How To Make Cider From Your Own Apples or Pears
If you have your own apple or pear tree, or access to a lot of apples, then you can turn your crop into cider quite easily. The hardest part is extracting the juice, but there are several ways you can do this.
Choosing your apples or pears
Unless you have access to an orchard, it’s unlikely that your tree produces cider apples, they will usually be sweet eating apples or sour dessert apples. However, this doesn’t matter, you can make cider from whatever apples you have, you just might need to includes some additives, such as malic acid. Perry, or pear cider is made with a specific variety of pear (the Perry pear) but again you can use whatever you have to hand. Crab apples don’t make good cider on their own, but can be included in moderate quantities in with your other apples.
Preparing the fruit
Late season apples & pears are best for cider, you can even use windfalls. Wash the fruit and cut out any rotten parts, but bruising is fine. Unless you have a scratter (a device to pulp your fruit), you will need to turn your apples or pears into pomace, which is basically a thick pulp. Freezing your fruit, then allowing it to thaw, will make the next part easier and you’ll extract more juice.
There are several ways to pulp your fruit, you can use a blender for small quantities (but don’t turn it into puree), you can use a pulpmaster which consists of a blade in a bucket which you attach to a drill, or you can physically pulp the fruit in a large bucket, using a piece of clean timber – a 4x4 post is ideal. Some people even use garden shredders, but make sure that it is completely cleaned and sterilised, before you use it!
Whatever method you use, it will help if you cut the apples and pears into quarters, before pulping them. As a rough guide, 2kg of apples or pears, will produce 1 litre of juice.
Pressing the fruit
Once you have your pulp, you need to extract the juice. The best way of doing this is by using a press. Presses come in a variety of capacities, starting at 1.5 litres and going up to 32 litres. For a moderate crop from one or two trees, a 5.5 litre press should be sufficient.
Before pressing the fruit, ensure that your juice collection vessel and all your fermenters are sterilised. Add 1 crushed campden tablet to each fermenting vessel, per gallon (4.5 litres) of juice. This will help to sterilise the juice and kill off any wild yeasts and bacteria, which could cause your cider to go off. Place the pulp in the press, and turn the handles until juice starts to flow from the collection spout. Turn the handles slowly, to control the flow of pressed juice – if you try to press the fruit too quickly it can spill out of the press.
Fermenting your cider
Once you have collected all the juice from pressing your fruit, transfer it to your demijohns or fermenting vessel. Don’t fill your demijohn’s or fermenting vessel to the very top, only fill ¾ full. This is because during the fermentation process, a lot of foam can be produced and this can overflow, if the container is too full. If you haven’t already done so, add one crushed campden tablet per gallon of juice (as covered above). You can also add 1 teaspoon of pectolase per gallon of juice. Pectolase breaks down pectin in the fruit and will give you a better fermentation and a clearer cider. If you are using eating or dessert apples, instead of cider apples, you may want to add a small amount of malic acid to give your cider the required acidity. However, this can make your cider overly acidic, so add a small amount to the juice and do a taste taste for acidity. Keep adding small quantities until you feel the acidity level is right. Fit an airlock, half-filled with water and allow the cider to stand for 24 hours, to enable the campden tablet to do its job.
After 24 hours, add the yeast. You can use any white wine yeast, but a champagne yeast will give better results (higher alcohol level). If you prefer sweet cider, you can use a cider yeast with added sweetener. Replace the airlock and allow the cider to ferment – this should take 4 to 5 days but may take more or less time. The ideal temperature range to ferment at is between 18° and 22°C.
After fermentation has finished
The only accurate way to tell if fermentation has finished, is to use a hydrometer – don’t rely on the airlock bubbles (See this guide on how to use a hydrometer). Sterilise a pipette and take a sample of your cider and put it in a trial jar. You may need to take 2-3 samples to fill the trail jar ¾ full. Place the hydrometer in the trial jar and give it a spin to dislodge any bubbles. Once it has settled, take a reading at the cider’s surface. It should be around 0.990, but may be slightly higher or lower. Make a note of the reading, then take a second sample 48 hours later and test again. If the reading has decreased, then fermentation is still active and you need to give it more time. If the reading is constant, then fermentation has stopped.
Storing your cider
You can either store your cider in bottles, or if you have enough of it (5 gallons / 23 litres), then you can barrel it. If bottling, use bottles designed to take pressure, or they could explode. All our bottles are designed for bottle carbonation, but if you are re-using bottles, ensure that they have no chips or cracks and that they weigh over 350g for a 500ml bottle (as a rough guide). Sterilise your bottles, then add ½ to 1 teaspoon of sugar to each bottle. ½ tsp will give a mildly fizzy cider, 1 tsp will give a very fizzy cider. For barrels, use 85g of sugar for a full barrel.
Leave for 2 weeks to carbonate at room temperature, and then another 2 weeks somewhere cool, to condition. If you can leave your cider for 4-8 weeks to condition, it will taste even better, but we know how hard it is to wait! If you prefer your cider to be still, then simply bottle without sugar. We don’t recommend storing still cider in a barrel as the oxygen in the barrel will cause it to spoil, unless you inject CO2 to displace the oxygen.
I hope you found this guide useful. You can find all the equipment, additives, yeast, etc. that you need to make cider on the cider making section of the site.