Cider Making 101

Here's the first blog post from the newest member of the Short Finger Brewing Co. team, Graham Orser. Graham is an experienced homebrewer and fermentation enthusiast. Beer, cider, rice wine, etc. You name it, he's made it. If you've got follow-up questions about this post, feel free to contact him at graham@shortfingerbrewing.com. 

                                                                                            

The first alcoholic beverage I truly enjoyed was a crisp, dry, carbonated cider. I was a young man and my acquired taste for beer had not yet developed. One could say cider was my gateway into the world of fermentable beverages. You never forget your first love and home brewing has brought me right back into the arms of cider.

If you are looking for the easiest, quickest brew day ever, then I strongly recommend trying a batch of hard cider.

Controlling Fermentation:

Apples have natural yeast on their skins that will ferment. However this is a risk. Taking a raw unpasteurized cider and letting it ferment may or may not work. In fermentation the strongest, most dominant organism wins. Perhaps the strongest organism in your raw unpasteurized cider is a bacteria or fungus less desirable to humans. Only time will tell who won the battle.

I personally like to have control over my fermentation. Cider is expensive. Or, if you choose to pick your own apples, you’ve still got to juice them which makes for a long and messy day. With time or money on the line, I want guaranteed results.

Controlled Fermentation Recipe:

  • Obtain unpasteurized fresh pressed apple cider. Call around to some local orchards; chances are they would love to sell to you in bulk if you drop your sanitized carboy off before pressing day. You can also use store bought apple cider or juice provided there are no sorbates listed in the ingredient list. The only ingredients should be apples, water and Vitamin C. Any other chemical listed will not allow the yeast to ferment.
  • I like strong cider so I target an original gravity between 1.060-1.070. Add some Brown Sugar or Demerara to boost original gravity if required. Most cider will come from the farm around 1.040-1.050 range.
  • Add Campden Tablets at the rate of 1 tablet per gallon.
    • The Campden Tablets will keep any wild yeast and bacteria in a halted state, allowing your brewer’s yeast to take over, essentially killing the wild ones down the road.
    • Crushing between two spoons will make adding to cider easier.
  • Wait for 12 hours.
  • Add Pectic Enzyme at the rate of 1tsp per gallon.
    • The Pectic Enzyme will help clear your cider. I am talking really clear.
    • Dissolving in a small amount of water will help adding to cider easier.
  • Wait 12 hours. 
  • After a total of 24 hours waiting (12hrs. with Campden + 12hrs. with Pectic Enzyme)
    • Add Yeast Nutrient (DAP) at the rate of 1tsp per gallon.
    • Add Yeast Energizer at the rate of 1tsp per gallon.
    • Dissolving in a small amount of water will make adding to cider easier.
    • Pitch your yeast. My favourites are US-04 or White Labs 775. No starter is required; if using dry yeast always follow hydration method listed on package.
    • Apples are 100% fermentable, however are lacking some of the vital nutrients the brewer’s yeast require for a proper and full fermentation. That is why we are adding the above mentioned nutrients.
  • Primary fermentation should be fairly quick. You should see active signs within a few days and finish out within 7-14 days.
  • Transfer into a secondary fermenter and age the cider for a desired amount of time. This is personal preference; I personally choose to age my cider for at least 2-3 months.
  • As soon as the cider has cleared – and tastes good – it is ready. One year my cider took 5 months to taste the way I wanted it. You are the boss of your apple sauce.
  • Once you have determined your cider is ready you can bottle or keg as per your normal process. I strongly recommend kegging cider.

Kegging:

  • Add Potassium Sorbate at the rate of 1/2tsp per gallon.
  • This will stop any re-fermentation from occurring and also allow you to add more sugar (back sweeten) if a sweet cider is desired. You could also consider alternatives like fresh Ontario Peaches.
  • Note: do not add Potassium Sorbate if bottling, as it won’t allow for bottle conditioning.

Bottling:

  • Add dextrose priming sugar at rate of 112g per 5 gallons of cider into your bottling bucket.
  • Watch for bottle bombs and ensure your pasteurizing your cider according to instructions below.
  • The bottles should carbonate fairly quickly. Start checking your bottles after one week. Timing will depend heavily on your final gravity (i.e. remaining sugars the yeast has to ferment).

WARNING: Bottle Bombs

If you choose to bottle your cider, please be warned that bottle bombs are a big risk. You can reduce the risk by monitoring your bottles and testing for carbonation levels before pasteurizing. Pasteurizing the bottles will kill any active/live yeast and lock in your carbonation levels. Testing your bottles means drinking one to ensure you are happy with how carbonated the cider is.

Pasteurizing can be achieved by heating the bottles to 160oF/71oC and holding that temperature for 10min. Please note that placing bottles into water at 160o will drop the water temperature below 160o and not pasteurize your bottles correctly. Depending on how many bottles or the size of your kettle, you may need to heat water to approx. 180o-200o in order to achieve pasteurization temperature.

My name is Graham and I love Cider!


Graham Orser
Graham Orser

Author



4 Responses

Graham Orser
Graham Orser

October 18, 2016

@Jeff – thank you kindly, glad you found this useful!!

Graham Orser
Graham Orser

October 18, 2016

@Norm – my final gravity is typically around 0.990 – 1.010. The added nutrients really help finish off nicely. Carbonation at 2.4 is within the normal range. You can go as high as you like. I personally like a very carbonated cider, so I shoot for around 3.

Jeff
Jeff

October 17, 2016

Great article! Some very useful tips here. I’ve brewed Turbo Cider many times. It’s not a autumn saturday night without a pint of cider. Cheers!!

Norm Ryder
Norm Ryder

October 17, 2016

What is your usual final gravity? I used a cider yeast from Ontariobeerkegs.com and a SO-5 in two five gallon batches. SG was 1.056 with no sugar added. Looking for a crisp bubbly cider that I can keg and bottle. Does 2.4 volumes seem right or do I want more? Thanks
This is my first batch since my football locker in the 60’s!
All suggestions welcome.

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