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Making Hard Cider

Please note: We cannot answer your individual questions about how to make hard cider. Instead, please consider joining the Cider Digest e-mail forum for cider makers and other folks interested in cider.

In the past few years there has been a tremendous interest in "do-it-yourself" wine making or hard cider. It seems to be a family affair with the entire family working together in the preparation, then watching the chemical reaction take place.

Making alcohol from the juice or fruit is done simply by letting the yeast in the juice change sugar to alcohol. This reaction must take place without air. If air comes in contact with the juice, the sugar will change quickly from alcohol to vinegar. When sugar goes to alcohol, a gas (CO2) is produced.

Home Apparatus

For the average person making hard cider, glass or plastic gallons or five gallon jugs, or clean wooden barrels, are satisfactory. An air lock is needed to keep air out and let gas produced by the reaction escape. This can be done by purchasing an air lock from wine makers supply merchants. Another method is to drill a hole in the bottle stopper, insert a plastic tube that fits tightly, and put the other end of the tube in a container of water. This will let the gas bubble out and keep air or oxygen from getting in.

Steps in Making Hard Cider

  1. Secure apple cider without preservative. Most apple cider for hard cider should be a blend of 3 or more varieties.
  2. Fresh cider should be in clean containers. Wooden barrels make the best hard cider as the wood breathes and gives the cider proper aging.
  3. To the cider add 1lb. of sugar per gallon for a dry hard cider (not sweet) or 1 1/2 lbs. for a sweet drink. Honey can be substituted for sugar on a pound per pound basis. Sugar and honey should be dissolved by warming some cider and mixing the sugar and honey until completely dissolved; then mix with the cider.
  4. Natural yeast in the juice will ferment the sugar to alcohol. Yeast need not be added, although it can without any problem. Some fermentation processes call for killing all the yeast in the pure cider with sulfur dioxide, waiting 24 hours and then adding wine yeast. For the homeowner this is not necessary.
  5. Put air lock on container and keep at 60-70F for a couple of months. Lower temperatures take longer for product to change from sugar to alcohol.
  6. After 2 months the juice should be decanted off (siphoned out of the container), the container washed, and the juice put back into the container. Do not use siphon hose closer than 4" from bottom of container as this is where all the sediment is resting.
  7. After decanting, store at 40 - 60F in a wooden barrel and wait for proper aging -- 6 months to 6 years, depending upon desires.


  1. Once juice is in container, the container cannot be moved as it will put sediment back into solution, and the results is a cloudy product.
  2. Beet, grape, raspberry juice, etc. can be added for color.
  3. Raisins can be added for sugar.
  4. If cider is made in a 50-gallon wooded barrel, and you plan to draw it off over a 6-month period, a sulfur dioxide dispensing bung should be put on top bung hole once barrel is in use. This keeps the air space germ free and prevents off taste on the last used product.

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