If you’re at least 21 years old, chances are you’ve already made or, at the very least, have had the urge to make your own booze. Maybe it was in your college dorm, hidden under a pile of dirty clothes. Or maybe you bought a brewing system with your first real paycheck. Or maybe you’ve just dreamed about it and you’ve decided that now is the time to try it.
The problem with the last option, though, is that the price of homebrewing equipment can add up pretty quickly (especially if you want high-quality gear). Carboys, kegerators, countless tubes and siphons — they all cost money. Then, when you screw something up (as you inevitably do from time to time), you’ve not only wasted your money but also your time. That’s where homemade hard cider comes in.
Hard cider is so, so much easier to make than beer, yet the brewing process still allows for just as much creativity and expression. With the right tools, you can prepare a batch of hard cider in just a single weekend. Here’s how it’s done.
From a broad perspective, learning to make hard cider and then actually making it is fairly straightforward. You basically just get yourself some fresh apple juice (either by mashing the apples yourself, or buying pre-squeezed juice), add some yeast (Champagne yeast is a great choice), then wait a few weeks for everything to ferment. There are a few finer points to it, but that’s the overall idea.
What You Need to Make Hard Cider
- 2 1-gallon glass carboys (aka demijohns) with lids
- Bung (aka “stopper with a hole in it,” which are often included with the airlock)
- 1.5-pint glass jar with lid
- Measuring glass
- Siphon hose
- Star San
- Mortal and pestle (optional)
While you might get lucky and be able to score the equipment above on sites like Craigslist, you can look for it the at a local homebrew shop or on websites such as Northern Brewer. Another great option is Amazon — you can find carboy kits with the airlock and bung for about $15 and deals on large-volume carboys.
No matter where your gear comes from, make sure it’s completely sterile. That’s what the Star San is for.