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Making Cider At Home
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If you want to know about making cider at home then let me tell you of my experience and show you how to use up those apples to produce a delicious drink albeit one with a kick.

I made my first cider in 1979 and continue to learn more all the time. After a break of afew years I now have access to a large amount of apples so I am back in production again.

Cider is made traditionally from the pure juice from apples. In its purest form the juice is collected from the apples and then then left to ferment, with natural yeasts converting the sugar in the juice to alcohol and carbon dioxide. This is how cider has been made for centuries and produces some fine products. I will come to that later in this article.

Extracting The Juice

This is done in two stages. The first one is pulping. This I have to say is the most problematic stage if you are doing this on a small scale. I have used a food processor but that is time consuming as quantities are limited. Currently I am using a device that attaches to a hand power tool and has two blades rotating in a bucket. Potentially lethal but effective. You would do well to look on e-bay for apple crushers if you want to get into making cider at home on any sort of scale.

It is only be thorough pulping that you can extract the maximum amount of juice.

The next stage is pressing. This is much easier. I invested in a relatively small fruit press that makes short work of the pulped apple. This agin I acquired on ebay. It replaced a well used but much smaller one. You need to just run off the juice into a suitable container. I use the glass demijohns that I use in my wine making but for larger quantities I also have two five gallon brewing containers that I use for beer making.

Fermenting

Traditional cider makers still use this method but the danger is that unknown factors sometimes come into play, particularly with the wild yeasts and unless the whole process is very carefull controlled then it is only too easy to produce vinegar.

Large scale commercial cider makers will usually kill off the unknown yeasts and add cider or wine yeasts with a known history to make the process more predictable.

That is the way I prefer to do it as in my hands it is more predictable. This is where I have to bring up the suject of sterilisation. It is essential to keep all equipment scrupulously clean. I use a proprietary solution to clean all my gear with a thorough rinsing afterwards.

Using a campden tablet I kill off any natural yeasts in the liquid and leave it covered overnight.

I use a wine yeast as brewers yeast does not usually work at the alcohol levels that I expect proper cider to go to.

The initial fermentation is often quite vigorous so it is often a good idea to not fill a demijohn to the neck at first. Keep some juice back to top up to the neck once the process has slowed.

Whatever container you use it should be kept covered and ideally with an airlock to exclude any bugs.

Bottling

The cider can now be left to clear and the resulting product siphoned into sterile bottles and sealed. If you prefer a slightly fizzy drink then add a little sugar (less than 1/2 tsp per pint) and you will get secondary fermentation in the bottle. It is important that you are sure that all primary fermentation has stopped and you do not overdo the sugar. It has been known for bottles to explode under too much pressure.

Now all you need to do is wait a few weeks and then enjoy.

The biggest investment in making cider at home is in the equipment. It is ceratinly larger than for essential wine making equipment but the results are well worth your effort and it is better than letting a lot of apples go to waste.

There is mor information to be found to help you make great wine and cider at Making Cider at Home. If you would like to try your hand at something different then there are techniques and recipes to help you out plus a free wine-making book Wine Making For Beginners


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