I walked into the market, having just picked a bunch of apples. I looked at the apple cider. It looked good, but we already had half a gallon in the fridge and nobody else was drinking as much as I was. I decided to skip the cider and instead walked directly over to the bakery counter to get what I wanted most: apple cider donuts. I grabbed half a dozen.
At the register there was a problem: I didn’t have any cash on me and the donuts didn’t bring my total over the minimum for a credit card transaction. I had to add something else to my order, and I knew exactly what I wanted.
My wife was pissed because we didn’t have any space in the fridge for another gallon of cider.
Hard cider is quite simple to make : Take some good cider (with no preservatives), add yeast  and wait. The yeast eats the sugar in the cider and converts it to alcohol. There’s a lot of room for variation and expertise, but the basic recipe is quite simple indeed. The hardest part is picking the right ingredients to start. You need a cider that doesn’t have preservatives, because preservatives by definition impede the growth of yeast and other microorganisms. You also need yeast, and guess what? There are multiple different types.
Champagne yeast is very commonly recommended to give a good alcohol content and good carbonation. I’ve seen a few places on the internet saying that the resulting cider with champagne yeast was dry and more like wine than beer. Another option I’ve seen mentioned online was to use a lager yeast to get something a little bit richer, sweeter, and more complex. I decided the later was what I would prefer for my first attempt.
So, armed with this scant bit of information, I drove down to the local brewing supply store. I said I wanted to make cider. The guy asked if I wanted Champagne yeast. I said no, I had heard a recommendation for a Lager yeast instead. He asked what temperature I would be fermenting at. I said about room temperature. He said Ale yeast would be better. He asked me a few more questions and eventually I ended up with a small packet of ale yeast which promised results more sweet and less dry . Perfect. I also bought a cheap plastic air-lock to ferment with, and some other little things for other little projects .
The cider I got cost a bit extra, but it came in a big reusable glass jug suitable for fermenting. The brand was called “Amish Wedding” which I thought was pretty ironic considering I am going to turn it into alcohol (and, under the influence thereof, will blaspheme and fornicate). You can’t tell me what to do. It’s a free country. Muh Freedoms!
On the left side you can see the glass jug with the fermenting cider. You can see the bubbly action of the yeast, and the airlock contraption on top. The big jar on the right is filled with old wine hopefully turning into vinegar (if it works well, I’ll post about it. If not, I’ll pretend this never happened). In the background you can see two bottles filled with red pepper and vinegar. On the far right is a mixture of dehydrated peppers in oil. I’m staying quite busy!
If my vinegar experiment and my cider experiment turn out, I may try to make more cider and turn some of that into cider vinegar. That will be another story for another post.
It’s going to take a little while for the fermentation to complete. I’ll post more when it’s ready.
- Especially if you don’t care about quality
- There is naturally-occuring yeast in the air and probably in the juice already (especially if it’s not pasteurized). I’ve seen recommendations all over the map: Some people like to use this natural yeast, other people claim it’s too unpredictable. Some people recommend using a cheap bread yeast from the grocery store (and many many other people say that’s a huge waste because the results will be terrible). For my purposes, I scraped together a few pennies and bought a little packet of real brewing yeast.
- I read later that using a Lager yeast, but at Ale temperatures would actually produce a slower fermentation and result in a more complex brew. Next time I may try this option and compare results.
- Some things I did NOT buy, but probably will need eventually, depending on my long-term plans are: a syphon, a second glass fermentation container, some non-bleach sterilizing chemicals, some Campden tablets and a hydrometer