Notes on Hard Cider Making
Add the cider to a primary fermenter with plenty of head space (don’t fill more than ¾ full). We recommend that you add ¼ teaspoon of potassium metabisulfite per 5 gallons of cider at this point to prevent your cider from spoiling or turning to vinegar. Add the sulfite by measuring out the powder, dissolving it in a little warm water, and then stirring it into the cider. You should add this same amount each time you rack (siphon) your cider.
You may add sugar to increase the specific gravity (and the final alcohol content) of your cider. If you choose not to add sulfite, the specific gravity should be over 1.060 to reduce the chance that your final cider will spoil. 1 gallon of juice can be raised 5 degrees or .005 on the specific gravity scale by adding 2.25 oz. of granulated sugar. 9 oz. of sugar is approximately 1 rounded cup and will raise 1 gallon of juice .020 degrees specific gravity.
No crab or highly tannic apples are added to our any of our blends, so you may want to add 1 tsp. of tannin per 5 gallons (optional).
Before adding your yeast, allow the cider to reach room temperature (at least 65 deg F), and make sure it has been at least 3 hours since you added the sulfite. Add 1 packet of yeast for each 5 gallons. You can use a fresh liquid cider yeast from Wyeast or White Labs, or a white wine, mead, ale or lager yeast. If using dry yeast, sprinkle it evenly across the surface of the juice. Do not stir. Add the lid loosely to the fermenter or attach an airlock (partially filled with water) and seal the lid. Primary fermentation should begin in 24-36 hours and should finish in 5-9 days.
After the fermentation slows down, you should rack the cider into a clean carboy and attach a stopper and an airlock. While bulk aging cider, the carboy should always be filled close to the top (~ 1″ from the stopper). Secondary fermentation will now occur, and can take up to 30 days. You will know it is done when the carbon dioxide gas bubbling through the airlock stops. At that point you may rack the cider off the sediment into a clean carboy and add more sulfite. Cider generally benefits from bulk aging for an extended time period, but you can finish and bottle as you see fit.
Ask us for more information if you’d like your hard cider to be either sweet or sparkling.
We have a great book on cider making that can provide you with more information and recipes: Cider-Making: Using & Enjoying Sweet & Hard Cider by Annie Proulx and Lew Nichols.