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”.
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