The only thing better than hard cider is hard cider you make for yourself. Americans have homebrewed hard cider since the early days of colonization, and it’s a remarkably simple process that I’ll detail below. Books have been written about making cider, so consider this a basic overview.
You’ll need equipment to make decent cider. First up is a vessel to store the cider as it’s fermenting … usually a bucket or big glass jug called a carboy. Next, you’ll need an airlock to let CO2, a byproduct of fermentation, out of the container without letting wild yeasts or bacteria in. To store and distribute the cider after it’s done, you’ll need a bottling bucket, capper, caps, and you’ll need a “racking cane” to move the cider from one vessel to another.
It sounds like a lot, but any homebrew store can help steer you in the right direction. There’s a brand-new homebrew beer and wine store on route 6 in Westport, called Adega Beer and Wine Making Supplies, that will have everything you’ll need. Other local options include Tamarack Wine and Spirits in Lakeville and Adamsville Wine and Spirits in Little Compton. Amaral’s Market on Belleville Ave. in New Bedford carries some supplies, but they focus on wine making and might not have everything.
Crucial point: brewing requires cleanliness and frequent sanitation. The quickest and best way to ruin a batch of cider, beer, wine, or mead is to be unsanitary. I use a bleach/water blend or a sanitizer called Star San on everything that does or could come in contact with my cider/beer/wine/mead.
Next, you’ll need cider. Hard cider CAN be made from apple juice, but cider is the preferred method, as it tends to be more flavorful and natural. There are lots of local places to get cider, with local homebrewers seeming to prefer the cider from Dartmouth Orchards and Flying Cloud in Acushnet. Other local cider mills in the area include Noquochoke Orchards in Westport, Young Family Farm in Little Compton, and three in Acushnet: Makepeace Farms, Peter Family Orchard and Cider Mill, and Silverbrook Farm.
Making the Cider
Now that you have supplies and the cider, there are several very easy methods to turn that cider “hard”. The simplest and most primitive is to put your cider out at room temperature and let naturally-occurring yeasts consume the sugars and turn it into alcohol. Unfortunately, those wild yeasts and bacterias make cider that’s as likely to taste like nail polish as it is a delicious hard cider.
If you want to make GOOD cider, you’ll have to follow up in two weeks (or just read here) to learn how to make cider that’d make John Adams proud.
Originally published on October 10, 2013