Alcohol for the People - dirt cheap cider

The Evil Chip Nov 17, 2017

  1. The Evil Chip

    The Evil Chip First Fill-Up (of many)

    Virginia (sad to say)
    One of the challenges that I've wanted to take on as a home brewer is to figure out a way to brew a beer that is easily crafted, delicious, dirt cheap, uses minimal equipment, and relies on readily available ingredients.

    As fate would have it, I had a discussion of all things alcohol with a local zymurgy expert a few years ago that yielded a eureka moment. The answer to cheap, readily available home brew is not beer at all, but hard cider. Aka fermented apple juice. Using the process I outline below, you can make a delicious alcoholic beverage for a little less than a dollar a liter. You can buy the most important ingredients at the grocery store And you can make it in about two weeks from start to finish. Total cost of special equipment to craft you hard cider? Less than $3 dollars. Total time investment one or more batches done simultaneously? About 20-30 minutes. And the $3 worth of equipment is reusable for an indefinite number of batches.

    So assuming that you would like to quit paying $7 or more for a six pack of mediocre brew, let's start with the basics of brewing your own hard cider. You will need to stop by a home brew store or mail order a few special tools and ingredients.

    Special equipment/ ingredients :

    -Small universal rubber stopper(drilled). Less than $1.50
    -Plastic air lock. I prefer the S type . Less than $1.50
    -Brewing yeast. I prefer dry ale yeast. Safale 04 is good. Less than $4 for a packet that will make upwards of 6 batches.

    Grocery store stuff

    -3 quart plastic bottle of 100% apple juice. The cheap stuff that you can get in plastic bottles at WalMart works great. The price for the cheap stuff should be less than $3.00. **important: get the apple juice that doesn't have preservatives.**Stuff like sodium benzoate will kill your yeast and the fermenting process won't work. Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is fine as an additive/ preservative and won't hurt your end product.

    -Domino sugar cubes.

    Other tools that you will have around the house:

    -Left over, washed out 1 liter plastic soda bottles with caps. Seltzer bottles work well.

    -Bleach for sanitizing

    -A small 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon

    -Funnel (nice to have).

    How to brew.

    The nice thing about this method is that it doesn't involve cooking. The apple juice that you're using has already been pasteurized, so the ingredients don't need to be cooked like beer does.

    Step 1. Set up and sanitize your equipment. As with any home brewing venture, the key to getting a good batch is cleanliness and sanitized equipment. For most home brews, bacteria is NOT your friend; it will add a nasty taste to your brew. Needless to say, wash your hands. Anything that comes into contact with your brewing ingredients should be sanitized at his juncture:

    -plastic airlock
    -rubber stopper
    -small 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon

    There are all sorts of sanitizing agents out there, but the good old standby of a few tablespoons of bleach in a couple gallons of water in the kitchen works just fine. Take the equipment that will come into contact with your home brew and soak them in bleachwater for say 5 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and let dry on some clean paper towels. Be sure the measuring spoon is dry.

    Step 2. Prepare your cider mixture. Open the bottle of apple juice (room temperature) and pour off about a cup of apple juice. Drink it or throw it away; you need some airspace in the bottle for fermentation. Now recap the bottle and shake the apple juice vigorously. What you're doing is aerating the apple juice. Yeast needs oxygen for optimal fermentation.

    Now, one thing to consider at this point is whether you want a sweeter cider or a drier cider. If you like a dry cider similar to the original Strongbow, you'll not add any sugar at this stage. If you like a sweeter cider such as Woodpecker, add 8 sugar cubes to your cider at this stage. Cap the apple juice and shake it some more to dissolve the sugar a bit. I personally prefer a drier cider. If you don't know what you prefer, I'd try it with a couple sugar cubes. You can always add or take away sugar on a later batch.

    Now you're going to pitch the yeast. You're going to measure out roughly 1/4 teaspoon of dry yeast with your small measuring spoon and carefully pour it into the cider.

    Step 3. Fermentation. Replace the cap with the small rubber stopper. Shove it down into the bottle opening and make a good seal. You'll then put on your airlock. To use an S type airlock you'll put in some clean water up to the line at the midpoint. It should be marked. Take the airlock and shove it into the drilled hole in your rubber stopper. What you're doing with the airlock is trying to keep airborne bacteria out of your fermenting cider while allowing the carbon dioxide generated by the fermentation to escape.

    Put your cider mixture aside for one week to ferment. You should keep it in a reasonably warm area at about 65 to 75 degrees. A kitchen counter is ideal.

    4. After a week, your cider mixture should be ready to bottle and condition. You'll be pouring your fermented apple juice into the soda bottle containers which you'll eventually use to serve your hard cider. Bottle conditioning is how you add fizz to your cider making it a sparkling alcoholic drink. All you're doing to generate the fizz is add a little bit more sugar and sealing the soda bottle to allow the carbon dioxide generated by the yeast to carbonate your cider.

    Once again, you'll need to sanitize the equipment that will come into contact with your now fermented apple cider. That means you'll need to sanitize:

    -soda bottles and caps, and,
    -your funnel.

    Use the same methodology for sanitizing this equipment at step 1.

    Your cider mixture will have a good deal of yeast in it at this point. Hopefully, most will be at the bottom of the apple juice bottle. What you're trying to do when bottling is pour off the clear, fermented apple juice while leaving behind as much of the yeast sludge as you can. The yeast won't hurt you, but a clearer cider looks prettier.

    In order to bottle condition you'll need to put one sugar cube for each 12 oz of fermented cider into your soda bottle. So if you're using one liter soda bottles, put three sugar cubes in the bottle. Use your sanitized funnel and fill up each bottle to just below the cap. You want about a one inch gap at the the top of the bottle. Put the sanitized cap on and tighten down. Shake the mixture to dissolve the sugar a bit. Don't worry, the plastic bottle won't explode.

    Once you've completed bottling your cider, you'll put the filled, capped bottles in reasonably warm place as you did when you did the first fermentation of the apple juice. After about a day or two, invert the bottle again once or twice to further mix in the sugar. After a week, the hard cider is done. Chill and enjoy!

    Some notes:

    1. If you want to start another batch immediately you can some of the yeast sludge from the previous batch to start a new batch. Shake up the sludge with the remaining liquid. You'll need maybe a couple teaspoons for the new batch. If you add more, it won't hurt.

    2. The ABV of your hard cider will be roughly 5%, on par with beer.

    3. You can add spices to flavor the cider. Keep in mind, though, that since you're not cooking the cider, its just another way to introduce bacteria. So far I haven't had a problem. But it is a risk.
    Cptpackrat likes this.
  2. Prime

    Prime Some Kind of In Charge? Admin

    Good man. When I'm sober I'll read it again. Where is @obi_krash when you need him? He would appreciate this.
    jg8992 likes this.
  3. jg8992

    jg8992 Hi, my name is Brandon

    Spotsylvania, VA
    Nice. I do Mead every so often. Its pretty much the same process but with honey and water.

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