Skip to content

    Hard Cider Basics

    This guide will take you through the basics of making 1 gallon of hard cider.

    Download the PDF Version


    • 2 Gallon Plastic Primary Fermenter
    • 1 Gallon Glass Secondary Fermenter
    • Airlock with Stopper
    • Hydrometer with Test Jar
    • Wine Thief/Turkey Baster

    • Spoon
    • Siphon/Racking Cane with Tubing
    • Sanitizer/Cleaner
      • B-Brite/One Step – Cleaner
      • Starsan/Iodophor – Sanitizer
    • Bottles and Caps/Corks
    • Bottling Wand


    • 1 Gallon Apple Juice/Fresh Cider
    • Sugar of Choice
      • Brown sugar/Molasses/Honey
      • Belgian Candi Sugar (beet sugar)
      • Table Sugar/Dextrose (corn sugar)
    • Yeast Nutrient
    • Wine Tannin*
    • Acid Blend
    • Pectin Enzyme*

    • Yeast
      • 71B-1122, Safcider, Mangrove Jack M02, Cote des Blanc, WLP775 – Best for Beginners
      • Nottingham, S04, WLP028 – Beer Yeast to try.
      • Other yeast strains can be used to add complex flavors to the cider base.
    • Campden Tablets (Potassium Metabisulfite)
    • Potassium Sorbate (Needed if back sweetening)*

    * Optional Products

    Cleaning, Sanitation and Fruit Preparation

    Prepping the Juice for Fermentation

    Living in New England we are lucky enough to have many farms and orchards growing and pressing their own apple cider. This guide will not discuss the advanced steps of blending apple varieties, crushing the fruit and finally pressing the fruit into a usable must. Unlike fruit or grape wines, harder fruits like pears and apples do require a bit more work and equipment to break apart the fruit and extract the juices.

    When in season visit your local orchard or farm and pick up fresh cider that has been either UV or Heat Pasteurized. You can also use apple juice from the grocery store. Any time you use fruit that is prepackaged from a grocery store, ensure that it has NOT been treated with chemical stablizers these will not ferment (Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate or any other sufates).

    Prepping the Equipment for Primary Fermentation

    Anytime you are fermenting sanitation should be the most important step in the process. We are trying to grow good yeast and keep the wild yeasts out. Ensure that anything that comes in contact with your juice is sanitized. Taking care of these steps first will help you produce fantastic ciders. Always remember that you cannot sanitize what is not clean. Avoid abrasive scrubbers on the bucket or any chlorine cleaners these can damage the plastic or impart off flavors later on.

    Clean and Sanitize – Follow instructions on cleaner and sanitizer for correct dosing rates.

    • 2 Gallon Primary Fermenter
    • Airlock
    • Spoon

    Primary Fermentation

    Equipment/Ingredients Needed for Primary

    In this example recipe we will be making a hard cider however other fruit juices can be used

    • 2 Gallon Plastic Primary Fermenter
    • Airlock with Stopper
    • Hydrometer with Test Jar
    • Thermometer
    • Wine Thief/ Turkey Baster
    • Spoon
    • 1 Gallon Cider/Apple Juice
    • Yeast Nutrient
    • Campden Tablets (Potassium Metabisulfite) – Use if you are using fresh pressed cider.

    Example Recipe

    1 Gallon Cider/Apple Juice

    ¼ Pound Dextrose or enough until 1.050 specific gravity is reached.

    Safcider Yeast

    1 tsp Yeast Nutrient

    ½ tsp Pectic Enzyme Powder

    1 Campden tablet* (If using fresh pressed cider)

    1. Pour juice into primary fermenter.
    2. Take a gravity reading and add in sugar if needed, stir until the sugar is fully dissolved. The more sugar you add the more alcohol is produced, if you exceed 1.065-1.070 it will taste hot, boozy and unpleasent.

    NOTE: At this point taking a gravity reading is important. Ensure the specific gravity of the must is 1.045-1.050. If the sugars are still too low add additional sugar. Make note of the Specific gravity.

    NOTE: If you are using store bought you juice and NOT fresh pressed cider you can move on to step 5.

    1. Crush Campden Tablet and mix in with the juice.
    2. Cover with the lid and airlock and wait 24 hours before continuing.
    3. Add yeast nutrient and pectic enzyme to the apple must.
    1. Give a final stir of the must ensuring the ingredients are thoroughly mixed, sprinkle the yeast packet into the must.
    2. Place the lid and airlock back on the bucket. Ensure that the airlock has water or sanitation solution in it.
    3. Keep the fermenter in a cool dry location the fermentation temperature should be 68°-74°.
    4. Primary fermentation should take 5-7days or until your specific gravity is 1.000-.998.

    Secondary Fermentation

    Equipment Needed for Secondary Fermentation

    1 week after primary fermentation we can move to secondary. This step will help the cider clarify while also getting it off of the dead yeast and sediment. Fermentation will continue during secondary, it is important that you start to reduce the head space in the fermenter, over exposure to oxygen will lead to spoilage.

    • 1 Gallon Glass Secondary
    • Airlock with Stopper
    • Hydrometer with Test Jar
    • Siphon/Racking Cane with Tubing
    • Sanitizer/Cleaner
    • Campden Tablet/Potassium Sorbate*
      (If back sweetening is desired)

    Cleaning and sanitizing is still very important in these later steps, when in doubt sanitize!
    The next steps are referred to as “racking” this is the process of moving the wine out of one fermenter and into another. This can be repeated multiple times over the course of fermentation and post fermentation to aid in clarification.

    Starting the Siphon for Racking Cane Users: Connect the tubing to your racking cane, the tubing should connect to the shorter curved end of the racking cane. Fill your racking cane and tubing with clean water or Sanitizer (if you are using StarSan). Place thumb over one end end of the tubing and place the racking cane in the wine. Ensure the exit of the tubing is below the wine, when you release your thumb a siphon is created, run out the sanitizer and put your thumb back over the exit. Now move the tubing to the secondary fermenter and begin filling from the bottom up. Avoid splashing if possible.

    1. Remove the airlock and lid from your primary fermenter and set aside.
    2. Raise the primary fermenter so it sits above the secondary, this will allow the siphon to transfer the wine from the primary fermenter to the secondary using gravity.
    3. Place your racking cane or siphon in the wine, start the siphon and transfer the hard cider from the primary to the secondary fermenter. Try to keep splashing to a minimum, and rest the tubing on the bottom of the secondary fermenter.

    NOTE: Avoid allowing the racking cane/siphon from touching the bottom of the primary as this will stir up the sediment on the bottom.

    1. As the primary fermenter empties you will need to tilt it a bit to get the remaining wine. Do this carefully to not disturb the sediment. If you get some sediment in the secondary it is okay however it might rake a few extra racks to clear completely.
    2. Plug up the fermenter with the stopper and airlock let the hard cider continue to ferment for another week check the specific gravity should be below 1.000 for a dry cider.
    3. After another week in primary the cider should be pretty clear. If the cider is below 1.000 you can move on to bench trials for flavor correction. If the cider is still cloudy you can rack again and let it continue to age until its clear.
    4. If the cider is clear and you like the dry characteristics of the cider you can move on to bottling.

    Bench Trials

    Bench trials are used to adjust flavor profiles in a finished wine. The following can be used when experimenting with flavors in cider. Once you have achieved a flavor profile you like you may bottle or age the wine.

    • Wine Tannin – Used to add a pleasant dry flavor to the cider and town down the sharp flavors.
    • Acid Blend – This is a blend of Malic, Tartaric, and Citric acid. Used at the start of fermentation, but can be used later for corrections. If the acid levels are too low then a cider can taste flabby and bland.
    • Back Sweetening – The method of adding sugars after fermentation. This can only be done if potassium sorbate has been added to the cider. It is important you stabilize the cider before adding additional sugars.

    NOTE: Some of the best ways to add apple character back into a hard cider is to use frozen apple juice concentrate from the store. This will add both sugars and acid back to the cider.

    • Fruit and Spices – Spices like ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg or fruits like lemon, cranberry, even hops can be added. These will add complexity but it is important to stabilize cider if you are using any additional sugars so that re-fermentation does not occur.

    Stabilizing Cider: To stabilize cider use ½ tsp Potassium Sorbate and 1 Campden tablet per gallon of cider.

    Bottling the Cider

    1. Clean and sanitize all bottles and equipment. Corks should be soaked in sanitizer for 15mins before use.
    2. Securely fit the bottling wand on the tubing and connect the other end of tubing to the racking cane.
    3. Start a siphon just like you did in the racking process.
    4. Fill each bottle by depressing the bottling wand against the bottom of the bottle. Fill all the way to the top of the bottle opening. The bottling wand is spring loaded and will seal when not pressed, when the bottling wand is removed it will displace the correct volume of liquid.
    5. Cork or cap each bottle and set aside.

    Note About Bottle Shock: Bottle shock is a temporary condition where flavors are muted or disjointed. Some wines are able to be consumed after a few days. Most wines benefit from bottle conditioning, this gives the wine time to mellow any harsh flavors and have the flavors meld together. It is recommended that most wines be aged for another month or longer.