Beer, wine and cider making are very similar processes. This page describes easy to follow, step by step instructions on how to make cider at home. It is not as difficult as you might think so why not have a go - the results are very rewarding
Making cider is simple! Basically all you need to do is squeeze the juice from some apples, add yeast and then sit back and wait for the yeast to turn the sugar in the apple juice into alcohol.
Dont worry if you dont have any equipment you can get a Complete Starter Kit that contains all the equipment that you will need. Alternatively you can begin with a Basic Starter Kit and build up from there as you gain more experience.
When you have read this page you may like to learn more about cider making. I recommend that you take a look at these books -
Craft Cider Making
A book for anyone who wants to make good cider or even simple apple juice. Whether you have a back garden with a couple of apple trees or you just 'scrump' apples from friends and neighbours this book is for you. You will learn about the equipment you will need, the techniques to use and just how they work as they do. The book is packed with a wealth of practical experience and understanding - it is for beginners and old hands alike.
STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS
You may prefer to watch my step by step video first but please come back here and read the following step by step notes for more details on quantities, tips and methods.
Get Some Apples
Get yourself some apples. Eating apples are best - cooking apples are too sour and dont make good cider. Dont use apple juice, it doesnt work very well - you'll be dissappointed with the results.
I got the apples in the photograph for free, from a tree growing at the side of a disused railway track. You may have some in your own garden or if not, there are a number of freecycle sites where people offer a multitude of items free of charge - you can place wanted notes asking for apples.
You will need about 20lbs of apples for each gallon of cider. Wash the apples, throw away any that show signs of rot or have maggots in them.
I pick a lot of my fruit from the countryside so it is not practical to take a pair of ladders with me. Also resting a ladder against a tree can be dangerous if you dont secure it properly.
I have found the safest and easiest way to pick fruit from trees is to use a fruit picker. This device fits onto the end of a pole and has upturned 'fingers' that you use to pull the fruit from the branches. When the fruit falls it is caught in a bag.
Pulp the Apples
After the apples have been washed they need to be cut into small pieces. There are lots of ways of doing this.
I made myself a scratter (photograph). The oak drum in the centre has stainless steel screws around its surface; it is mounted in a hopper which I made from melamine faced chipboard.
The apples are dropped in from the top and when they hit the spinning drum (powered from my electric drill) the screws grind them into little pieces.
Making a scratter may be too complicated for some people. If you are only making small quantities of cider then you can use a Fruit Juicer or a Blender. Try to cut the apples into small pieces first and choose a blender or juicer with a powerful motor. Pulping apples is hard work for the little machine!
You can also buy a good Fruit Pulper shown in the photo. It is very easy to use. Just attach it to your electric drill to spin the blade and slice through the apples. The 2 gallon bucket cleanly retains the apples and the juice.
This will stop your cider becoming cloudy. Leave for one day to allow the Campden Tablets to work on the bacteria. If you put your yeast starter in too soon then the Campden Tablets could stop it working.
Next measure the specific gravity (SG) using a Hydrometer. This will tell you how much sugar is present in the juice and how much alcohol your juice will produce. You may need to add some sugar to raise the alcohol level. You can use ordinary sugar for this but some brewers recommend that Brewing & Wine Making Sugar is used. It is said to ferment easier, increase yield and give cleaner flavour than regular Sugar
Next I made a starter jar for the yeast. The purpose of this step is to get the yeast to start fermenting in a small jar with a low sugar content before adding it to your apple juice. The yeast I used was a General Purpose Wine Yeast but you can use a specially selected Cider Yeast if you prefer.
I sterilised a glass tumbler then added a teaspoon of sugar, and poured on boiling water.
I stirred the sugar until it had disolved and then allowed it to cool to room temperature. I then added a pinch of yeast nutrient and poured in the contents of the yeast sachet. I covered the top of the tumber with cling film. After a few minutes the yeast started fermenting - bubbles rose from the bottom of the tumbler and a froth appeared at the top. I left this for about 4 hours at room temperature.
Important: Dont add the yeast until the water is at room temperature or you will kill it. Yeast is a living organism and cannot survive at temperatures above 30 degrees C.
Add the yeast starter to your juice in the fermentation bucket. After a few hours it will start bubbling. Keep the lid on the bucket and leave for 4 days.
This stage of the process is called Primary Fermentation.
Siphon off the fermenting juice using a siphon tube
into sterilised demijohns
. It is important to fill them to the neck - too much air in the demijohns at this stage will turn your cider to vinegar.
to the top of the demijohns and leave at room temperature until the bubbling stops. This took two weeks in my case but it could take longer depending on the amount of sugar in the apples and the fermentation temperature.
Leave for a few weeks at a cooler termperature for the yeast to fall to the bottom of the demijohn and wait for the cider to clear (I put mine in my garage).
When your cider is clear then it is time to bottle it.
Sterilise your bottles first. To each bottle add a teaspoon full of sugar then siphon from the demijohn to the bottle using a siphon tube.
The purpose of the sugar is to give your cider some fizz. There will be a small amount of yeast in the cider when you transfer it to the bottles. This yeast will slowly ferment the teaspoon of sugar releasing carbon dioxide gas, just as it did in the demijohn. However there is no airlock on the bottles so the gas remains trapped - building up pressure in the bottle. When you unscrew the bottle cap, the gas is released giving you a sparkling refreshing cider.
Caution: The build up of gas will pressurise the bottles. Make sure you use suitable bottles or else they could burst. I used 2 litre sparkling water bottles.
Finally, pour yourself a glass, sit back, relax and be proud of your achievement!
Final, final note - I made 20 bottles last year and they were so popular that all but one bottled was consumed over Christmas by friends and relatives. That's why I can only show you one bottle in the photo! I think I'll up the quantity next year!