For most people, cider is an unfiltered, non-alcoholic apple juice sold in roadside stands across the country. But in 19th century America, cider was the alcoholic beverage of choice, more popular than beer. The popularity of home brewing and micro brews has renewed the U.S. interest in "hard" ciders, which typically have alcohol contents similar to beers -- about 5 per cent.
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Things you need
- Fermentation vessel, such as a carboy or bucket
- 1 to 5 gallons non-alcoholic apple cider
- Champagne yeast or other yeast
- Water, and one capful of bleach
- Large pot
- Rubber siphon tube
Clean your equipment. To make cider, you use yeast to convert sugar into alcohol. Any environment that yeast can live in is a perfect environment for other microorganisms. Clean any equipment that will come in contact with the cider using a mild bleach solution -- about one cap of bleach for each gallon of water. Equipment to clean includes the carboy or fermentation vessel, any spoons you use to stir and the pot you will use to boil the cider.
Boil the juice for 20 to 45 minutes. This will kill of any wild yeast that live in the cider -- especially if you have purchased an unfiltered farm stand cider -- and it will break down the juice to make it easier for yeast to ferment. If you don't have a pot large enough to boil the entire amount of cider at once, boil it in batches.
Pour cider into a fermentation vessel. Many people use food-grade plastic buckets to ferment beer or cider, others use large glass carboys. Both are available for purchase at your local home-brew supply store. Purchase a one-way valve, or airlock. These are S-shaped tubes, similar to the P-trap you see under the kitchen sink. Fermenting yeast will produce carbon dioxide. This gas will build up, and cause your container to rupture if there isn't a way for gas to escape. When filled with water, an airlock will allow bubbles to escape through the S-shaped tube. A small amount of water in the tube will prevent bacteria and other microorganisms from entering the vessel. If you want to make a small batch of hard cider, purchase an airlock that will fit -- with a rubber bung -- over the mouth of the container you bought your cider in. Clean it while your juice is boiling.
Pitch the yeast. Use a brewer's yeast, available at a local home-brew supply store. A store employee can help you select the most suitable variety. If you are using a dry yeast, throw it into the just-boiled juice after it has cooled a bit. Very hot juice may kill the yeast. Place the lid or airlock on your fermentation vessel. You will know your cider is fermenting because bubbles will pass through the airlock on a regular basis, every minute or so when the fermentation is at its peak. Let it ferment for about one week.
Clarify your hard cider. You'll know the fermentation is complete when the airlock stops bubbling. Transfer your cider to another clean vessel, if you have one, using a siphon. When using a siphon, place the fermentation vessel on a table. Place one end of the tube into the cider, and suck a small amount of liquid -- as if it is going through a straw -- and place the end of the siphon into a vessel that is lower than the fermentation vessel. The cider will flow up the tube and into the lower vessel. It looks a little bit like magic. Do not suck up the depleted yeast at the bottom of the fermentation vessel. It's best to leave behind a small amount of cider if you have to. Placing the cider in a second vessel and letting it rest for a week will allow extra bits to settle out of the cider. This will make your cider more clear.
Bottle the cider. Using the siphon technique described in Step 5, siphon the cider out of the vessel and into bottles. Many people use swing-top bottles to keep their cider, but you can also store it in the glass cider bottle that your cider came in, if you kept the lid. There are also devices available at home-brew stores that you can use to fasten metal beer bottle caps onto non-screw top beer bottles.
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