Thursday, May 26, 2011

Harder Cider

“Wow, that is a lot of juice.” An older lady in the store said, ogling my cart. “I'm making cider.” I explained. “How do you do that?” she asked, a perplexed and slightly suspicious look on her face. “Well, basically you just add yeast and possibly sugar and let it ferment for a few weeks and then bottle it!” I exclaimed, happy to be sharing home brewing info with hapless passers by. “Huh.” Obviously she was not convinced. I guess I'm not a very effective evangelist.

And the cider makers.
 So far every cider I've made has been something of an experiment. I'm not big on recipes, and though I have a basic guide to homebrewing, I tend to use a mishmash of advice given to me in person by experienced brewers, knowledge I've gleaned from forums and books I've read on the subject. This cider is a good example of that. I didn't exactly just make it up, but I didn't follow a recipe from a book, either. I'd call this a very basic hard cider, though not quite as basic as my previous super simple cider recipe.

Harder Cider

What you need:
Juice, added Vitamin C is ok, added preservatives are not. Check the label. I used five gallons of unfiltered 100% apple juice.
Yeast, preferably wine or champagne.
Sugar, I used four pounds of turbinado.
Can of apple juice concentrate
Acid blend, available from your FLHBS.
Fermentation vessel, either a plastic bucket with a lid or a large glass jar (carboy) with a stopper.
Air lock
Bottles, 16oz or 750 ml
Siphon hose
Campden tablets, bleach water, or vinegar.
Racking cane, optional

This cider requires a little more work than the previous one, but you can follow all the instructions for making a basic cider from my previous post with a couple added steps. I'm going to assume that you have read the basic instructions for the sake of this post.

After you have sanitized your equipment, pour a gallon of juice into a large pot and heat on medium. Add the sugar and stir until it's dissolved. Add the can of juice concentrate and heat until it's also dissolved. Depending on the size of your pot, you may have to do this in two rounds to dissolve all the sugar. Just make sure your juice/sugar/concentrate mixture is cooled down to body temperature before you add it to the rest of the juice. While it's cooling, add the rest of the juice and five teaspoons of acid blend (or one teaspoon for every gallon of juice) to the fermentation vessel and stir. Add the cooled sugar mixture and the yeast, stir again, and cap.

Sugary, sugary juice.
 I'm going to assume, though my batch isn't finished yet, that this will take more than a week or two to finish fermenting. Let it go until the airlock stops bubbling, or until it bubbles less than once every five minutes. When it doubt, wait before bottling.
According to my handy dandy hydrometer, this concoction has a potential alcohol content of about 11%. By comparison, no sugar added cider (depending on the sugar content of your juice) has an alcohol content of about 6%. The added alcohol has a benefit beyond the obvious, as it allows you to store your cider for much longer without worry that it will go bad. I recommend allowing this cider to age for at least a month or two after bottling. If you try it after a couple months, and you are not impressed, let it sit for a while longer. Try it again at six months. Save a few bottles for a year or two down the road, because it will only get more awesome.

This tart cherry cider  is getting even awesomer in my cupboards RIGHT NOW.

The cost of this cider for me was about $45. The juice was $6 a gallon, four pounds of turbinado sugar was $7, a can of apple juice concentrate was $3.75 and the packet of yeast was $2.50. I already had the acid blend and all the equipment so if you need to acquire those the start up cost would have to be factored in.Compared to commercially produced cider, super cheap! As an added bonus, super delicious! And if you can find a commercial cider with an 11% alcohol content ... let me know.

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