Homemade Hard Cider – 10/27/18

As a family trip last weekend, the Breakings drove out to Louisburg Cider Mill . The trip was two-fold…

  1. Get some pumpkins and get some pictures of Baby Breaking amongst said pumpkins
  2. Get some pumpkin spice donuts

I decided to make it an even better trip by getting some jugs of cider and resolving to turn one of them into booze.

I’ve never made homemade hard cider before. I’ve consumed commercial cider and enjoyed it. I’m a pretty decent homebrewer and understand the mechanics/nuances of making a fermented beverage. So, I did some Googling on home hard cider making just to ensure that I learned any intermediate steps that aren’t the same as beer brewing. It’s about 90% the same, luckily. There are MANY ways to make your hard cider – since this was my first rodeo, I opted for the simplest approach, just to dip my toe in.

In general, you can ferment anything that has fermentable chains of sugar in it when you introduce viable yeast, and create an environment where they can do their thing. Apple juice (and yes, cider) have these fermentable sugar chains, so it’s just a matter of doing the proper requisite work to set up that environment for the yeast to thrive.

If the cider/juice is NOT pasteurized, you’d need to boil it just like wort in beer production. Also, and this is a big deal, you can NOT use juice/cider with preservatives in it. So, if you are going to give this a try – aim for preservative free juice/cider. Lucky for me, the cider at Louisburg is pasteurized already, so I can skip the boil step and go right to sanitizing/pitching.

Before pitching your yeast starter, you can add pectic enzyme to the cider as a clarifier. It doesn’t impact taste at all – just clarity (it makes the pectins in the juice/cider fall out of suspension). I did buy a pouch from Amazon, but at the last second, decided not to do it. Again – since this is my maiden voyage into cider land, I didn’t want to add a variable that could screw it up. I want to get this first batch under my belt, and then I’ll focus on the bigger picture and improving my process.

One note about the yeast – I was going to get Nottingham Ale dry yeast by Danstar (very highly recommended by a majority of the sites I checked out). But, I opted to go with S-04 because some other sites said it works almost as well, and, I already has some S-04 on hand. So – win win.

When I skipped the pectic enzyme step, the last thing to do was take a gravity reading, and then pitch my yeast slurry and throw in the airlock bung. Done and done. The gravity of the cider was 1.052. Not bad. If you want to make your cider more alcoholic, you can add brown sugar or other sugar ingredients to up the gravity. Again – trying to keep this down to as few variables as possible, I opted to keep the gravity as is. If it ferments out to under 1.010, I’ll end up with a pretty decent cider.

Brew day notes:

  • Date: 10/27/18
  • Used cold pasteurized local cider from Louisburg Cider Mill
  • Actual OG: 1.052
    • Note – I didn’t add any sugar – that was the OG right out of the bottle!
  • Final OG: 1.000
  • Final ABV: 6.8%
  • Fermentation notes:
    • 10/26/18 – prepared a yeast starter using Fermentis S-04 and about 4 ounces of the hard cider from Louisburg Cider Mill. Within a few hours, you could see some activity in the mason jar, so that was very encouraging
    • 10/27/18 – poured the starter into the half-gallon jug of cider and put on my airlock.
    • 11/16 – cold crash
    • 11/17 – bottled at 1.000
      • Used 1 oz of sweet cider per 22oz bottle for priming
      • Tastes like hard apple cider – little on the dry side. I’ll break this out during Thanksgiving and let the family sample and render a verdict. All in all, not a bad first cider batch!

 

Have you ever brewed hard cider before? Please let us know about your brewing experiences. If you enjoyed this post, please like and share. Thanks!

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