How to Make Your Own Hard Cider

Categories: How To

All photos by Rob Christensen
I really love the culture around home brewing: It's a great excuse to get together with people, drink, and make something. The only problem is that I don't love beer. I do love cider, though (call it my sweet tooth, the historical connection with our founders, or how easy it is to drink). So after a home brew party last year, I started contemplating brewing my own cider. And I quickly found that making basic hard cider at home is easy--really easy. Like no boiling or major cleaning or major set-up involved.

Cider week is over, but cider season is still going strong. And if you like DIY projects (or cider and drinking), you can use this recipe, the first I used to make my own cider, which is especially good for the person who wants to give cider-making a shot and doesn't want to spend too much money or time on a (delicious) science experiment.

This process will cost about $15 and make about 10 12-ounce bottles of cider. The whole thing takes 20 minutes to get started and then a couple weeks to complete fermentation. And experienced cider-makers will note that there are short cuts here (like pasteurized juice--don't hate) but this is a good introduction.

To start, buy a gallon or two of pasteurized apple juice with no preservatives ($7 to $8), a packet of yeast ($3), and air locks with #6 rubber stoppers ($4). Find a big bowl, and to make it easier, pick up some Star San sanitizer (or bleach), a bucket, tubing, and a funnel.

You can buy the apple juice in almost any grocery store or farmers market; in stores, you'll find sweet blended apple juices that will work just fine for cider. For locals, New York is the only state that requires apple producers to heat or UV treat (a.k.a. pasteurize, but the farmer won't use that word) their apple juice, so all fresh farm apple juice from this state is good. UV-pastuerized treated juice does taste better, but heat-pasteurized juice will work fine, too.

You can buy yeast at your favorite local brew shop (I recommend Brooklyn Homebrew or online at, and what you pick up will depend on what the brew store carries. If your shop has it, I would start with Safale S-04 or Nottingham yeast. These work with just about any juice and are pretty easy to find. You can also use Safale S-05, and cider and some champagne yeasts will work, too, but be forewarned that they aren't as reliable for this juice. The brew shop is also where you should grab a small #6 rubber stopper with a hole in it and an air lock (I like the three-piece one because it's easier to clean). The air lock keeps the bottle from exploding and wild yeasts from mucking up your cider.

As a bonus, I strongly recommend you get three to six feet of PVC tubing and a small bottle of Star San sanitizer, because each will make your life easier.

Process on the next page.

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help

This was the fav drink of the colonies.  Geo Washington used to make a lot of it and then distilled it further to make an apple vodka. Your political ancestors drank ale for breakfast, lunch and wine for dinner - if they had the cash.  Cider was a way to use the apples that were too plentiful to eat. Turn them into booze and they lasted a long time. Liquor was money, and did not spoil; could be transported.  When the US formed, one of the fist direct taxes was on making liquor. That meant apple cider.No one in the boonies (the US was 90 percent agrarian) had cash to pay the tax, so the first rebellion against the US government was based on booze taxes.  If you make a lot of this (not very much) without paying the tax, you are in trouble with the ATF and the state.  You are a moonshiner and they are the "rev'nooers;"  see where NASCAR came from: fast cars to beat the cops.  Making cider should be taught in all high schools in chemistry to show how natural booze is and how the colonies matured.  I've enjoyed very warm (not hot) "new" cider during wild, freezing weather; cinnamon and honey, a few pretzels, then back on the sled - a New Hampshire paradise many years ago. I also had a cider made from orange juice. Ouch; awful. I suppose it is illegal for a kid to drink any, probably need to be 21 now. If you give any to a kid under 21, you are probably breaking the law. But then, everything is illegal today. Greetings to our friends at NSA who are reading this excellent column, too.

Trent Steel
Trent Steel

Ha ha ha... we used to do this when underage in high school! Packet of yeast, a balloon, a bottle of anything with sugar. Wait a couple weeks and you can get drunk. Kept the bottles in my friend's room, locked in a trunk. His mom heard it hissing and wondered what was going on. :)