How to make apple hard cider
Traditional hard apple cider is fermented apple juice, in which the yeast naturally turns the sugar from the apples into alcohol.
You can highlight this paragraph, because it is important. Some people tend to add extra sugar in the juice. Everything is fine, nothing against, except this is not hard cider. The traditionally-produced cider does have any sugar, extra water or whatsoever added.
Firstly, to make your own apple cider you will need apples. At the right time, in the autumn, when the gardens are rich in apples, you can buy it very cheap, almost next to nothing. If you are willing to drive to nearby gardens and bargain pleasantly with gardeners, it’s possible to even get apples for free. If you buy apples – consider the required amount. Experts say that you can make 1 liter of juice from 2 kilos of apples, on average. This amount is an estimate, since everything depends on the size, juiciness and other factors of the apple.
What kind of apples to choose?
Apples are divided into two categories: sour and sweet. It is important that apples are in a good condition. I recommend you to choose half sweet and half sour apples for the first attempt.
When hard cider is made in the traditional way, the apples are picked from the trees, placed in a clean box and juiced unwashed. This ensures cleanliness and that the wild yeast travels together to the fermentation vessel.
This fermentation method has two key weaknesses:
Firstly, the result will be unpredictable, this means that the result will always will be more or less different.
Secondly, the unpredictability of the wild yeast can make the taste and aroma not enjoyable for everyone. It can be extremely sour. In other words, the result will be WILD, I am not saying that it will be bad, but it will be different, not for everyone to drink.
If you do not intend to use wild yeast – then you can safely collect the apples from the ground, wash, juice and filter them. You should always remember that cider is not pasteurized.
After washing the apples, the wild yeast content is significantly reduced, though they are not entirely killed. Therefore, it’s recommended to put some sulphites, before fermentation so that the wild yeasts are killed. If you don’t kill the wild yeast and still add ‘cultural’ yeast – it could be that both types of yeast will ferment the cider. The result can also vary. There are two types of solvents used in wine, cider and other beverages – potassium sorbate (potassium sorbate) and potassium metabisulphite. Pour the cider into fermentation vessel, afterwards pour the yeast, stir gently. The best yeast to make hard cider is sparkling wine yeast. Although it’s also acceptable to use white or red wine yeast.
Another important rule is the temperature. Dry cider is fermented between 10 and 16 degrees Celsius (if not said differently on the pack of the yeast).
Periodically measure the final gravity (FG) of the cider with the hydrometer.
• Dry cider is approximately 1.000 FG or less.
• Semi-dry cider approximately is 1005 FG
• Semisweet – approximately 1.010 FG
• Sweet cider is made only from sweet apples and FG after fermentation should be 1,015 or more.
When you reach your wanted final gravity you have to stop the fermentation. Cider matures and its fermentation continues if not stopped. If you want completely dry cider – leave the cider in the vessel for a month or so, until all the sugar is converted into alcohol and then bottle it.
To stop the fermentation you will need a special balanced product to stabilize the hard cider after fermentation. Often they consist of potassium metabisulfite, potassium sorbate or ascorbic acid.
The more aged hard cider has better flavor and more balanced aftertaste. Dry cider is matured for at least a half a year, while the semi-sweet can be used after one month.
If the cider gets oxygen during fermentation, it will become apple vinegar.
If it happened that after a half a year or so you got a dry cider, which tastes unacceptable for you – do not rush to throw it away. You can add maple, raspberry or other syrup.