Hard cider is made by taking dark, sweet cider and turning it into a pale, alcoholic beverage. Brewing your own cider at home is a simple and rewarding process. All you need are the right tools and ingredients to get the job done and you will be on your way to brewing some of the most delicious hard cider you have ever had!
Important Terms to Know
Home-brewing can be a bit confusing for first timers. Here are a few basic terms you should now before you start brewing hard cider on your own. Let’s start with one of the most important components of home brewing: yeast. A helpful fungus, yeast is used in all home brewing projects and aids in the fermentation process. Fermentation is when sugars are converted to alcohol. This is what gives the cider its alcoholic content. You can brew your own hard cider with store-bought apple juice, or create your own juice, referred to as a starter. A starter is created by mixing yeast, juiced apples, brown sugar, and honey and is used to speed up the fermentation process. Pasteurization is a method of preserving liquid by heating them to a specific temperature for a certain amount of time. Its purpose is to reduce or eliminate bacteria from forming. Home-brewed hard cider improves in taste through a process called conditioning. This occurs when the cider is left to sit over a period of time, allowing the alcohol and other layers of flavor to blend together for optimum taste.
In order to brew hard cider, it is important to have the proper tools for the job. For starters, you will need a large stainless steel pot and spoon to stir your ingredients. For the fermentation process, you will need a large 6.5 gallon bucket with a lid or airlock. If you want something more professional that will stand the test of time, a 5 gallon glass carboy with a stopper and airlock will withstand more fermentation processes than a plastic bucket. In addition to a fermentation bucket, you will also need a bottling bucket and 3 to 6 feet of 3/8-inch plastic tubing. To store your finished cider, you will need glass jugs or bottles to place your finished product in and corks to seal the bottles. Next, you will need the ingredients to brew the cider. Start with 5 gallons of sweet apple cider, preferably unpasteurized and preservative-free. You will also need yeast (wine yeast or liquid yeast will work). If you want your cider to have a higher alcohol content, you will want to include brown sugar and honey in your recipe.
Steps to Brewing Hard Cider
The first step in brewing hard cider is to acquire juice. You can simply purchase apple juice or apple cider from the store, or use fresh juice by physically juicing several apples yourself. If you choose to purchase pre-packaged juice, be sure that it does not contain preservatives. If you are creating a starter, you’ll need to juice apples, then combine them with sugar and honey and heat them for about 10 minutes. Then, place the mixture into a clean jug. Add the yeast, and let sit overnight. This advances the fermentation process. Once you have acquired your juice, it must be pasteurized to kill naturally occurring yeast and any bacteria. This is done by heating the juice over medium heat and cooking for 45 minutes. The liquid should never come to a boil. If you choose to use sugar in your recipe, it should be incorporated into the liquid as it is being heated. While the sugar combines with the juice, sanitize the carboy with a solution of water and bleach. Allow the carboy to rest for 30 minutes, then rinse thoroughly. Next, incorporate the yeast you are using into the carboy. It should be mixed with warm water. Add your juice mixture, and secure with an air-tight seal. Allow your hard cider to ferment for 2 weeks. Store it in a cool, dry place. The final step is to siphon out the hard cider using the plastic tubing and bottle it for enjoyment!
Making It Your Own
Brewing your own hard cider is an exciting process. Many people may follow a recipe similar to yours, but there are ingredients you can add to give your cider a unique and exciting taste. For instance, there are a number of types of yeast you can use when brewing hard cider. Cider yeast works well and a bit quicker than other types. Wine yeasts also work quickly and are not super sensitive to temperature. You can also use beer yeast to make hard cider. Beer yeast will give your brew its own complexity. You can also change the flavor of your hard cider with the type of juice you use. Apples come in many varieties, and if you choose to create your own starter, you can use everything from green apples to golden delicious. It all comes down to personal taste. Other unique touches you can make to your hard cider brew include touches of cinnamon, honey, or even cayenne pepper!
Tips to Consider
If you are considering making your own hard cider at home, be sure that you have all of the necessary tools and ingredients ready prior to starting the process. It may help to have an assistant throughout the home brewing process. When it comes to bottling, be sure to sanitize the bottles prior to adding any of your final product. Finally, share your hard cider with friends and family, and take notes. Ask what they like and do not like about your brew so you know what to improve upon in future endeavors.
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