The insider on cider – A recipe for hard cider

by Winemaking

With fall fast approaching, you might consider starting a hard cider.  Hard cider makes a great alternative to beer and is very popular even with those who do not like beer.  There are cider kits floating around like the one from Vinoka, but since Vinoka was recently purchased by RJ Spagnols, it is not clear if these kits are still available.  Many homebrew stores have these kits on clearance.

The Process

Cider is very easy to make.  All you really need is apple juice and yeast.  The best apple juice is juice pressed from fresh apples right off the orchard, but many of us simply do not live near a good source of apples.  We created a very tasty cider using apple juice from the store.  You can use either cider or apple juice, just make sure it does not contain any preservatives.  You will have a difficult time fermenting apple juice with preservatives.  Mott’s apple juice is a good choice.  We used Archer Farms apple cider from Target.

Cider from fresh apples makes great cider, but apple juice works great too

Cider from fresh apples makes great cider, but apple juice works great too

To make the hard cider, simply pour apple juice in the fermenter, add sugar and yeast, and wait till it ferments completely.  Once the specific gravity has reached 1.000, add potassium sorbate.  The resulting cider will be very dry since apple juice is a very fast and clean fermentable.  Once you have stabilized your cider with potassium sorbate, you can add honey and apple concentrate to give a better apple flavor.

The Easy Cider Recipe

Here is the recipe that we used:

6 gallons 100% Cider (from Le Targét - Archer Farms)
White Labs Liquid Starter - English Cider Yeast
1 Lemon
0.5 gallons of water with 6 cups of white sugar diluted
-S.G. 1.062

Heat up the 0.5 gallons of water to a boil, and then dissolve the sugar in the water.  If you use bottled water, try to use spring water and not distilled water.  Spring water has more minerals to keep the yeast happy.  Add the juice from the lemon to the sugar solution.  Once the water is clear again, add it to the cider in your fermenter.  Take an initial gravity reading, and make sure the temperature of the apple juice is between 60 F and 70 F.  Add the yeast.

The final gravity should be 1.000 after 2 weeks. After the potassium sorbate is added, put the cider into a refrigerator for a week.  This reduces the chance for any renewed fermentation.  If you want to bottle your cider, do not add the potassium sorbate.  Add 3/4 Cup Corn Sugar and bottle.  If you are able to keg your cider, you will want to add the following ingredients.

1 can 100% apple juice concentrate (any kind will do)
1 pound of honey

Make sure you heat up the honey in some water before pouring into your hard cider.  Cold ciders will cause the honey to become almost solid, and is very difficult to mix.

There are also many other variations you might try.

  1. Try using brown sugar or strong honey.  This will create a more caramel-like flavor.
  2. Light Cinnamon might be added to the apple juice to give it a bit of spice.

Good luck with your cider, and let us know how you like it!

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DJ Spiess

DJ Spiess

Beer buddy

I live in Denver, Colorado. This blog is everything about beer, wine, cider, mead and other spirits.
I am a avid homebrewer and winemaker. I’ve been making my own beer and wine for many years. I started making beer when I was in college (mostly because the drinking age in the United States is 21). My first few beers were horrible. The beers are much better now, and I often supply my neighborhood with free beer! It is a great hobby!