Making Hard Apple Cider Using Store Bought Apple Juice

Brewing hard apple cider from store bought apple juice is actually a simple process, and the final product tastes just as delicious. To make a large-sized batch of hard apple cider of your own, start by purchasing five gallons of 100% pure apple juice that does not contain any preservatives. Preservatives, especially sodium benzoate, will kill the yeast required to turn it into hard cider.

There are a variety of dry and liquid brewing yeasts available for purchase online, at the market, or in homebrew stores. Special liquid yeast is available to ferment apple juice; however dry wine yeast also works just fine and is relatively inexpensive.

To ensure that that the yeast is alive and will ferment the apple juice right away, it is best to make a starter. This is entirely optional, but to make one, pour out several ounces from a bottle of the juice, pour in one yeast packet, reseal, and shake the bottle for a few seconds. In approximately five or six hours, a bit of bubbling will begin within the bottle. When this happens, open the cap to release the pressure inside it, reseal, and place in the refrigerator. Two or three hours before you begin to brew, remove the bottle from the refrigerator.

When ready to begin brewing, pour the apple juice into a brew pot and simmer it over medium heat for around 45 minutes. This step helps to kill any bacteria or yeast that might be in the juice. If this step is skipped, strains of yeast will remain when the apple juice begins to ferment. While this will change the flavor of the cider, it may not necessarily change it for the better. If the juice is simmered, it should never be brought to a boil as this will cause the cider will be very hazy. While the juice is simmering, two pounds of honey or brown sugar can be added to increase both the fermentable sugar content and the alcohol content.

Before performing the next step, it is crucial to sanitize the fermentation bucket. Actually, it is important that any items used in this process be sanitized. If the bucket is not sanitized, it can actually spoil the cider. No-rinse, non-bleach sanitizers can be purchased at homebrew stores. However, in a pinch, pour a cap of bleach into the fermentation bucket, fill it with water, then let it sit for half an hour or so. Pour out the bleach mix, and then rinse the bucket thoroughly with cold water.

Allow the simmered apple juice to cool down, pour it into the fermentation bucket and then add in the starter if it was made. If not, simply add in the yeast. Stir this mixture for a couple minutes with a clean stainless steel spoon, then seal the lid and affix the airlock. Place the bucket in any room where the temperature remains between 60 and 75 degrees. A lower temperature will not allow the apple juice to ferment, and higher temperatures will cause it to ferment too quickly. Either can also result in significant changes to the flavor of the cider. If at all possible, a constant temperature around 60 degrees is the ideal.

Now the apple juice just needs to be allowed to ferment. Check on the fermentation bucket after a day or two, and the airlock should begin to bubble. Carbon dioxide is being released, and the apple juice should be on its way to becoming hard apple cider. After approximately two weeks, the bubbling should subside meaning that fermentation is done. After that, let the cider sit another week to allow the yeast to settle.

After the yeast has settled, the hard apple cider is ready for bottling. The yeast at the bottom of the bucket should not be disturbed as this can cause the cider to become cloudy. The hard cider should be bottled by affixing sanitized food-grade tubing to the spigot on the fermentation bucket, pouring the cider into sanitized bottles or jugs and then sealing them. The bottled hard apple cider should sit for about two more weeks before it is ready to drink. Ideally, hard cider should age for several more months since it improves with age like wine and beer.