I love hard cider, especially the dryer, less sweet commercial ones that are starting to show up more in stores (Crispin is a good example). We have several homebrewing friends and when one of them mentioned that she’s been fermenting cider at home and that it’s actually SUPER easy, I wanted to give it a try.
You can start with apple juice, like this one from Whole Foods, which comes in its own fermentation vessel:
Or if you can get it, you can use cider from an orchard (that’s actually what I did with my first batch because it was fall when I started and I found local cider at our farmer’s market). So you have the juice or cider, and you have to add yeast. I used a champagne yeast that was readily available at our local brew store:
I dissolved the yeast packet in a half cup or so of boiled and then cooled to just barely warm filtered water and added that straight to the bottle. Then I added an airlock, which you can buy really cheaply at your local brewing store. The airlock lets air get out without letting microorganisms/dust/dirt in. I put the soon to be cider in our utility closet, the warmest part of our house, to ferment and forgot about it. After ten-ish days, it looked like this:
I let the cider stay in the closet for a pretty long time after I stopped seeing bubbles in the airlock (meaning that the yeast was no longer letting off carbon dioxide, a result of turning sugar into alcohol). I could have (maybe should have) siphoned the cider off the caked of yeast at the bottom of the bottle into another fermentation vessel after the end of this primary fermentation to let the cider clear. Because I just did it all in one vessel, my cider had a little bit of a yeasty flavor, but oh well.
So I let the cider clear for six+ weeks and then bottled it. Before bottling I added a tablespoon and a half of priming sugar dissolved in a little boiled water, which gave the yeast enough sugar to carbonate the cider. I reused Grolsch bottles, which I sterilized beforehand, so Hubs and I had to drink eight pints of Grolsch in the weeks leading up to bottling (poor us).
Then I put the bottles in a paper bag to keep them in the dark and put them back in the utility closet for about another month. I took one out, refrigerated it overnight and tried it in December, but it wasn’t ready yet. I tried again in February and success! I just finished the last one, and I am super excited to start fermenting my second batch.