I’d never made cider before, so I decided to try out the beginner’ version, starting with juice rather than pressing the apples myself. The hardest part was finding the right juice to start with: it had to be all-natural, with no additives, not from concentrate, and either unpasteurized or cold pasteurized. We ended up going with Wellesley brand sweet apple cider:
It was great (both before and after fermentation) but it also cost $10 for a half-gallon bottle. Even without the cost of the yeast, that made this batch significantly more expensive than buying cider at the liquor store.
The process itself was pretty basic (to the point where it’s not even worth posting a recipe here): we sanitized everything, of course, then poured the cider into a one-gallon carboy, and added some Wyeast brand cider yeast. That’s it!
Here it is in the carboy, post-yeast addition. Since we did this in the summer (yes, I have been really lazy about posting) it was kind of a challenge keeping the fermentation temperature down. Cider should ferment at a maximum of 24 degrees C (around 75F), which is virtually impossible to achieve in a Toronto summer. I couldn’t find a decent fan small enough to fit in my brewing cabinet, so the solution was this:
I kept the carboy in a big pot filled with ice water. The ice had to be replaced every day, to keep it cool, and the water occasionally drained off when the daily ice additions made the pot too full. Basic, but surprisingly effective.
After 4 weeks or so, we put the cider back in the original bottles (sanitized, of course) with a bit of dextrose. One of them went in the fridge, the other was left in the cabinet to carbonate. It was a worthwhile experiment, but needless to say the carbonated cider tasted a lot better. Both were extremely dry, since virtually all the sugar had fermented. If I make it again I might add a bit of sugar, but honestly I didn’t mind the lack fo sweetness. It reminded me of French or Quebec ciders, with their mild flavour, low alcohol and light carbonation. The verdict: a resounding success, though I’d like to find a cheaper source of apple juice if I’m going to do this again.