Tuesday, 28 June 2011

How to brew your own cider

Making cider is an easy way of preserving your apple harvest.  Any type of apple can be used to make cider but combining sweet and sour apples produces a better flavour. As a rough guide about 5-7Kg of apples will produce 4.5 litres of cider.

Harvest your fully ripe, undamaged apples which are not too bruised. Store the apples, in a cool place, for 2 weeks to allow the skins to soften and after 2 weeks wash thoroughly before crushing. Crushing can be done using a purchased fruit crusher or, if you are only making a small amount of cider, by smashing the apples with a wooden mallet after wrapping them in a cheesecloth. 

The next step is to press the pulped apples to extract the juice. If you are planning on making a lot of cider you might want to consider buying a press, or if you are a good DIY person you could build one  (plans are available if you google home made cider press) but for smaller quantities you can use a kitchen juicer or food processor attachment.

The extracted apple juice should be poured into a pre-sterilised fermentation jar. Initial fermentation can be very vigorous, so cover loosely until fermentation calms down. Then top up the jar with additional juice or water and insert an airlock.  

Natural yeasts will convert the fruit sugar into alcohol but the resulting cider will be very sharp. For a more palatable cider you need to control the fermentation process. This is achieved by using a general purpose wine yeast  and adding campden tablets (sodium metabisulphite) to kill off most of the natural yeasts. 

Once fermentation is completed, which can take from 2-8 weeks, siphon the cider into a pre-sterilised fermentation jar whilst ensuring the sediment is not transferred. Top the liquid to near the top with boiled water and re-fit an airlock. Store in a cool and dark place to allow the cider to clear. If more sediment forms the process will need to be repeated until the cider is cleared. 

If you prefer a sweeter cider, add approximately 500g of sugar to each fermentation jar when siphoning off the cider for clearing. Add an airlock and allow the cider to ferment for another 1-2 weeks and re-rack into a pre-sterilised fermentation jar. 

Once the cider is ready, siphon into plastic fizzy drink bottles and store in a cool and dark place.

Your cider will improve with age, so if you can refrain from drinking it, store for 4-6 months before drinking. 

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