5 Hard Cider Recipe Variations

Apples For Making CiderA while back we introduced an easy way to make your own hard cider and shared a very basic hard cider recipe for making 5 gallons. However, this intro only scratches the surface. In fact, there is a wide variety of augmentations you can apply to a hard cider recipe to alter its flavor.

Fruits, spices, sugars, and yeasts: here are five ways to add some variation to your homemade hard cider recipe – and make yours stand out from the pack!


  1. Fruit
    As with beer, fruit can be added to any hard cider recipe for extra complexity, flavor, and sweetness. Peaches, raspberries, figs, strawberries, blueberries, watermelons… it’s all fair game! Crushed fruit is usually added to the fermenter. You can add crushed whole fruit or you can experiment with fruit flavoring. Some cider makers prefer to use frozen fruit. The freezing breaks down the fruit’s cell walls, making it easier to extract more flavor. When dealing with whole fruit, Shop FerMonsterconsider using some pectic enzyme to help break down haze-forming pectins.
  1. Spices
    Try adding whole spices to your hard cider recipe. Add cinnamon, ginger, and clove to the secondary fermenter. Alternatively, heat the spices in a mixture of honey or simply syrup and mix into the apple juice prior to or after primary fermentation. Remember, go easy the first time you add spices to your cider. You can always add more to your next batch. If you do accidentally add too much, just let the cider age until the spices mellow out.
  1. Sugars 
    A wide variety of sugars can be used to boost the gravity of your hard cider, from cane sugar or household brown sugar to Belgian candi sugar or honey. I recently tasted a cider back-sweetened with a brandy reduction. It was amazing!
  1. Yeast
    Ale yeasts like Fermentis Safale S-04 are clean fermenters – they don’t leave behind much in the way of yeasty esters or phenolics as long as they ferment within the recommended temperature range. You could however experiment with different yeast strains to try to bring out some yeast character. Farmhouse and Belgian beer yeasts are worth trying on an apple cider recipe, Shop Beer Flavoringsnot to mention a whole slew of wine yeasts. How would a hefeweizen yeast turn out, fermented at lower temperatures to accentuate the clove character? Could be interesting…
  1. Mix and Match 
    Once you’ve tried a few of these different hard cider recipe variations listed above, why not combine some of them? To play it safe (and if you have the spare fermentation capacity) try one variation at a time, then blend them together later on after you’ve had a chance to try each one. You may discover your new favorite drink!


What variations have you tried with your homemade hard cider?
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

13 thoughts on “5 Hard Cider Recipe Variations

  1. thank,s for the info I used apple jucie sugar & yeast , here we go again this time with fruit , the first the some like it & some didn,t

    • at least 3 months in my case (and I added some pectin enzymes). Although, there is nothing wrong, taste wise with a cloudy cider.

  2. Allen, the wine will have no chance of clearing until the fermentation has completed. Clearing depends on the wine be made. For apple it will clear pretty quickly after the fermentation, usually within 2 or 3 weeks. A month is long for a fermentation time. I would suggest going over the the following to see if there is something you can change to speed it up a bit:

    Top 10 Reasons For Fermentation Failure

  3. Hi Dave,
    When making hard cider, do you add sugar before adding the yeast or after. If I’m correct you have to use a wine hydrometer to obtain your readings, right? First time making hard cider.
    Thank you,

    • Anthony, actually when making Hard Cider you simply ferment with the natural sugars already in the fruit. Hard Cider normally yields 3-6 percent alcohol. However if you are trying to raise the alcohol content, you would normally add the additional sugar prior to adding the yeast. The normal starting range for any yeast is between 8-13 percent potential alcohol. Yes, you will use a wine hydrometer to track the fermentation progress.

  4. Hi there,

    Trying to add a honey flavour to my cider, but wouldn’t adding honey during the fermentation stage just increase the alcohol content without adding flavour? Is it better to add the honey once the cider has been transferred to the secondary fermentation container to back sweeten?

    • Richard, if you are adding the honey to back sweeten the cider, then yes you want to wait until the fermentation is complete, the wine is clear and you have added potassium sorbate to prevent re-fermentation. The article posted below will discuss sweetening your wine in more detail.

      Making Sweet Wines

  5. When is it best to add fruit like peaches, raspberries, etc? Before primary, secondary, etc? Do you get different/stronger flavors when adding it at different times? Thanks!

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