As an apple juicing company, one of the most common questions we are asked is ‘can you tell me how to make homemade cider?’
Rather than give long-winded directions verbally, here’s my foolproof easy cider method that I point keen would-be cider producers to.
It’s the exact method we use to make all of our cider, and is a perfect thing to do with your apple juice if you’re not looking to get it bottled and pasteurised for a long shelf life. Instead, you can create an alcoholic beverage that will last for a few years (and, like all good things, get better with age!).
Appreciate the dryness!
Following this method, you’ll end up with a strong, dry cider that is complex and interesting, and will almost certainly blow your head off. Most of our cider ends up well above seven per cent proof.
In our modern world, sugar and sweetener is added to almost everything, so many people find ‘real’ cider unpalatable. But give it a few glugs and train your taste buds… it always gets much better even half a glass into it (or else your taste buds go numb). If not, you can add sweetener or blackcurrant cordial to sweeten it up.
How to make homemade cider: What you need
- Fresh apple juice
- A container (with an airlock)
- Some wine or cider yeast
Optional (for sparkling cider):
- Clean recycled bottles
- Crown caps and a bottle capper
- Sugar & sweetener
How to make homemade cider: method
The first step is to juice your apples. We can juice apples for you or you can do it at home. You’ll need a fruit mill or crusher, and a press. If you’re making cider in tiny quantities a kitchen juicer can also do the job.
You can really use any combination of apples and pears. Desert or cooking varieties. My advice is to use a blend of different apples to get a balanced flavour. You can also make single variety cider, but in my experience it can turn out less balanced.
Pour your juice into a large container (something that can accommodate an airlock). Ensure you fill the container a couple of inches from the top. Too much air is bad for your cider.
Add half a sachet of cider yeast, just to kickstart the fermentation. You don’t have to do this; the juice should start fermenting naturally from yeast on the fruit and floating around in the air. However, it’s best to get it going as quickly as possible in case the juice turns bad before the fermentation kicks off.
Place the container somewhere warm such as the kitchen or an airing cupboard. It’s a good idea to stand the container on a tray in case of any foam escaping.
Place the lid loosely on top of the container, but don’t shut the lid yet.
Check the juice after a day. If it hasn’t started fermenting (look for foam and a yeasty smell), add the rest of the yeast and place somewhere slightly warmer.
Once your juice starts to ferment, it will carry on vigorously for a few days.
After a few days of fermentation, put the lid on and leave
Keep checking it. Once it seems to have slowed down a little now is the time to put the airlock on. If you like, you can syphon the juice into a clean container, leaving the sediment at the bottom of the original container in order to achieve a clearer cider. But, this isn’t essential.
Screw on (or close) the lid and add the airlock. Normally the airlock requires a small amount of water inside to let the gas out of the container, but keep and air from entering the container.
Your airlock should be bubble gently now. Something like one bubble per second or slower is perfect. If it’s bubbling too rapidly, loosen the lid and leave for another day before checking again. Repeat if required.
Once your lid is shut and bubbling gently away, you can place your cider somewhere cooler like a shed or a garage and leave it alone for a few months. The longer the better. Six months, or up to a year is preferable for a smoother taste.
The acids in the juice break down over time, so the younger your cider, the more harsh it will be to the taste. Patience is key.
Six months to one year later…
Once you’ve left the cider as long as possible, now is the time to crack it open and drink. Just be careful not to disturb the bitter sediment at the bottom of the container. It’s best to syphon into a clean container if you are not tapping and drinking straight away.
Now taste the cider. You can adjust the sweetness with a sweetener like Stevia (a safe and natural plant based sweetener). But, only add a tiny amount at a time; cider that has been over sweetened and tastes like sweetener isn’t pleasant.
Now, you’re going to have to drink your cider within three days of opening, which is fine for a party etc. But, if you want to do something easy to make your cider special by adding a little fizz, you can move onto the next step.
Adding fizz to your cider
Add another sachet of cider yeast together with half to one teaspoon of sugar per litre of juice. Stir well and then siphon into your clean and sterilised recycled beer bottles. Cap with crown caps until the bottle is sealed (you can buy caps and a capper on eBay for a few quid).
Now leave somewhere cool for another week or longer. The tiny amount of yeast and sugar in the bottle will ferment, creating carbon dioxide in the bottle, and that all-important fizz.
Just be warned not to add more sugar than advised. Too much and your bottles will explode, spraying cider all over the ceiling and embedding glass into anything around it. As you can imagine, that’s not the effect you’re looking for.
But, if you avoid creating explosives, there is nothing more satisfying than hearing that fizz when you open the bottle, and watching those bubbles rush up the side of the glass.
How to enjoy your cider properly
Cider, otherwise known as ‘agricultural lubricant’ is best enjoyed in the Autumn sun, with friends and family.
Because cider is dry and fairly acidic, serve it with cheese, bread, ham your best apple chutney.
What could be better than drinking cider and eating a ploughman’s with loved ones, whilst picking apples and preparing the cider for next year?
If you have an easier method of how to make homemade cider, let us know and we’ll publish it here!