half the 5g sachet. The whole sachet would be enough to make a full 5 gallons if you are needing to make more. If you have a tub of yeast then add a level teaspoon. Stir it around and then add some yeast nutrient. A teaspoon is normally good for 1 gallon. If you are using vitamin B1 tablets then crush two and sprinkle into the juice. Pop the lid on your bucket loosely if you’re not using an air lock. If you have an air lock fill it up a little bit with sodium metabisulphite solution to prevent any nasties getting into your juice. Place the fermentation bucket somewhere you won't need to move it and make sure the room temperature is around 20 degrees Celsius. Within half a day or so your cider will be active and fermenting. You’ll know this if you have an airlock as it will be bubbling away nicely. We’re going to leave this now for around 7 days.
After around a week the main fermentation will be done and your cider will be ready to transfer to a Demi-John. We are going to syphon the nice liquid away from the sediment that has collected at the bottom of your bucket. So get a clean, sterilised Demi-John and syphon your cider into it. You should now have a cider with no sediment or bits in it. A ‘simple syphon’ is good for this process as it has a sediment trap. Fill your Demi-John up to the neck. Pop a bung and airlock in the top. Next it goes back into a warm place at around 20 degrees Celsius until it has fermented to dryness. This is when all of the sugar has been eaten by the yeast and turned into alcohol. If your airlock has stopped bubbling then it’s normally a good sign that fermentation is complete. You should also check the specific gravity of the liquid again with your hydrometer. It should be read close to 1.000 for three consecutive days.
Ok so we’ve got cider! So what’s next? Well, at this stage it’s probably not completely clear and it certainly won’t be very mature so we now need to bottle it. This is where we can add priming sugar to create a secondary fermentation in the bottle which will make it fizzy. Glass swing top bottles are great for cider; add around a teaspoon of sugar to each bottle (you’ll need around 8 or 9 bottles) and then syphon your cider into the bottles. This will mix up the sugar and it will dissolve into the cider. Secure the lids, turn them upside down a couple of times to make sure the sugar is all dissolved and we are done.
Now all you have to do, if you can, is wait for a few weeks for your cider to condition. The co2 gas created by the secondary fermentation will dissolve into the cider as it can’t escape the sealed bottle and this is what makes it fizzy. Pop it in the fridge and enjoy nice and cold or over ice! It’s that easy folks! Good luck and enjoy your quality, home made cider!
For additional help check out our comprehensive video on how to make Hard Scrumpy Cider: