Are you thousands of miles from Cornwall and miss the taste of real scrumpy cider, or do you just fancy tasting 'Best Pixyland' after reading of it
in Pisky's ATS Story ?
Help is at hand ... here is a way to make your own cider
But firstly, Pisky has to inform you that if you are not legally allowed to drink alcohol, making your own cider is a very naughty thing to do.
Home Cider Making
First pick your apples. They should be fully ripe, windfalls are excellent. Do not use heavily bruised or damaged apples. After picking, keep in a
cool place for 1-2 weeks to soften the skins. Do not wash or sterilise the apples if you wish the cider to be fermented with wild yeasts. You can
perform this step if you want to ferment with a specific yeast strain, however treatment with sulphur dioxide (see below) will get rid of wild yeasts.
If you have apples which have small amounts of damage you can cut these parts out, but it is not essential and many traditional cider makers avoid
Having matured the apples, you will need to press them. A domestic fruit juicer will achieve this but I know from bitter experience that this is a
laborious time-consuming process, and the return in terms of juice per pound of apples is poor. Much better to buy yourself a wine makers fruit press,
the sturdier the construction the better. Alternatively you can build your own press.
Once the juice is separated from the pulp you must check the pH. If the correct balance of apple varieties is used, this step may be omitted. Few of
us are fortunate enough to obtain the correct types so some compensation must be made to ensure that there is sufficient sharpness but that it is not
overdone. pH should be in the range 3.9 to 4.0. To lower the pH add malic acid (the principal acid in cider). To raise the pH add precipitated chalk.
1 tsp of pectolase per gallon of juice may be added at this stage to ensure that the cider clears. Traditional ciders shun this step and some can look
like cloudy apple soup. Never fear, they still taste great.
If a correct balance of cider apples has not been available it may be that you need to compensate for a lack of sweet apples. Only experience with the
particular varieties available to you will tell. Measure the O.G. (this may be difficult if the juice was not sufficiently well separated from the
pulp). The target O.G. should be around 1055. If not, add sugar to bring it to this level. A good guide to how much to add is 2 1/2 ounces of sugar
will raise the gravity of 1 gallon of juice by approximately 5 degrees. You can either dissolve the sugar in a small quantity of juice and add to the
bulk of the juice, or if very fine (caster) sugar is used, stir it directly into the bulk of the juice. DO not heat the juice or you will get a cooked
apple flavour which will ruin your cider.
Place the apple juice in a fermenting vessel. Traditionally this is a wooden barrel. If these are not available, any suitable wine fermenter would be
fine. Put under an airlock and leave to ferment. Cider is traditionally fermented at whatever is the outside ambient temperature, however, if you are
fermenting with a pure yeast culture it may be better to ferment at the temperature specified with the culture. There are wild yeasts present on apple
skins (so long as they are from an unsprayed orchard) which will ferment the cider naturally. If you wish to ferment with a specific yeast, add 1
crushed campden tablet per gallon of juice and leave to stand, covered, for 48 hours. This will see off the wild yeast. Then pitch with a yeast of
your choice. For a traditional style English cider, use an ale-type yeast.
Check the gravity regularly. There is a tendency to go on fermenting after the desired gravity has been obtained. To prevent this, you can add a
crushed campden tablet to the cider when the desired gravity is reached.
Once the desired gravity is obtained, the cider is ready to mature. Store the cider in glass carboys or other similar container, under airlock. Cider
is usually left in outbuildings to mature. The fluctuations in temperature are not detrimental. In the late spring or early summer following the
making of the cider, it will undergo a malo-lactic fermentation. This will occur when the temperature reaches approximately 15 C. This has the effect
of mellowing the cider, it will lose much of its sharpness. You can add malic acid or acid blend at this point if the cider is not sharp enough for
your taste. Traditional English cider is flat, no attempt is made at a secondary fermentation. English cider may also be served slightly carbonated
analogous to real ale. The target carbonation in this case is 1 volume of carbon dioxide per volume of cider (partial pressure of carbon dioxide of 1
atmosphere). If the cider is to be served slightly carbonated, bottle in beer bottles with 1/2 teaspoon of sugar per pint of cider (dissolve the sugar
in water and add to the cider before bottling).
[Edited on 27-6-2004 by Pisky]