Step by step directions to make hard apple cider:
Brewing your own beer and making apple cider can be a fun and rewarding hobby. It also makes a great gift for friends and family. Not to mention that it can put a serious dent in your bar tab.
The process for making apple cider is similar to making beer or wine in that you need both yeast and sugar. The yeast will consume the sugar and in doing so multiply in number and produce alcohol. The supplies needed for making apple cider are the same supplies that are used for making beer and wine. You will need an airlock, fermentation bucket (food grade), funnel, alcohol hydrometer, a carboy, yeast, sugar, and of course apples. You should be able to find a beer brewing kit with everything you need (except of apples and yeast) for less than $100. These supplies will last you many years, if not a lifetime.
If you are really ambitious you can collect and press your own apples. You can also use apple juice, apple concentrate, or none alcoholic apple cider. The amount of sugar you use will depend on your ingredients. For example, apple concentrate tends to have more sugar than apple juice. As such, you won’t need to add as much sugar. If you choose to use store bought apple juice or cider, it is of the utmost importance that you made sure that it doesn’t have any preservatives.
Not to get ahead of ourselves, but if your apple cider doesn’t start fermenting it is most likely due to one of two things. Either your fermentation tank is to cold, or you don’t have enough sugar. However, it is possible to add to much sugar. If you use to much sugar, your yeast may become stressed and produce off flavors. It is always easier to add sugar than it is to take it out. Depending on how the fermentation is going, you may find it advantageous to add more sugar after the first couple of days in order to increase the alcohol content. However, there is a limit to how much alcohol any given yeast strain can produce. The reason for this is that alcohol can and will kill your yeast. Some yeast strains can only produce up to 4% alcohol, whereas distillers yeast can produce as much as 20% alcohol (% by volume).
5 gallons of apple juice/concentrate (5 gallons = 18.9 litters)
Yeast nutrients (you can pick it up at your local home brew shop)
2 pounds of sugar (depends on how much sugar is in your apple concentrate)
1 packet of yeast ( you can get wine yeast either at a home brew shop or online)
The first step in making apple cider is to sanitize everything that it will come into contact with. The reason for this is that the yeast will have to compete with bacteria for resources. Another reason is that bacteria will produce off flavors. You will need to thoroughly wash everything including your hands and fermentation tank.
You may also need to kill all of the bacteria in you ingredients. If you are using apple juice or apple concentrate, it should already be sanitized. However, you will need to make sure that you have killed any lingering bacteria if you are pressing your own apples or buying apple cider from an orchard. This can be accomplished several ways. You can either use potassium tablets or boil your ingredients.
After you have sanitized everything, you are ready to start your primary fermentation. Simple mix your apple cider and sugar in your fermentation tank. You will want to make sure that your wart (your mixed ingredients) is kept at around 70 degrees. This is particularly important when you first pitch your yeast. The temperature will vary depending on what kind of yeast you are using. The yeast packet should contain instructions as to the optimal temperature. Your local home brew supply store should have a wide variety of yeast to choose from. They should also carry some yeast nutrients. Generally your wart will have enough nutrients to support your yeast. However, added nutrients won’t hurt.
After you pitch your yeast, you will have started what is referred to as your “primary fermentation.” This will generally take around one week. You can tell when the fermentation is over when the yeast begins to settle at the bottom and you have a significant decline in activity. The decline in activity is signaled by a decline in bubbles moving through the air lock. It is at this time that you will be ready for your “secondary fermentation.” You will then “rack” (move) your cider into your carboy. This is generally done with a small hand pump that should be included with any beer brewing kit.
After you have racked your cider into the carboy, you will want to let it sit for several days until the airlock has ceased producing bubbles. It is at this time that you will be ready to bottle and consume your cider. When you bottle your cider you may find it advantageous to include a small pinch of sugar. This sugar will be consumed by any yeast that still resides in your cider. In doing so, you will increase the amount of carbonation and prevent your cider from going flat. However, if you put too much sugar, there will be much more carbonation than your bottles can withstand. This will either cause the top of your bottles to pop off.