One of my favorite things about fall is the reappearance of crisp hard ciders. There’s just something about this apple-flavored beverage that feels so right on a chilly fall day!
Of course, everyone else loves hard cider, too, and sometimes the store shelves come up empty.
That’s why I prefer to make my own hard apple cider at home. Chances are you’ve seen a few video tutorials for at-home brewing, but some recipes can seem a little, well, over the top.
Lucky for us hard cider lovers, one of the easiest ways to start playing around with home brewing may be making your own homemade hard cider. With just two ingredients you can prep a gallon of homemade hard cider in less than 20 minutes!
Sounds exciting, right? My mouth is watering just thinking about that homemade hard cider! Try your hand at making your own by watching my video tutorial below and following my in-depth, step-by-step directions below. Bottoms up!
Looking for a fall-flavored libation? Check out our recipe for an Apple Pie Martini!
Homemade Hard Apple Cider Recipe Video
Hard Apple Cider Brewing Equipment
I visited dozens of websites and chatted with a variety of fermenting experts to get this list down to a minimum. Though you can technically make hard cider with only a carboy jug and balloon, there are some safety and sterilization precautions worth paying a little extra for.
This is the list of must-have starter equipment, most of which you can find online or at a fermentation supply store. The entire set of which will cost you just around $50. Though this may seem like a hefty initial investment for a single gallon of hard cider, keep in mind that you can make hundreds of batches once you’ve invested in the basic setup.
Here’s what you’ll need to make your own homemade hard cider:
- 2-pound fermenting bucket
- 1-gallon carboy
- Odorless, tasteless sanitizer
- Fermentor lock
- Plastic tubing for siphon
Most experts would also add a hydrometer to this list. Though not necessary to cider making, hydrometers are the only way you can determine the precise finishing time of your fermentation and the alcohol content of each batch. If you’ll be making more than one batch, purchasing a hydrometer is highly recommended.
Brooke’s note: If you feel more comfortable grabbing all the items you need in one go, I used this Hard Cider Starter Kit to make my second batch.
Hard Cider Ingredients
To make basic hard cider, here’s all you need:
- 1 gallon of preservative-free apple juice
- 1 packet of ale yeast
Don’t forget to check for Tree Top® coupons before you shop for preservative-free apple juice!
Though you can purchase fresh apple juice and apple cider from local markets and pick-your-own farms, store-bought apple cider will save you serious pennies and doesn’t have to go through the finicky process of pasteurization. Plus, store-bought apple juice produces a perfectly delicious batch of cider. Remember, your cider will sit and ferment for two weeks! You’ll hardly be able to tell the difference in taste between expensive home-grown apple cider starter and affordable bottled juice.
If you do want to upgrade the flavor by creating a gourmet batch, try adding several slices of fresh ginger to your apple juice. You’ll get a pop of delicious autumn flavor and it costs less than $1 to add this delicious little touch!
Homemade Hard Cider Recipe
With equipment and ingredients all ready, it’s time to prep your batch of cider! Here’s how:
Step 1: Sterilize the bucket
Pour 2 Tablespoons of sterilizer into your bucket. Add all of the parts and pieces that will touch your cider, including the fermentor lock, so they can also be sterilized.
Place the lid on your bucket and shake. You want to completely coat the interior of the bucket with sterilizer.
Remove the lid from your bucket and pour out any excess sterilizer. Gently remove the fermentor lock (and/or any other sterilized parts), placing it on a clean plate until ready to use.
Step 2: Add the apple juice
Pour apple juice into your sterilized bucket. It’s that easy! You can slosh it around and add in ginger or cinnamon. Now’s your chance to get the apple juice all ready to go. Transfer the bucket to a warm, safe place. Moving it to the area where you plan to store it will help with the next step.
Step 3: Sprinkle on the yeast
Open one packet of yeast and sprinkle it in a thin layer on top of your juice. Do you need more than 1 packet of yeast? A good rule of thumb to follow is:
1 gallon apple juice = 1 packet ale yeast
At this point, do not wiggle or shake the bucket. You want that yeasty layer to stay put on top!
Step 4: Cap it & lock it
Gently secure the lid of your fermentor bucket into place. You want the lid to be fully closed, creating an airtight environment for your cider.
Now press the fermentor lock into place. Use a small amount of water, juice, or liquor to fill the lock about half-way full. Most fermentor locks have a “fill line.” Add enough liquid to reach that line.
This little lock will help bubbles from your cider escape as it ferments. In less than 24 hours, you should see bubbles moving through it. That’s totally normal, and exactly what you want to see. Bubbles in the fermentor lock indicate the yeast is turning sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Step 5: Ferment for 2-3 weeks
Depending on the temperature in your room, the fermentation process will take anywhere from 2-3 weeks. You’ll know your cider is ready to bottle when there are no more bubbles coming out of the fermentation lock.
Step 6: Bottle your cider
Once the fermentation process is finished, it’s time to transfer your cider to a jug. Start by sterilizing this next set of equipment, as you did with the fermentation bucket. Coat the jug, stopper, siphon, and plastic tubing with 2 Tablespoons of sterilization liquid. Allow them to dry before filling with cider.
Open the cider bucket. The yeast will have fallen toward the bottom of your bucket so that all of that delicious cider is sitting on the top. Gently place the siphon about three quarters of the way down the bucket, attach the plastic tubing and give it a little pump (follow the directions which come with your siphon unit).
Try to keep the siphon from sucking the yeasty mixture at the bottom of the bucket. As you get closer to the bottom, you may need to gently tip the bucket to the side in order to pool the final cider together and get it into the jug while keeping the yeast in place.
Try this! With cider siphoned out of the bucket, you can instantly start the whole process over again! Simply pour 1 gallon of preservative-free apple juice into your bucket, cover, replace the fermentation lock, and make more cider!
Additional batches will ferment much more quickly, because the yeast will be highly active from all that fermentation.
Step 7: Serve and enjoy!
Keep your homemade hard cider in the fridge until ready to serve. When it’s time to enjoy, pour it into a glass or bottle and share with friends! Though most states have laws that keep you from selling homemade liquor, there’s no law that should keep you from enjoying it in your own home!
Do you make your own homemade hard cider at home?
We’d love to hear your tips and tricks for making an even better batch of easy hard cider! Leave us a comment below and chime into the conversation!