Hard apple cider may not be the first thing you think of when people talk about home brewing, but it’s one of the most economical ways to get into the hobby.
After having hard cider for the first time during the summer of 2012, Amber Arendt decided to try her hand at brewing her own cider. Mead was too expensive and equipment-intensive to brew, and Arendt didn’t like beer, so she decided to try cider instead.
A minimum of four implements are needed to brew cider. A large jug, called a carboy, is a good container to brew in. They’re commonly sold in six-gallon sizes and Arendt recommends buying two for the siphoning process. A one-way valve called an airlock, to release the carbon dioxide created during fermentation, also is needed. Finally, a siphoning tool, usually a pump with a hose attached, is used to strain the fermented cider out of the first carboy and into the second. All can be purchased from Angeles
Brewing Supplies on 103 W. First St., Port Angeles.
Arendt brews five gallons of cider at a time in her closet, spending six to seven weeks on each batch. Starting with five gallons of plain apple juice, she adds a can of frozen concentrate, yeast and sugar to the mix to catalyze the fermentation process. Get as close to organic juice as possible, she says, because certain preservatives and chemicals can kill the yeast or inhibit the alcohol-making process.
There are a number of yeasts available, but Arendt recommends champagne yeast to maximize the alcohol volume made. As Arendt explains, different kinds of yeasts produce different volumes of alcohol. After producing its alcohol threshold, the yeast dies.
As the yeast eat the sugars, they’ll release alcohol and carbon dioxide, which causes the mixture to bubble for several weeks. The recommended ration is one pound of sugar to five gallons of juice, but Arendt uses two pounds for a sweeter tasting cider.
When she started brewing, she went overboard, using eight pounds for five gallons, and describes the resulting “Deathwine” as “a hangover in a bottle.”
Keep an eye on your cider each day and the yeast should be done fermenting in about three weeks. When the bubbling drops to a bubble every 30 seconds, Arendt says that the brew is ready to be filtered. Elevate the first carboy above the second and use the siphon pump to pull cider into the new container. After a few pumps, the pressure should keep the cider flowing on its own.
Arendt says that straining the cider from the “lees” — yeast built up on the bottom of the carboy — is one of the most important parts of the process, because it’ll affect the taste. “The longer you leave the lees in there, it’s gonna affect the flavor and taste like socks,” she warns.
After straining the brew from the lees, the cider is ready! But that brown, opaque liquid might not look too pleasant to drink, so you’re welcome to wait another two to four weeks to let the brew age. During this time it will clear up, although peptic enzymes can accelerate the process.
Now you can start bottling and Arendt says that while bottling it’s important to minimize the exposure the cider has to oxygen. Alternatively, just pump directly from your carboy into a glass using the siphon.
“What you’re making is a living creature,” says Arendt, “so you need to take care of it.”