"In the fields of observation chance favours only the prepared mind" - Louis Pasteur

25 Nov 2015

Let's make the Cider it is easy!

So here it is. Making cider in 173 easy steps. We will need:
  1. Desire to make your own cider
  2. Equipment
    • Carboy/Demijohn/Fermenter or other fermenting container - home brew shop
    • Cap/Rubber cap - home brew shop
    • Bubbler aka Airlock - home brew shop
    • Bottles - home brew shop/local pub
    • Caps for bottles- home brew shop
    • Capper - to put caps on bottles - home brew shop
    • Syphon - to transfer cider from the carboy to the bottles
  3. Ingredients
    • Pasteurised apple juice not from concentrate (Tesco/Lidl) or fresh pressed apple juice
    • Sugar
    • Cider Yeast
  4. Patience - to wait until it matures in bottles ;)

To start with we take our carboy, cap, and the bubbler. We wash it all and rinse it thoroughly. We put sugar, juice, and yeast into carboy. I add 500g of sugar for every 4.5 litre of juice. How much yeast? It will be written on yeast package. If not consult the shop or producer's website.You can find better recipes on the internet. I suggest you experiment with different juices and sugar content until it tastes they way you like it after maturing. I suggest you dissolve the sugar in the juice. Put the carboy with the contents in warm dark place. It should start to produce gas in about 24 to 48 hours. We are done for 7 to 10 days. During this time yeast will use the sugar to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide (the bubbles).

At this point I should introduce the bookkeeping practice. It is comes handy when we try to establish how much sugar we need to add to given volume of juice. Below is the table with my notes.

batchvolumedate startedjuice originsugar (grams)fermentation daysmaturing daysnotes
24.5L05/11/2015lidl500721brown sugar to fermentation, one bottle exploded in warm press

I have a spreadsheet for everything in my life, This one helps me to keep the track of the recipe and maturing time (when in the name of gods is it going to be ready to drink :) ) Notes are important to refine your process.

First fermentation takes about 7 to 10 days. The rule is simple: the longer fermentation the more alcohol and less sugar. Obviously, if you add tons of sugar the alcohol will kill the yeast and the drink will be sweet and strong. This only applies to natural methods without use of chemicals to kill yeast early. Again, refine your recipe - sugar and juice content.

When the cider is 7 to 10 days old we can bottle it. To prepare the bottles we need to wash them, disinfect and sterilise. I am going to describe my methods here. Plenty of advice can be found on the interweb. Home brew stores offer professional cleaning and disinfecting products.

Washing and Disinfecting: My bottles come from local pub. I need to take stickers off too. I soak my bottles in the solution of bleach for a night. Next day stickers fall off, bottles are disinfected. I wash them inside with washing up liquid and bottle brush. I rinse them with cold and warm water. Next, I put them into the dishwasher and wash them, again. Next, I rinse them again. If your bottles come from the pub examine them thoroughly. Also check bottles for crack, there must be non. Yes, I know it seems like a lot of work but it needs to be done especially with "new" bottles. On the flip side I got them for free.

Sterilising: This is easy. Put them into oven on max temp for 60 minutes. Wait till they cool down. Seal the tops with the tin foil. I suggest do it over night.

Now bottles are disinfected and sterilised. This is very important step. Your cider will be spoiled if bottles are not clean. I would suggest that you deal with the bottles during the fermentation period.

As far as I am concerned nobody likes cider flat. So, how do we squeeze bubbles into cider? It is easy, we add teaspoon (experiment again) of sugar to bottles before capping. You probably noticed that in my notes it says that bottle exploded. Yes, this can happen. There are many reasons for that but it all comes down to gas pressure building inside the bottle. You are probably better off keeping your home cider in proper bottle container or simply a strong fabric bag to minimise possible damage caused by explosion. Three main reason for exploding bottles are: bottling cider that is still fermenting violently, keeping bottles in warm places, adding to much sugar and leaving no space for CO2.

Bottling process. Place you syphon inside your carboy. It is built to eliminate transfer of sediment from the bottom of the carboy to bottles. You want to keep as much as possible of this sediment out of your bottles. Let the syphon settle in the carboy. In the meantime get your caps ready. I normally soak them in boiling hot water to disinfect them. Don't forget to add sugar to bottles. Place the other end of syphon tube below the carboy. Let it hang so to speak. Suck at the pipe and the gravity should do the rest. Your cider should flow down the pipe.

Fill bottles leaving about an inch (2cm) of space at the top. This will be the space where the gas will accumulate and dissolve in the cider making it fizzy. It also helps to prevent explosions. Now, you can put the cap on your bottle with the capper. See youtube for the instructions on how to use capper. I normally mix the sugar with young cider in the bottle by turning the bottle up side down few times.

What is going to happen next? You place the bottles in room temperature for about 3 days. Yeast will work through the sugar and produce alcohol and bubbles. After about 3 days, place bottles in dark cool place to mature. Cider is ready in 3 weeks from now.

Before enjoying your cider responsibly make sure you cool it in the fridge until it is cold. Pour it gently into the glass so the yeast at the bottom stay there and do not flow into the glass.