Cider FAQ
  • frydogbrewsfrydogbrews
    Posts: 44,679
    Howdy everybody,
    cider is very easy to make. here i will address some common questions that i get asked. most of these questions i have also asked someone else over the years. things will be added to here as they come up, so check back often.

    Q1:is cider hard to make?

    A: absolutely not. it will take you as long as it takes to dump 5 gallons of juice into a fermentor, stir it hard to aerate, add any acid if needed, little nutrient, possibly some corn sugar or honey, and pitch your yeast. usually takes about 8 minutes.

    Q2: my cider isn't fermenting!!!!!!! NOOOOOOOOOO

    A: first, cider doesn't ferment like beer, even when using beer yeasts. it won't generally ferment vigorously, nor will it start really fast. the biggest thing here is to practice good sanitation, so if it takes 5-6 days for your ferment to really take off, you don't have many worries. if using fresh juice, you may have used compden tablets and this can slow down onset of fermentation as well. just give it time. if you go 7 days and see no fermentation activity and your hydrometer shows no movement, then it's time to re-pitch.

    Q3: My cider stinks like eggs and other various grossness

    A: yup, that's cider. some of this is yeast dependent, but as a general rule, apples throw off lots of hydrogen sulfide. if you can still smell it 2-3 months in, it's time to take action and we will cover that later.

    Q4: can i use regular juice from the store, the packaged stuff?

    A: heck yeah you can. this cider will generally have less body, but it can still be delicious. make sure there are no stabilizers such as potassium sorbate as they will inhibit fermentation; various acids, such as citric acid, are fine. when making cider outside of fresh cider season, dont' hesitate to use store bought juice. it is generally ready to drink in a month, maybe more if ferm temps are high, and it is cheap. have fun with store bought juice too, its cheap, so try weird stuff. 4 gallons apple juice, 1 gallon mixed berry. why not? just make sure nothing has sorbates in it.

    Q5: should i buy the most expensive, highest quality store juice i can find?

    A: if you want to, yes. but realize that it won't necessarily affect your cider much. i'm all for voting with your dollar, so if you want to buy organic juice with a fancy label, go right ahead; most of that delicate flavor gets blown through the airlock though. i have made cider with the most expensive whole foods juices as well as "old orchard" and they were indistinguishable for each other. really, it shocked me too! please understand that a great deal of packaged store juice is coming from china, just an fyi. if you ever get to try juice from real cider apple varieties, you would notice that it doesn't actually taste very good before it is fermented. the magic of fermentation!

    Q6: how can i improve store bought juice easily?

    A: this is easy, depending on the time of year. just grab two big handfuls of crabapples, those hard, marble sizedones hanging in your neighbors yard. take these tiny rocks and freeze them through, this will burst many of the cell walls, then toss them in a food processor, pulse 10-15 times and filter it through cheesecloth or whatever you have around. this is the easiest way to dramatically improve ANY cider, not just store juice ones. most apples we have access to in america are not cider specific varieties like they have in england. most of ours just don't have the tannic acid levels and complexity (some exceptions exist, like Akansas Black). adding a pint of crabapple juice fixes much of this. go out in the fall to winter and collect many of these crabapples and toss them in a freezer bag to use throughout the year. count on using half a freezer bag per batch of cider.

    Q6: i've heard i should add acid?

    this usually depends on taste. most store bought juice could use a half tbsp of an acid blend added. there are many types of acid out there and they have various uses, but for simplicity (and because it works fine) i will only mention a generic acid blend here. german style ciders are usually very acidic, around 3.1, this is too acidic for most american tastebuds. the guidelines are to stay between 3.8 and 3.2 anything about 3.8 and you will not have enough acidity to keep it stable for storage and it can open up a whole slew of problems. most store bought juice is well between these ranges. i add a little acid almost always because i like it more acidic. when using fresh juice, purchase acid test strips for wine making (100 for 5 bucks) or a pH tester (40$) if you choose to add acid, remember two things, add it pre-ferment and that acid affects how well campden tablets work. this matters because you will be using campden probably for fresh juice, so you don't want to use more than you need to and it is pH depedent.

    Q7: should i add more sugar to store juice?

    i usually do. i like to bring my ciders up to around 6% abv at least, and this usually requires 2 pounds of corn sugar or 1.5 pounds of honey or so. most store bought juice i have used comes in around 5% or so, but this varies depending on brand. use the hydrometer, it is your friend.

    Q8:how long before of get to drink this stuff?

    these are general guidelines, assuming you have good ferm temps.
    storejuice = 2 weeks primary, 3 weeks secondary (or until clear) then keg or bottle as usual.
    fresh pressed orchard juice = 1 month primary, 3-4 months secondary (or until clear) keg or bottle as usual.
    these will improve with age, but shoudl be perfectly drinkable within these timeframes.

    Q9: should i use nutrients?

    yes. unlike wort, apple juice is very lacking in nitrogen and other various things yeasties love. i like to use rehydration nutrient, such as "Go-Ferm" and then "Fermaid O" during fermentation. i have also done many ciders just by putting in 5 tsp of LD Carlson yeast nutrient and 2.5 tsp LD Carlson yeast energizer when i mix everything up in the fermentor. (this works if you don't feel like opening up your cider during fermentation to add more nutrients.)

    Q10: what kind of yeast should i use?
    whatever you feel like using. champagne yeast and nottingham are probably the two most popular yeasts and both work well. i also enjoy Safale us-05/04 or just about anything really. try several and see what you like! personally, i strictly use dry yeasts for ciders now. i have not been pleased with the handful of liquid cider yeasts currently available, hopefully this will change. i always bloom my dry yeast in lukewarm water with rehydration nutrient for 20-25 minutes, then stir it up and pitch.

  • ThymThym
    Posts: 121,790
    i never realized how easy hard cider really is to make.... i might have to whip up a batch
    The only thing between me and a train wreck is blind luck..... - Kenny
  • FuzzyFuzzy
    Posts: 49,669
    cider is happeing this weekend. gotta use that juice i've had just lying around. \m/
    The pinnacle of lame and awesome in one singular moment. -Lake
  • frydogbrewsfrydogbrews
    Posts: 44,679
    so how did it go? what yeastie's did you use?
  • FuzzyFuzzy
    Posts: 49,669

    so how did it go? what yeastie's did you use?

    fat lazy d-bag is how it went. i'll probably get done sometime this week. i'll be using the montrachet yeast i already have goin with another batch, so now i just need to decide what else to do with it. Graff it up with some malt, throw in some cherry/other juice or just go plain juice.
    The pinnacle of lame and awesome in one singular moment. -Lake