It’s a new year and it’s time for a new batch of hard cider. This time, though, I am going with something other than apple juice as my juice of choice and substituting a cranberry-raspberry juice blend from my local warehouse store. There are a host of other juices in this blend too including apple, grape, raspberry black currant and cranberry. The fact is, you can use nearly any juice you enjoy, whether bottled or fresh pressed as long as it hasn’t been treated with preservatives like Sulphur Dioxide, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate. These preservatives would kill off the yeast your add and entire purpose. These preservatives should be clearly listed in the ingredients. Of course, pressing your own fresh juices is always the best way to go, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try more packaged ingredients. My first bath of hard cider was made with unfiltered apple juice from my local Whole Foods, and this glass carboy I am using is being re-used from my previous batches of hard cider.
Making hard cider couldn’t be easier. Place your juice in a glass or plastic jug, add the yeast, stir the mixture and top with an airlock to keep air (and airborne fungi and bacteria) and yet allow the escape of the carbon dioxide produced by the yeast. The yeast converts the sugars in the juice to alcohol until all the sugars are converted or the alcohol reaches a high enough percentage to kill the yeast. In my simple batches, I would guess I rarely reach more than about 4% ABV (alcohol by volume) so my yeast simply converts all the sugar. You can create higher ABV ciders by adding additional honey or sugar, but I am after the flavor of the side, not really high alcohol levels.
In the past, my batches are finished in anywhere from 3-7 days depending on the amount of sugar in the juice and the temperature of the room. In my first batch, fermentation was so vigorous that I could actually here the bubbles rising in the bottle — sort of an on-going fizzing.
You can find a more complete, step-by-step, example of my cider making in this past video – Video: Making Hard Cider – Dog Days of Podcasting 2014 – 11/30
For all of my cider projects, I picked up my yeast, airlocks and stoppers — and a lot of great advice — at my local brewery supply store, The Home Beer, Wine and Cheesemaking Shop in Woodland Hills, California. As their names implies, they have supplies for many DIY pursuits. I have always wanted to make beer, myself, but it has always seemed a bit more intensive process than I am willing to take on. Still, it might happen in the future.
You can also get supplies directly from Amazon.com.