As the title of this blog suggests, I have recently tried to brew my own hard cider. This was my second attempt at this process, so I’ll start with a declaimer that I do not pretend to be a brew master of any sorts. What I will provide you with is a crude recipe and method to achieve a dry, alcoholic, and fruity beverage– and plenty of it.
Oh, and I plan to do this sort of thing time and time again, deviating from the recipe every time. As with most things in life, one must experiment until the sweet spot is achieved.
Okay, here are all the pieces of equipment I used:
- 2 five gallon food-grade buckets
- 1 lid for a bucket with a small hole cut out on top for the airlock (any local home-brew shop should cut this for you)
- A rubber stopper and airlock
- A siphoning hose
- Iodine BTF sanitizer solution
- one-step cleaning solution
Here are the ingredients:
- 2 packets of “Red Star” champagne yeast
- 1 pear with cinnamon, nutmeg, and honey
- 4 gallons of apple cider
- 1 liter of cranberry juice
- ~3/4 lb of brown sugar
Okay, now let’s rock and roll.
Step 1: Clean your buckets, lid, and airlock with one-step solution. This is of the utmost importance. If there’s one thing to fear in this process, it is that your brew equipment will have the smallest amount of bacteria and entirely destroy your brew after weeks of waiting.
Step 2: Sanitize your buckets, lid, and airlock with the iodine sanitizer. Also very important.
Step 3: Now dump all your juice into one of the sanitized buckets. I cut a pear and warmed it over the stove with honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Then I threw the pear slices into the bucket too.*
Step 4: Next, throw in your yeast and stir. Now, it’s optional to rehydrate your yeast before adding it to the brew. This means that you add the yeast to a bowl/cup of warm water (about 95 degrees F) and allow it to sit for about 15 minutes before you throw it in the bucket. I did not rehydrate it first, but I would recommend that you do. Next time I’m going to because I believe it will make the yeast more active and willing to interact with the sugars.
Step 5: Add sugar, and stir until it is dissolved. I added about 3/4 lb of brown sugar this time around. You can add a little more, like 1lb, but I wouldn’t add more than that to a 5 gallon batch. The first time I did this I added way too much sugar, and the cider came out very alcoholic, but it had a consistency between syrup and cider. Remember that juice has sugars of its own, so don’t overcompensate with an obscene amount of additional sugar.
Step 6: Now seal the lid on top of the bucket and plug up the hole with the rubber stopper and airlock. I always add vodka to the airlock, because you do not want to add something like isopropyl alcohol to it, because it could leak into your brew. If vodka leaks in, that just means your brew will be a little more alcoholic. :) Remember to store your brew in a place that will stay at a temperature between 60-70 degrees. So your house should be fine as long as you don’t live with a really coldblooded or hotblooded roommate.
Step 7: Waiting: the hardest part. For a batch this size I let it sit for 3-4 weeks. It’s easy to tell when the fermentation process is done because your airlock will cease to bubble. Around week one and two it will be bubbling like crazy, and then slowing down after that.
Step 8: Siphon your whole buckets-worth of booze into other containers. This is called racking. You should re-rack into your second bucket (as long as it’s cleaned and sanitized too), and then siphon it into your containers. This will help get rid of all the sediment at the bottom of your brew. To siphon you must put the brew batch on a higher plane than your empty containers, and then start the flow by sucking on the end of the hose. Then let gravity do the work! I simply used the old juice containers after I sanitized them.
My final product (drum roll):
Plenty to share :)