Homemade cider

The blackberries and sloes may be a big disappointment this year, but there are still LOTS of apples and crabapples in these parts. A few weekends ago, Mr Thrifty and I collected apples and crabs from around 10 different trees, with the goal of turning them into cider. (For any American readers out there: What we call cider in this country is what y’all refer to as “hard” cider in the US of A, ’cause of its alcoholic content and all. That be the stuff I’ll be instructing you on today.)

First the apples were juiced with our Champion juicer. It took a lot of hours to juice them, over a period of two days, and frankly by the end of it I wished not to see an apple for quite some time. Happily, a marathon showing of Only Fools and Horses happened to be on telly, so this alleviated the monotony somewhat.

After we juiced the apples, the specific gravity of the juice was tested with a hydrometer. It’s meant to be between 1.050 and 1.055. Ours was around 1.045, so we added a bit of organic granulated sugar (dissolved first in water), to bring the SG up to 1.050.

The juice was poured into two cleaned and sterilised one-gallon glass demijohn jars. Then the yeast was added. No cider yeast in the house (oops!), instead we used Gervin wine yeast no. 3, which is what was on hand. The packet was divided in half, with each half being started (separately) per the packet instructions (in 50ml warm water to which 1/2 teaspoon sugar had been added). After 20 minutes, the yeast was added to the demijohns of cider.

By the following morning, the cider in one demijohn had fermented so vigorously that foam had bubbled up through the airlock and across the tabletop, making its getaway for the carpet. It was foiled in its nefarious quest, however, and the airlock and bung were cleaned and reinserted.

A sediment quickly formed at the bottom of the demijohns. After two weeks, the cider was racked into another set of cleaned and sterilised demijohns, and the level topped up with more apple juice (which had been left over from the initial juicing and stored in the fridge).

Cider fermenting in the demijohns

You’ll notice in the picture above that one demijohn of cider cleared much quicker than the other, I suppose because one had more “sludge” from the bottom of the fermentation bin when the demijohns were filled. The cloudy and clear batches were distributed half and half into the second set of demijohns, and both ended up clearing the same.

After another two weeks, the cider was sampled and found very fit to drink. The yeast had finished consuming the sugar! It was completely dry (i.e. unsweet), but we decided against sweetening it at this point. It was syphoned again into cleaned and sterilised 2-litre glass jars (former Westons Scrumpy cider jars).

A very successful first try at cider making! Since the apples were foraged for free, the only cost was the yeast (£1.15, which did two gallons) and a bit of sugar (only about 15p worth). That works out to £1.30 for four two-litre jars of cider, which would cost £16 at the supermarket, or £9.60 from a local cider farmshop.

I like to mix a bit of sugar into each glass of cider immediately before drinking it, as I prefer cider on the sweet side.

Since then another gallon has been started, in much the same way, except the apples were juiced as they were picked, the juice then frozen in glass jars (former 700g passata jars)  until enough was collected for another gallon. (This turned out to be seven passata jars.) Also, proper cider yeast was used. Tasting remains to be done on this one.

So here’s to a little less tax being handed over to Gordon & Co. Cheers!


  1. Now you’re talking!
    I LOVE home made cider.

  2. I’m a novice, and mine always turns out completely dry too, but I prefer it like that. As I understand it, however, if you brew it for a slightly shorter time, some of the original sugars from the apples will still remain, giving you a sweeter product. Timing would be the key.

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