Make your own hard cider: Here's how

Categories: DIY-On-The-Fly

Steve Neuharth
Later, you can drink your basement cider fancy, like this.
If you have ever wanted to homebrew but were afraid of the fail-factor, starting with hard cider is a swell way to ease into the game. You don't need expensive equipment, the recipes are simple, and with an extra-long season this year, the apple harvest is extra fine. And most of us will need plenty of cider to get us through the long winter.

Here's what you do:

While pressing your own apples would make this project extra DIY, unless you already have a ton of extra apples and a press, the cost and time is typically not worth the effort.

We spoke with our friends at Northern Brewer who gave us a few simple tips to making delicious cider. These proportions are for five gallons of cider, roughly 50 bottles, but adjust accordingly if you want a smaller batch.

A few things that will make your cider extra rad.

Prices from Northern Brewer

  • 5 gallons apple cider or juice without preservatives (roughly $5-$6 a gallon from your area orchard)
  • 2 packs of yeast (we used Cote des Blancs dry wine yeast, 59 cents a pack; Champagne yeast is also recommended)
  • Campden tablets--kills bacteria and wild yeast ($3.50 for 100 tablets)
  • 1/2 tsp. pectic enzyme for a clearer cider (optional; $1.99 for 1 oz.)
  • 1-2 pounds of your choice of sugar: brown sugar, Turbinado (sugar in the raw), molasses, and honey all work well.

    To find juice without preservatives (preservatives negatively affect the fermentation by killing yeast) call a local orchard and ask them if they will set aside juice before adding preservatives. Tip: Pine Tree Apple Orchard is making batches of unpreserved cider the first two weeks of November.

    A basic homebrew starter kit will include these

  • Fermentation vessel--plastic bucket with top, glass carboy, or gallon wine jug*
  • Airlock (99 cents)
  • Rubber stopper for your carboy or jug ($1.99)
  • Hydrometer ($6.99)

    *An inexpensive way to start is using a 1-gallon wine bottle of the Rossi or other "budget" variety. Just make sure all your equipment is thoroughly sanitized. Your homebrew store will have no-rinse sanitizers, which are recommended.


    Put cider or juice into the sanitized primary fermenter. Add two crushed Campden tablets and let sit for one day. The following day, add yeast, pectic enzyme, and sugar to your taste, dissolving the sweetener first by heating it with a little cider. More sugar will give you a stronger and dryer cider, but be careful because too much sugar will make your cider excessively dry.

    Let mixture ferment for roughly one month. We recommend two-step fermentation for a clearer cider, meaning you ferment the cider in the first vessel for two weeks, then move it to a second vessel for two weeks, leaving behind sediment. You can ferment in one vessel for the whole month, if desired. Cover vessels and use a stopper and airlock while fermenting.

    60 degrees is the ideal fermentation temperature, but anywhere from 60 to 75 degrees will do. After four weeks of fermentation you should be ready to bottle. If you want to be exact, take a hydrometer reading first to see if it's ready.

    Hanging out and getting boozy.


    Using a siphon, fill the bottles. Cap using a bottle capper, or use Grolsh-style flip-top bottles. You can save your old beer bottles for bottling cider if they have pry-off (but not twist-off) caps. Let bottles sit in a warm, dark area for at least a month before drinking. The flavor changes as the bottles sit, so taste-test as you go.

    Anyone have great tips on making cider? We would love to hear your advice in comments.

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    Brian Johnson
    Brian Johnson

    Great article! More people need to get into brewing cider, it's super fun and delicious. I've been doing it since about march and have loved it!

    David Foureyes
    David Foureyes

    Not to be a stinker, but you guys are missing what may be one of the more important parts of this process (from a guy that has fucked this up a few times)...

    MAKE SURE ALL YOUR GEAR IS SANITIZED AS FUCK! You can buy Sanistar liquid from Norther Brewer as well (you can also use massively diluted bleach, but be careful)...also be warned that they rent a macerator and crusher for about $20 a day each @ the investment if you you have your own tree is minimal (provided you don't have apple maggot which is common). Also be warned NB runs out of dry yeasts from time to time...

    This year turned out a-ok...12% ABV using brown sugar and honey to sweeten:

    Michelle Leon
    Michelle Leon

    Thanks for the great tips! We would love to hear more.


    Be careful if you decide to rock the honey instead of sugar.  Honey ferments in to mead and if you make it too dry, the mead flavor does not always blend well with the apple.  If you use honey, keep your cider on the sweet side.

    On a related note, if you dissolve 2 pounds of honey in to each of 4 gallons of boiling water (8 pounds to 4 gallons) should give you around 5-6 gallons of liquid ready to ferment in to honey wine.  Use the exact steps from this article with that liquid and you'll get a golden, clear mead.


    So this would result in a flat cider after bottling.  You could add about 2/3rds cup of sugar (dissolved in boiling water) to prime your cider right before bottling.  After two weeks the bottles would be carbonated and ready to drink, but give it some more time for conditioning.

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