First time Cider Making

When I found myself picking apples in a beautiful south-German orchard in early September, I wondered what could all be done with the large amounts of organic, delicious apples. Eating, sure. Baking, yes. But wouldn’t Cider be the ideal way to refine the apples’ potential? Only problem: I had never done Cider or anything alike by myself. Normally I use my kitchen (besides ‘normal’ cooking) to experimente with confectionery recipes. Now it’s cider as well…

First time Cider Making - apples from the south German orchard First time Cider Making – Hand-picked apples from the south German orchard I took along to Amsterdam for first cider making trials.

As usual I went along by starting with learning-by-reading before switching to learning-by-doing. Apart from a number of resources in the internet I had a look at many books and picked out two that turned out to be well-made and very helpful. “Cider – hard & sweet” by Ben Watson and “The new cider maker’s handbook” by Claude Jolicoeur.
What I learned form those books was that cider making luckily enough is not overly complicated in terms of equipment or techniques1. Similar to many other traditional fermented foods the product itself inherits the potential to go through all stages towards cider pretty much on its own. The role of the cider maker is more to properly select, steer, and control the entire process. In principle freshly pressed apples will already contain all microbes and enzymes needed, especially wild yeasts which turn the sugar into alcohol. In many cases, however, cider makers want to get better consistency and control, so they will kill the wild yeasts by adding sulfite and later add a more pure, cultured yeast type. This seems to be a quite important choice, since apart from the apple variety the type of yeast apparently has a quite important influence on the final flavor profile2.
For my first tiny tests I decided to start with a compromise, no sulfite so that the natural wild yeast will remain. But I added a cultured yeast in the hope to end up with one dominant type of yeast (the one of my choice).

Most improvised setting to press apples using cutting boards and screw clamps.
Most improvised setting to press 5-6 kg of apples using cutting boards and screw clamps. Ugly picture, horrible setup. But it worked. Don’t ask me about efficiency though.

I improvised a little to get the juice of some few kilograms of apples using stuff I had around. Main thing I learned from that: Better get a proper apple press! The improvised setup worked but in the end (cleaning included) it probably cost me about an hour per liter of apple juice! What a crap idea….. anyway.
I also made a second batch using a regular household juice extractor, but I am not sure if that’s exactly the same thing. The most important part in apple juice extraction for cider making seems to be that you don’t kill all the microbes by heating or filtering, because the microbes will be responsible to ferment the jucie and to develop a complex flavor profile. Both the pressing of the apples and the centrifugal juicer don’t use heat, so that should be fine. But juice from pressed apples seems to be much clearer and has notably less of the fruit puree in it. I’ll see if both things work equally well (or bad).

Less improvised setting using a household centrifugal juice extractor.
Less improvised setting using a household centrifugal juice extractor.

Now that the fresh juice is ready, the only real piece of special equipment is needed: a hydrometer to measure the sugar concentration. And ideally something to measure the pH as well. The higher the sugar concentration the higher the final alcohol content will be. Both high alcohol and high acidity (= low pH) will help to preserve the cider by keeping unwanted microbes away. Sugar and pH were both fine…3 now my cider experiment is occupying half of the fridge were it -hopefully- ferments to a delicious or at least drinkable first homemade cider.


  1. That means: in theory. I am sure that making a great cider can be a fairly complicated thing… I’ll see… []
  2. I am really looking forward to test this in more detail by making different batches using different yeast strains. []
  3. Both batches had a sugar concentration of about 130g/L (density of 1,050) which should give around 6-7% alcohol if processed until dry. I used a ‘Steinberg’ yeast for the first batch and a ‘Champagne’ yeast for the second batch. []

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