Cider Making Equipment:
The Essential Supplies and Beyond
Select your experience level for a list of relevant hard cider equipment.
You can’t make the goods without the gear! This page caters to the cider making equipment needs of all experience levels.
Most of these hard cider supplies are used in all types of home brewing (beer, wine and cider) and can be found at a local homebrew store. They can also be found on online homebrew stores or Amazon.
If you have more than a few things to buy, you should consider buying a hard cider kit, which is a convenient way to buy many pieces of equipment together.
The hard cider equipment is sorted in the order you would use them when making hard cider.
Clicking the links or images will take you to Amazon to purchase the item. Using the links provided supports this site by providing a small commission from Amazon, at no additional cost to you (even if you end up selecting a different product)!
As a beginner, you can get by with limited hard cider equipment. Because you’ll only be making one-gallon batches, you won’t need large containers or equipment to transfer the liquid from one container to another.
To make bigger batches or have more control and options, you will need some additional cider making equipment. As an intermediate, you will need a hydrometer and testing jar to measure sugar contents, and a way to siphon the liquid between containers (it’s very hard/impossible to transfer 5 gallons without some assistance).
To take your cider making to the next level, you will need to start measuring the pH and acid contents of your cider. This requires a couple additional pieces of hard cider equipment that will allow you to make intentional and well-guided adjustments to your batch.
The following is a comprehensive list of the hard cider equipment. To see a condensed list for a specific experience level, select a level from the drop-down at the top of the page.
Step 1: Prepare the Equipment and Ingredients
It is very important to start by cleaning all the equipment. You can use standard cleaning methods and tools such as dish washing soap and sponges, however, there are specialized cleaners available as well. Be sure to follow the instructions on the package and rinse the equipment after you’re done.
One of the most commonly used cleaning solutions is PBW by Five Star. It is affordable and comes in a variety of sizes.
Sanitizers make your cider making equipment safe to use by killing microbes and surface bacteria that you cannot see. Sanitizing solutions are generally available in powder or concentrated liquid form. Add water according to the instructions and soak each piece of equipment prior to use. You can use the equipment directly after it has been soaked without rinsing, even if there is some foam remaining on the equipment.
While there are many solutions available, Star San made by Five Star Chemicals is a very popular choice among homebrewers. It comes in a variety of sizes. Although Star San leaves behind more foam than others, the manufacturer and many homebrewers reassure that it doesn’t leave any off-flavor and is harmless.
Although most cider making equipment can be cleaned with standard cleaning supplies, it can be hard to clean the inside of items like carboys and airlocks (common areas to get gunk build-up) without additional equipment.
For this purpose, there are brushes that make cleaning these items much easier. Be sure to get a larger, flexible brush to clean the carboy (especially around the neck area) and some smaller ones to reach inside an airlock.
Step 2: Fermentation
Fermenting Container: Carboy for Beginners
Fermenting Container: Carboys
You will need containers for fermenting. The containers (referred to as carboys, fermenters, or demijohns) are among the most import piece of hard cider equipment and are typically plastic or glass and hold between 1 and 6.5 gallons. For larger batches, you can also use a 6.5-gallon plastic fermenting bucket (with lid), or a growler (2 quart glass container available at many breweries or restaurants) for smaller batches. It’s not required, but it’s convenient to have 2 separate containers for primary and secondary fermentation.
- Glass or plastic: Both types are widely used in home brewing. Glass containers are impermeable to oxygen and don’t scratch but are quite heavy and can break if dropped. Plastic containers are lighter and can come with features such as a wider opening, spigot, built-in airlocks, but are harder to clean and may be scratched (giving bacteria a place to hide). See this page for more information.
- Narrow or wide opening: Traditional glass carboys have a narrow opening. Plastic and some newer glass carboys have wider openings. The wider openings make it easier to clean and add or remove items during fermentation. A wide opening is helpful for brewing beer, but either will work just fine for making hard cider.
- Port or no port: Traditional glass carboys do not have a port. Plastic and some newer glass carboys have a port near the bottom with an attached spigot. This allows you to move the liquid out of the container without pouring or siphoning. A couple downsides are that it’s another component to clean and sterilize and can leak.
pH strips tell you the acidity level of your cider. With many store-bought juices and single-variety ciders not having enough acids, it’s important to know the specific beginning levels prior to adjusting with acids and tannin. Be sure to buy strips that measure only the lower part of the pH spectrum (approximately 2.8-4.4). If they cover the full spectrum (1 to 14) they will likely be in whole numbers only, and not provide the level of detail you need.
An acid measuring kit determines the amount of titratable acidity (TA) in the cider. pH strips tell you the acidity level in general, the TA tells you what kind of acid it is. With this knowledge, an advanced cidermaker can manipulate a batch with specific adjustments of acids and tannin to meet their needs. Check out this resource on how to use an acid testing kit.
Hydrometer and Test Jar
- How much (if any) sugar to add prior to primary fermentation
- When to start and stop secondary fermentation
- How much sugar to add for carbonation prior to bottling
Hydrometer Test Jar
A hydrometer test jar is simply a tall, narrow container you will use to get accurate hydrometer readings. It’s not advised to use a hydrometer in a fermentation container. It’s better to move a small portion of the cider to the test jar for a reading.
Airlock and Stopper
An air lock is small and inexpensive, but very critical to the process. The overall purpose of the air lock is to let the CO2 gases escape during fermentation, without letting air and contaminants in. It does this by creating a barrier of liquid between the cider and the outside environment. The 2 standard types are:
- S-bubble type
Experienced cidermakers and brewers have their opinions as to which method is best. I have used both with success. The S-bubble type is much harder to clean (foam from fermentation often reaches the inside of the airlock) and the 3-piece type is a little more likely to result in the liquid making it back into the cider (not a big deal if you use sanitizing solution like you should).
As time has gone on, I have developed a preference for the 3-piece style. I still like the way the S-type looks when it’s bubbling, but I have to throw them away too often because they get so messy and are very difficult to clean.
The rubber stopper (also called a bung) is a small and inexpensive part of the process. It fits the opening of the fermentation container and holds the airlock in place. Although they are simple, a couple things to keep in mind are:
- They come in different sizes. Make sure you get the size that will fit the container you are using for fermentation. In general, a #6 will fit a growler or 1-gallon carboy and a #6.5 will fit larger carboys (5, 6, and 6.5 gallon). If you plan on fermenting in the glass jug the cider came in, make sure you have a stopper that will fit. There are ‘universal fit’ stoppers that have large tapers, allowing them to fit a variety of containers.
- They come drilled or solid. Make sure to get one that is ‘drilled’ so there is a hole for the airlock.
Racking Cane (Auto-Siphon) and Food-Grade Tubing
Racking Cane / Auto-Siphon
A racking cane and auto-siphon are very similar pieces of equipment. Both are devices create a siphon to transfer liquid from one container to another. Siphoning is the process of using gravity to move liquid between containers. The process continues automatically once started. A racking cane requires manually starting the siphon by using the ‘traditional’ method of sucking on the end of the hose until it’s mostly filled with the liquid (or priming with sanitizing solution). The auto-siphon is much easier. An auto-siphon has a manual pump built into it allowing you to quickly and easily get liquid into the tubing to start the siphon. I strongly recommend getting an auto-siphon and not a racking cane.
To use the racking cane, you’ll need tubing. Tubing has an inside diameter and an outside diameter. Make sure to get the tubing where the inside diameter fits your racking cane and your bottle filler.
While technically not required, having a funnel will make your life a lot easier when moving the cider from container to container (if you aren’t using a siphon and tubing). You will use a funnel when:
- Pouring the raw juice into the primary fermentation container.
- Moving the hard cider to secondary fermentation (when not using a siphon).
- Adding additional sugar before primary fermentation or bottling.
- Moving some of the cider into a test jar to check the alcohol content with a hydrometer (initial raw cider, during primary fermentation, during secondary fermentation, etc.)
Step 3: Bottling
A bottle filler is a device that makes bottling much simpler. It effectively gives you a way to stop the flow of liquid you are siphoning. The advantage is that it cuts the flow off quickly, which allows you to fill your bottles with precision. It also keeps the tubing full of cider, preserving the siphon.
It’s easiest to use hinge-top bottles or growlers for bottling, so that is what I recommend for a beginner. Growlers are sold at many bars and restaurants (filled or empty) or can be purchased online. When buying online, make sure the growler comes with a lid.
If you are interested in using standard bottles and a pry off cap, select a more advanced experience level to see the equipment needed.
Bottles and Bottle Caps
Unless you plan on drinking your cider immediately, you’ll need to put it in bottles. The 2 most common containers to use are 64-ounce growlers with lids or standard 12-ounce bottles with pop-off caps you’ll need to attach with a bottle capper. You can reuse bottles from beer or cider you bought at the store if you wash and sanitize them, and they did not come with a twist-off style cap.
If you are using a growler, you can use the cap that came with it, or buy additional reusable caps. If you are using standard bottles, you’ll need to buy single use caps to use with your bottle capper.
A bottle capper is required if you plan on putting your hard cider in standard beer bottles. There are a few different styles:
- Bench-style which is larger and sturdier, at a higher price tag (sometimes called table-style)
- Hand-style which is smaller, and more affordable.