Anyone have an easy and reliable cider recipe? Been making beer for years but cider as of late sounds fun!
There’s nothing easier to make than cider! However patience is kind of important. How I like to make mine:
First, find some real sweet apple juice from a real actual apple orchard, either fresh or frozen is fine. Don’t use the clear juice with preservatives from your grocery store, it might be made from concentrate and contain a lot of preservatives, not making for great fermentations. Find some of the ugly brown juice from a real orchard, unpasteurized if you can find it – that’s what you need! However, I do heat treat the juice on the stove at home at about 160-170 F for about 15 minutes, then cool, then pitch the yeast, just to make sure I have complete control over the outcome by using my own yeast. Low and slow is the way to go on fermentation time and temperature. I ferment my ciders in the 50s (Fahrenheit) for a couple months. Rack often, about once a week, especially in the early stages. If you can’t ferment cool in the 50s, that might turn out fine but you should rack even more often, maybe every 3 days. When the specific gravity hits 1.010, add a slurry of a teaspoon gelatin in a little hot water per 2-3 gallons, chill the cider for a day or two, and then rack it again – the gelatin will take out a lot of the yeast and you’ll end up with a sweeter, more balanced cider. Once you have done this and fermentation slows way way down, keep in your refrigerator for a few more weeks just to make sure fermentation has subsided before you bottle, otherwise you might get gushers or bottle bombs. Or, just drink the cider straight out of the fermenter! I do that a lot as well.
As for yeast, just about anything will work, but I have a couple of favorites. Cote des Blancs yeast makes a wonderful cider but will take the gravity all the way down to the 0.990s, very very dry and very tart. I love this yeast, but it needs the racking and the gelatin to avoid bone dryness. US-05 ale yeast actually makes the best cider I have tasted, and isn’t quite as finicky as the Cote des Blancs.
Everyone will recommend that you add yeast nutrients and sorbate and sulfite to your cider. My recommendation? No, don’t bother. All are unnecessary and can even be detrimental if overused. Follow the simpler steps above and you’ll have no problems, without all these extra chemicals.
Also I recommend you do NOT add any sugars or spices to your cider. Try fermenting the juice just by itself and see how wonderful that turns out!
Don’t expect your homemade cider to taste anything like the commercial ciders. Commercial ciders like Angry Orchard or whatever are usually made from concentrate, and taste more like apple kool-aid than real cider, which is more dry and tart, and similar to a fine white wine. The stuff you make at home is WAY better. I guarantee it!
Dave I really appreciate the thorough and thoughtful reply. I’ve read quite a few topics in the cider section and you seem to know what your doing! Patience will be key on this one!
Like Dave said, use Cote des Blancs if you want a dry cider - It really does make an excellent cider. For a sweeter cider, I’ve been really happy with S-04. It leaves a little residual sweetness compared to a wine yeast.The more simple you can keep it, the better your results will be.
I wouldn’t ever heat pasteurize my cider. Nothing against Dave’s advice, if he’s happy with it then there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it, but it’s not something I would do. Heating can set the pectin, which could lead to hazy cider. And I do find that it changes the flavor somewhat. I prefer using campden if it’s fresh-pressed cider, as it will also help prevent oxidation. I also don’t rack it until it’s done fermenting.
My process is to press the apples (or buy from the store), add campden at 1 tablet per gallon, and let it sit for 24-48 hours in the fermenter. Add the yeast (no nutrients needed unless you add a ton of sugar, which won’t make it any better), and let it ferment dry at the yeast’s ideal range. Rack to secondary, and let it rest for as long as you can stay out of it. It’s good at 3 months, even better at 6 months, and incredible at 12 months. The apple flavor really starts to shine at around 6 months, in my experience.
If you can find some crabapples, your cider will be really happy.
Where do you all source your apple juice, and what’s the approximate cost per gallon?
Juice prices have doubled here in the last 2-3 years. Currently $6-$7 per gallon at all the orchards local to here. If you can find it cheaper and unpasteurized, good for you. I used to get it for just $3-$3.50 per gallon, but those days are gone.
Wow that’s crazy. Unfortunately we don’t have orchards here in Charleston. I’ll check out Whole Foods. They should have something.
Look for the juice called “Simply Apple”. It might be as close as you can get to real orchard cider.
Press it myself, so all it costs is time! I only make it once or twice a year, though.
I pressed half of my juice myself last year as well. It turns out great, but unless you have access to a lot of apples and the equipment to scrat and press it, this is not always feasible for everyone. I am fortunate to have access to great local orchard juice as well as my own apples and juicing equipment. I find that I can get the same quality juice from an orchard than I can juice myself. So it can also be a matter of economics – it’s possible it might be cheaper to buy juice than to do it yourself. If you will make a lot of cider, you may need to do the math as each situation is different. For me it’s kind of a wash. So I make cider both ways, with juice from others and from my own juice. It’s all great.
I will pipe in and say the cider I made last year with the Cote de Blancs was super dry, no residual sweetness, and was freaking delightful. I didn’t do any of the racking every so often business and just let it go, tossed in some gelatin to clear, and bottled with priming sugar after two months. Sparkling dry champagney bubbles after it sat in the bottle for another month.
This year, I’m going to do another batch, and will think about oaking it ever so slightly. It makes sense in my head, anyway.
I haven’t tried oaking a cider yet, but I think it’s an absolutely fantastic idea! Some of the oak/tannins I think would be freakin’ great in a dry cider. Again, crabapples are a great addition, for the same reasons.
Lots of folks use Nottingham in ciders. I tried it once. It was absolutely awful. Complete sulphur bomb. As mentioned above, cotes des blancs is great.
My Nottingham cider turned out good but has a very odd peach flavor that overwhelms everything else.
I get the mother load of apples from our own trees. One wheel barrow load will get me 6 gallons… I have a juicer, takes about 6 hours to get a carboy full. While Im juicing I will put about 1 cup lemon in the carboy to keep it from oxidizing, turning it brown…. I use SF-05. I will collect and juice in october and about feb. is when I will bottle. Now this year I’ve got two different varieties and tons of crabapples…… Ah the joy of fermenting stuff you grow! Sneezles61
For really top notch cider try to get some from some tarter apple varieties into the mix (some orchards, at least ones around here, offer ‘tart blend’ orchard cider which is fantastic for making hard cider). If you can’t get some crabapples in there, even a hefty portion of one of the winesap varieties (like Turley or Stayman) can make a very positive difference in the end result.
Ciders made from the currently popular sweet ‘eating’ varieties (especially the ubiquitous and largely characterless Red Delicious) tend to be lackluster and one-note. If you cant get some tart varietal fresh cider for your ferment, a small amount of malic acid (which is the type of acid naturally found in apples and is available from any good beer/wine hobby retailers) makes a monumental difference.
Most homemade hard cider will be a beer strength beverage. If you want a wine strength beverage, just add a bit sugar to the ferment (there’s absolutely no sin in that, and in fact some of the best cider makers around do that very thing). When I make still, dyr ciders (my preferred type) I will usually add some turbinado sugar to the must.
porkchop mentioned “oaking” the cider…that’s fine (I’ve done it and it’s quite good) just don’t overdo the oak. As with heavily oaked beers, too much oak characacter in a cider can make for a mighty insipid drink. It’s less heinous in traditional dry cider…but oaky character in sweeter cider can be pretty gagging. :shock:
I have a cider going now that I fermented with S-189 which took it down to 1.002 after three weeks at 54f. I was quite happy with the taste of the hydrometer sample. I used one gallon Treetop 3 apple blend and one gallon of Treetop honeycrisp. Both are juice only. I plan to add some Fuji and granny smith along with some demerara sugar in the next few days.
Last year I did a coconut cider with Munton’s that ended at 1.000.