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  #1  
Old 02-01-2011, 10:55 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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Making hard cider (also, ginger beer)

I made some ginger beer, and just sampled it. Alas, once again it doesn't burn. I need to figure out how to make it as hot as the pickled ginger you get with sushi. Anyway...

I was thinking I might try making hard cider. There are a couple packets of champagne yeast in the fridge, which my friend left in there when he moved out a few years ago. Apple cider, 2-litre bottle, and 1/8 teaspoon of that? Whaddya think? When my friend made hard cider he had a little trap-thing he glued to the lid of a one-gallon jug. I don't have one of those. Maybe squeeze the bottle and vent it occasionally?
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  #2  
Old 02-02-2011, 01:30 AM
Moe Mentum Moe Mentum is offline
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Make sure the cider doesn't contain preservatives that will inhibit fermentation.

You might also want to add some additional sugar to boost the alcohol content. I added 2 lbs of brown sugar to 4 gallons of cider and ended up with something that had about 8% ABV.

Add some apple juice concentrate to increase both the fermentable sugars and apple flavor. I haven't done this yet, so don't know what proportions to recommend.

You can also add non-fermentable sugars if you want a little sweetness in the end product. I added some lactose to my last batch to keep it from being so bone dry.

In lieu of an airlock, you can put a balloon over the top of the bottle. It will swell as the cider ferments and prevent oxygen and other bad things from getting in.

Good luck.
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  #3  
Old 02-02-2011, 08:08 AM
EvilTOJ EvilTOJ is offline
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I've made many batches of cider (hard cider for us in the US). All you need is the yeast, apple juice or cider, and a bottle or carboy to ferment it in. It will outgas a lot of CO2, and an airlock and stopper is best. A foil cap will work just fine too if you don't have any problems with fruit flies. I don't like using balloons because they sometimes have powder in them and it gets into the juice. Champagne yeast will make the cider very dry and will take a lot of aging before it tastes 'apple-y' again. I use white wine or beer yeast to leave more sweetness in it. I also use the fancy apple cider that still has all the junk in the bottom of the jug.
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Old 02-02-2011, 08:28 AM
Ike Witt Ike Witt is offline
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Just curious, but how much ginger do you use for your ginger beer and do you add any during the fermentation time?
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  #5  
Old 02-02-2011, 08:59 AM
Snickers Snickers is offline
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Moe's note about preservatives is especially important, so read it again. There can be absolutely no preservatives used in the source cider at all, period - even trace amounts will keep the cider from fermenting. If you get it from an apple orchard, be certain to ask about preservatives and try to get the raw cider, if possible.

Interestingly, pasteurization is OK - the cider can be pasteurized, so long as it doesn't have any preservatives. (Pasteurization kills the other nasties through heat and then it's done, which then allows your beasties added later to thrive. Preservatives kill everything, and keep on killing after.)

We've made a bunch of hard cider, and we've gotten good results using the Indian Summer brand of apple cider. It's widely available in grocery stores, and has been pasteurized but contains no preservatives. Once, we bought some cider from an orchard and thought we were OK, but there was a tiny amount of preservative added and it didn't work.

We use cider yeast in our hard cider, bought from a local brewing store. We've also ran some tests where we add sugar twice at different stages to boost the alcohol content, but I don't know that that was a worthwhile endeavor. We've always used simple white sugar, but I'm intrigued by Moe's addition of brown sugar. (Our ratio of sugar added at the beginning is generally like 1 c/gallon of cider; heat up about a half gallon of cider and dissolve the sugar in it, let it cool, then add it to the rest of the cider in the carboy).

I've heard of people adding apple juice concentrate at the end, instead of priming sugar, both to add some more apple-y-ness and to carbonate, but we've never tried that (we used priming sugar). Sparkling cider is fun (although most of ours has been still. I think I like the sparkling better).
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  #6  
Old 02-02-2011, 09:00 AM
Lissla Lissar Lissla Lissar is offline
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I have a sudden burning interest in making hard cider. It's my husband's favourite drink. Any recommended sites for learning how, or basic instructions?
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  #7  
Old 02-02-2011, 09:41 AM
Snickers Snickers is offline
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Ooh! It's pretty simple. You can do it in smaller batches, but the husband and I do it 5-6 gallons at a time. Your initial layout for a large batch might be expensive, but then you've got cider making (or beer- or wine-making) facilities forever. I'll talk about the large batch; it's what I'm most familiar with.

To start with the large batch, find yourself a local brewstore and ask for their brewing starter package. They'll set you up with a primary fermenter (usually a 6 gallon plastic bucket), a secondary fermenter (generally a 5 gallon glass "carboy"), an airlock (to vent the carbon dioxide and keep out the nasties), some tubing, sanitizer, maybe some bottles and caps and a capping device. You can also get these mail-order; I'll pimp my local brewstore, Midwest Supplies - they're awesome and really helpful. We buy from them frequently, but never through the mail; I've heard their mail support is similarly good. Their starter kit is listed under "Equipment Kits" on the site; runs $80ish or so (the kit with the bottles and such is more).

You'll also need brewer's yeast, which you can get at the same brew store. We generally look for yeast specific to mead or cider - it'll say on the package. Beer yeast or champagne yeast will also work. You can brew with bread yeast, but it's not a good idea - the cider's taste will be off.

Obtain yourself 5-6 gallons of preservative-free apple cider. Like I said earlier, we've had good luck with the widely-available Indian Summer brand, just make sure it's their cider and not their plain apple juice.

Then, method:
1. Clean and sanitize your brewing equipment - the primary fermenter, the airlock, and everything that will come into contact with the cider. This means any pots and stirring spoons. Use and sanitize plastic or metal spoons; don't use that wooden one you use for everything else.

2. In a pot, heat up 1/2 gallon of your apple cider - it doesn't need to be boiling, just heated. The sugar will dissolve better.

3. Add sugar to the hot apple cider and stir until dissolved. There's some guesswork here to find what you like, but we've found 1 cup/gallon to be a good ratio. So, 5 or 6 cups.

4. Pour the rest of the cider into your sanitized primary fermenter.

5. Let the hot cider + sugar mixture cool to 100 degrees or so, then pour it into the fermenter as well. (It might not need to be that cool, as it'll be going into such a large volume. Do be a careful about the temperature, though - too much heat in the cider in the fermenter will kill your yeast.)

6. Toss in your yeast. If you're using a powdered yeast, just sprinkle it on the top of the cider. If you're using a liquid yeast, toss 'er in (after following any instructions on the package; some are "smack pack" type things that you need to smack first to break the seal).

7. Seal the fermenter, then add the airlock. We sometimes use a cheap vodka in the airlock as the water sear, sometimes just water.

8. Let 'er sit. Check the airlock for bubbles; that's how you'll know the yeast is working. Wait for 7-14 days to let the fermentation do its thing.

*9. Optional: Using a siphon, move most of the cider from the primary fermenter to the secondary. Transfer over as much as you can, but leave the gunk at the bottom. You'll lose probably a half gallon or so doing this, but you'll get a cleaner product at the end. After the transfer, top up the cider with more either cider or water to leave only 1-2 inches of space between the top of the cider and the bottom of the bung/airlock. (Using cider here will make it more apple-y, you could also add maybe a cup of sugar or so for sweetness.) Leave it for another 7 days or so.

10. Bottle. You can bottle it as it is, for still cider, or you could add 1/2 c of sugar and mix that in to carbonate it. Carbonating it is harder as it runs the risk of little cider bombs - you'll need to leave the bottles out and test one every day or so to see if it's carbonated to where you want it, then toss the rest in the fridge to stop the yeast and carbonation.

I'm thinking you could also pour the cider into larger containers (like half gallon juice containers or growlers or whatever), but we've never gone this route. If you do, keep in mind that the cider will be a little like wine - you want to minimize the headspace as much as possible, and store it in containers that you'll drink up within a day or so to avoid oxidation.

There's more steps I could get into, like measuring the specific gravity with a hydrometer and such, but it's not really necessary. Plus, you can find all that info and more recipes or directions in a web search - that's how we developed a lot of our "recipe." Your local brewstore (or Midwest) will also be more than happy to help you out and answer questions; it seems to be a universal truth for all brewstores or brewers I've ever seen.
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  #8  
Old 02-02-2011, 12:58 PM
Lissla Lissar Lissla Lissar is offline
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Thanks. That helps. It seems very coplicated from a newbie's POV but I think that's just because the terminology's new. Basicall- clean out container, disinfect cider, ferment in sealed container with yeast, siphon off, bottle or drink.

I make almost all our own bread. Surely I can do this.

How do you go about bottling?
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  #9  
Old 02-02-2011, 01:07 PM
Diogenes the Cynic Diogenes the Cynic is offline
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You get bottles wherever you can (you can use old beer bottles, just make sure you boil them before you use them), and you get caps and a bottle capper from a brew supplier. The caps are sort of flattish discs before they're used and the capper is this crimper-type thing with two handles. It's pretty easy.
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  #10  
Old 02-02-2011, 01:24 PM
sqweels sqweels is offline
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My yard has an apple tree and every other year my lawn is carpeted with--mostly very buggy--apples.

Would it be worth it to try to make cider out of that crap? I imagine pressing the juice out in the first place would be the hardest part.
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  #11  
Old 02-02-2011, 02:26 PM
Snickers Snickers is offline
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Dio's right - the bottling is pretty simple. We have a siphon device + bottle filler that gets things going and automatically shuts off when you lift it from the bottom of the bottle.

So, you'd obtain bottles (we usually use 45-55 for a 5-6 gallon brew) and sanitize them and the caps. Using your siphon tool and bottle filler, get the siphon started, then insert the bottle filler all the way to the bottom of the bottle. When the bottle's filled almost to the brim, remove the filler. (This is the quick step, clearly - it leaves just the right amount of headspace. But you gots to be quick.) Alternately, some brewing buckets have spigots on the side - just fill the bottle from the spigot, leaving a couple of inches of headspace. Take it over to the bottle capper and crimp on the caps. (It's a two-person operation for us: one of us runs the filler while the other does the capper.)

The capper crimper thing requires a little bit of muscle, but it's nothing an average woman like myself can't handle. (The wine corker is another story. My husband does that; I don't quite have the strength to manage both it and keeping the wine bottle from toppling over during the corking.)

You can definitely use (and re-use) old beer bottles, with this caveat: they must be the pry-off style, not the twist off. You can't recap the twist-offs with the conventional crimped-crown bottlecap. (Well, commercially you probably can, but homebrewers can't.) Many of our cider or homebrew bottles proudly say Sam Adams on the side, because hey, free beer bottle!

You're right, Lissla - it really is pretty easy. The huge novel I wrote up there makes it seem more difficult than it is. If you google "making hard cider" or some such, you'll find a ton of sites with other good tips and instructions.

Last edited by Snickers; 02-02-2011 at 02:28 PM..
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Old 02-02-2011, 05:33 PM
GreedySmurf GreedySmurf is offline
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Can I clarify, when you're talking 'hard' cider you mean alcoholic cider right?

So you are talking about converting non-alcoholic cider into alcoholic cider, not brewing alcoholic cider from scratch?
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  #13  
Old 02-02-2011, 06:30 PM
Superfluous Parentheses Superfluous Parentheses is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sqweels View Post
My yard has an apple tree and every other year my lawn is carpeted with--mostly very buggy--apples.

Would it be worth it to try to make cider out of that crap? I imagine pressing the juice out in the first place would be the hardest part.
Certainly might be worth a try. As far as I know, the easiest way to get juice out of apples is to freeze them first - you may want to cut out any rotten/infected parts before that.

So: put the apples in the freezer for a couple of days (my reference book suggests that leaving them in snow for a few days will work too - but that's quite dependent on the weather). Then put them in a pillow case or cloth bag and let them thaw (you probably want to put the bag in a container). Then press/squeeze the pillow case to get the juices out.

Now you've got fresh apple juice. Ferment from there.

Last edited by Superfluous Parentheses; 02-02-2011 at 06:33 PM..
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  #14  
Old 02-02-2011, 07:41 PM
needscoffee needscoffee is offline
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Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
I made some ginger beer, and just sampled it. Alas, once again it doesn't burn. I need to figure out how to make it as hot as the pickled ginger you get with sushi. Anyway...

I was thinking I might try making hard cider. There are a couple packets of champagne yeast in the fridge, which my friend left in there when he moved out a few years ago. Apple cider, 2-litre bottle, and 1/8 teaspoon of that? Whaddya think? When my friend made hard cider he had a little trap-thing he glued to the lid of a one-gallon jug. I don't have one of those. Maybe squeeze the bottle and vent it occasionally?
Howdy, neighbor!
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  #15  
Old 02-02-2011, 08:21 PM
crowmanyclouds crowmanyclouds is offline
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Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
... 2-litre bottle ...
Oztops?

CMC fnord!
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  #16  
Old 02-02-2011, 08:24 PM
Tristan Tristan is offline
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Ok, I tried a few years back to make cider. Several of my friends have done it, and they got good results.

I have made 3 batches, and ended up with crap each time. I followed what was essentially the description above each time, with variable amounts of sugar added. The first time, I ended up with watery tasting overly alcoholic grossness. 5 gallons, down the tubes.

The 2nd time, I got something gross growing in my cider... 5 gallons, gone.

The 3rd time, I started to see some white stringy things growing, and dumped in campden tablets and bottled anyways. Disgusting. 5 gallons, gone.

I am contemplating trying again, with a 1 gallon batch. My primary is a 6 gallon fermenting bucket though, and the smallest carboy I have is 5 gallons. Would all that extra air be a problem? I don't want to oxidize my tastiness....
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  #17  
Old 02-02-2011, 08:38 PM
Hello Again Hello Again is offline
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Originally Posted by GreedySmurf View Post
So you are talking about converting non-alcoholic cider into alcoholic cider, not brewing alcoholic cider from scratch?
Converting non-alcoholic cider into alcoholic cider is is brewing alcoholic cider from scratch.

You have to start with apple cider to get hard cider.
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  #18  
Old 02-02-2011, 08:58 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tristan View Post
The 3rd time, I started to see some white stringy things growing, and dumped in campden tablets and bottled anyways. Disgusting. 5 gallons, gone.
Sounds like that might be brettanomyces. It's not necessarily a bad thing. Most of my ciders end up with a thin film of yeast or something growing on them, but I tend to wild ferment my ciders, or pitch my yeast straight without treating the cider first to kill the wild yeasts.

Cider is one of those things that if it doesn't taste good right now, just wait a year and see how it tastes. It changes a lot over time. It might even look a bit funky, but don't worry about it--it's not going to kill you (as far as I know.) You'll siphon from below the funky film when you bottle, anyway.

I just use apples from my friend's yard, dump 'em in a bag and wait for a week for them to soften and preferment, juice them with a juicer (this is not the ideal way to do this. You really do want to use a cider press if you can), put in a carboy, and wait. Rack it after a few weeks, then rack again a few weeks later, then wait about a year. The apples I juice have a really high sugar content (starting gravities in the 1.060 range), so I don't add any extra sugar. This will ferment completely and bone-dry. You might want to "backsweeten" (add sucrose, frozen apple concentrate, lactose, or artificial sweetener) before serving, but if you bottle, sucrose and apple concentrate will ferment out, so you might want to try lactose or artificial sweetener.)
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  #19  
Old 02-02-2011, 09:18 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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Originally Posted by Ike Witt View Post
Just curious, but how much ginger do you use for your ginger beer and do you add any during the fermentation time?
Alton Brown's made-in-the-bottle recipe calls for 1-1/2 oz. finely grated ginger. I used about 5 oz.
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  #20  
Old 02-02-2011, 09:18 PM
Tristan Tristan is offline
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Huh. I have bottles of this stuff in my basement that's been down there now for, I think, 2 years.

Maybe I'll crack one open. lol
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  #21  
Old 02-02-2011, 09:24 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tristan View Post
Huh. I have bottles of this stuff in my basement that's been down there now for, I think, 2 years.

Maybe I'll crack one open. lol
Give it a shot. If it ain't good now, then it's probably not going to get much better at this point.
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