Homebrewing Cider

2008 and 2009 Crisp Hard Apple Cider

Cider-carboy

First Cider: 2008

In 2008, Jodie and I decided we wanted to try our hands at making cider. Before you get any images in your head of me taste-testing different apple varieties, pressing apples, etc., though, I must remind — I'm lazy. Really lazy.

Lazy Brewer's Yummy Cider

I also live in the Willamette Valley, where apple trees, orchards and farmers markets abound. Instead of doing a full-on press, we instead purchase pressed cider from local farms. We find cider that is either unpasteurized or as lightly pasteurized as possible, and have had great success turning this apple cider into hard cider.

Making Cider-Making an Annual Autumn Tradition

We've made our Crisp Apple Cider for 2008 and 2009. As we tweak and refine the recipe, we're also making this an annual tradition. We make a 5-gallon batch of cider in October, bottle it in December and age it for at least 9 months. Come September — when homebrew supplies may be dwindling after a summer's brewing hiatus — the leaves turn and we have something crisp and clean to toast the new autumn with.

Here are our last 2 batches of cider, including ingredients and process. The 2009 batch has been especially tasty right out of the carboy — can't wait to find out what it's like after a year's bottle conditioning!

2008 Crisp Hard Apple Cider

The information below pretty much just reflects the sparse notes I took on this cider. 2009's batch has much more detail.

"Brewed": Oct. 11, 2008

Bottled: Dec. 13, 2008

Oct. 11, 2008
Purchased a Wyeast Cider yeast and Campden tablets from Home Fermenter Center, Eugene. Went to Lone Pine Farms and purchased 6 gallons of UV pasteurized fresh cider that originated from a farm in Salem.

Added 1 Campden tablet to each gallon of cider. We left cider in jugs, and placed them in garage for 24 hours, to allow ample time for Campdens to work (knocking out other yeasts, bacteria, etc.).

About 28-30 hours, prepped 5-gallon carboy, pitched yeast, and poured in all cider until carboy was nearly full. This resulted in us having most of the sixth gallon for our enjoyment.

Put on small blowoff hose and set carboy near pellet stove, where temperature would remain more constant. Temperature has been between 60-68F.

Notes from "Brew"

  • Did not measure OG
  • Fermentation kicked off quickly, which surprised me given that I had read many brewers say that their cider needed a few days to get going. We've had very healthy fermentation, and today (10/20) fermentation is still healthy. Two-week mark may be about time to rack over to bucket and/or bottle.
  • Color is very pretty, and has become lighter/more pale over time, probably as more sugars are consumed and yeast begins to fall out of solution – clarity from settling?
  • Chose mead yeast over wine yeast to go for a more sweet cider, instead of the dryness that usually comes from a wine yeast.
  • 10/23 – fermentation still going pretty strong; will check again at 3-week mark

Notes and Research from 10/11/08

  • Chemical preservatives are a no, such as sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate
  • Is it pasteurized? If so, “cold pasteurized” cider will have better flavor than heat
  • Yeast champagne yeast will yield dry; ask Jim at Home Fermenter Center about different wine yeasts – maybe opt for one that yields a semi-sweet, semi-dry?
  • Irish moss for clarity?
  • No boil. Cold pitch after Campden tablets drop

We aged this cider for nearly a year, occasionally opening a bottle and tasting for, ahem, quality control. The character of the cider flavor changed dramatically, gradually gaining more complexity and depth of flavor.

2009 Crisp Hard Apple Cider

Cider-jug

For the 2009 batch, I took far more detailed notes. We also made some changes from the previous year. We used a different yeast, for starters. We also added honey, pasteurized/sanitized in a solution to about 180ºF for ~10 minutes. These changes have added much more flavor, even as of bottling.

  • Brew Date: Oct. 20, 2009
  • Initial Gravity Reading (O.G.): 1.074
  • Bottling Date: Dec. 2, 2009
  • Final Gravity Reading (F.G.): 1.000
  • Alcohol: ~10%

Ingredients

  • 5 gallons apple cider, Thistledown Farm, Junction City, Oregon
  • 5 campden tablets (one for each gallon jug)
  • 3 c. raw honey (purchased from Home Fermenter Center)
  • 1 packet Lalvin EC-1118 Yeast
  • @bottling: 3/4 c. corn sugar + 1 pt. water

Process (from notes)

On Sun. Oct. 18, 2009
Purchased 5 gal. Thistledown Farm Apple Cider @ $6.49 per gallon (unpasteurized, no preservatives). Added 1 campden tablet to eachjug, shook and set in garage (between motorcycle and water heater closet, to minimize exposure to sunlight).

On Tues., Oct. 20, 2009
Purchased yeast and honey. Pasteurized 3 c. raw honey by combining with 1/3 gal. cider and heating to 180ºF for 10 minutes.

Proofed yeast in 2 oz. 100ºF water for 15 minutes.

Added honey mixture and yeast to 5-gallon carboy, followed by all cider. Used pour to aerate.

Rich, orange color at adding to carboy. Can’t wait to see what the honey does!

Oct. 25, 2009, Incredible fermentation. Very stormy inside carboy. Beautiful gold color.

Nov. 8, 2009, Fermentation has subsided, yeast has settled; beer has clarified and calmed to a pale straw/gold color. Temp ~68ºF. Bottle around Thanksgiving?

Dec. 3, 2009, At tasting, champagne-like dryness from yeast. Clear, clear, clear! Gravity — water. 1.074 OG, and batch 1 I Do was 1.077. Crisp, apply flavor with a bit of grass, and reminiscent of dry white wine. “You could enter this,” says Jodie. Carboy had a good 3-4” layer of sediment, which decreased yield somewhat. Could’ve added more water to batch?

Update: We haven't tried a bottle yet, but will be in early March at approximately the 3-month point.

Crack a Cold Cider

"Brewing" cider has been a lot of nearly effortless fun. I take a break from brewing during the summer months, and the cider is now the first or second brew of the season. And it couldn't be easier — my wife and I truck up to one of the nearby farms, buy cider, swing by the brew shop for yeast, and away we go. Most of our cider-making is time: long primary fermentation, followed by long bottle conditioning.

Naturally, this isn't the only way to make cider, and as with all things brewing you can get as in-depth as you want. This simple way works for us, and has been turning out good cider. Looking forward to cracking the 2009 batch as we make the 2010 batch!

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