Imbibe in some cheap, fast cider!

I'll drink to that! | September 1, 2019

There are sites that say you can make wine, beer and cider in a week.  Slower is definitely better, but if you use a fast yeast, it's possible. 

After several experiments, I am making hard cider in my basement. There are places of steady 60F temperature  and a bit more warm varying  65-75F near the furnce.  At these temperatures, the fermentation is effectively finished in about 12 days. Here are tips I from my experience. 

  • Don't ferment above 75F. Hot and fast fermentation will not make a good product and increases the natural occurrence of methanol and off flavors. You don't want that!
  • A one-gallon jug of juice will successfully ferment. I tend to buy 96-oz (3 quart) bottles of apple juice because they are cheaper than gallons. Then I brew a quart of a fruit tea to make up a gallon, and I re-use a favorite gallon jug.  My preferred teas are Bigelow Perfect Peach, Bigelow Lemon Ginger, and Bigelow Benefits Calm Stomach Ginger Peach. My formula is 3 quarts apple juice, 1 quart tea, 1 cup added white sugar, 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon yeast and an optional nutrient. 
  • Don’t fill the bottle to the top. Leave a couple of inches of room for froth.
  • Your fermentation will start more quickly if you add a quarter teaspoon of "Fermax" nutrient to each gallon. Or more simply, add 10 unsulphured raisins. 
  • You don’t need fancy sanitizing chemicals and procedures.  If you don’t believe that, watch How Beer Saved The World.
  • The primary fermentation of your brew generates a lot of gas so you do not need fancy fermentation locks. Put the cap on loosely to allow gas to escape. 
  • In the first day you may not see anything happen. When the fermentation gets going you will see and hear some aggressive bubbling. As the process winds down the bubbles will be smaller and fewer like a mostly flat champagne.  During fermentation the liquid will be cloudy. When it's done the liquid may clear a bit.
  • You might want to buy a wine hydrometer. That’s the most tech you will need.  But once you know your formula, you will probably never use it again.
  • You really do not need nasty chemical Campden tablets to stop fermentation. Safcider yeast is easy and dependable and it politely stops fermenting after you refrigerate your brew. If you use a fast yeast like Lalvin EC 1118 champagne yeast, it won't stop in the refrigerator. It will go on until all sugar is consumed. If the result is too dry for your taste you could add some xylitol or other non-nutritive sweetener.  Personally I prefer the EC 1118 because it's absolutely dependable.  You could also try QA 23 which creates interesting flavors. 
  • Don't hesitate to take a tiny taste to see if the brew is done to your liking. Also, you will need to learn the difference of taste between a brew that is still active compared to one that's sat in the fridge overnight. 
  • If you feel that you stopped too soon, yeasts like EC 1118 are perfectly happy to start up again if you take the jug out of the fridge. 
  • When your brew is done, you can decant or siphon the brew from the yeast remnants. But if you plan to drink it soon, just let it all settle to the bottom. If you are like me, the jug will be empty before the old yeast has any affect on taste.
  • The result is what's called a still cider. If you want carbonation, then you need strong bottles to capture pressure. That's another story...


When I have time I will be back to explain the process.