I’ve dipped my toes into the world of home brewing and I’m a little bit excited – okay, I’m really excited by my first attempt!
I’ve embraced the old-world method of fermenting with the wild yeast already on the skins of apples from our orchard to make unpasteurised apple cider (cider in Australia is also known as hard cider in the USA). I’ve read that this method produces an authentic English style apple cider.
After a fair bit of online searching, it seems most people don’t like to gamble with the flavour produced by wild yeasts so they add a commercial cider yeast to get fermentation underway and have more confidence in the final flavour. But I’m so glad I gave it a go the natural way because I love the taste of what I have produced and it was a super simple process!
I have no idea which apple varieties are in our orchard but after getting such good results from random combinations of apple varieties, I would be happy to try making cider from any foraged apples in the future. In the past I was put off making cider because I was under the impression you needed to use specific cider apples.
I also believed an apple press was essential, not sure why, as it’s only for extracting juice. As I don’t have an apple press and only wanted to experiment on a small scale, I juiced my apples using my juicer (which can cope with whole apples). As a side note, I’m thinking a homemade apple press would be an excellent project for my son to get stuck into.
Finally, I used my growler (1.89L) as my fermentation chamber. The only things I needed to get was an airlock and rubber stopper, and a siphon hose (total $8). I found those in a local store. A while ago, I found in the op shop some big clear glass jars that were like demijohns but when we moved house in October I took them back to an op shop because I didn’t think I’d use them for anything. I am absolutely kicking myself now that I can’t get them back. They would have been perfect for having a few batches on the go at once and doing some experimenting.
What I did
Let me start by saying I am a complete novice and will happily take pointers from others who know more about wild apple cider making than me, but this is what I did, twice now, with great results if you’d like to have a go too.
For my first batch I didn’t wash the apples or sterilise my equipment but for my second batch I decided to do it to see if the flavour improved. There was no noticeable difference in flavour or other qualities.
Rinse apples with water. I gave my apples a quick rinse in water to make sure there were no undesirables on them. I didn’t want to wash too much because I wanted to keep the yeast on the skins of the apples.
Make juice. I put whole apples through my juicer.
Fill demijohn. Pour juice into a sterilised demijohn or other similar jar, like my growler, for fermenting. I left out most of the foam that was generated while juicing, but some still made it’s way in. I don’t think it’s a problem.
Add the airlock. Put a rubber stopper and airlock in the opening of your jar to begin the anaerobic process of yeast converting natural sugars into alcohol. As the yeast becomes active things will get a little bubbly, so if your jar is very full the foam will come out the top and into the airlock making it hard to clean. You don’t want to leave too much air in your jar though.
Leave it for a week. For the first batch I left it in an out-of-the-way spot on the kitchen bench and out of direct sunlight for one week. For the second batch I left it in the pantry for 10 days. You can ferment for longer if you wish. The longer you leave it (e.g. 3 weeks) the more it goes from sweet to dry cider, and from fizzy to still cider. I will continue experimenting to see what I like.
Bottle the cider. Use a hose to siphon the cider into swing top bottles. You siphon rather than pour so that you don’t aerate the cider (leading to the acetobactor present to start converting the alcohol into acetic acid, or vinegar) and avoid the foamy, gunky stuff at the top, as well as the yeasty sediment at the bottom. Unfortunately I wasn’t as careful as I should have been and sucked some sediment into my bottles. It settles to the bottom after a few hours though.
Enjoy! I have no idea how alcoholic the cider was. It smelled strong to begin with but then it didn’t seem very strong to drink. I only had a glass here and there but my overall feeling is that the alcohol content is low because I didn’t add sugar or yeast.
I look forward to developing my home brew skills and knowledge more in the future. Let me know if you have tips or can point me to some good resources.