This is a great way to start brewing hard cider at home. It’s based on my father’s original recipe, and according to his increasingly-unstable demands, the grandchildren (and apparently the rest of us, too) will be referring to him as Shane. His hillbilly cider method was the basis for my first cider recipe, so he’s earned a little homage in the Shane Classic, my simplest and most traditional-tasting cider. Follow these directions and you’ll have drinkable cider in four to five weeks.
The recipe assumes you understand the terminology and have the necessary equipment. If you’ve never brewed before or feel lost, you may want to look at the equipment review and the review of possible ingredients.
- 5 gallons apple juice or apple cider, no preservatives (even Mott’s will work)
- 4 cups white sugar (save additional ½ cup for priming sugar)
- 1 cup raisins
- 2 Camden tablets (150 ppm)
- Wine yeast — consider Lalvin (D-47 or EC-118) and Red Star (Côte des Blancs or Pasteur Champagne)
- 2 Tbs. malic acid — gives apple juice a sharper taste like true cider
- 1 tsp. wine tannins — powdered grape skin that adds flavor, body, and color
Expected yield: 640 oz. (5 gallons) or more, 7.5 – 8% alcohol
1) Sterilize all containers and implements — bucket, spoons, airlocks, and lids —with a sterilizing solution (I recommend up to a cup of bleach in a half bucket of water). In theory, everything must soak in this solution for 20 minutes. Rinse everything in hot water and then in cold water to remove any residue.
(Extra tip: in practice, I have found that a quick soak with the bleach solution provides sufficient sterilization if your equipment and bottles are already washed clean. This is blasphemy in most brewing circles, but I’ve found cider brewing to be much less finicky than beer.)
2) Combine all ingredients except for yeast and priming sugar in bucket and cover for 24 hours to let the Camden tablets dissolve. After 24 hours, mix the dry yeast with ¼ cup of warm water and let the mixture rest for 15 minutes before stirring again and mixing the yeast into the cider.
4) The yeast will devour the sugar, producing CO2 and alcohol. You’ll notice that it smells like a bunch of middle-aged apples passed gas. The airlock will begin bubbling after a couple of days. The primary fermentation process will take about two weeks — you can confirm it by testing a sample with a hydrometer (using only sterilized equipment to take your sample). Fermentation is effectively done at a specific gravity of 1.005 or lower; you can also just wait (up to three weeks) to be sure.
5) When primary fermentation is done, siphon the cider with sanitized equipment into another sanitized container, leaving as much bottom sediment behind as possible (see photo for an example) — it’s harmless, but the less the better for flavor and clarity. Stir the priming sugar into the cider.
6) Pour or siphon your cider into bottles and seal them. The priming sugar will be digested in the bottle, pressurizing them and giving your cider fizz (carbonation). Plastic soda bottles are quite strong and will suffice if you don’t have resealable bottles or a bottle capper. Make sure your bottles and caps are sanitized as well (although I’ve never had a problem with unsanitary caps purchased from a brewing store). Expect up to 660 oz. due to additives, so you may need 55 bottles if yours are the 12 oz. variety.
7) Put the bottles away in a dark, cool place — the floor of a closet works nicely. Wait at least two weeks (preferably three) for the cider to carbonate and mellow. The longer you wait, the tastier your first bottle will be. The cider will continue to mature for months, so try it at different stages.
8) When ready, serve cold and pour gently into a glass, leaving the last bit of sediment in the bottle.