have been brewing hard apple cider for several years.
It's even easier than brewing beer. As I am primarily
a beer brewer, I generally follow a "beer method"
of killing off wild bacteria and/or yeast by boiling
the cider rather than a "wine method"
of either using camden tablets or fermenting with
wild yeast. I make mead the same way.
First, you need to find a source
of unpreserved apple cider. Pasteruized is okay,
but be sure there are no chemical preservatives
in the cider. I buy my cider directly from a local
orchard which presses their own.
I have found that original specific
gravities vary widely with different batches of
cider. The only way to monitor is to compare initial
and final hydrometer readings.
To make a simple, dry, refreshing,
low-alcohol cider, boil the sweet cider in your
brewpot for fifteen minutes to kill off any wild
yeasts or bacteria. Transfer to a primary fermenter
and let cool to yeast-pitching temperatures. Then,
pitch an ale yeast. I have used rehydrated dry Edme
and Red Star ale yeasts and they work just fine.
Let it ferment in the primary for a week, then transfer
to a secondary until clear and successive hydrometer
readings show no change. Prime with 1/2 cup of corn
sugar to give it a light sparkle, and bottle.
To make a sweeter, more alcoholic
cider, you will need to increase the amount of fermentables
in the initial sweet cider mix. A method I really
like is to boil down seven gallons of sweet cider
to five gallons. This concentrates both the sugar
content and the apple flavor. Such a boil takes
about an hour or so. Cool the must to pitching temperature,
pitch an ale yeast, and follow the instructions
above. Alcohol content will be the maximum that
variety of yeast can stand, around 8-10%, depending
on the yeast. Primimg will have little effect on
carbonation at these alcohol levels. If you want
a light sparkle, take daily hydrometer readings,
and bottle the day you get two identical readings
in a row. If you don't care about sparkle, just
bottle whenever visible activity has stopped.
Other ways of increasing the fermentable
sugars include adding a pound or two of corn or
cane sugar (not highly recommended), honey (to make
a mead called cyser), or raisins (a traditional
method from New England).
To make a dry, high-alcohol cider,
increase the sugar content by one of the above methods,
and pitch a wine or champagne yeast. Champagne yeasts
will give the highest alcohol, up to a maximum of
about 16% by weight, but tend to make the resulting
cider bone dry. If you want to retain any sweetness,
be sure that the cider you start with is very sweet
indeed. Such beverages pack quite a kick.
nice thing about fermenting cider is that it's pretty
good to drink at any stage of fermentation. I have
occasionally served some unfinished by siphoning
it straight out of a carboy into serving glasses.
May 31, 1995
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