How to Make Cider (or Scrumpy)

Cider Ingredients

This isn’t intended as a guide on how to make the most artisanal product in the world – this is a guide on how to make a genuinely nice, drinkable cider for those of us who live in cities, in flats or without a supply of time, cash and apple trees. The above juice was half price due to the season, so this batch will end up less than 50p a pint.

You CAN do it with all supermarket ingredients quite easily. This involves using Baker’s (rather than a Brewer’s) yeast and will give you “turbo-cider”, or one that’s not really going to be appropriate for giving as a thrifty gift, lest it be for a distant, unloved or alcoholic relative. However, it’s now October. Most of the off-flavours you get from fermenting with Baker’s Yeast will dissipate out by… Christmas, say? Just saying.

The most important thing you need to think about is keeping everything CLEAN – and I mean cleaned to the point of being dirt free, and THEN  sterilised. This is fine for the first stages because you’re dealing with ingredients that are clean anyway. Afterwards, I’ve recommended a fast rinse with boiling water or a run through the dishwasher for simplicity’s sake. If you’re going to make a habit of brewing, get a sanitising solution such as Star San.

 

What you’ll need to start making cider:

One 5L bottle of water

5 litres of apple juice (not from concentrate)

200g caster sugar (will bring final abv up to about 6.5-7%)

One sachet of yeast*

 

*The choice of yeast (and it’s fermentation temperature) will largely determine the quality of your cider. Going for baker’s yeast (“instant”, “easy bake”, whatever) will give you a hard cider that tastes a bit bready, but this will age out by a couple of months. For a great tasting cider from just a week or two after bottling, use a brewer’s yeast from your local homebrew shop. Any English Ale yeast will work, as will champagne yeast or mead yeast (or indeed, cider yeast). Good examples to look out for are “Nottingham” and “s-04”.

 

Method

1. Empty your large bottle of water down the drain, keeping the lid.

2.  Fill your just-emptied 5L bottle with apple juice – this must be from just-opened cartons/bottles.

3. Add your sugar and your sachet of yeast**, replace the lid and shake like hell

4. Remove the lid and replace with a bit of tin foil – this is to let the CO2 that builds up inside, out. If you’ve got an airlock like on mine (below), you can use that too to keep the bugs out.***

5.  Leave to ferment for 2 weeks, by which time it should have completely stopped bubbling (shine a light in to have a look). During this time, do not touch or bump it or you risk oxidising it – it should be in a safe place. The temperature is also important – it should be definitely less than 20 degrees but not under 15. Fluctuation in temperature is a bad thing and will cause more off-flavours. I use our windowless box-room, which stays a lovely 17. Little-used cupboards can be good.

6.  Once fermented, you’re ready to bottle. I’d use screw-top wine bottles, seeing as this is going to be flat. If you were adding some sugar to the bottles (about a quarter teaspoon per pint) to make a carbonated cider, do not use wine bottles as these will explode. Fancy flip-top lemonade (or beer, Grolsch) bottles would be ideal. Or just plastic soft drink bottles. Anyway, clean your bottles with hot soapy water and rinse until there’s no suds. Add some boiling water to each one, replace the lid and shake until too hot to hold all over – be careful! If you have a dishwasher, you can just run them through this.

7. Using some sterilised tube (important that it is clean, you can do the same way as above. It should also be “food safe” tubing, but I’m not going to stop you using garden hose), syphon your cider from your fermenter into your laid-out, clean, empty bottles. The tube should be at the bottom of the bottles so there’s no spray – spray means you get in air in which means oxidisation – think 3-days-since-you-opened-it wine flavours. Be careful not to disturb the yeast and sediment-cake at the bottom of the fermenter. You will get roughly 9 pints of cider, or 6 wine bottles full. Leave for 2 weeks before cracking one open. For a clearer, less yeasty cider, leave the bottles at the back of the fridge.

 

**Pitching the yeast: Ideally, you should rehydrate your yeast before “pitching” into the juice. For this, prepare a mug. Fill it 1/2 full with boiling water, cover with foil and swirl around to heat/sterilise. Leave the mug until just about room temperature – this will take a wee while. Once cooled, add your sachet of yeast, stir, replace the foil and leave for 15 minutes. Add a heaped teaspoon of sugar (make sure to sterilise your teaspoon with boiling water!), stir, cover and leave for a final 30 minutes. This mixture is now ready to be added into your juice.

***Keeping the bugs away – rather than using boiling water and risking breakages of glass and deforming of plastic, you can use a sanitising solution in a skooshy bottle. I use Star-San, an emulsifier-acid combo that kills nasties in high concentrations and acts as a yeast nutrient in lower concentrations, so there’s no need to rinse anything. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough

Bubbling cader

21 thoughts on “How to Make Cider (or Scrumpy)

  1. Jamesssssssssss 😀

    Can I ask ya something?I know its not related to ye blog post but Do you have any idea why my cakes sink in in the middle?

    Tanks a million

  2. Hi. once you put the cider into bottles with the sugar to make it sparkling, do you leave it to further ferment in the bottles at room temperature or straight in the back of the fridge to allow it to clear as soon as you have bottled it?

    1. I make beer myself. With that, you put it to ferment for another week after capping to let the pressure build up. In the fridge, the yeast would take much longer to produce the necessary CO2; it would happen eventually though.

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  4. First time trying this out, been brewing now for two weeks, just bottled the cider. Thanks alot for this guide!
    Based it on apple juice (not from concentrate) and some yeast and sugar, although I did not “pinch” the yeast. Seems that there were no “sediment-cake at the bottom of the fermenter” and it does not taste too alcoholic. I have a feeling it didnt really go as meant, is there anything you would suggest I do differently next time?

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  6. You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be really something that I think I would never understand. It seems too complex and extremely broad for me. I’m looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

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  8. Hey James.

    Well, just bottled my first batch. Both Aldi & Lidl are doing pressed, cloudy apple juice for £1 per litre, so I went with that. I used to brew a bit of madcap stuff years ago (once made a batch using hi-juice cordial) but never used bakers yeast, so that’s what I’m doing this time. Just to see. One sachet, yeah?

    After reading the part about it making the end product taste bready (intrigued) I went a bit off piste. I grated a piece of ginger about the size of a macaque’s face and dumped it into the bottle first. I also melted the sugar gently in a pint of the apple juice before adding. I think I was just pissing around by this point.

    I sterilized the cap and cut a cross into it, then put it back on, then placed a piece of brand new straight from the pack jcloth over the top, then an elastic band. Then covered loosely with foil. That should keep out the bugs but allow my mega gider brew to breath and not explode all over my bedroom like the ginger beer did year before last.

    Anyhoo. I shall report back.

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  12. Hi James,

    I appreciate that the last comments left on here were a while ago but I had to let you know that I used your instructions to make some scrumpy of my own.
    I moved into a new house beginning of 2016 and there was a small apple tree in the garden. To my amazement this “little” tree produced an unbelievable amount of fruit ! I decided to use them up and make some scrumpy. I won’t bore anyone with all the details but after several unsuccessful attempts to make my own apple crusher\press I reverted to smashing them with an axe in a clean dustbin to extract the juice. This wasn’t very economical however as it took half of the tree’s fruit to get 6ltrs. The apples were obviously very bruised in the process and the outcome didn’t look very tempting at all. I persevered and followed your directions and watched in amazement how the brown liquid bubbled away and DID go clear over the 2 weeks. I have just decanted this evening into 2 x 2ltr plastic bottles. I had an accidental taste while siphoning off and have to say it was quite pleasant. I’ve added a little more sugar to see if it will now fizz.
    Thanks for your efforts and advice I will now wait another week and let you know how the tasting party goes. My friends and family are a bit reluctant I have to say !
    Si.

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