First Batch

This will be my first batch of cider and I had to go with store bought juice. I have 6 gallons of pasteurized juice and 6.5 gallon Carboy. Also picked up 4 pounds of Turbinado Sugar. I have White Labs English Cider Yeast to pitch. After watching Chris Smith, need to pick up some yeast nutrients. First question, do I need to Campden tab pasteurized juice? Also will I need pectic enzymes for clarity?

I don’t have a second carboy, so plan to ferment this in one rack. What I am looking for isn’t a very dry cider. I plan to sweeten it after fermentation. Not sure how much sugar to add to the bottling bucket to get a sparkling 5-6% ABV cider.

I know I may not need as much of the turbinado sugar that I have. Should I add some and keep adding until I get an OG that would produce a 5-6%? How much will it change in the bottle if I add some sugar then? Great math questions here. If I go higher for the fermentation and bottle without sugar before the fermenting stops completely, then pasteurize the bottles once plastic test bottle is firm, could it drop from a 7-8 to a 5-6 in the bottle?

I wanted to have something by the end of May, but what I am reading is most ciders need to condition in the bottle a lot longer. Anyway, any help would be truly appreciated. Like to get it going in the next day or two.



I don’t know if I can help you. I do just about every single thing the opposite of what others recommend.

  1. You should start with real juice from a real orchard, not from concentrate, no preservatives. Why? It tastes better, and it will ferment easier as any preservatives in the commercial juice will tend to hurt your yeast.

  2. I would not add any sugar. Why? Personal preference mostly, but you can get a great 6-7% ABV cider from the juice all by itself, so there’s little need to turn it into more of a strong wine-like beverage unless that’s what you want. It sounds like not. So don’t add any sugar, none at all.

  3. I’ve never used the English cider yeast but based on reviews of others, it’s not that great. I like the dry Cote des Blancs or US-05 the best, they turn out appley in flavor, whereas other yeasts tend to turn out very dry and bland.

  4. I don’t use yeast nutrients, I don’t find them necessary. However if you are using pasteurized juice of questionable source, it can’t hurt.

  5. I don’t use Campden. I actually pasteurize my cider at about 160 F for 15 minutes. I have had far more consistent and tasty results this way.

  6. Pectic enzyme is not necessary. If your cider will not clear after fermentation, use gelatin instead, which works better and can be withheld if not needed.

  7. I’d plan on racking that cider about once per week for the first 4-5 weeks at least. This will reduce the amount of yeast in the cider and slow down fermentation, which will allow your cider to retain some sweetness. Otherwise it is likely to ferment very dry, specific gravity below 1.000 and often as low as 0.992-0.994. If you just leave the cider in primary the whole time, you’re most likely going to get a very dry cider unless you kill with Campden and sorbate. I have not been very successful with killing yeast with Campden and sorbate. I have found I get a more stable and sweeter cider from racking often over the course of several months, not days or weeks.

8 ) Carbonation should be a crapshoot. If you ferment in a hurry, you will likely get a well carbonated cider that is also bone-dry and winey as the yeast will keep on working in the bottles and eat up all the remaining sugar unless you pasteurize. You can try that, although the one time I pasteurized my finished cider, it ended up tasting like cooked applesauce and I didn’t enjoy it as much afterwards. In my opinion you really need to ferment to dryness, then wait another month or so just to make sure it’s done-done, and then prime and bottle. In this case, most of the yeast will fall asleep or die so then carbonation should be a crapshoot. The more carbonation you end up with, the drier the cider will be. I like mine a little sweet, so I actually prefer it to be still or petillant (barely carbonated) and get disappointed when it carbonates heavily. The longer I wait before bottling, the more likely it is that my cider will be sweeter and not heavily carbonated. If I wanted carbonation AND sweetness, that’s luck. I’ve only experienced that one time out of about a dozen batches. It CAN happen, but… it probably won’t. Crapshoot.

In conclusion, low and slow is the way to go, and keep it simple. I like to ferment in the 50s for at least a couple of months. No need for extra sugars or odd chemicals, except gelatin. Gelatin is your friend. If fermentation ever goes too fast, hit it with gelatin and knock 90% of the yeast out of there overnight. Then your cider will stay sweeter without having to add a bunch of chemicals or backsweetening. When specific gravity is around 1.015-1.020, I like to hit with gelatin with a goal of ending fermentation for good at around 1.010. This results in a nicely balanced sweet/tart cider that isn’t so dang dry. Anything below that will become more and more dry and tart.

By the way… your homemade cider is not going to taste like Woodchuck or Angry Orchard or Redd’s. It just won’t. Real cider just does not taste like that! But if you follow most or all of my guidance above, it will likely taste even BETTER than those commercial versions.

My 2 cents. You can make cider the way you’ve described, and it might even turn out great. I just wouldn’t do it that way. So like I said, don’t know if I’ve helped. But perhaps given you a few things to consider, for future batches if nothing else. Experiment and do things your own way, that’s the best way to learn.

Welcome to the forum Bryan.
Dave is the expert on ciders, so you can bank on what he says.
However there are other opinions and options. I would recommend you spend a couple hours on this section of the forum and read past threads. Might get you confused but you need more info.
There is also a great section on ciders on the Homebrewtalk forum.
Good Luck bud! :cheers:

Thanks much for all the advice. So I started with 6.5 carboy and 6 gallons of pasteurized juice.i checked the OG of the juice after putting all together. It was 1.049. I bumped this with 2 pounds of Turbinado. Start gravity was 1.056. I added yeast nutrients. I pitched the yeast. I thought I might have killed it. It took me a lot longer to get everything ready for the yeast. The yeast instructions were get out of refrigerator 3-6 hours before use. It had been out 7-8 hours. Put the airlock in place with sanitized water. That was three days ago. The first day nothing. About 12 hours after that one or two bubbles in a minute. So Friday I went and got 2 packs of wine yeast that was suggested. Got home Friday night and it was bubbling away. I can see the larger nutrients rolling up and down the carboy wall.

Another question. It looks like the airlock has less water in it. Is this a problem?

So we’ll see how things go.

Thanks again.

Sounds like she’s going. Ciders do tend to start off a little slower than beers, and often take a longer fermentation.
The airlock would only be a problem if it dries out completely. And it’s no biggie adding a little more liquid to keep the level where you want. By the way, most airlock users put either starsan or vodka in there. The reason being if you get suckback into the fermenter, then it’s a sterile liquid. Just 1 further step to be safe. Vitally important? No.

Well it has been 12 days and over the last 2 days the bubbles in the airlock have slowed down a lot. Down from 23 a minute to 15. I think I will rack it into my sterile bottling bucket so I can clean the carboy, then rack it back. Will take a reading then. The OG was 1.048/9 and then more like 1.053/4 after 2 pounds of sugar. The larger yeast nutrients have all fallen to the bottom. I will take a reading then and see were the gravity is and calculate the ABV. I am pretty sure this will continue to ferment for a number of weeks or more, but if I want a little yeast activity to carbonate the bottles what should the bubbles be down to in the airlock before attempting to bottle? I assume if the yeast is still a little active adding a small amount of sugar to the whole batch before bottle should be enough to carbonate?

My plan is to bottle and then bottle pasteurize after a few days. Using the plastic bottle trick.

Any additional advice would be appreciated.


The yeast will stay alive for many months, and kick right back in when you add more sugar for bottle priming. So, let it go to completion before adding sugar and bottling(usually 3 weeks but make sure you have a stable SG to be certain). That way you’ll know how much sugar is in solution and avoid bottle bombs. You can use the priming calculator from our host to calculate how much to add.

Do not bottle until airlock activity is totally zero for at least a week or two… unless you like dangerous explosions.

So if I let it sit until no bubbles, does that mean all the sugar is gone?

I will rack it and see where it sits and let you know. I don’t want the bottle bombs, so I understand why we want it to stop bubbling. Even after it stops will it work if sugar is reintroduced to carbonate the bottles?

Thanks for the information.


Sorry to jump in here late, but I would suggest you take a sample of the cider, measure the specific gravity and take a taste to see how sweet it is. It won’t taste great at this point, because it is still full of yeast and other suspended particulates, but it will tell you if you are at the sweetness you want.

I actually don’t think there is a bottle bomb problem if you follow your plan and are very careful about it. You actually don’t even need to add priming sugar if the sweetness is on target. The amount of sugar consumed to get proper carbonation is quite low.

But, be sure to monitor that plastic soda bottle well, and do your pasteurization IMMEDIATELY when you get to the level you want. And make sure you leave the bottles in the hot water long enough to ensure you kill the yeast, otherwise you WILL have bottle bombs.

Full-disclosure: I would not do cider this way. The pasteurization will cook the flavors (unless it is flash pasteurized, but you can’t do that after bottling) and the rapid processing will leave a lot of sediment in the bottles. If all that sediment was yeast, it would compact fairly tightly at the bottom of the bottles and you’d be able to pour off it, but it is not. So it will often get stirred up as you pour and will give you cloudy cider.

Or maybe not - I haven’t actually tried to do it that way so maybe I’m wrong. Tell us how it turns out.

So if I let it sit until no bubbles, does that mean all the sugar is gone?

I will rack it and see where it sits and let you know. I don’t want the bottle bombs, so I understand why we want it to stop bubbling. Even after it stops will it work if sugar is reintroduced to carbonate the bottles?

Thanks for the information.


Airlock activity is not the best way to monitor completion of fermentation. Lids and corks and gaskets can leak. Fermentation can still be happening with no airlock activity. Best way to know if fermentation is still occurring, with ciders, is to check specific gravity, wait about 10 days, then check gravity again. If the gravity changes by even just one or two points, fermentation is still happening. If you wait until no airlock bubbles, the sugar isn’t necessarily all gone. Also…

Just because fermentation is complete, doesn’t mean there is no sweetness left, either. If you rack often enough and/or use gelatin and/or sorbate or sulfite, you can end fermentation early and leave some residual sweetness.

The way I make my ciders is kind of unique but they do have sweetness at the end in a natural manner. I rack the cider every 7-10 days for the first month or two, and if it begins to taste too dry or too tart, I knock out the yeast with gelatin, wait a day or two, then rack it again. This removes about 90% of the yeast. The yeast that remains will become very tired and might quit early, without pasteurization or chemical additions. Then, if specific gravity stabilizes for a few weeks, I know it is safe to bottle. If I add priming sugar, occasionally I can get carbonation although usually not. If I do get carbonation, it often takes many months to fully carbonate. But often the cider is gone before that happens (gulp gulp gulp).

Carbonation with ciders is always a bit of a crapshoot in my experience. I have tried many different ways but for various reasons they all suck / none are reliable. Like rebuiltcellars says, if you try pasteurization, it might work, but can result in cooked flavors and result in a permanently cloudy cider – I have done this and was not happy with the results. The best way to carbonate a cider would be to keg it and force carbonate. That’s something that I myself have not yet dabbled with, but I know it would work very consistently. But if you want to bottle… good luck, that’s all I can say. Inevitably, you’ll either get an overcarbonated gusher, or you’ll get a dead still cider. Rarely you’ll get something in between that is well carbonated. I have done it once or twice, but I’m sure it was luck and not skill.

So… good luck!

The only reliable way to get non-dry, carbonated cider is to get rid of all the yeast by some method (chemically with sulfites and sorbate, sterile filtering, or flash pasteurization), and then sweeten to taste and artificially carbonate it from a tank. Or go the champagne route, but that takes over a year. I’ve done both, and artificially carbing from a keg is by far the easiest and has the shortest learning curve. But you do need to have the proper equipment.

I’ve had good luck fermenting cider dry and back-sweetening with xylitol. I’m pretty sensitive to the flavor of artificial sweeteners, but I haven’t been able to detect any flavors from the xylitol. It’s pretty neutral.

1 cup xylitol in 3-gallons dry cider adds back a decent amount of sweetness. My procedure is to ferment and age until crystal clear, back-sweeten, prime with corn sugar to desired carbonation level, re-yeast if aged a long time, and bottle as normal. About one month later, you should have sweet, nicely carbonated cider.

Xylitol… I might have to give that a try. In the past I have used sucralose (Splenda) and while I was able to get the right level of sweetness, it did have that nasty chemical taste to it. Xylitol is different. Might be worth a shot. Maybe stevia, too. I am very sensitive to artificial sweeteners and generally dislike them, but with so many different options these days, anything’s possible, and might taste just fine to others. Not a bad idea, maybe. However I’d avoid sucralose, I know I didn’t like that one.

Dave, be warned that it can have some side-effects on certain people’s digestive systems! You might want to try it out ahead of time before you risk your cider with it! :mrgreen:

Well yeah, that thought had occurred to me… might not want to drink more than one at a time!

I know you can get Stevia in the Raw now. The more I think about it maybe the keg carbonation is the way to go. But can you bottle from a keg? Kinda hard to lug around a keg system. If anyone ever said this isn’t science they were wrong. In the morning will be two weeks. My plan is to rack it tonight take a reading, taste and let everyone know where it sits. The bubbles are still slowing down. The cider is clear enough that I was able to look at the bottom of the surface. With the light shining through could see plenty of small bubbles racing to the top. Still active, but nothing like the first week.

Xylitol. I’ve read where this is lethal for dogs if they should happen to consume it. As bad as eating hops. Can’t imagine how they could ever get into the stuff but dogs (if they’re like mine) will eat anything. Just a heads up…

Still have’t had a chance to rack the cider. One thing that occurred to me looking at the carboy. I have 6 gallons in a 6.5 carboy. When I rack it, that is going to lower the level another 1/4 to 1/2 gallon. Do I need to add more juice to bring the level back up to 6 or even more to almost fill the carboy? Let me know.



p.s. Noticed an article today about a dog eating icebreaker mints or gum that had xylitol in it. Dog died from it.

I wouldn’t worry about the level in the carboy. It will be fine.