2nd June 2016 –
Do you remember a few weeks ago, I suggested some ways to reduce costs enabling you to make inroads into your savings plan? And one of those suggestions was about making your own booze? Hmmmm, all coming back to you now?
Well, for the past few weeks I’ve been making my own cider following a really simple recipe for making it from ordinary apple juice. I picked this up from a post on Mr Money Mustache’s blog (isn’t that where so many great ideas come from?) and thought I’d share my experience with you.
In fact, the results I’m getting are not bad and have reduced my take-home beer buying expenditure to around $30 a month. Apart from a little up-front cost to purchase the necessary equipment, and around an hour of my spare time, this home-made product is costing around $1.50 a litre. And with a alcohol content of around 6% it’s got more than enough kick to get a smile on your face.
So assuming you, like me, may enjoy a relaxing bevvy at the end of a week, and would rather not pay a fortune in additional revenue to the Government for the privilege, I’m going to share the secrets to setting up your own cider factory.
First things first. You are going to have to get some brewing gear together. Some of it you may well already have in your kitchen but there are a few items that will require a visit to your local home-brew shop.
Equipment you’ll need…..
- 5 litre demijohn (the brewing vessel)
- An air-lock and bung (make sure it has a hole in it for the airlock)
- A small funnel
- Measuring jug
- Measuring spoons
- A bottling siphon and sufficient tubing to reach the bottles on the floor
- Bottles (I recycle 1.25l soft drink bottles, washed and drained)
- Steriliser (because cleanliness is greater than godliness when it comes to brewing)
All of this will cost you around AU$80 as a one-off cost.
In addition (and recommended)…….
- A hydrometer (to measure the alcohol content……very important!!)
- Hydrometer test tube
- Sprayer bottle (for sterilising equipment)
And to make the brew, you’ll need these ingredients….
- 5 litres of apple juice (I use Aldi clear or cloudy apple juice. It doesn’t really matter what you use as long as it doesn’t contain preservatives or additives)
- A packet of champagne or cider yeast (do not use baker’s yeast here)
- Some artificial sweetener (I use ‘Natvia’ brand but any sweetener will do)
- Some white sugar or dextrose (for secondary fermentation)
I also add some additional tannin to the brew in the form of a cup (250ml) of strong black tea. Use two, plain tea bags steeped in boiling water. The additional tannin helps balance the taste and makes it taste more like commercially-made ciders (so I’m told)
Once you have gathered together your equipment and ingredients, it’s time to clear everyone out of the kitchen and turn it into your cider factory.
Give all of your brewing equipment a spray with the steriliser solution per the manufacturer’s instructions. There is nothing that will turn a great brew into a drinker’s worst nightmare than a bacterial infection so make sure everything that will come in contact with the brew, including your hands, has been well cleaned and sterilised.
Then pour 4 litres of your apple juice into the demijohn. If you are using a hydrometer, which will give you an initial reading for your eventual alcohol content, take a sample of the juice and measure it now. Instructions on using a hydrometer can be found here.
Now add your artificial sweetener. How much will depend on your personal preference through trial and error, but I add the equivalent of 12 teaspoons of sugar (12 tabs) to mine which gives it a slightly sweet taste. If they are in tab form, dissolve in a few tablespoons of hot water first.
Sprinkle in a third of the packet of yeast (most yeast packets are sufficient for 20 to 25 litres so a third is plenty). Fill the airlock to half way up both chambers with some steriliser solution. Place the airlock into the bung and then insert it into the top of the demijohn. Job done.
Now the reason we only put 4 litres of juice into the demijohn, initially, is because during the early brewing process, there may be some foamy stuff forming on the surface which will overflow through your airlock. So give it a few days of brewing and once the foam dies down, add the additional litre of juice.
Now place your demijohn somewhere to brew for the next couple of weeks. Ideal temperature is between 18 and 24 degrees although I have been brewing during the Queensland summer and it’s virtually impossible to find a ‘cool’ place at less than 30C. It seems to work okay but not ideal.
Leave your brew for around two weeks so that the yeast can do all of the hard work converting the sugar in the juice into alcohol whilst giving off happy little farts of CO2 which bubble away through your airlock.
You will notice the airlock activity will decrease gradually until it eventually stops but even if it stops before two weeks are up, leave it the full time as it will help mellow the brew as well as allowing any sediment to drop to the bottom.
Now it’s time to bottle.
Again, sterilise everything including the bottles you are going to use and their caps, siphon and hose, and any other equipment that will come in contact with your brew.
Add white sugar or dextrose to each bottle for what is referred to as secondary fermentation. This is where the left over yeast will turn this added sugar into CO2 gas which creates the fizziness in your brew. How much to add depends on your bottle size but I suggest 1tsp for a 750ml bottle or 2tsp for a 1.25l bottle.
A word of warning: Don’t overdo the sugar as you may just create a ‘bottle bomb’ where so much CO2 is created that it bursts the bottle. With plastic bottles you will get a sticky mess all over the floor but with glass you could get shards of broken glass flying in all directions. Not a good outcome.
Place your demijohn on a bench, being careful not to stir up the sediment at the bottom, and put the bottles on the floor ready for filling
Set up your siphon and tubing and start filling each of the bottles so that they are filled evenly. I tilt the demijohn to get the last of the brew as my siphon has a device on to ensure sediment is not sucked up the tube.
If you are using a hydrometer, now is the time to measure your specific gravity using a sample taken from the demijohn while filling the bottles. The sample can be returned to the bottle when measuring is done. Write down the result for later calculation.
Almost done now. Cap the bottles, tightly if the screw type, and give them a good shake to mix the sugar/dextrose. Date or number the caps (so you know which batch you’re drinking) and place in a cool dark place for at least two weeks to gas-up.
Then thoroughly clean all of your equipment. I usually put another brew down immediately so a good rinse with hot water and then rinse with the steriliser. Do the same with the airlock and bung.
To calculate your alcohol per volume, the best idea is to use an online calculator like this one that will do all the hard work for you.
The longer you leave your brew to mature the better, but if you’re anything like me, two weeks is about as long as it gets.
Then at last, the good bit (well, the best bit really), DRINKING YOUR BREW……..
Chill your bottles in the fridge making sure not to stir up the sediment. It won’t hurt you if you drink it but aesthetically, it doesn’t look that good.
Finally, enjoy the fruits of your labour and reflect on the fact that not only is this one of the cheapest drops around, but you actually made it yourself. Cheers!!
Let me know how your brewing experience goes and feel free to share any suggestions you may have in the comments.