Author Topic: First Hard Apple Cider - Any Tips?  (Read 3362 times)

Offline Bomber 22

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First Hard Apple Cider - Any Tips?
« on: May 21, 2016, 06:54:39 AM »
I bottled my first beer a week ago and I'd like to start a cider while the beer is carbonating/conditioning.  Looking to get it started this weekend.

I have...

A 2 Gallon Mr. Beer Keg vessel.

2 Gallons of (HEB grocery store branded) Apple Juice - "Filtered Water, Apple Juice Concentrate & Ascorbic Acid"

Red Star - Premier Blanc Yeast (formerly named Pasteur Champagne) (.176 oz or 5 grams).

Brown Sugar



Would prefer not to make a trip to the LHBS but would definitely go if need be... 

Any thoughts on the yeast?  Apparently most use that "champagne" type.  I've read opinions on here that SAFALE-04 comes out nice and that the 05 variety gives it a honey flavor.

This pack of yeast is labelled for 5 gallons.  I'm assuming I should half the pack for this 2 gallon batch.  Out of curiousity, if I added a crap load of sugar would I need to increase the amount of yeast to convert all of the sugars.  ....or would the yeast amount be more about the volume of liquid?

When reading about cider making, I rarely see anything about controlling temperature while fermenting?  Is the fermentation temp not as strict with ciders (compared to beer) or am I just not reading the correct things.  Seems like it would be the same consideration in terms of keeping the yeast healthy and minimize off flavors.  Any temp to target? 

I've read that some people will heat (not to boil) sugar/brown sugar with some apple juice for mixing purposes before throwing it in the fermenter.  Necessary?

I cannot find the thread but I read one suggestion for adding 1/2lbs brown sugar to a 2 gallon batch of cider to raise the ABV.  I can't seem to find an online calculator or brew program that will allow me to input apple juice as an ingredient in order to determine the ABV.  I'd like to play with the brown sugar amount before making it.  I multiplied the grams of sugar by servings of the apple juice and came up with about 29 ounces.  However, I don't see any fructose options on the calculators.

Thank you for any tips/help. 

Offline udubdawg

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Re: First Hard Apple Cider - Any Tips?
« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2016, 11:29:54 AM »
When someone says "I want to make a Kolsch/California common/DIPA" it is pretty obvious what their goal is.

Unfortunately cider isn't like that. In order to really give any advice we really need to know what your goal is. But, yes, you can make cider with what you've got on hand right now.

Offline pete b

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Re: First Hard Apple Cider - Any Tips?
« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2016, 12:03:35 PM »
You can use what you have. I like to ferment cider cool, usually high fifties. I would at least keep it 65 or under. You might not get all the same flaws as fermenting beer too warm but you'll get the worst one: fusel alcohols.You will get a very dry cider, the sugars are all 100% fermentable. That's OK if you like a very dry cider. I experimented with wine yeasts and us05 last fall and found that although the final gravities were the same the ale yeast produced a cider with a bit more mouthfeel that didn't come off as so dry.You can backsweeten too, you do that later so you have time to learn about it and get what you need. Beware that involves sulfites so if you get headaches from some commercial wines you might not want to do it.
As far as adding sugar to increase ABV it's up to you. Do you have a hydrometer? It's easy to predict the ABV because all the sugars are fermentable. Just use the potential alcohol scale on your hydrometer (the column that reads in percentages). Whatever the potential alcohol is that will be the ABV. If you don't have a hydrometer assume the juice is around 6%.
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Offline Bomber 22

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Re: First Hard Apple Cider - Any Tips?
« Reply #3 on: May 21, 2016, 06:51:55 PM »
Thanks for the response, udubdawg.  Unfortunately, I don't know much about cider.  I guess my goal is to simply make an inexpensive cider in order to get a feel for it.  I'm interested in comparing the home brew flavor versus a commercial type (from which I read will be more dry and less apple-y).  With that said, I'll likely only keep a few bottles for myself.

The pending plan was to make an inexpensive sparkling hard apple cider (forced carbonation, sugar or drops added in each bomber bottle and grolsch style bottle).  I was thinking about bottling a few with the original flavor.  Bottling a few with cherry extract added.  Then bottling the remainder with cherry extract and sucralose.


When someone says "I want to make a Kolsch/California common/DIPA" it is pretty obvious what their goal is.

Unfortunately cider isn't like that. In order to really give any advice we really need to know what your goal is. But, yes, you can make cider with what you've got on hand right now.

Offline Bomber 22

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Re: First Hard Apple Cider - Any Tips?
« Reply #4 on: May 21, 2016, 07:08:08 PM »
Pete B, thank you for the tips and help.  I think I'm going to go ahead and buy some of the US-05.  That's another positive tried and true cider brew with that yeast that I've read.  Sounds like the way to go.  "65 or under".  I swapped frozen water bottles out during my beer brew and that kept things at around 61-64.  By chance do you remember about how long it took to ferment?  Also, did you create a yeast starter or just drop it in straight?

I do have a triple scale hydrometer.  If the juice is around 6% then I may not even add sugar.  Also, I'll look for the target FG for fermentation.

Eventually, I'd like to backsweeten.  I'm not up for the challenge of hot bottle pasteurizing at the moment.  I'd prefer not to do the cold crash & fridge condition because there won't be enough room to store that many bottles.  Not sure if accurate but if I use the tablets then I won't be able to create a sparkling cider correct?  With that said, I wouldn't mind just bottling a flat backsweetened cider at some point. 

Many thanks.


You can use what you have. I like to ferment cider cool, usually high fifties. I would at least keep it 65 or under. You might not get all the same flaws as fermenting beer too warm but you'll get the worst one: fusel alcohols.You will get a very dry cider, the sugars are all 100% fermentable. That's OK if you like a very dry cider. I experimented with wine yeasts and us05 last fall and found that although the final gravities were the same the ale yeast produced a cider with a bit more mouthfeel that didn't come off as so dry.You can backsweeten too, you do that later so you have time to learn about it and get what you need. Beware that involves sulfites so if you get headaches from some commercial wines you might not want to do it.
As far as adding sugar to increase ABV it's up to you. Do you have a hydrometer? It's easy to predict the ABV because all the sugars are fermentable. Just use the potential alcohol scale on your hydrometer (the column that reads in percentages). Whatever the potential alcohol is that will be the ABV. If you don't have a hydrometer assume the juice is around 6%.

Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: First Hard Apple Cider - Any Tips?
« Reply #5 on: May 21, 2016, 08:14:50 PM »
Good advice from Pete and Michael. I've made a lot of cider myself and fermenting fairly cool (50-65F) is good advice. It slows fermentation and keeps some of the subtle apple character from blowing right out the airlock as can be the case in a warm, turbulent fermentation. I add crushed Campden tablets, wait 24 hours, then add some wine tannin (to taste), some pectic enzyme (to help clearing) and the yeast, then let mine go totally dry (a month or so in primary), then check gravity (FG will often go under 1.000 on cider), then rack to secondary. I leave in secondary for a couple months to achieve clarity, then keg, backsweeten and acidify (with malic acid) to taste. Cider will get better with time so don't rush it. It'll be good @ 6 months, better @ a year. Good luck.
Jon H.

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: First Hard Apple Cider - Any Tips?
« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2016, 03:07:31 AM »
Looks like all the advice so far has been really good.

Welcome to the easiest alcoholic beverage to make on the planet.  It’s so easy that cavemen almost certainly did it.  Get some apple juice and just let it sit for a month, and the result is delicious.

It’s easy to make very good cider on your very first try.  However, there are some things you can try to give you truly excellent cider, if you don’t mind just a little extra effort.  So for that, here’s my 3 cents (some of this might overlap what others have already mentioned).

First of all, you don’t necessarily need or want to add any sugar at all.  Why?  Cider is naturally about 6-7% ABV on average without any extra sugar added.  If you try my method below you can get closer to 5%, which in my book is still plenty.  If you want a more wine-like cider, then go ahead and add sugar, but be aware that all it really does is add a bunch more alcohol where you’re getting into the 7-12% range closer and closer to a wine rather than an easy drinking common cider.  If you do add any sugar, you should heat or boil it ahead to kill any wild critters.  A half pound in 2 gallons will raise the ABV by approximately 1.1% over the ~6% you probably would have gotten, so it’s closer to 7%.  It’s a personal decision, but personally I never add sugar and I really love the results.

Champagne yeast will make the cider very dry, bone dry, like no more sweetness left at the end at all dry.  Final gravity might be close to 0.992 unless you intervene.  Fortunately, you can stop the yeast early to prevent dryness, and here’s how:  When specific gravity hits the range of 1.010 to 1.015, add gelatin to knock out most of the yeast, then the next day add sorbate and sulfite to kill what’s left.  When the time comes, dissolve a half teaspoon of unflavored gelatin (I use Knox brand) in a half cup of hot boiled water, then pour that into your beer.  The next day, about 90% of the yeast will be on the bottom of the fermenter.  Then add sorbate in the recommended dose and 2 Campden tablets crushed (this is sulfite).  These don’t kill yeast but hurt them real bad so they can’t ferment too far out after this.  Then chill and wait another couple weeks to make sure things don’t take off again, then you should be able to bottle.  That’s how I’d do it with the champagne yeast.  Some English ale yeasts like S-04 have the advantage of not fermenting quite so dry so you can skip most or all of these steps.  Or, just let it ferment to dryness and sweeten at the end, that’s what most people do, however I find I get superior flavor from leaving the natural sugars in the cider this way.

I do love what US-05 yeast does with cider.  Very good stuff.  However, don’t be surprised when it too wants to finish close to 1.000, still a bit dry in my opinion.

You are correct.  Half a pack of yeast will work for this.

I like to ferment cool, about 55-60 F if possible.  This preserves more of the apple character.  You can make good cider fermenting at 70-80 F, and it will ferment faster, but just not as elegant and awesome as when you ferment cool.  But you’re right.  Temperature control is not very strict with cider.  People do all sorts of temperature regimens and it really all turns out pretty good no matter what.

Finally, and most important, patience is a requirement with cider.  It ferments a lot more slowly than beer does.  No matter what yeast you choose, it will take it’s sweet time and fizz slowly for about a month, plus or minus.  Carbonation in bottles may take at least another month, sometimes longer.  I have a batch fermenting at 40 F that’s been fizzing away for 7 months now.  Colder temperatures take longer, while in warm temperatures it can be done in as little as ~3 weeks.  Also be aware that carbonation can be a bit of a crapshoot.  Sometimes you’ll get lucky and it will carbonate perfectly in your bottles within a month.  Other times it will turn out flat, sometimes gushers..... it all depends on how patient you are, how much yeast is still alive, how many sugars are in there.  If you have the ability to keg, that’s probably the easiest and most consistent way to guarantee the right level of carbonation in cider.  Otherwise, you’re kind of at the mercy of a dozen different variables.  Personally I enjoy my cider flat most of the time, which is actually most traditional.  Carbonated cider is a 20th century thing.  So take that for whatever it’s worth (not much).

By the way.... sucralose makes a chemical tasting cider.  Try xylitol instead if you’re going with artificial sweetener.

Good luck and don’t forget the patience.  :cheers:
Dave

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Offline pete b

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Re: First Hard Apple Cider - Any Tips?
« Reply #7 on: May 22, 2016, 12:20:09 PM »
Great advice from Jon and Dave. This might be a thread to bookmark for the fall. I have always bottle conditioned partly because I didn't keg until a few months ago but also I Ike it because I tend to drink cider one at a time. I'll drink a couple fairly fresh, a couple weeks after bottling, but then a couple a month until they are gone. I use cider that friends and I press each fall so I'm at the mercy of mother nature and last fall was a bumper crop so I'll have some left this fall.
I always take a gallon or two of fresh pressed cider in glass jugs and simply put an airlock on it and let it sit in the cellar for a month then put it in the colder root cellar for another 6 weeks or so before bottling.
When I am adding commercial yeast I heat to 180 and hold for a little bit to kill off wild critters then cool and add a little yeast nutrient (fermaid O) and pectic enzyme. I also take my time. I don't remember using a secondary, I have found it clears up nicely just keeping it in primary a month or so in the cellar then transferring to the root cellar (45ish) for another couple weeks.
I don't like to sulfate because my girlfriend sometimes has these coughing fits after eating something and it always happens to be something with sulfates. Jon, it sounds like you are not sulfating when you and keg?
Another trick to avoid sulfating I tried last fall was to steep some crystal malt and add the liquid to the cider before fermenting. That adds unfermentable sugars. The result was a cider with a less dry, more full mouthfeel. The added surprise was it had more apple flavor.
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Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: First Hard Apple Cider - Any Tips?
« Reply #8 on: May 22, 2016, 01:08:11 PM »
Jon, it sounds like you are not sulfating when you and keg?


If I'm just gonna keep the cider in keg, no. But if it's going out to a comp or given to friends in bottles, I do use a small amount of campden and sorbate for safety.

Edit - I always backsweeten a little. Obviously, if I left it bone dry I wouldn't worry about it.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2016, 01:18:27 PM by HoosierBrew »
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Offline erockrph

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Re: First Hard Apple Cider - Any Tips?
« Reply #9 on: May 22, 2016, 03:50:21 PM »
Jon, it sounds like you are not sulfating when you and keg?


If I'm just gonna keep the cider in keg, no. But if it's going out to a comp or given to friends in bottles, I do use a small amount of campden and sorbate for safety.

Edit - I always backsweeten a little. Obviously, if I left it bone dry I wouldn't worry about it.
I backsweeten quite a bit when I keg, and I still don't bother sulfiting. The kegs usually go quick, and even if they don't the yeast works slowly enough. After 6 months in the keg it may lose a little sweetness, but not enough to go bone dry.
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Re: First Hard Apple Cider - Any Tips?
« Reply #10 on: May 22, 2016, 04:50:35 PM »
Jon, it sounds like you are not sulfating when you and keg?


If I'm just gonna keep the cider in keg, no. But if it's going out to a comp or given to friends in bottles, I do use a small amount of campden and sorbate for safety.

Edit - I always backsweeten a little. Obviously, if I left it bone dry I wouldn't worry about it.
I backsweeten quite a bit when I keg, and I still don't bother sulfiting. The kegs usually go quick, and even if they don't the yeast works slowly enough. After 6 months in the keg it may lose a little sweetness, but not enough to go bone dry.


Yeah, like I said I don't sulfite if I'm serving it all out of the keg. But if I fill bottles for a comp or to give out to friends, I'll sulfite and sorbate what's left in the keg and then bottle fill.
Jon H.

Offline Bomber 22

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Re: First Hard Apple Cider - Any Tips?
« Reply #11 on: May 25, 2016, 10:06:29 PM »
Thanks HoosierBrew, dmtaylor and thanks again to peteb and erockrph. 

Cool gelatin trick, dmtaylor.  I read about that last week and think it was a post by you as well.  I decided to simplify things and go with flat cider for the first brew, therefore making backsweetening much simpler.  I've read that people add seltzer or sprite or something along those lines to their end product if they want the bubbles. 

Just like you mentioned, they hydrometer measured in the 6% ABV range.  It was about a 1.048 OG & 6.2% ABV.  So, I omitted the brown sugar since most of the bottles will be going elsewhere.  I'm fermenting at about 62-64F.

I started it last night and went ahead and just used the champagne yeast that I had on hand just so I could get it going.  Hopefully the rehydrating process was okay.  I've only rehydrated two types.  This champagne yeast sank during rehydration and never puffed above sea level like the Safale US-04 did during the 20 minute process.  It did turn milky after a gentle stir.  I barely hit the temp differential range between the yeast solution and the cider before pitching.   So, hopefully all is well. 

I think this round I'll just ferment until it hits 1.000 or as y'all mentioned, sometimes a bit below that.  I've read that some frozen apple juice can be added to backsweeten.  Whether I stop fermentation at 1.010 or 1.000 (or just below), am I assuming correctly that I should still add gelatin/sorbate/sulfite if I backsweeten and do NOT force carb in bottles?  Now that I'm thinking about it, the 1.000 reading would just mean that there aren't any sugars remaining....it doesn't mean that there aren't anymore active yeasts still ready to work overtime.  Just seeing what I can get away with.  Also, hoping to store the bottles at room temp instead of the fridge.

I'm hoping to get a free 3 gallon bucket from the grocery store bakery sometime this week and buy some items (spigot, airlock) to create a 2nd fermenter/racking/bottling bucket. 




Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: First Hard Apple Cider - Any Tips?
« Reply #12 on: May 25, 2016, 10:18:59 PM »
am I assuming correctly that I should still add gelatin/sorbate/sulfite if I backsweeten and do NOT force carb in bottles?  Now that I'm thinking about it, the 1.000 reading would just mean that there aren't any sugars remaining....it doesn't mean that there aren't anymore active yeasts still ready to work overtime.  Just seeing what I can get away with.  Also, hoping to store the bottles at room temp instead of the fridge.



If you backsweeten and then bottle your cider you'll need to stabilize with campden and sorbate for 24 hrs before bottling, for safety's sake. And yeah, apple juice concentrate works well to backsweeten. I like to balance the backsweetening with some malic acid (the acid from apples) for tartness, so you might consider that as well.
Jon H.

Offline Bomber 22

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Re: First Hard Apple Cider - Any Tips?
« Reply #13 on: May 26, 2016, 05:57:50 AM »
Much appreciated.  Neat that a cider can be made very simple or with a lot of depth.  Currently reading on the tannins and malic acid that you've mentioned. 

am I assuming correctly that I should still add gelatin/sorbate/sulfite if I backsweeten and do NOT force carb in bottles?  Now that I'm thinking about it, the 1.000 reading would just mean that there aren't any sugars remaining....it doesn't mean that there aren't anymore active yeasts still ready to work overtime.  Just seeing what I can get away with.  Also, hoping to store the bottles at room temp instead of the fridge.



If you backsweeten and then bottle your cider you'll need to stabilize with campden and sorbate for 24 hrs before bottling, for safety's sake. And yeah, apple juice concentrate works well to backsweeten. I like to balance the backsweetening with some malic acid (the acid from apples) for tartness, so you might consider that as well.

Offline theDarkSide

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Re: First Hard Apple Cider - Any Tips?
« Reply #14 on: May 26, 2016, 12:30:20 PM »
So I'm too lazy to look back through 1 page of posts, but Drew Beechum has a nice book on making hard cider http://www.amazon.com/Everything-Hard-Cider-Book-making/dp/1440566186/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Also, if you are an AHA member you have access to the past NHC seminars.  Gary Awdey did an excellent talk in Grand Rapids on Post-Fermentation Cider Adjustments.  Go to the 2014 seminars at this link https://www.homebrewersassociation.org/how-to-brew/resources/conference-seminars/

I've used both as a resource and have done well in competitions with ciders.  Not to mention having really great tasting cider available to me whenever I'm in the mood (i.e. all the time).
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