If you’ve made hot apple cider on the stove, you’ve had a simple introduction to the cider-making process. However, hard cider is a different animal. There are a lot of variables that can affect the quality of the beverage.
Before you dive into your first batch of hard cider, read these 10 tips on how to brew a great batch.
1. Make sure all supplies, including bottles and caps, are completely clean. Any lingering residues can affect the end flavor of the hard cider.
2. Choose between using fresh fruit or fruit juice. Either works, but fresh fruit will probably yield the best — and most original — flavor. A fruit press is easy to find and use, so if you’re focused on quality, a press is probably the way to go.
3. Choose your ingredients based on your desired flavor. A sweet, refreshing cider will require different ingredients than a dry, tart cider. Since personnel preference is a huge consideration, make sure you know what type of cider you’re hoping to make.
4. Add sugar to increase the alcohol content. Ciders will get some level of alcohol through the natural fruit juices, but you can always add more sugars — such as those from other fruits or raw honey — to brew a more potent drink.
5. Blend ciders together for a better overall flavor. The flavors of ciders from different types of fruit will complement one another and create a more unique end result.
6. Keep an eye out for a pectin film. If a gel-like haze develops on the hard cider, it’s probably due to high levels of pectin, which will make filtration difficult. You can buy a pectinase solution that will break up this compound and improve the quality of your cider.
7. Add champagne yeasts to play with the flavors. Ciders don’t require added yeast since the fruits have their own, but there is always room for experimentation.
8. Use Siphon to settle cider, clarify the drink, and eliminate the organic sludge that settles to the bottom of the cider container.
9. Keep your hard cider at or below room temperature for the best fermenting possible. In ideal conditions — generally between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit — a cider can fully ferment in about two weeks. If you get too far below that temperature range, the yeast will stop being active. Too high and the yeast could die off, ruining your cider.
10. Brew Your Own Magazine recommends that you drink your homemade cider within its first year. Unlike wine, cider doesn’t get better with age. You can keep the cider for two or three years, but it will be at its best in that first year after creation.
With time and practice, you’ll be able to step outside of the box and add your own creative touches to this refreshing drink.