Monday, August 3, 2009

Apple Cider - In four steps, and two ingredients.

For those of you hooked on Pruno, you might want to take note, as this is far easier to make (assuming you AREN'T incarcerated), and much nicer for your pallette.
In my ongoing efforts to trim costs, as well as learn new (read : old) skills, I decided that it was a good idea to brew my own alcohol.
In university, I began by copying the methods of my father, who had dabbled (and still does), with brewing his own beer and wine. Not being a wine drinker, I stuck with beer. And oh what beer we brewed... Chocolate mint beer at Christmas, and then a series of "heavy metal" beers with theme names like Bronze, Chrome, Steel and the dark, weighty "Iron". Exploding bottles and entire fridges filled to the gills with old stubbies are also fond memories of that time.
Anyway, beer is fun, but it does take a fair more effort than I wanted to expend. Boiling the wort, sterilizing hundreds of bottles, vapour locks, carbuoys, caps and cappers... It takes hours of time to really successfully obtain a few cases of beer. Technically, this is still probably a decent investment in time. With the price of a case of swill approaching $30.00, for many of us, that represents an equal number of hours working "for the man" - something I'd always readily trade away to do the work directly for myself.

Enter, apple cider...

Brewing up apple cider is so easy, you'd be nuts NOT to try it after this.

What you'll need :
  1. *pasteurized* apple juice (NOT raw juice unless it's REALLY raw, and has absolutely no preservatives in it)
  2. yeast (Champagne is the best. Bread is the worst. Buy a few packets at your local winemakers for cheap, you won't need much at all. I bought about four packets at least five or more years ago, and I'm STILL using the same yeast. It keeps forever.)
Optional components :
  1. bottles (I have about 48 Grolsch gurdles.)
  2. food grade nylon hose
  3. hydrometer
And the process :
  1. add about 1/4 teaspoon of the yeast to the bottle of apple juice.
  2. cover with something to keep out dust, bugs, wild yeast. (I use those little metal cups in the picture)
  3. wait a week or two, until the bubbles which appear after a few days slow down or disappear.
  4. bottle and/or drink.
As for the extra notes, there's not much, I don't want to make things overly difficult or confusing for myself, or for you... If
you are interested in the actual alcohol content of your cider, you need to use a hydrometer. Take a reading before you add your yeast, and then again when it is time to bottle your cider. Most hydrometers that I have seen already have the potential alcohol scale marked off, so you can just subtract the potential from the final, and the difference is your content. Mine has ranged from about 3.5 to 7, depending on how long I permit the fermentation to last. If you bottle while there are still visible bubbles in the juice, then you will likely get a more carbonated beverage that "pops" when you open it. If you wait until the bubbles are completely finished, the cider will be more flat, but also more potent.
I use a hose to bottle, as you get less yeast and sediment in your finished product, but it's not harmful to drink. In fact, it sounds more like a miracle food!
Serve nice and cold from your fridge, and enjoy the notion of getting a buzz from something that probably takes less effort than making a special trip to The Beer Store!

9 comments:

  1. Just to make it clear, the CO2 given off by the yeast is heavier than air, so it will float on top of the actual cider in the bottle, effectively preventing air from entering, and alcohol escaping...

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  2. I think you have to be a little careful eating yeast. You can set up fermentation in your guts that can give you alcohol poisoning if you eat sweets.

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  3. I laughed out loud at that one! Then I googled it, and see that some people think that it can happen to a dog... I have profound skepticism - it takes a few days before the yeast begins to ferment anything noticeably, and I can't imagine it could survive long enough in your stomach to create alcohol... Wouldn't we be seeing alcoholics eating yeast and bags of sugar if this could actually happen?

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  4. Steven. This is Natalie.

    It can happen to any animal. There's natural yeast in the intestinal tract, but sometimes it can get a bit out of hand, to the point when they can culture it in a lab from your poo. The yeasts thrive in anaerobic conditions and gorge on sugar. People have had raised alcohol blood levels, when they're tee-total, from the little buggers having a party in their bodies, but I don't think an alcoholic would find it very satisfying! If someone already had a yeast overgrowth, then having yeast-laden foods and drinks would be a bad idea, but the idea that homebrew or alcohol in general could cause it, is rather silly.

    We found this link... for amusement www.homebrewtalk.com/f14/yeast-infection-125876

    Steven. This is Chris.

    Bottoms Up!

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  5. p.s. This is Natalie again

    Do you realise that what you're doing is tantamount to apple cider abuse? It wants some rye in it and a big ol' bag of spices :-)

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  6. Natalie, don't be ridiculous. I can't tell you all the ways that that makes no sense, but rest assured, lest you be worried, that there are many.

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  7. But what does it taste like?

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  8. Except for one batch that turned to cider vinegar, something that is endlessly touted as being extra good for you, it tastes like tart, bubbly apple juice with a slight alcohol kick. I quite like it. Much of the sweetness is obviously removed.

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