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How to Simply Make a Cider: Our (Very) Basic Guide to Homebrewing a Gluten Free Hard Apple Cider

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At several recent craft beer themed events we have served homebrewed hard cider. It’s a drink that is easy to make and quite delicious. Many people have come up to us and asked,”Just how do I make a cider?” as they envision making some for their cider loving or gluten-free girlfriend/son/friend. Well, the honest truth is that a basic cider is much less complicated to make than beer or wine and requires far less equipment. All you need is regular apple juice/cider (preferably locally obtained), a vessel for fermentation like a glass carboy or a food safe bucket, an airlock, a bung, a little sanitizer and some nice healthy yeast. So, for all of those who have enjoyed our cider and asked us how to make one we present: Our (Very) Basic Guide to Homebrewing a Gluten Free Hard Cider. Here is a list of the items you will need followed by instructions.


 Cider Making Equipment

[Click any items to purchase from More Beer, the site where we get our homebrew supplies.]

Sanitizer

Bung

1 bung Fermentation Vessel

more beer glass carboy

Yeast

belle saison
Airlock

airlock

Juice/Apple Cider


Optional Equipment for Cider Making

Racking Cane

Racking Cane

Capper
Bottle Capper

Keg
more beer 5 gallon keg
CO2
5 Gallon CO2 Tank

or

Portable CO2 Injector Yeast Nutrient

1 yeast nutrient Tubing

1 tubing Bottles

bottle Caps

bottle caps Priming Sugar

corn sugar


How to Make (Gluten Free) Hard Cider in 8 Easy Steps

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Looks simple right? Well to make a very basic cider it really is. All you have to do is follow these eight steps.

1) Start with apple juice. You can use store bought juice (one without sorbate, sorbital or preservatives). Another (preferable) option is to use locally made apple cider. We purchase our cider from Richter’s Orchards in Northport, NY. When buying your juice, make sure you get a bit more than the amount of hard cider you want to wind up with. Take a taste of  juice before you add your yeast so you can take note of the changes it will go through.

2) Next, sanitize your fermentation vessel. Keeping all of your equipment sanitary is extremely important. This will make sure any unwanted nasties are removed before they can infect your cider. We like to use Star San since it is a no rinse sanitizer. Once your vessel is clean, pour in your juice.

3) Add your yeast and nutrients. The yeast is what will eat the sugars in the juice and turn it into CO2 and alcohol. With cider a variety of yeast can be used. In many cases it will be a wine, beer or champagne yeast. In our case we have been fond of using using Lallemand (Danstar) Belle Saison yeast which has yielded great results. Feel free to try out different yeast until you find one you like. The Nutrient is added to make sure the yeast will have a healthy environment in which to multiply.

4) Sanitize and seal your vessel then sanitize both your bung and airlock and put them in place. Make sure you fill your airlock to the fill line with sanitizer. These devices allow CO2 to exit the vessel while keeping the environment sanitary. Again, sanitation is very important in producing a good cider. Allow your cider to ferment at the recommended temperature for the yeast you selected (if possible) until fermentation has completed. After this “primary fermentation” you can actually drink your cider but for a better product we recommend using a secondary fermentation as well.

5) Rack your cider into your sanitized secondary fermentation vessel. Racking the cider is simply transferring it off of the yeast cake which has formed during primary fermentation. If the cider sits on the yeast for an extended period, off flavors can form which will make the cider less pleasurable to drink. We like to use a racking cane (with about 5′ of tubing attached for this) but you could use the good old siphon method with some food safe tubing. Make sure to sanitize your racking cane and tubing before and after racking. Feel free to taste the cider at this point and see how it is progressing.

6) After you have your cider in your secondary fermentation vessel it is time to put in some additions (if you’d like). Adding extras like cinnamon, cloves and other spices can give your cider an apple pie like flavor. You can really play around here with whatever flavors you think would work. Feel free to experiment. After tasting your cider we are sure you will have some ideas. Additions are added in secondary because the flavors and aromas are less likely to “blow off” (escape with the excess CO2). Seal up you vessel and put it aside.

7) Sanitize your bottles or keg and your tubing/racking cane because it’s time to package your cider! Using your tubing/racking cane fill your keg or bottle with cider. If you plan on bottling you will need to mix a solution with sugar into your cider before hand. This can be anything from white sugar to maple syrup or honey. Make sure to use a sugar priming calculator (like this one from Northern Brewer) so you do not end up with bottle bombs. You will basically take an amount of your sugar and mix it with water to create a solution which the left over bits of yeast will eat in the bottle and turn into carbonation. We suggest heating the water with your sugar so everything will distribute evenly. If you are going to naturally carbonate your cider in your keg you will also need to make a solution. Set your bottles/keg aside in your fermentation space for around a week (or more ideally) so it can condition before you drink it. If you plan to force carbonate your cider you should make sure to adjust your PSI to achieve the right amount of CO2/Volume. Force carbonating allows you to drink your product right away but does not always produce the perfect mouthfeel (though it can get close). Be patient, it is almost time to drink your cider (but feel free to sneak a taste or two).

8) WOO! It’s time to pop open a few bottles or pour a glass from your keg and taste your cider.

Remember, this is the simple way to produce cider and as such the cider made in this manner will not be as sweet as commercial examples. Many of those are back sweetened (adding a sweet substance back into the cider after the yeast has stopped working to balance its acidity) or cold crashed (dropping the yeast out of suspension and removing it from your cider when there is still some residual sweetness to the product). We will be writing more about cider in the future so feel free to ask questions and leave comments. We hope you try your hand at making your own cider at home. Enjoy!

Written by A+K

April 30th, 2014 at 6:31 pm

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