Cider from Scratch
This weekend we made cider from scratch for the first time. The process is pretty simple, provided you have a sufficiently powerful juicer.
We started with 10 pounds of McIntosh apples. These may not be ideal for cider, but they happened to be relatively inexpensive at the supermarket. We’ve gotten relatively good results fermenting raw apple juice that was intended to be consumed as a soft drink, so we thought crushing raw table apples was worth a try.
Our juicing/crushing setup consisted of a Champion juicer and two 1-quart pyrex bowls. It took us about 30 minutes to work through all of the apples, and we tried grinding the resulting apple pulp twice to improve our yield a bit (I probably wouldn’t repeat this; we didn’t get a lot of extra juice). I’m not sure if I would recommend the Champion for working through more than about 50 pounds of apples. It is slower than other cider equipment, but much smaller, cheaper, and easier to repurpose for other projects.
Before the apples can be ground up, they have to be cut into wedges. This part went pretty fast; 5 cuts per apple.
This is what the apple juice looks like immediately after grinding the apples; white, opaque, and very pulpy.
We added pectinase enzymes from our local homebrew shop, and waited an hour. By this time, the cider had oxidized and changed to a more familiar brown color. A trip through a cheese-cloth like grain bag removed the last of the large pulp. The pectinase makes it easier to produce a clear cider (though I have had ciders clear on their own without this step).
At this point, we added half a campden tablet (to kill any unwanted microbes that might spoil the batch) and some yeast energizer. A tiny mortar and pestle is handy for crushing additives like campden tablets, so they dissolve properly.
We also added about 170 grams of honey; we have been making mead lately, and wanted to try a mead-cider combination. After that, we agitated with an immersion blender to oxygenate the juice and fully dissolve the honey.
For yeast, we used a mix of Lavlin EC1118 and QA223. We may have overpitched this time; the fermentation really took off just three hours after pitching.
We’ll have to see how it turns out; if past ciders are any indicator, it should be ready to drink in six to nine months. Cider making is a great change of pace from beer and mead making. I’d estimate it requires about twice as much effort as preparing mead, but is still only about 40% of the effort of making a gallon of beer, and has the advantage that it doesn’t heat up the house. We didn’t get a great juice yield from our apples (about 3/4 gallon from 10 pounds of fruit), but if I had a garden with a few apple trees this would be an easy way to use up surplus fruit.