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Making Hard Cider

November 2nd, 2009

I decided to try my hand at making some hard cider this year. I’ve been making my own apple cider vinegar for a few years and I’ve heard it’s better if you start with hard cider. Generally to make my vinegar I simply pour cider into a big glass jar, cover with cheesecloth and let it sit for a few months until it’s vinegar, easy as that. I do buy unpasteurized cider from a small local press, so it contains the natural yeasts in it that ferment it and then turn it into vinegar.
I read up on how to do it, and the best article I found was over at Mother Earth News. I ran to my local brewing supply store (which happens to be Leener’s) and I bought some valves and one one gallon jugs and some of the yeast mentioned in the article (Red Star Cote des Blancs).
I decided to make a few different kinds of cider, one with only natural yeast, one with the natural yeast and the purchased yeast, and 2 gallons with only the purchased yeast. If you buy unpasteurized cider and you want to make your hard cider with purchased yeast you’ll have to pasteurize the cider to kill all the natural yeast. I decided to try a batch with and without this step to see how it would affect the final product.
In a few weeks I should be able to taste my cider and see the difference between the 3 methods. I’m very interested to see if the apple cider vinegar I make from this cider tastes different than the stuff I make without this specific fermenting step.

Anything interesting brewing at your house?

34 Comments to “Making Hard Cider”
  1. Mangochild on November 2, 2009 at 7:58 am

    Do you have a cider press (or other way to make the apple cider)? Its something I’ve been thinking about this year, but don’t quite know how to go about doing. I’m just thinking about “regular” cider, if that makes a difference…
    .-= Mangochild´s last blog ..CSA Share Report: October 27, 2009 =-.

    Reply to Mangochild's comment

    • Susy on November 2, 2009 at 8:32 am

      We don’t have a cider press, we buy it from a small local place. There are lots of small local orchards and they all make their own cider, so we have plenty of options to buy it locally.

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • gregclimbs on November 23, 2009 at 11:57 pm

        Hi Susy…

        How goes your fermentation?

        I have a schwartzbeir lagering, a irish red fermenting, a cider going in for the wife (your inspiration!) and as soon as the red finishes primary, I will reuse the yeast for the porter.

        Yeast is like a garden, it keeps giving if you know how to treat it!

        Maybe you will plant some hops this spring? ;)


        to gregclimbs's comment

      • Susy on November 24, 2009 at 12:06 am

        It’s going well, I just tasted in. I need to bottle it and let it age a little I think. Next year I’m going to try a different yeast I think, I special old-fashioned English cider yeast I found on-line. I guess if it’s bad I can turn it into vinegar.

        to Susy's comment

      • gregclimbs on February 26, 2010 at 1:21 pm

        Did you bottle?

        I just checked my 5gal batch and it dropped from 1.054 to 0.995 since 11/27. That is ~8%ABV. :D

        I think I will leave it in secondary for another month or two then force carb in a keg for early summer drinking…

        Pretty dry and champagne-y. Might back sweeten it with some fresh cider.

        Watch out you don’t make bottle bombs!


        to gregclimbs's comment

  2. pam on November 2, 2009 at 7:59 am

    Those jugs are a work of art, all lined up like that!
    .-= pam´s last blog ..The Story of Edgar Sawtelle =-.

    Reply to pam's comment

  3. Dan on November 2, 2009 at 8:17 am

    Well this is intriguing particularly because I can be a bit of a lush at times. I have thought of making beer before but never hard cider. Can’t wait to see how yours turns out. I found a recipe for a fall’ish dish that calls for hard cider, I’ll look it up and e-mail it to you.
    .-= Dan´s last blog ..Harvest Monday =-.

    Reply to Dan's comment

    • Susy on November 2, 2009 at 8:33 am

      That sounds delicious. I do use it in my braised cabbage recipe, delicious. I’m thinking it will make a great sauce for chicken or pork as well.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  4. Dave on November 2, 2009 at 9:33 am

    That’s pretty neat. I’ve not brewed anything here but I hope to one day. I planted a few grape vines last year to one day try my hand at wine.
    .-= Dave´s last blog ..In the Garden of Sedum =-.

    Reply to Dave's comment

  5. KitsapFG on November 2, 2009 at 9:41 am

    This brings back memories of my parents making wine and beer. It will be interesting to hear how these turn out.

    Reply to KitsapFG's comment

  6. Daphne on November 2, 2009 at 10:20 am

    LIke KitsapFG my parents made both wine and beer, but I’ve never done it myself. I do love hard cider. I wonder how much would actually end up as vinegar in my house.
    .-= Daphne´s last blog ..Harvest Monday – 2 November 2009 =-.

    Reply to Daphne's comment

  7. Tree on November 2, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Wow – I never even thought about making my own ACV, or Hard Cider. Please, please let me know how this turns out. I would love to press my own cider (for drinking) and turn it into vinegar and hard cider. I was going to ask where you got the great glass jugs, now I know to head to a brew store.

    Good Luck.
    .-= Tree´s last blog ..Dining Room Clean Up Day 2 =-.

    Reply to Tree's comment

    • Susy on November 2, 2009 at 11:11 am

      I much prefer homemade apple cider vinegar to store bought. Last year I just set out jars full of cider and in about 4 months it had turned into the most delicious vinegar. I’m also making pear vinegar with the pear juice from my canned pears, it smells delicious, although I haven’t tasted it yet.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  8. Sadge on November 2, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Sweet husband makes five gallons of beer two or three times a year, so we have all the equipment needed to brew and bottle a batch. This year was a banner apple harvest around here, so we pressed and fermented a batch of hard cider
    Cider can ferment “vigorously” anyway, and I added brown sugar along with the yeast, so I had to rig up an overflow airlock for a couple of days
    We added a bit more sugar when we bottled it, to make it carbonated after mellowing.
    I’ve never made sucessful vinegar. This year, I talked a vendor at Apple Hill out of a bit of mother-of-vinegar, added it to 1/2 gallon of our fermented stuff, and have that tucked away in a dark cupboard, so we’ll see how that turns out. Any vinegar tips to offer me?
    .-= Sadge´s last blog ..October, the Crazy Month =-.

    Reply to Sadge's comment

    • Susy on November 2, 2009 at 12:19 pm

      My vinegar just kind of happened. Of course I’m using unpasteurized cider. I did buy some mother this year to make some white wine vinegar and I’m in the process of making that. I think you’re supposed to add some water to it along with the vinegar when you add it to hard cider (I’d have to look up the amounts).

      Using a dark cupboard is a good idea, I’ve heard it doesn’t like light.

      Here’s a great article on vinegar making (mainly geared towards wine vinegar, but still great). It’s on the list from Sunset Magazine

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • Sadge on November 2, 2009 at 12:43 pm

        Thank you! That was a very helpful article! I did dilute my sugar-added fermented cider again by half, so it was reassuring to read that I’d done that right. I might have to find a warmer spot, but I’m glad to see that darkness was the right step too. I was wondering about evaporation, and the bit about regular feeding answered that (and the turkey baster tip great). Guess I’ll have to start a couple of small jars of cider fermenting. Thanks again!
        .-= Sadge´s last blog ..October, the Crazy Month =-.

        to Sadge's comment

  9. on November 2, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Great idea. I think I will try this out. Ive been brewing beer for years and this sounds easier :)

    I have a neighbor who’s dad is 94 years old, owns a construction company, still works and attributes his good health to a tablespoon a day of organic apple cider vinegar (with the mother). I recently had what I thought was yet another kidney stone, and the neighbor recommended I sip some ACV every 3 hours…. I did this the pain went away. Its quite possible the stones were dissolved enough to get rid of the pain. Yay!
    .-=´s last blog ..How to Toilet Train your Cat =-.

    Reply to's comment

    • Susy on November 2, 2009 at 1:34 pm

      The ACV probably does dissolve the stones. We have a cat that occasionally has trouble with crystals in his urine. When he starts having trouble I give him ACV every 3 hours and it cures him right up. I also have been giving him some as maintenance hoping to keep them away for good.

      I always leave the mother in mine and don’t pasteurize it. It’s so delicious made into tea with a bit of honey, or eaten plain. I think it’s quite tasty as is (or mixed with honey).

      When I’m sick I take ACV mixed with honey every couple hours as well, you can also gargle with ACV mixed with water for a soar throat.

      I’ve heard it’s quite the cure-all.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  10. ChicagoMike on November 2, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    Have you looked at the history of hard cider in this country?

    You would be amazed at how American it is!

    Apple Jack next?
    .-= ChicagoMike´s last blog ..2009 Harvest Total – Part 1 =-.

    Reply to ChicagoMike's comment

    • Susy on November 2, 2009 at 1:32 pm

      Yes, so American. I think it’s the Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollan talks a lot about this.

      I might try to make wine next, we’ll see. I have access to a lot of elderberries that I could use to make some wine.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  11. melissa on November 2, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    oh how well-timed this blog post is! I was just plotting aloud with my boyfriend to make a small cyser (quick-fermenting mead made with cider instead of water) this week, and then this is in my feed reader!

    For those of you interested in a really easy and quick “my first mead/cider” project I recommend this:

    To make it a cyser just substitute apple juice/cider for the water. You can leave the cloves and such out if you don’t want it spicy, but it really does add something nice. The main difference between this and regular mead is that it takes much less time to make, but it also has a much shorter shelf life. I’ve never found that I had trouble drinking it all though ;)
    .-= melissa´s last blog ..because I’ve always had a soft spot for Gonzo =-.

    Reply to melissa's comment

    • Susy on November 2, 2009 at 2:19 pm

      Thanks, how very interesting. I’ll have to see about making a batch of this.

      Reply to Susy's comment

    • erin on November 6, 2009 at 11:45 am

      I would be careful putting lids on fermenting bottles at room temp, even loosely. If you’re going to a brewing store to get yeast anyhow, spend another $4 to get a stopper and an airlock. This will let the pressure out in a safer way – meads and ciders can ferment pretty vigorously – even with an airlock I’ve had several build up enough pressure to pop the stopper out. The difference is that a screwed-on cap can’t be popped off, and instead the bottle will explode if there’s enough pressure.

      Good luck and have fun – brewing is a highly addictive hobby! :)

      Reply to erin's comment

      • Susy on November 6, 2009 at 7:41 pm

        Thanks for the tip.

        to Susy's comment

  12. Dan on November 2, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    I just sent off the recipe to you.
    .-= Dan´s last blog ..Harvest Monday =-.

    Reply to Dan's comment

  13. ruralrose on November 3, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Suzy your information is so valueable and generous, always have to read the comments to learn the most – this is a great blog – peace for all

    Reply to ruralrose's comment

  14. michiko on November 3, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    We usually make about 15 gallons of cider a year; good way to use up all the extra apples and we have good fun whilst doing it too :)

    Reply to michiko's comment

  15. tom | tall clover farm on November 4, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Great post, and next year I should have enough apples to follow your fine instructions and related links and find myself enjoying what once was once the most popular drink in the U.S. for 200 years. thanks!
    .-= tom | tall clover farm´s last blog ..How Not to Make Ketchup =-.

    Reply to tom | tall clover farm's comment

  16. Genevieve on November 4, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    I’ve never brewed anything myself but it certainly sounds interesting, especially with apple cider since I am a huge fan.
    The cider I am familiar with in France is always hard with about 2% alcohol. I wonder how this would compare in taste and alcohol content.

    Reply to Genevieve's comment

    • Susy on November 4, 2009 at 4:21 pm

      It probably will be fairly low in alcohol. You can add sugar if you want it to have a higher concentration (I didn’t).

      I had some delicious low-alcohol hard cider when I was in Germany many years ago. It was fantastic!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  17. Friday Favorites « Two Frog Home on November 6, 2009 at 4:38 am

    […] of the projects we hope to tackle here at Two Frog Home, next year, is making hard cider.  For now, I’m just collecting […]

    Reply to Friday Favorites « Two Frog Home's comment

  18. Kerrick on November 12, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    I started my first batch of hard cider about a week and a half ago. I tried it for the first time a couple of nights ago–it’s not ready; it’s still too sweet, but I can tell something good is going on. I used unpasteurized local apple juice; for the yeast starter culture I added an organically-grown unwashed grape with lots of wild yeasts on the skin. Then I covered the jug. When I tried the cider the other night, I fished out the grape–it was starting to float and I was concerned it might get moldy. Feeling adventurous, I ate the grape–it was delicious! There are still plenty of yeasts in the cider–I’m getting lots of fizzing and frothing action. I don’t have an airlock. To release the CO2 I have a plastic bag over the neck of the jug that slowly fills with gas. I let the gas out once in the morning and once at night.

    Reply to Kerrick's comment

  19. Local Unpasteurized Cider | Chiot's Run on November 19, 2009 at 4:47 am

    […] cider jelly to give away. I also use several gallons to make apple cider vinegar and this year hard cider. Another thing I love about small local places is that they use the honor system. We stop by, grab […]

    Reply to Local Unpasteurized Cider | Chiot’s Run's comment

  20. Friday Favorites | Two Frog Home on August 5, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    […] of the projects we hope to tackle here at Two Frog Home, next year, is making hard cider.  For now, I’m just collecting […]

    Reply to Friday Favorites | Two Frog Home's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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