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A Recipe for Cider

Posted by Stephanie Drilling on

If you have spent any time in the store, you know my favorite two beverages to make are cider and mead. My first cider experience was an Angry Orchard at a local restaurant. One sip and I was hooked. Crisp – a bit sweet and apple essence all rolled into a delightfully carbonated beverage. Yum. As a bonus, of all of the alcoholic beverages homebrewed, cider from store bought apple juice is the simplest to make. It takes longer to gather and sanitize the equipment than it takes to put together the ingredients and pitch the yeast.

I make a cider every two weeks or so. In general, no two ciders are the same because I am always playing with flavors. The primary ingredient however is always apple juice. The question is where do you get the apple juice? The best source of apple juice is from fresh picked apples at the height of the fall season. Cider made from a mélange of a dozen or so apples specifically suited to cider is without a doubt the best.

Unfortunately, I like cider (a lot of cider) all year long. So, if freshly picked apples are not available, the very next option is cider made from store bought apple juice. What kind of juice should you use? Certainly there are a dozen or so juices perfect for the project. Simply Apple is a good choice. An organic apple juice is another. Or, just pick the store brand or Old Orchard. As long as the juice contains no Sorbate it is a good candidate. Citric Acid is fine. Just no Sorbate.

Most store bought apple juice is targeted to toddlers and children. It is sweet and and not much else. You will want to adjust the acidity of the juice for a successful fermentation. How much adjustment is needed is dependent on other fruits or juices you are adding to the recipe.

  • Just apple and nothing but the apple - An ideal PH is 3.5 for cider. Store bought apple juice is 3.8 – 4.0. If you have a PH meter check the juice. If the range is lower than 3.8 then you will want to add Malic Acid. Malic Acid is the acid in apples and is what provides that sharp crisp character. For a 5 gallon recipe, add 1 teaspoon at a time until you raise the PH to the 3.5-3.8 range. If you do not have a PH meter, no worries. Taste the juice. If the taste is bland add a single teaspoon and stop there.
  • Adding another flavor or fruit. If you have decided to add another fruit to your apple juice wait until you have made the addition before checking the PH. Then follow the same Malic Acid addition from above if needed..

Once you have the apple juice an acceptable PH move forward.

Base Recipe Ingredients

  • 3.5 Gallons Apple Juice or Apple Juice/Fruit Juice Mixture. PH Adjusted.
  • 1.5 Gallons White Grape Juice. (Old Orchard, Welch’s will work fine.) The grape juice will give the cider body
  • 1 tsp Wine Tannin
  • 1 tsp Yeast Nutrient
  • 1 packet of yeast (Champagne or D-47 are good choices.)

Equipment

  • 6.5 Gallon Fermentation Bucket with lid
  • Spoon or Whisk
  • Airlock
  • Sanitizer

Process

  • 1.Place the apple juice into sanitized fermenter.
  • 2.Add the white grape juice and plus the tannin.
  • 3.Check and adjust PH using Malic Acid.
  • 4.Whip the mixture with a spoon or mix-stir to aerate.
  • 5.Add the yeast energizer and sprinkle yeast packet onto the mixture.
  • 6.Cover with the lid and insert the sanitized airlock filled with sanitized water.
  • 7.Let ferment at room temperature for three days. Open the fermenter every day to stir up the yeast and let out the C02. If the cider begins to smell like rotten eggs add more yeast nutrient in ¼ at a time and whip.
  • 8.Ferment to dry at 1.000. Cider ferments dry in about 7 days or less. Leave the cider in the carboy another week or two. This helps to clean up any off flavors.
  • 9.Taste the finished cider. The cider may taste boring / bland. It may also be too dry for your taste. For a bland cider, add Malic Acid in ¼ tsp increments until the cider tastes almost sharp. Like biting into a Granny Smith Apple. Then, you can sweeten to balance it back out.
    • a.If you plan to bottle – you will need to use a sweetener like Truvia or Splenda to back-sweeten. You want to add sweetness but not sugar which will awaken the yeast and restart the fermentation.
    • b.If you plan to keg AND will keep the cider in your kegerator below 38 degrees you can use sugar. Make an addition of 1 TBL of Sorbate to stop the yeast from reproducing itself into a large colony.
  • 10.Bottle (or keg) the cider. There are several options for bottle carbonating your cider. You may use 5 ounces of priming sugar, carbonating drops or ONE 6 ounce can of frozen apple juice concentrate.   
  • 11.Bottle condition for three weeks or more.

Tart Cherry Recipe Ingredients

  • 3 Gallons Apple Juice or Apple Juice/Fruit Juice Mixture. Do not adjust PH
  • 2.0 Gallons TART Cherry Juice. (Old Orchard, Welch’s will work fine.) The grape juice will give the cider body
  • 1 tsp Wine Tannin
  • 1 tsp Yeast Nutrient
  • 1 packet of yeast (Champagne or D-47 are good choices.)

Hopped Cider

  • 3 Gallons Apple Juice or Apple Juice/Fruit Juice Mixture. Do not adjust PH
  • 2.0 Gallons White Grape Juice (Old Orchard, Welch’s will work fine.) The grape juice will give the cider body
  • 1 tsp Wine Tannin
  • 1 tsp Yeast Nutrient
  • 1 packet of yeast (Champagne or D-47 are good choices.)
  • Do a SECONDARY on this recipe to dry hop with 2 ounces of First Gold Pellet Hops for 7 days.  

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