Apples have always been one of my favorite fruits so it’s not surprising that as an adult, ciders are my favorite type of alcohol to drink. They’re refreshing, not too heavy on the alcohol, and all around delicious (in my opinion).
But alcohol, in general, is pretty expensive so I’ve been looking for ways to brew our own. Unfortunately, I’ve always gotten hung up on the amount of equipment that you normally need to purchase in order to start home brewing and I wasn’t thrilled about the long wait time when I’m not entirely convinced I’m doing it correctly.
So naturally, I was thrilled when I found out you can make spontaneous hard apple cider just with a container of fresh pressed apple cider, a glass jar, some cheesecloth, and about a weeks worth of patience. I bought my apple cider from the farmers market for $5 and I already had the glass jar and cheesecloth so making this was pretty cheap…and with minimal hands on time.
This approach won’t make the cider like you get out of a can (fizzy and sweet) but at $5 a gallon and no real equipment, I believe it’s a good place to start trying your hand at home brewing without all the commitment. (As always, please take caution when brewing anything at home and make sure you do your homework before starting. If I’m ever really in doubt about something, I’ll start over.) The cider that I got turned out to be pretty tart on its own but I mixed it with a splash of fresh apple cider/apple juice to sweeten it up and it was delicious. This approach will also not likely get you a beverage with 5% alcohol and without testing with equipment, I can’t say for sure what I got but by drinking it, I’d guesstimate that it was 3-4% alcohol.
- 1 gallon Unpasteurized, preservative free apple cider (the ingredients should just say “apples”)
Other things you’ll need:
- 1 gallon glass jar or 2 1/2 gallon glass jars
- Rubber band
- Optional: a splash of apple cider or apple juice to sweeten up the final product
1. Transfer your unpasteurized apple cider into your 1 gallon glass jar or 2 1/2 gallon glass jars. (If your apple cider came in a glass jar, you don’t have to transfer anything.)
2. Leave the lid off and place your cheesecloth over the opening of the jar(s).
3. Secure your cheesecloth with the rubber band and place your apple cider on a shelf (I would not place it near other fermenting foods).
4. Let sit for 5-10 days (see below for a day-by-day rundown). You’ll want to check on it daily and start giving it a taste by the 3rd day (or so) to see how it’s coming along. The longer you let it “brew”, the more alcohol you will get but that’s up to a certain point…if you let it go too long, it’ll turn into apple cider vinegar. You’ll want to stop the brewing process (aka: stick it in the fridge or drink it) when it’s tangy and tart but still just a touch sweet.
Note: the length of time to brew will depend on your cider and how warm the spot is where you at brewing it. I’ve brewed this on several occasions now and when my kitchen was colder, it took me about 9 days to get the finished product but then we got a heat wave and my kitchen was pretty warm so that batch only took 6 days.
5. If you’ve let it ferment for a while and it has become very sour-tasting, you can add a splash of fresh apple cider or apple juice to sweeten it up.
How the Days Will Go:
Day 1: Nothing special.
Day 2: You might start to get a few bubbles here and there. If your kitchen is really warm, you could start to get quite a few.
Day 3-5: It should start to bubble enough to look “frothy”. At this point, it’ll probably start to get a “yeast-y” smell to it but it will still taste fairly sweet.
Day 4-7: It’ll continue to bubble and froth but you might also see some of the yeast start to form into these brown spots on top of the cider. If you start getting white mold spots or dark spots, gently scoop them out of the jar. It’ll start to smell a little more “sour” and, more than likely, it’ll start tasting pretty tart as well.
At this point, you can start drinking it and stick the rest of your jar in the fridge to stop the fermentation process. You can let it ferment a little bit longer if you want a higher alcohol content but be very careful and check on it often…you could wind up with apple cider vinegar if you let it go too long!