I'll admit I didn't know the first thing about making hard cider when I started and this post is not designed to be the end all be all in cider making. This post will detail what I did (right or wrong) to make cider. I wanted to make 1.5 gallons of hard cider so I got a 2 gallon bucket. The bucket is much like the larger fermentation buckets just shrunken. I found that there are a variety of guides online as well as books to buy on the topic of cider making. I looked over the internet guides and shunned the books, this is an experiment after all.
My original intentions of making cider were to try to make some cider shandy type drinks with a continental hopped pale ale. This isn't in the cards because of work picking up and other things I just want to brew more than a continental pale ale. I can live with this because I have seven bombers of hard cider now and cider won't be back in season in Michigan until next fall.
(Read more after the break.)
Hard Cider #1 Recipe:
1.0 Gallon (8#) of Gavin Orchards Cider (unfiltered, UV cold pasteurized, no preservatives)
0.5 Gallons (4#) of Simply Apple Juice(unfiltered, no preservatives, "gently pasteurized")
1.0 White Labs English Cider Yeast.
OG: ~1.60 measured
SRM: ~8.0 best guess
ABV: ~7.5 Calculated based on Beer Smith
heated to ~180 for 1 hour to pasteurize. This step may have been unnecessary because both products were pasteurized but it's better to be safe than sorry. Then I pitched the whole vial of yeast when the cider was cool; Fermentation started within 2 hours. It was amazing to see an active bubbling airlock that quickly. I believe it was because I pitched at a high rate for only 1.5 gallons of Cider. It was still bubbling a touch after 4 weeks so I let it go to the point where it was only bubbling intermittently.
High Hopes for a Future in Hard Cider Making:
I really enjoy a good apple; who doesn't? I really enjoy cider and hard cider too. This is why I wanted to try my hand at cider making in the first place. If I enjoy my home made hard cider I can picture this being an offshoot of my beer making. There are many things you can make with apple cider: hard cider, apple wine, and apple brandy. Each are unique and interesting and lend a different sort of apple flavor to the final product. Had I thought of it at the time I could probably have made a half gallon or more of my hard cider into apple wine. According to the always authoritative Wikipedia: an apple wine is a hard cider where other fruit or sugar is added to secondary fermentation of a hard cider as a means to boost the alcohol by volume. This would have been easy to do, add some honey to the recipe and shoot it up to the alcohol tolerance of the yeast. If my cider turns out well I can see justifying building or buying a fruit press. With my own press I'd be able to engineer my own single apple ciders, blended ciders, other fruit ciders, and wines. The sky is the limit on this one.
The cider I purchased as well as the apples I enjoyed eating all fall were purchased at an orchard. My girlfriend loves apple orchards, the reason why we went there in the first place. Any time I can combine shopping for things that contribute to my hobby with making my girl happy it's a win! After visiting the orchard I also found that it's a good source for all sorts of Michigan fruits and vegetables including: Peppers, Pumpkins, Cherries, Peaches, Melons, Cucumbers, & Strawberries