- Fermentation vessel – something like this or this (I like the bubbler b/c you can also make other things in it – like pickles or kimchi). If you want to, you can even use the glass jug the apple cider comes in.
- An airlock and a stopper that fits in the mouth of the fermentation vessel or something with a hole in it to put the airlock in (the bubbler comes with one)
- No – rinse Sanitizer (like Star San)
- Kitchen scale – this comes in very handy for any fermentation project!
- 1 gal apple cider without preservatives. If possible, it is best to get juice that is UV pasteurized – without heat – or, if you trust your source, unpasteurized (unpasteurized is a bit more risky).
- 1 packet beer or wine yeast – I love the Belle Saison yeast for this purpose because it really preserves the apple aroma, but have also used champagne yeast. Dry yeast is cheap and super easy to use, but you can also use fresh yeast (both available at any homebrew store)
- Yeast nutrient (like this, although I like the Wyeast brand)
- Take the apple cider out of the refrigerator and let it come up to close to room temperature (around 60-70 F).
- Meanwhile, create 5 gallons of sanitized solution according to the instructions (about 1 oz per 5 gal water). Thoroughly wash and sanitize the fermentation vessel and airlock. Either keep in the sanitizer or cover the opening of the fermentation vessel with sanitized plastic wrap (it’s very important that everything that comes in contact with the cider is clean and sanitized).
- Rehydrate the yeast about 20 min before you’re going to add it to the cider according to package instructions – if using dry yeast, you’ll need about 1/3 of the packet.
- Rinse off the outside of the cider jug / container and sanitize the outside by dipping the capped top and most of the bottle in the sanitzer.
- Pour the apple cider into the fermentation vessel and add the yeast nutrient. Either stir with a sanitized spoon or swirl in the vessel for 5-10 minutes to get it oxygenated.
- Add in the rehydrated yeast. Cap and insert the filled air lock (I fill the air lock with sanitizer solution up to the indicated mark, but you can also use vodka or another sterile liquid).
- Put aside for about 2 weeks (or longer), until there are no more bubbles and the juice / cider has cleared. You’ll be surprised how much yeast and apple particles settle out! If you get a hydrometer, you can take a gravity reading and the gravity should be about 1.000 or less. Try to keep the temperature between 60-70 degrees, or whatever is indicated on the yeast package (the Belle Saison Yeast is quite tolerant of higher temperatures).
- You have fermented cider!
This part is a little trickier and requires more equipment. So far, we’ve done dry, sparkling cider, so I can only vouch for that. The internet abounds in ways to do sweet, still cider. If you want to do sweet, sparkling cider, you would need to either use unfermentable sugar (like lactose or stevia) or keg – I have not yet done either.
For sparkling, dry cider
- Bottles – they must be able to withstand pressure. I like to use flip top bottles from my homebrew store (for cider, they can be clear or you can even use empty, clean plastic soda bottles)
- Sanitizer – again!
- Table Sugar
- Auto-Siphon (you can also try to carefully pour)
- Bottling Bucket or vessel with bottling gun attachment (like what’s here), although there are probably ways to be creative here
- When you are ready to bottle, thoroughly clean and sanitize everything in the sanitizer solution. Cover the sanitized bottling bucket with sanitized plastic wrap.
- Boil about 1 cup water with a little less than 1 oz table sugar to dissolve, cover and let cool to near room temperature. This sugar solution is additional food for the yeast (that have eaten up everything in the cider) so that they can produce C02 in the bottle. It will not add sweetness. When it has cooled, pour it into your bottling bucket.
- Carefully “rack” the cider off the dead / sleepy yeast in the fermentation vessel by using the auto siphon (you could also try to very carefully pour and leave the sediment at the bottom). Try to limit splashing or agitation here, you don’t want to introduce extra oxygen at this stage.
- Give the cider in the bucket a gentle stir with a sanitized spoon to make sure the sugar solution is evenly distributed, and cover the bucket again with sanitized plastic wrap.
- Use the bottling gun to fill the bottles and then cap them (if you don’t have a bottling gun, you could probably also just use a funnel, although you want to try and keep splashing and agitation to a minimum). Fill the bottles with about an inch or two of headspace – if they have long necks, I usually fill to just above the base of the neck.
- Put aside for a few days to a few weeks, check carbonation of one of the bottles after 5-7 days to see if you are happy with it. If you are using clean plastic soda bottles, you will be able to check carbonation by squeezing the bottle to see if it’s hardened.
Chill and enjoy! Or store in a dark, cool place – cider gets better with age, although so far we have pretty much been drinking or giving away each bottle from our three batches before getting a change to try any at the two month or more stage.