Hard Cider Brewing Tutorial

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Introduction to Hard Cider

by Brian Kolodzinski

Hard cider can be made from many varieties of fruit, but are most commonly made from apples (cider) and pears (perry). Naturally made cider is dryer than most commercial ciders that have been “back sweetened”. Cider is best made from fresh-pressed fruit because the juice has the richest flavor and aroma, and has not degraded from time or pasteurization. But you can make cider from store bought juice just as long as it does not contain Potassium Sorbate, which will kill your yeast.

Crafting cider from apples gives you that greatest amount of control as to the attributes of the final product because you control the apple blending process. While store bought juice is certainly exceeding easier, there is little to no control as to which apple varieties are used. By blending apple varieties you can create a neutral, tart, aromatic or astringent cider. And to get enough juice to craft cider, you need a lot of apples. For example, 1 bushel of apples is 42 lbs and will yield 3 gallons of juice. The typical recipe is 5 gallons and would require 70 lbs of apples!

Apple Blending Ratios

  • Neutral 30-60% of the juice should be from apples that are sweet and low-acid. Such varieties include Baldwin, Red Delicious, Rome Beauty, Winesap, Cortland, Ben Davis, and York Imperial.
  • Tart 10-20% of the juice should be from apples that have medium-acid flavor. Such varieties include Jonathan, Cox's Orange Pippin, Eospus Spitzenberg, Newtown, Northern Spy, Rhode Island Greening, Wealthy, and Winesap.
  • Aromatic 10-20% of the juice should be from apples with a lovely aromatic, "apply" flavor. Such varieties include Golden Russet, Gravenstein, Winter Banana, Cox's Orange Pippin, and Wealthy.
  • Astringent 5-20% of the juice should be from apples with a relatively high level of tanin in flavor. These include Newtown, Lindel, and Red Astrakhan.

Source: “Cider, Making, Using and Enjoying Sweet & Hard Cider," by Annie Proulx and Lew Nichols

Equipment

  • Minimal equipment needed for brewing hard cider:
  • Optional equipment:
  • additional food-grade plastic bucket or glass carboy
  • metal fine mesh strainer 
  • brewing siphon
  • digital scale

Brewing Hard Cider

When pressing your own fruit it is important to use only clean fruit. Wash the outside of the fruit with water and cut out any brown spots. Sanitation is the most critical step in brewing as it prevents unwanted contaminants, mainly bacteria and wild yeasts, from getting into your cider and destroying it. Contaminated cider can be dangerous to consume and should always be disposed of. Sanitize equipment using a sanitizer designed specifically for brewing, and avoid using bleach. Bleach is alright in an emergency but should not be considered for use as a regular sanitizer. A good idea is to buy a spray bottle and fill it with sanitizer as well. Sometimes you may forget a piece of equipment and need to sanitize it quickly.

  1. Collect juice from pressed apples and add to primary fermentation vessel.
  2. Before fermentation can commence you first want to kill any bacteria or wild yeasts. One method is to heat the juice, which is now your must, to 165 degrees and hold that temperature for ten minutes before chilling the must. The disadvantage to this method is the heat will degrade the flavor and aroma of the fruit. Another method is to allow the fruit to ferment using only the naturally occurring wild yeast present in the must. This method is highly unpredictable and may jeopardize your batch. The most widely accepted method is to use campden tablets prior to adding yeast. All that is required is to crush 1 campden tablet per every gallon of juice and let the must stand for 48 hours.
  3. Add any other ingredients as instructed per the recipe.
  4. Pitch yeast. Most hard cider recipes use beer or wine yeast simply because there have not been any hard cider yeasts available to the home brewer. You can now buy Magrove Jack's M02 Cider Yeast from our store.
  5. Allow the must to sit undisturbed in a dark area at 68-70 degrees for at least two weeks. This will also be the most active period of fermenting.
  6. After two weeks you may rack the cider to a secondary fermenting container. However, as cider needs considerable time to clarify and age, I recommend that you rack twice; once after 30 days and again in another 30 days.
  7. After 90 days the cider will be crystal clear with a beautiful amber color and little to no sediment. The cider can be racked to a bottling bucket and bottled with priming sugar where it will continue to age.

I have found that most ciders are best enjoyed 9 months after the process first started; 90 days in the primary and secondary fermentation vessel, and an additional 6 months in the bottle.

Congratulations, you have just brewed hard cider!

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