Fall is in the air and apples are everywhere! Now is the perfect time to start foraging and making friends with your neighbors that have apple trees. With a little effort and the help of some friends you can take a delicious, often unused natural resource and turn it into a crisp, carbonated cider!
So, where do you begin? What’s the first step?
First go find all the free apples you can! Don’t worry if they are different types with varying flavor profiles, when it comes to cider, the more variety in apples the better. Talk to friends, family, and neighbors; don’t be afraid to scan some hedgerows and orchards. Windfall apples are perfect for cider making as they are fresh, fully mature, and generally go unused and rot.
I’ve got 100 lbs. of apples… Now what?
100 lbs. is a great start! It takes about 20 lbs. to produce 1 gallon of apple juice, so with 100 lbs. you’re looking at about 5 gallons of juice.
Really there are 4 steps to making hard cider:
- Extract the juice
The toughest of these steps is in the extraction of juice. If you don’t have a nice juice press and a pulper, you can make due with a juicer, but if you’re serious about making cider, you should really look into purchasing some proper tools. I’ve seen some electric drill hacks that worked quite well for pulping.
Okay, I’ve got my apples, tools, and am ready to start! What’s next?
- Only use ripe apples. Over-ripe is better than apples plucked too soon.
- Leave the apples in your garage, away from bees, for about 2 weeks so they soften up.
- Now quarter all your apples and toss out any rotten or overly bruised and mucky looking pieces.
- Pulp up the apple quarters. This is where a pulper or the power drill hack comes in.
- Now, using your fruit press, squeeze out all the juice. I’ve also seen some pretty awesome homemade juicers made from disinfected washer machines.
- Check your juice’s OG (original gravity). Add sugar if needed, to reach a measurement of 1055.
- Depending upon which yeast you use, we recommend cultured yeast, first add 1 campden tablet per gallon of juice to kill off any bad bacteria and let it sit for 48 hours. Once 48 hours has passed you can now add your yeast!
- Now it’s time to ferment! Ferment your cider in a closed fermenter, like a Synergy Brewing Systems Uni-Fermenter, for anywhere from 5-14 days or until your hydrometer is showing the fermentation has finished. Leave it to ferment at 68- 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
- After fermentation has finished, transfer your delicious home brewed cider, and let it mature for approximately 6 months before bottling.
- Once everything is ready to bottle, you can add some sugar to the bottles to add fiz, or carbonation to your cider. No more than a ½ teaspoon per bottle.
And that’s it! After collecting your apples, there are only 10 simple steps to follow to have delicious hard cider that you made yourself!
Check out our blog/news section for more great tips, brewing advice, and recipes.