Cider Recipe – Pumpkinhead Cider

02 Aug

Pumpkinhead Cider capSeasonal brews can become great annual traditions: fruit-filled drinks for the summer, spiced drinks for the winter, and so forth. The catch is that you have to plan ahead. If you want a good Octoberfest brew, you need to start making it no later than August! If you start one now, it will be ready to drink well before Halloween.

With that in mind, I present a new seasonal cider for your enjoyment: Pumpkinhead Cider. I made a test batch last year and am starting a new batch now. This recipe combines standard cider ingredients with most of the ingredients for a pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie filling is a great shortcut for a pumpkin-based brew because it includes the spices needed to make the pumpkin flavor stand out.

Remember, you can tweak my recipes to your own liking. I included a few options in the recipe below. For example, to keep the dark, rich flavor and color associated with most breweries’ Octoberfest varieties, I recommend using either brown sugar (medium darkness) or molasses (very dark) instead of white sugar. I have tried molasses in the standard Panda Beer with great success. I am also trying out different acid blends, which bring out different aspects of the apple flavor.


  • 6 gallons apple juice
  • 1 cup brown sugar or molasses (your choice)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 30-oz. canned pumpkin (one large can)
  • 60-oz. pumpkin pie filling (two large cans)
  • 2 Tbs. malic acid or an acid blend (try 2 tsp. each of malic, tartaric, and citric acid for a sharper flavor)
  • 2 Tbs. vanilla extract
  • 2 Camden tablets (150 ppm)
  • Champagne yeast (such as Lalvin EC-118 or Red Star Pasteur Champagne yeast)
  • Dissolved in two cups of warm water and added right before bottling:
    • 3/4 cup priming sugar
    • 3/4 cup lactose
    • 3/4 cup maltodextrin
  • Follow standard brewing procedureswith a slight variation:
    • When starting the batch, pour all of your pumpkin into a mesh bag (nylon or muslin), tie it shut, and simmer it for 20 minutes in apple juice. Put the bag of pumpkin in your brewing bucket for the first stage and then dispose of it when you rack the cider into a clean carboy.
    • If you don’t have an appropriate bag, you can add the pumpkin straight to the juice; the only drawback is that you will probably end up with more pumpkin sediment left in the cider.

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  1. Eric

    07/12/2013 at 12:40 pm

    Do I need to put both the canned pumpkin and the pumpkin pie filling in the muslin bag and boil?

    I am excited to start this brew – is there any commercial product with a similar flavor?

  2. Eric

    08/13/2013 at 2:14 pm

    Ok, I have this recipe in bottles – first tasting in a few weeks. I’m getting hooked on these recipes – I already have a 5 gallon batch of the “Mr. Pink” in primary and I am going to try the Panda Beer next.

  3. kibbles and bits

    03/19/2014 at 6:31 pm

    Hello Drew,
    Looking to start this one next week.
    Saw you made it some time ago and was wondering
    if you’ve made any modification.
    Again, I’m looking to use cider instead of juice
    and was looking to get your feedback, maybe a
    higher ABV?

  4. Drew

    03/22/2014 at 12:49 pm


    I can confirm that this recipe turns out great; it is best after aging for at least 6 months, so it’s a good idea to be patient.

    To make the recipe simpler, it’s fine to eliminate the plain pumpkin and use pumpkin pie filling only (it’s easier to find anyway). The sugar content is different, but you can use my specific gravity calculator to decide how much to add to achieve the alcohol content you’re aiming for.

    If you want to drink this in the fall, I would brew it now!

  5. Drew

    03/22/2014 at 12:57 pm

    BTW, the muslin bag is optional — the bag would reduce the amount of sediment in your finished cider, but you can leave almost all of the sediment in the bottle anyway if you pour carefully. I’ve been adding fruit without the bag lately and have found that you get good results even if all of your ingredients are loose inside the fermenter.

  6. kibbles and bits

    03/29/2014 at 12:09 am

    Made the pumpkin batch on 3/28/14.
    Really increased the sugar content.
    - 4 cups light brown organic sugar
    - 1bs of organic honey
    - 540ml of syrup
    - organic golden raisins for yeast nutrient
    -Lalvin 1116 yeast

    The pumpkin and raisins all went into a cheese cloth bag.
    Heated and steeped for 30 minutes.
    Left the bag in and continued to steep for almost an extra 20 more minutes.
    I then put everything into the carboy except for what was left in the bag, it was going to be too messy and it had steeped enough.
    Gonna add the vanilla tomorrow but right now fermentation is going wild.
    I’ll let you know how it turns out.