How to brew English style hard cider at home

My father initially got me into the art of home brewing. He started brewing at home while I was still in Middle School and I grew up with a healthy appreciation for beer. When I went to college I took with me knowledge of home brewing and soon was making my own alcoholic beverages.

I started making cider because it was less complicated than brewing beer and could be done in my dorm room where I could not have a burner or hot plate. Cider is very simple to make at home but it is actually rather difficult to create a recipe that you really enjoy. My first several batches were so harsh that I turned my friends off of home brewed cider, but with trial and error I was able to tweak my recipe to create a cider that I enjoy quite a bit and my father’s English bosses said reminded them of the cider they used to enjoy at home. I now love a good hard cider every once and it is still one of my favorite fermented beverages to brew at home.

Home brewing supplies are pretty easy to find at specialty stores, on the internet, and a few cooking supply stores. I usually just make my batches with a good fermenting bucket and air lock. Both are standard supplies and easy to find.

My home brew cider recipe takes five gallons of apple juice not from concentrate, one quart of honey, and one package of “Champaign” or “Wine” yeast. I usually end up with around 7 or 8% APV.

Like any home brewing the most important step is thoroughly sanitizing all the equipment. I have found that bleach and water works well but it is very important to rinse the equipment well.

After the equipment is well sanitized I pour in my apple juice and honey. I have found microwaving the honey a little makes it easier to pour. I also rinse the honey jar with the apple juice to get as much of it in my cider as possible. Stirring isn’t really that necessary; the yeast will end up eating almost all the sugar and the final cider will be pretty well mixed. After I have combined my honey and apple juice I sprinkle the yeast on top and seal my fermenting bucket with an airtight lid and air lock.

It takes about a week for the cider to ferment. It brews faster at higher temperatures but I have found that brewing the cider at a much hotter temperature than 60 degrees results in a very harsh cider. The lowest temperature you can brew the cider at is ideal (somewhere between 50 and 60 degrees). You will be able to tell your cider is brewing when you can see air bubbling up through your air lock. When the bubbles stop the cider is done fermenting and can be drank. Don’t drink the cider until it is finished fermenting.

After it is finished fermenting I usually just pour my cider back into my apple juice bottles. It is best to leave the cider in the fermenting bucket for a couple of days after it has finished fermenting to allow the yeast to settle to the bottom. You could also use a bottle capper and cap the cider into beer bottles. The beer bottles or apple juice bottles should be sanitized before use. Allow the sealed bottles to rest for two weeks if you wish the cider to carbonate. I prefer my cider without carbonation so I will either leave the apple juice bottles not completely sealed or will allow the cider to rest in the fermenting bucket for an additional couple of weeks before bottling.

NOTE: It is very important not to brew the cider at too high a temperature because this recipe results in a very dry cider without any sweetness to mask any harshness.

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