Hard Cider Recipes

This beginner recipe makes a 1-gallon batch of hard cider.  It uses minimal equipment and doesn’t require previous experience

This advanced recipe makes a 5-gallon batch of hard cider.  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 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 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.

Hard Cider Recipe for Beginners

Hard Cider Recipe

Overview:

This is an easy-to-follow hard 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 recipe, go to the recipe page or see the advanced recipe below.  If you want additional details about the hard cider making process used in this recipe, go to the guide on making hard cider.  Alright, let’s get started with the simple 3-step process.

Step 1: Prepare the Equipment and Ingredients

Gather the Ingredients

Gather the Equipment

Or buy combinations of products for better cost and convenience!

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.

Step 2: Fermentation

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.  How much alcohol gets produced is directly related to how much sugar is in the cider.  

Decision Point: Should you add sugar prior to fermentation?

If you don’t add any sugar to the cider, it will yield hard cider that is approximately 6.0 – 6.5% ABV, which is already a bit higher than most store-bought hard cider.  If you want to increase the alcohol content, you will need to add sugar prior to fermentation.  In this hard cider recipe, the sugar you will use is apple juice concentrate (after thawing it in the refrigerator, on the counter, or in the microwave, depending on how much forethought you have 🙂 ).  

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

  • First, pour half the apple juice into the carboy (preferably using a sanitized funnel)
  • Next, add the desired amount of apple juice concentrate to the carboy and swirl/shake it around to make sure it’s mixed.
  • Continue adding the rest of the apple juice to the carboy, leaving several inches of room at the top.
  • Then, 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 won’t have to use the whole thing.  It usually doesn’t hurt to put too much yeast in, but don’t put the whole packet in.  If in doubt, use half.  FYI – The process of adding yeast is called ‘pitching’ 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.  Finally, put 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. You’ll know when it’s done when it’s been several days to a week since you’ve seen bubbles escape the airlock.  In 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.

Step 3: Bottling

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.

For this hard cider recipe, you will wait until the yeast has consumed all the sugar (called fermenting dry).  This means that you will wait for all of the bubbling in the airlock to subside (1-2 weeks), then another several days beyond that.  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).  

Adjusting for Carbonation and Sweetness

You’ll need to add sugar to help with carbonation, and non-sugar sweetener for sweetness.

  • Carbonation: Mix an additional 1/4 cup of apple juice concentrate to the carboy being careful not to stir up the sediment.  Do not add more sugar than this, in any form, as it could cause bottles to burst under high pressure.  If you want your hard cider sweeter, you will have to use a non-sugar sweetener.
  • Sweetness: Add as much sweetener as you would like.  This is the step to control how sweet or dry the final product is.  A standard amount (and good baseline to use) is to add the equivalent of 3 TBS sugar sweetness per gallon.  Read the package carefully.  If the sweetener measures cup-for-cup to sugar, simply add 3 TBS sweetener.  If the sweetener doesn’t measure cup-for-cup to sugar, use the conversion provided on the packagin.  Example: A packet of Splenda® says it is as sweet as 2 tsp sugar.  This means 5 packets of Splenda® are as sweet as 10 tsp of sugar (or 3.3 Tablespoons).  So, adding just under 5 packets of Splenda® is perfect.

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 Recipe

Overview:

This is an easy-to-follow hard cider recipe that will produce 5-gallons of delicious hard cider.  This recipe is more advanced than some of the more basic recipes.  It will involve 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 hard cider recipe involves using standard brewing equipment and methods.  If you aren’t familiar with these (or need a refresher) head over to the equipment or the process pages.  Even though the recipe is more involved, it follows a simple 3-step process.  Let’s get started!

Step 1: Prepare the Equipment and Ingredients

To make a 5-gallon batch using this hard cider recipe, you will need the following supplies:

Gather the Ingredients

Gather the Equipment

Or buy combinations of products for better cost and convenience!

Clean and Sanitize the Equipment

Anything that will touch the cider during the process will need to be cleaned and sanitized.  This includes the fermentation bucket (I’ll assume you are using a bucket for simplicity, the steps are the same for carboy), stopper, air lock, funnel, and anything you’ll need to scoop or measure the apple juice concentrate and powder additives. 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.

Step 2: Fermentation

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?

If you don’t add any sugar to the cider, it will yield hard cider that is approximately 6.0 – 6.5% ABV, which is already a bit higher than most store-bought hard cider.  If you want to increase the alcohol content, you will need to add sugar prior to fermentation.  In this hard cider recipe, the sugar you will use is apple juice concentrate (after thawing it in the refrigerator, on the counter, or in the microwave, depending on how much forethought you have  ).

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.

When using a hydrometer, you don’t have to guess (or trust me)!  You will use your hydrometer to measure and adjust the sugar content in the cider, thereby controlling the alcohol content in the finished product.  First, measure the specific gravity of the raw cider by pouring (or siphoning) some into your test jar (if you are using a combination of juices or ciders, pour them all in your fermentation container, stir/shake them up, and siphon some into the test jar).  It’s likely your reading will be around 1.048 – 1.052 (6.0 – 6.5% ABV). If you don’t add any sugar to the cider, this will be the final alcohol content, which is already a bit higher than most store-bought hard cider.

If you want to increase the alcohol content, you will need to add sugar prior to fermentation.  In this hard cider recipe, the sugar you will use is apple juice concentrate (after thawing).  As a general rule, you will increase the final outcome by .3% ABV for every container (1.5 cups) of concentrate you add.  Adding 5 full containers of concentrate will produce a batch at 7.5% – 8.0% ABV, which is the highest I would recommend. 

If you want to confirm this (which I suggest), add the concentrate to the juice, stir/shake it up, and retest with hydrometer.

Final Note: A higher alcohol content can reduce the apple taste in the final product (even when using apple juice concentrate as the sugar).

Final Final Note: Write down the starting specific gravity!  It will seem easy to remember… it is not.  You will forget (it’ll be ~2 months until you drink it).  Knowing the starting specific gravity is vital to knowing the final alcohol content.

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

Put the container in a room temperature environment (or closer to 60 degrees if you can) and wait for the magic to start.  Within a few hours or days, you should start CO2 gas escaping through the air lock.  You may also notice very distinct smell. Fermentation will take about 1-2 weeks.  You’ll know when it’s done when it’s been several days since you’ve seen bubbles escape the airlock.  In the first half of fermentation, you can shake and swirl the bucket to release the gas.  In the last half, move the bucket onto a table or counter if you can (to prepare for racking), and don’t move or bump the container to let all the sediment settle to the bottom.

Racking and Secondary Fermentation

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 and settle 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.

Unlike primary fermentation, secondary fermentation is not about yeast activity.  Secondary fermentation is about improving the taste by letting the cider age.  During the aging process, the flavors condition and mellow.  Hard cider is more like wine than beer; it will benefit from aging in secondary fermentation and after bottling.  After 2-3 additional weeks, check the hard cider with your hydrometer.  If the specific gravity is between, .998 and 1.004, you are ready to bottle.

Step 3: Bottling

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.

For this hard cider recipe, wait for all of the bubbling to subside (1-2 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.

Adjusting for Carbonation and Sweetness

You’ll need to add sugar to help with carbonation, and non-sugar sweetener for sweetness.

  • Sweetness: Add as much sweetener as you would like to taste.  This is the step to control how sweet or dry the final product is.  A standard amount (and good baseline to use) is to add the equivalent to 1 cup of sugar sweetness for your 5-gallon batch.  Read the package carefully.  If the sweetener measures cup-for-cup to sugar, simply add 1 cup of sweetener.  If the sweetener doesn’t measure cup-for-cup to sugar, use the conversion provided on the package.  Example: A packet of Splenda® says it is as sweet as 2 tsp sugar.  Since there are 48 tsp in a cup, you’ll want to add 24 packets of Splenda®.  Note: that this is far less than 1 cup.  If you add one cup of Splenda®, it will taste disgustingly sweet (ask me how I know 🙂 )  If you aren’t sure how much to use, add some, mix it in, and then taste it.
  • Carbonation: To create carbonation, you will add more sugar.  The residual yeast will eat this new sugar (called ‘priming sugar’), and create more alcohol and CO2 gas.  This time, instead of the gas escaping the container through an airlock, it will be trapped inside the bottle and carbonate the beverage.  Since this gas is trapped in a glass container, it is very, very important to add the right amount of sugar, as adding to much will make the glass explode under high pressure.  You will use your hydrometer to determine how much sugar to add.  Start by taking a specific gravity measurement prior to adding extra sugars.  You want to add enough sugar to increase the specific gravity by .005 before bottling.  A common rule of thumb for priming sugar is to use 1 ounce per gallon (which is just under 30 grams of sugar per gallon).  I like to add sugar in the form of apple juice concentrate, because I like the additional apple flavor.  Most frozen apple juice concentrates have 30 grams of sugar in 1/4 cup.  So for a 5-gallon batch, you’ll want to use 1 1/4 cup (there are 1 1/2 cups in a container, so if you like a little extra carbonation, go ahead and use the whole thing).  However, many folks use dextrose with great results as well.

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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