Hard apple cider is much easier to brew on your own than beer, and in my opinion, tastes a lot better as well. You have the option of making hard cider from your own homemade non-alcoholic apple cider, or using fermenting non-alcoholic cider purchased from a store. Either way, the result will be delicious. However, I find that homemade apple cider makes the best hard cider. Another great option is to purchase fresh apple cider from a local cider press. This way, you can support a local business and use a high-quality ingredient for your brewed apple cider. The most important thing to remember when choosing non-alcoholic cider is to steer clear of any chemical preservatives, as these will prevent your cider from fermenting. Preservative-free cider is best found at an apple orchard or cider press, although you may be able to find apple juice without preservatives at the grocery store. If you decide to get your juice at the grocery store, try to find organic or natural brands, as they work better for hard cider and are less likely to contain chemical preservatives.
Besides cider or apple juice, the most important ingredient for making hard cider is yeast. You can use special liquid yeasts made specifically for brewing hard cider, or dry wine yeasts, which can be found at most homebrew stores. You may also want to add sugar or honey to sweeten your cider. I find brown sugar to be the best for home brewing hard cider. Another optional ingredient is pectic enzyme, which can be added to eliminate the hazy appearance that home-brewed hard cider often has.
To begin brewing, simmer the cider or apple juice on medium heat for at least half and hour. This will eliminate and bacteria or wild yeasts from your cider, which is especially important if the juice you’re using isn’t pasteurized. If you don’t want your cider to look cloudy, make sure it doesn’t boil. After half an hour, add brown sugar or honey if you wish, and let the cider simmer for another ten minutes. After heating, pour the cider into a fermentation bucket. It is best if you sanitize the bucket with bleach before putting cider in it. Allow the cider to cool until it is slightly above room temperature. This is the time to add yeast and stir it into the cider.
Once you’ve put liquid or dry yeast into the apple cider, you will want to find a warm closet or cupboard for it to ferment in. The ideal temperature for fermentation is about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid overly warm areas, as they will ruin the flavor of your cider. Cold rooms also won’t work, as they will prevent the cider from fermenting at all. Make sure to completely seal the lid of your fermentation bucket before storing it. In most cases, cider will need between two and three weeks to completely ferment. Check the fermentation bucket often to see when it finishes bubbling. Once the bubbling has ended, the cider will need between five and seven more days to finish fermentation. Afterwards, you have the option of siphoning the cider into a secondary fermentation bucket and letting it sit another two weeks. This will reduce the hazy appearance of the cider. You can also add a brown sugar syrup to the fermented cider when siphoning it off into the secondary fermentation bucket, which will result in a delicious sparkling cider. Or, if you are impatient to drink your hard cider, you can pour off the fermented cider into sanitized bottles right away. Your hard cider is ready to be enjoyed!