I have always had an interest, however passing, in brewing. Back in my study-abroad days, I was enrolled in microbiology… and not all of it was scary stuff. Some of it was really amazing and delicious! Cheese and beer. Worth the hype.
Now that I am more-or-less grounded once again (and happily so), I have wanted to attempt some sort of easy, non-risky fermenting.
Perhaps you don’t share my fascination, but feeling the intoxicating effects of something I have fermented myself was a bucket list bullet point until now. Like Steve McQueen’s potato concoction at the Fourth of July party in The Great Escape, but tastier and with less burning.
What is the gateway homebrewed beverage? CIDER, my friends. Hard apple cider is the answer.
It is hard to even call this a recipe, and others have given an even easier method (“leave the cider in your basement and forget about it for 2 weeks”). But here is what I did after some amount of actual research and a trip to our trusty local home brewing store for airlocks (about $2 each) and champagne yeast (about $1 for a packet that can handle 5 gallons). I procured my apple cider at Costco for a meager $4 per gallon. I haven’t seen it cheaper (and still preservative-free) anywhere else.
Homebrewed Hard Cider
Yield: About 1 gallon
- 1 gallon pasteurized, preservative-free apple cider
- 2 cups white sugar (optional, for higher alcohol content and/or sweeter cider)
- Champagne yeast
- Sterilize (or not) a clean glass jug (or other container that can accept an airlock (or not). Add 2 cups of sugar and enough champagne yeast to the jar. Add half of the cider, and swirl to dissolve the sugar. Add the rest of the cider (or until the jug is full with a bit of space for bubbles, as shown) and close with the sterilized (or not) airlock. If you don’t have an airlock and you don’t want to let any other microbes in, you can cover the top with a balloon, and just poke several holes to allow the air pressure in the jug to remain positive (so air only flows out). Apparently you can leave it loosely capped without an airlock too, but I understand it is best practice for the most predicable results.
- Leave the cider at about room temp (or slightly cooler… 55-65 degrees) for 5-21 days. It will start to bubble and release CO2 through the airlock in a day or two. The shorter fermenting times will yield sweeter, slightly sparkling ciders with lower alcohol content. At a certain point, around the 14 day mark (depending on temp and sugar content), the yeast will have consumed all the sugar and the cider will be dry and still (not my favorite, but good for mixing with fresh cider). I think 7-11 days is a good fit for my general reference for sweeter cider and moderate alcohol content.
- Whenever you decide to drink it, it should be cooled to help the yeast settle out, and then siphoned off directly into glasses or a secondary storage container to avoid drinking a lot of yeast. Alternatively, it could be bottled then with or without extra sugar to make it sparkling, but that sounds laborious and not as easy to get a buzz (safely) while so doing. You choose.
This is a fun process and my kids greatly enjoyed watching the airlock (as did I). Here is the airlock in action (it is sort of mesmerizing to watch the bubbles… when it really got going, a bubble escaped about every 7 seconds #nerdalert):
Since I have been making my own cider, I have been saving some of the yeast that settles out as a starter for my next batch (obsessed much?). My new sorta-secret plan is to make a BIG batch of this for our annual Thanksgiving party. Homemade booze in bulk? Yes, please. And thank you!