Making your own home made cider is a great activity and the resulting produce is unique and flavourful. Here we look at how you can make your own cider, what you’ll need to get and give you some great tips and tricks.
To Press Or Not To Press
Pressing your own cider is great fun and you can often get plenty of apples just from your local area free of charge. It’s a great activity but you can make cider simply by buying apple juice yourself; though the flavours are never quite as exciting.
To press your own, you can buy your own grinder and press (Look at our selection to get started; have a look at our fruit presses or if you’re somewhat impatient, you can wash, cut, and grind your apples with a food processor and/or juicer but be warned this will take a lot of time and patience!
What Apples To Use
Apples you choose is dependent on what type of cider you have decided to make. Any variety of apples can be used for making cider, but many producers of cider use ‘cider’ apples. This variety of apple have a higher level of tannins which produces a distinctive flavor to the cider. With cider apples there are two varieties ‘bittersweet’ with higher tannins or ‘bittersharp’ with lower tannins.
But do not panic home brewers, you can also use eating (dessert) apples, which are a little more on the sweet side, or cooking (culinary) apples that are a little more acidic. The best advice is to try to use a mixture of apples to achieve a balanced and great tasting cider. If you find the juice of the apples has a sharp taste and causes your mouth to pucker, then try adding crab apples. This will add tannin that is lacking which will balance the flavor out.
Preparing Apples For Cider Making
The best choice of apple for making cider is the ones that have been organically grown. But if your apples have been sprayed, then it is advised to wash them with hydrochloric acid in a wooden container or a non-metallic bath to get rid of the residue.
NOTE: Whilst working with acid you should always wear gloves and make sure the surrounding area is well ventilated to avoid inhaling fumes.
There are many options for making cider it this is depending on what type of cider you desire and how much you would like to make i.e. whether it is for personal consumption or for an upcoming shin dig.
For all cider enthusiasts or people that would like to save a few pennies in the long run, we have put together a simple recipe to get you started on the cider journey:
What is needed
- Juicer or apple press
- Fermentation tank
- Bubbler Airlock
- Fermenter Bung
- A large stock pot
- Rubber hose
- Steriliser Powder 500g
- Apples – approximately 20 lbs (9kg) of a variety of apples. This will produce 4.5 litres (1 gallon) of juice.
- Champagne Yeast – This the most popular yeast to use, so much so even professional cider makers use it. It is a vigorous and resilient performer that does a terrific job at converting sugars into alcohol.
- Yeast nutrient
- 1 cup of brown sugar
- 1 cup of white sugar
The most important thing to consider whilst making your cider is making sure everything is clean and ready for use. When using yeast within the brewing process, it is important to remove all natural yeast from your equipment, this will give the cider yeast the best chance to work alone and unhindered, turning the apple sugars into alcohol.
Step By Step
Apple Pressing – Stage 1
The first step is after making sure your apples are free from pesticides and other sprays, is to place them into an apple press or juicer, making sure there is a suitable and sterilized container underneath to catch the juice. Once you have enough apple juice you can start the next stage of making your own cider, which is fermentation.
Fermentation – Stage 2
Ensure the cider is kept at a constant warm temperature of between 20-25°C for at least 6 days (see below for when to barrel or bottle your cider). If for some reason the airlock hasn’t started to bubble after 48 hours, then check the gravity with your hydrometer to see if it has dropped from the one you took at the start.
- Good temperature control is important for cider quality and timely fermentation. Below 20°C fermentation time will be much longer than 6 days, below 16°C fermentation will stop altogether. Use a heat pad, brew belt or thermostatically controlled immersion heater if the room temperature is below 20°C. At temperatures of above 25°C cider quality will be reduced.
- After 6 days check the Specific Gravity (S.G.) with a Hydrometer and record the reading.
- Re-check the S.G. on day 7. If the reading is the same or higher then proceed to fining.
To fine, in a small jug or cup add 150ml of warm water to the fining and stir well. Add this to the bucket and mix thoroughly. Leave for 24 to 48 hours to clear.
Bottling – Stage 3
The main principle for longer lasting cider is to keep it in a cool place. There are many bottling options to choose from when you come to store your cider.
- Use any old swing top homebrew bottles (Grolsch style) bottle. You can at times buy these at Ikea or try homebrew suppliers.
Strong beer bottles - You can use your own or purchase from a homebrew supplier. For bottles without tops you will need to obtain caps and a bottle capper.
Note of caution: if you damage a bottle whilst fitting a cap, throw it away! Bottle cappers are available on our website.
You could always use a 5L plastic screw top container.
Note: cider can have a tendency to explode when stored in these types of containers. So you may need to drink it within 1-3weeks.
5. Whilst you in the process of bottling why not pour some into a jug ready to drink later.
Barreling Your Cider – Stage 4
If you are planning to produce large quantities of cider, then the best option is to store your cider in barrels. Siphon the clear cider off the sediment into a sterilised barrel. Dissolve the pack of priming sugar in 350ml of hot water and add to the barrel with the cider. Seal then shake the barrel (which should be fitted with a suitable pressure release valve) to mix.
Leave in a warm place for 2 to 3 days (but preferably up to 5 days) for the secondary fermentation to take place. After this period, transfer to a cool place for 7 days to clear. See serving & storage below.
Important: Never leave the barrel in a place where a leak could cause damage to furniture or flooring.
Serving And Storage
Your cider is ready to drink as soon as it’s clear, but for a smoother cider, leave it somewhere cool and dark to condition for a further 2 weeks. Serve chilled. For bottled ciders, pour slowly and carefully to avoid bottle sediment being transferred to your glass.