Monday, May 28, 2012

Hard apple cider.

I started homebrewing hard cider in 2011, when I lived in Tempe and wanted to make a cheap source of cider. My method hasn't improved significantly as I've just added an airlock to control flavors and prevent a gooey cleanup every day the cider bubbles over.

The cider bubbling happily.
We started this batch two days ago and usually keep it going for a week. The organic, preservative-free cider we bought in the 1 gallon glass carboy sells for about $8 here in Albuquerque. Preservatives kill yeast and won't let the brew ferment properly. We picked up the airlock along with some Champagne yeast from my LHBS for $6. The airlock and yeast can be used indefinitely and it's such a low up-front cost that we felt like skimping really isn't worth it. The airlock beats the rubber balloon and hole method by a lot.

We didn't add sugar or honey to this batch because we're looking to see what a week is like for the unadulterated juice.  It's also been over six months since I've made a batch so we'll see what the flavor profile is like. Costco has a Sonoran honey jug for the cheapest price around so we may consider adding it if we feel like it's lacking enough tasting notes or alcohol. Though, living a mile up, we drink less because of the thinner air.

Anyhow, here's our extremely simple and frugal method:

1 gal Organic Apple Juice/Cider without preservatives, preferably pasteurized
1 packet of Champagne yeast (There are cider yeasts available also)
1 airlock with rubber stopper (Bring the vessel in question so that a diameter can be matched)
White vinegar

1. Clean the airlock with a vinegar and water solution and allow to air dry.
2. Pop open the glass jug and pitch the yeast. Our packet was intended for a 5 gal recipe so just put in less, in case something spoils the brew so you wouldn't have to buy yeast again.
3. Insert the sterilized airlock and fill it with water.
4. Wait! It took me anywhere from 4 days to several weeks to determine if my brew was ready. If you taste it, pour it out or use a sterilized baster. Every time you open it beyond the initial pitching, you allow bacteria to possibly infect and compete with the yeast. So, wait for the bubbles to slow significantly. The longer you wait, the fewer sugars that remain, unless you use maltodextrin or lactose which cannot be consumed by yeast, and the dryer the cider. YMMV, so if you feel like you have achieved the proper flavor, cold rack it!
5. Drink up, sucker! If you leave some yeast sediment at the bottom, you may use it to create the next batch. If you age it, 3-12 months will suffice and give it a flavor nearer to white wine. Pour it off of the sediment into a sterilized jar such as one from a previous batch.

There are countless additions to your brew, such as raisins, pectic enzymes, oak, bourbon, that you can mix in and many forums cite varied results. Your first batch and your last batch will never be the same using this method but the variety makes for entertaining experimentation. If you find that it tastes too much like hooch, age it. It will mellow out with time. But, we prefer nothing better than fresh cider with some friends!

1 comment:

  1. Today is the first time I've read your 'cheap' blog -- I'm going to print out the hard cider directions for Papa to see if he wants to try to make a batch -- his dad used to make home brew! The blog is interesting -- it's amazing some of the ways you can go on the cheap. Nana