I started making fruit wines at home to save money, but it turned out to be a fun hobby as well.
You can also customize your wines. I’ve never found a commercial cider that suited my tastes because I find they are too light bodied and sugary for my own tastes. But homemade ciders are a completely different story. You can use pure apple juice concentrate for a dry, full bodied cider. If you ferment the cider with extra sugar, you’ll get an alcohol content similar to wine, which further changes the taste.
Homemade cider is a great beverage for a lot of reasons. Red wine can give headaches. Beer is overly filling with all that gluten. Commercial ciders are overly sweet. But homemade cider is the perfect, refreshing beverage for me.
You can refer to the basic process, A Guide to the Basics of Alcohol Fermentation, and A Guide to the Basics of Alcohol Fermentation Equipment in my other article.
Wine kits are widely available and have all the steps and ingredients necessary, along with concentrated grape juice. The kits include an appropriate yeast for fermentation, clarifying and stabilizing additives and sometimes flavour additives like oak and juniper berries for red wine and elderflower or elderberries for white wine.
For cider, all you need is some yeast (I use champagne yeast since it tolerates alcohol well and won’t stop fermenting early) and apple juice concentrate. I use McIntosh apple juice, that hearty Canadian cold-resistant varietal.
Now you have the proper knowledge and equipment to make wine or hard cider!
- You can substitute the 1kg of refined sugar for 1kg of brown sugar for added molasses flavour and a darker amber colour.
- Applejack is another cider option, which is made by freezing cider and skimming off the water, leaving a stronger liquid behind.
- You want champagne or wine yeast because it’s evolved to consume fruit-based nutrients. If you use beer yeast, you’ll need to add some yeast nutrients for sufficient nitrogen and potassium for cell production. Wine yeast is also tolerant of high-alcohol environments whereas some beer yeasts will go dormant when the environment becomes too alcoholic.
- In beer making, we tend to avoid white sugar because it produces a cider flavour after being consumed by the yeast. This, of course, is not a problem when making actual cider.
- Try adding about 1-2 cups of pear, cranberry or raspberry juice before you start to ferment. Just be sure the juice doesn’t have any preservatives (nitrates, sulfides) that would inhibit yeast growth.
- You can use a starter of the yeast sediment for future brews.
- You can add adjuncts like a few cinnamon sticks and/or cloves for spice or a cup of raisins for body. You can sterilize these adjuncts in a small amount of hot water and add it along with the sugar.