A good hard cider can be a welcome addition to your standard beer guzzling routine: it breaks up winter’s monotony with crisp, satisfying flavors that at once remind you of childhood and college. So how hard could it be to make it yourself? Well, very, it turns out.
But it's worth it! Behold, your guide to making hard cider, if you’re brave enough to attempt it.
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We used Brooklyn Brew Shop’s Hard Cider kit, because this is actually way more complicated than you might think. Plus, it involves some specialized equipment like air-tight caps and tubing that would probably be a pain in the ass to track down on your own.
First thing’s first: botulism is no fun, kids. You’ll want to sterilize all your equipment beforehand with sanitizer. Dilute about half a packet in a tub of water and thoroughly soak everything you’re using: bottles, tubing, everything.
Once your gallon-sized container is clean, pour in your pasteurized, organic apple cider. That’s important, because brands that use preservatives can mess up your final product.
Dissolve one packet Red Star Cote des Blancs yeast (they go for about 99 cents) straight into the jug.
Seal up that sucker and shake it like a polaroid picture. This activates the yeast. It'll be harder than it looks, because it turns out a gallon of juice in a glass container is actually kind of heavy.
Once you’ve given your biceps a workout, you’ll need to create a blow-off tube to let out the CO2 that will develop. This is done by inserting the plastic tubing through a hole in the cap, about one inch into the bottle. Let the open end rest in a small bowl of sanitizer to prevent contamination.
Then watch it bubble!
After the majority of the action stops, about two or three days later, remove the tubing and make your airlock. This looks like a film canister with a shallow amount of the water and sanitizer mixture, so CO2 can still continue to escape, while keeping air out.
Now, you play the waiting game. Give it about two weeks—that's 14 days, folks—in which you stare longingly at your not-quite-hard cider.
Hi! You made it! If you weren’t confused yet already, this is when things get even trickier.
Get yourself a giant pot. I used a giant silver punch basin, because anything worth doing is worth overdoing. Make sure it’s sanitized first.
To sweeten your cider, mix three tablespoons of honey with a half cup of water.
And dump it in your pot (punch bowl).
There’s a boatload of sediment chilling at the bottom of your growler, so you’ll need to siphon it out using the tubes so your final product isn’t all full of sand. Clamp your grip (included with the kit) over one end of the tube—this will create a valve so you can control the suction.
Insert the tube into the jug. You can use a raking cane to get the suction going, or do it the old fashioned way and blow into the tubing.
The cider will start to flow from the jug into your pot (or punch bowl).
Keep going until just the bottom layer of sediment is left in the jug. You may need to place your pot or bowl lower than the growler, so gravity can help disperse the liquid.
Now that your sediment-free cider is mixed with the honey solution, you’ve gotta bottle them back up. Using the same siphoning method as before, transfer your liquid into airtight bottles, like the swingtop versions we used here.
Oh, you really like waiting for things? Well, great, because once they’re bottled, you’ve got another two weeks—14 days! Cool.
And with the magic of time, your cider is complete! I force fed it to my co-workers, with no promises that they wouldn’t contract food-poisoning from my efforts. Ours tasted mild and only slightly vinegary, but palatable, almost like an apple-flavored beer. That’s pretty good for first-timers, I hear.
If you’ve got endless patience, meticulous attention to detail, and about a month to spare, go ahead and give this a shot.