How to Make Hard Cider at Home

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Close-up of iced cider in tall glass
Close-up of iced cider in tall glass (Image: Nick Free/iStock/Getty Images)

If you enjoy drinking something brewed from a bottle but don’t want a beer, or if you have an aversion to grains, hard cider has what you need. A second addition of fruit after the first fermentation gives hard cider its edge and, depending on the second fermentation, its Alcohol By Volume, or ABV. Hard cider usually tops out at about 8 percent alcohol, but the amount of fruit or sugar you add determines the final ABV.

Things You'll Need

  • Fermentation bucket with spigot and airlock lid, food-grade
  • 4 feet plastic siphon tubing, 5/16-inch diameter
  • 5 gallons apple juice or cider, 100 percent juice
  • Cider yeast
  • Large pot
  • 5 lbs. brown sugar or honey
  • Bleach
  • Funnel
  • Glass growlers or bottles

Mix the yeast with a small amount of the apple cider the day before you start brewing to make a starter and start the fermenting process early, ensuring your yeast is alive and will ferment before beginning the brewing process.

Pour your cider or juice into a large pot on the day of brewing. Warm the cider and allow it to simmer for 45 minutes to kill any bacteria, making sure it does not boil. Add up to 5 lbs. of brown sugar or honey while the cider is simmering to increase the amount of alcohol in the final product.

Pour 1/8 of a cup of bleach into your fermentation bucket and fill it with water, letting it sit for an hour to sanitize the bucket. Thoroughly rinse the bleach water out of the fermentation bucket.

Allow your cider and sugar mixture to cool to room temperature and add the fermented starter to the mixture. Pour the entire mixture into the fermentation bucket and seal with the lid and airlock. Set your fermentation bucket in a cool place, between 60 and 70 degrees, for one to two months without disturbing.

Insert the plastic tubing into the lid of the bucket through the hole until it is about 4 inches from the bottom of the fermentation bucket. Siphon the cider from the fermentation bucket into another clean container, and pour out the remaining cider, which contains sediment you don’t want to drink.

Pour your hard cider through a funnel into glass growlers or bottles for drinking, and store the containers in the refrigerator.

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