Hard Cider Recipes

Have a look at several standard hard cider recipes (beginner and advanced), and links to other great hard cider recipe variations.  Each includes the ingredients and equipment you’ll need to make it, as well as basic instructions.  Read the guide to making hard cider for much more detailed explanations. Try one or try them all!

This 1-gallon hard cider recipe is great for beginners.  It uses minimal equipment and doesn’t require previous experience

This 5-gallon hard apple cider recipe takes things to the next level.  Although previous experience is not required, it does use more advanced equipment and techniques.

Recipes Using Additional Fruit

Adding additional fruit to hard apple cider is a easy way to get great tasting variation that everyone will love.  In addition to the recipes for hard cider below, see my general guidance for using fruit in making hard cider.

Pear cider (or perry) is a great alternative to hard apple cider.  This page has 2 different recipes!

Peach and apple make a great flavor combination.  Use this hard apple cider recipe to for a variety of ways to incorporate peaches into your next batch!

Blueberries can add a wonderful tart component to a hard cider… if you know how to do it right.

The tartness of cherries and sweetness of apples combine for a great, balanced hard cider.

Easy Hard Cider Recipe for Beginners

Hard Cider Recipe

Overview:

This is an easy hard apple cider recipe for a beginner to make their own hard cider.  This guide helps a beginner by giving concise instructions on how to make a 1-gallon batch of hard cider starting with store-bought apple juice.  It requires minimal equipment and no previous brewing experience.

The goal is to make hard cider similar to most store-bought hard ciders in the US: carbonated and moderately sweet.  If you are looking for a different or more advanced hard cider recipe, pick a different recipe at the top of the page or see the advanced recipe below.  Or check out additional details about the hard cider making process used in this recipe.

What Do You Need?

Ingredients

Equipment

  • Sanitizing solution
  • 1-gallon glass carboy with rubber stopper and airlock
  • (Optional) 2, 64-ounce growlers for bottling
  • (Optional) Funnel

Instructions

Clean and Sanitize the Equipment

Anything that will touch the cider during the process will need to be cleaned and sanitized.  This includes the carboy, stopper, air lock, funnel, and anything you’ll need to scoop or measure the apple juice concentrate. 

Cleaning is the process of removing the contaminants that can be seen.  Clean with standard soap and water, being careful not to scratch anything made of plastic. 

Sanitizing is the process of removing the unseen contaminants, such as bacteria.  Follow the instructions on your sanitation liquid or powder.  Place all sanitized equipment on paper towels on a table or counter.

Primary Fermentation

Fermentation Information:

Now that you’ve gathered the supplies and sanitized the equipment, it’s time to start fermenting (making alcohol).  During fermentation, yeast ‘eats’ sugar and produces alcohol and CO2 gas.  The amount of sugar in the cider determines how much alcohol gets produced.  

This is the point where you could add additional sugar to yield a higher alcohol content.  Since I don’t recommend this for beginners, I am leaving it out.  Refer to the advanced cider recipe or guide for more information.

Pour the apple juice into the carboy (preferably using a sanitized funnel).  Add the yeast (half a packet is plenty) and attach the stopper and air lock.  FYI – The process of adding the yeast is called ‘pitching’ the yeast, in brew-speak.

Finally, attach the stopper and airlock.  Start by adding sanitizing solution to the airlock up to the max line indicated.  Then put the airlock into the rubber stopper.  Attach the rubber stopper into the carboy opening (making sure there isn’t any liquid on the stopper or the carboy to get a good seal).

And Now We Wait

Put the container in a room temperature environment and wait for the magic to begin.  Within a few hours to a day or 2, you should start to see bubbles in the container and CO2 gas escaping through the air lock.  You may also notice a very distinct smell.

Fermentation will take about 1-2 weeks.  For this hard cider recipe, you will wait until the yeast has consumed all the sugar (called fermenting dry).  You’ll know when it’s done when it’s been several days to a week since you’ve seen bubbles escape the airlock.  At this point, the yeast has consumed all the sugar.

For the first half of fermentation, you can shake and swirl the carboy to help release the gas.  In the last half, don’t move or bump the container to let all the sediment settle to the bottom.

Adjustments for Carbonation and Sweetness

Start by sanitizing all the equipment you will use in this step, including the growlers, funnel, and anything you might use to scoop or measure sugars or sweeteners.

Feel free to give the cider a taste.  You’ll likely think it’s not sweet enough (too dry) and not fizzy enough (no carbonation).  You may also want more apple flavoring.

  • If you still want more apple flavor, you can add artificial apple flavoring.  It’s potent stuff, so be careful and add it a little at a time, tasting often.
  • If you want it sweeter, mix in as much sugar substitute as you like (3 Tbsp is a common amount to use, if it measures cup for cup to sugar).  See the page on hard cider sugar substitutes for more information.
  • If you want it carbonated, add priming sugar prior to bottling (1/4 cup apple juice concentrate or 1/8 cup brown or white sugar).  Do not add more sugar than this, in any form, as it could cause bottles to burst under high pressure.

Bottling

Carefully pour the hard cider into the growlers (again, using a funnel if needed) and seal the lids. 

Let the bottles sit for another 2 weeks at room temperature to let the carbonation fully complete. Then, put the growlers in the refrigerator to stop the carbonation process and get ready to drink.  

The hard cider is ready… Enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Advanced Hard Cider Recipe

Hard Cider Yeast

Overview

This is a more advanced 5 gallon hard apple cider recipe that makes a delicious hard cider.

This recipe for hard cider involves using more brewing equipment such as a hydrometer and auto-siphon, adding extra ingredients like acids and pectin enzyme, as well as using multiple processes such as secondary fermentation. If that doesn’t sound like what you’re looking for, head over to the main recipe page.

You will still be starting with store-bought apple juice, and will finish with a superior final product. As mentioned earlier, this recipe for hard cider involves using standard brewing equipment and methods.

If you aren’t familiar with these (or need a refresher) head over to the equipment page or the guides.

What Do You Need?

Ingredients

  • 5-6 gallons store-bought apple cider or juice
  • 1 packet yeast Nottingham Ale Yeast.  See the yeast page for more options.
  • 1 can (12 oz.) Frozen Apple Juice Concentrate
  • (optional) 1 1/2 Tbsp. pectin enzyme powder or 5-10 drops of liquid pectin enzyme
  • (optional) 1 1/2 Tbsp. acid (malic acid or wine tannins/tannic acid or acid blend)
  • (optional) 1 1/2 Tbsp. yeast nutrient
  • (optional) Sugar substitute.  I recommend a sugar alcohol such as xylitol, truvia, or stevia. See the sweetener page for more details.
  • (optional) artificial apple flavoring

Equipment

  • Sanitizing Solution (I recommend Star San)
  • Fermentation Containers:
    • (Preferred): 6.5 gallon plastic food-grade bucket for primary fermentation and 5-gallon glass carboy for secondary fermentation
    • (ok): 2 5-gallon glass carboys for secondary fermentation (one for primary fermentation and one for secondary fermentation)
  • Rubber Stopper, Size 6, Drilled (with hole for airlock)
  • Air Lock
  • (Optional) Funnel
  • Hydrometer and test jar
  • Auto-siphon and food-grade tubing
  • Bottle Filler
  • 64 12-ounce beer bottles or 10 64-ounce Growlers for bottling (or some combination of bottles and growlers).  You can reuse any store-bought bottles (from beer, cider, etc), so long as it is not the twist off style, and has been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.
  • Bottle caps or caps for growlers

Instructions

Clean and Sanitize the Equipment

Anything that will touch the cider during the process will need to be cleaned and sanitized.  This includes the carboy, stopper, air lock, funnel, and anything you’ll need to scoop or measure the apple juice concentrate. 

Cleaning is the process of removing the contaminants that can be seen.  Clean with standard soap and water, being careful not to scratch anything made of plastic. 

Sanitizing is the process of removing the unseen contaminants, such as bacteria.  Follow the instructions on your sanitation liquid or powder.  Place all sanitized equipment on paper towels on a table or counter.

Primary Fermenation

Now that you’ve gathered the supplies and sanitized the equipment, it’s time to start fermenting (making alcohol).  In fermentation, yeast ‘eats’ the sugar and produces alcohol and CO2 gas.  How much alcohol gets produced is directly related to how much sugar is in the cider.

Decision Point: How much sugar should I add prior to fermentation?

Adding sugar prior to fermentation is a common practice used to increase the final alcohol content, and frozen apple juice concentrate is what I recommend to use.  If you don’t add any sugar to the cider, it will yield hard cider that is approximately 6.0 – 6.5% ABV

You will increase the final outcome by .5% ABV for every half cup of concentrate you add.  Adding a full container of concentrate (1.5 cups) will produce a batch at 7.5% – 8.0% ABV, which is the highest I would recommend.  

A higher alcohol content can reduce the apple taste in the final product (even when using apple juice concentrate as the sugar).  I would recommend not adding any sugar to your first batch.

Fermentation Steps

  • You have your apple juice in the primary fermentation container, with any sugar you added.
  • Next, add the yeast.  Simply add the appropriate amount of yeast directly into the carboy (you can ignore any instructions on the yeast regarding ‘hydrating’ it first by adding to lukewarm water first).  The yeast packet will likely contain enough yeast for a 5-gallon batch, so you will likely have just the right amount.  FYI – The process of adding yeast is called ‘pitching’ in brew-speak.
  • Then, put the lid on the bucket.
  • Finally, attach the stopper and airlock.  Start by adding sanitizing solution to the airlock up to the max line indicated.  Then put the airlock into the rubber stopper.  Finally, put the rubber stopper into the opening on the lid (making sure there isn’t any liquid on the stopper or the carboy to get a good seal).

And Now We Wait

Patience is key in any hard cider recipe.  Put the container in a room temperature environment (or closer to 60 degrees if you can) and wait for

Racking

In brew-speak, the process of separating a liquid from sediment is called ‘racking‘.  It’s not good to let the hard cider sit on the sediment for a long time, as it can cause off-flavors.  However, you want it to age for longer.  

So you need to ‘rack it’, by moving the liquid into another container to continue the fermentation process.  You will do this by using an auto-siphon and food-grade tubing, staples of a home brewer.

Secondary Fermentation

For this hard cider recipe, wait for all of the bubbling to subside (1-4 weeks).  At this point, the yeast has consumed all the sugar.  Feel free to give the cider a taste.  You’ll likely think it’s not sweet enough (too dry) and not fizzy enough (no carbonation).  

If there is a fair amount of sediment at this point, you’ll want to rack it to a fresh container prior to adding sweetener and sugar since you don’t want the sediment to end up in the bottles.  You can use the container you used for primary fermentation.  This process is called secondary fermentation.

Adjusting for Carbonation and Sweetness

Start by sanitizing all the equipment you will use in this step, including the bottles or growlers, auto-siphon, tubing, bottle filler, bottle caps and anything you might use to scoop or measure sugars or sweeteners.
  • If you want more apple flavor (a common complaint is not enough apple flavor), you can add artificial apple flavoring.  It’s a concentrate, so be careful and add it a little at a time, tasting often.
  • If you want the hard cider sweeter, mix in as much sugar substitute as you prefer (3 Tbsp is a common amount to use, if it measures cup for cup to sugar).  See the page on hard cider sugar substitutes for more information.
  • If you want the hard cider carbonated, add enough sugar to increase the specific gravity by .005 before bottling.  A common rule of thumb is to use 1 ounce of sugar per gallon of hard cider (which is just under 30 grams of sugar per gallon).  I recommend using 1 can (1.5 cups) or frozen apple juice concentrate in a 5-gallon batch.  Do not add more sugar than this, in any form, as it could cause bottles to burst under high pressure.

Bottling

You will bottle your hard cider using the auto-siphon, tubing, and bottle filler.  Start the siphon and fill each bottle by pressing the spring-loaded bottle filler into the bottom of the bottle.  You don’t have to use a bottle filler, but it could be complicated or messy to move from one bottle to the next pouring by hand.  

After you finish several bottles, place a cap loosely on them and let it sit as you continue filling.  The goal is for the CO2 gas to fill the head-space (and not air).  Then crimp on the cap with your bottle capper.

Let the bottles sit for another 2 weeks at room temperature to let the carbonation fully complete.  Then put the bottles in the refrigerator to stop the carbonation process and prepare to drink.  The hard cider is ready… Enjoy the fruits of your labor!

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