How to Make Homemade Fermented Apple Cider

Making and canning your own natural, ferment apple cider is easy.  You can make regular sweet (non-alcoholic apple cider) or hard cider. And if you are planning to make applesauce, you will probably have extra juice from cooking the apples!  Here's how to make your own home canned apple cider (soapple cider jugsme call it apple cider, but it isn't fermented, so I don't think that really applies), complete instructions in easy steps and completely illustrated. The apple cider will taste MUCH better than anything you've ever had from a store, and by selecting the right apples, it will be so naturally-sweet that you won't need to add any sugar at all.

So, what is the difference between apple cider and apple juice? The Massachusetts Dept of Agriculture tells us that  apple cider is raw apple juice that has not undergone filtration to remove coarse particles of pulp or sediment, like apple juice has.  In other words, apple cider is simply raw, unfiltered apple juice. Of course, many people prefer the ferment form, which is what we will do on this page.  If you want the unfermented form of apple cider, see this page instead.

In the commercial cider mill, apples are washed, cut and ground into a mash that is the consistency of applesauce. Layers of the mash are wrapped in cloth, and put into the wooden racks of a press. The hydraulic press squeezes the layers, and presses the juice out, where it is collected and put into refrigerated tanks, which are kept very close to freezing. This juice is bottled, as needed, as apple cider.

Apple juice is juice that has been filtered to remove solids and pasteurized so that it will stay fresh longer. Of course, some apple cider is pasteurized, too.


Prepared this way, the jars have a shelf life of 18 months to 2 years, and require no special attention.


Directions for Making Fermented Natural Apple Cider

Ingredients and Equipment

  • Apples (see step 3)
    or apple juice
  • Yeast (wine or apple cider yeast - see step 1)
  • Pectin enzyme (only needed if you want a very clear cider; if you like the natural "unfiltered" look, you do not need it)
  • Jar grabber (to pick up the hot jars)
  • Lid lifter (has a magnet to pick the lids out of the boiling water where you sanitize them. ($2 at mall kitchen stores and local "big box" stores, but it's usually cheaper online from our affiliates)t)
  • Jar funnel ($2 at mall kitchen stores and local "big box" stores, but it's usually cheaper online from our affiliates)t)
  • At least 1 large pot (at least 8-quart size or larger)
  • Large spoons and ladles
  • Ball jars (Publix, Kroger, other grocery stores and some "big box" stores carry them - about $8 per dozen quart jars including the lids and rings)
  • Sieve:
    • a simple metal or plastic sieve. 
    • colander
  • Filters - if you want filtered juice
    • jelly bag
    • cheesecloth
    • coffee filters
  • 1 Water Bath Canner (a huge pot with a lifting rack to sanitize the jars of apple cider after filling (about $30 to $35 at mall kitchen stores and local "big box" stores, but it's usually cheaper online from our affiliates) You CAN use a large pot instead, but the canners are deeper, and have a rack top make lifting the jars out easier. If you plan on canning every year, they're worth the investment.



Recipe and Directions

Step 1 - Get your yeast

Any of the dry and liquid brewing yeasts will work, and you can find them online (see Amazon boxes at right) or from local homebrew stores. You can buy specialized liquid yeast packs intended specifically for fermenting cider, but dry wine yeasts do an excellent job and are substantially less expensive. Typically a pack  of wine yeast is less than a dollar.)

Step 2 - Make your yeast starter

The day before you intend to brew your apple cider, make a yeast starter. This helps to get your cider fermenting right away; but if you are pressed for time you can go right ahead. To make the starter, pour the contents of one yeast packet into a clean sanitized bottle of your boiled apple juice, reseal the bottle and shake it up. Then set on the counter, room temperature (66 F to 77 F, 18C to 20 C).  You should see a bit of bubbling within the bottle start within 5 to 8 hours. When the bubble starts, open the bottle to releive the pressure, then reseal it and put it in the refrigerator until you are ready to move on to step 3. Do get it out a couple of hours before you brew start step 3 to let it warm up to room temperature again. If you are starting with already made apple juice, skip to step 9.  Otherwise, continue to step 3 to make apple juice from apples.

applesStep 3 - Selecting the apples

The most important step!  You need apples that are sweet - that will eliminate the need to add any sugar.  Most apple cider doesn't have as much natural sweetness or flavor because they use underripe or off-spec apples.  You can choose the best apples you can get and make far better apple cider.  Don't get me wrong, it is fine to use "seconds", as long as you cut out the bruised spots!

If you can, choose apples that are naturally sweet, like Red Delicious, Gala, Fuji, Rome and always use a mixture - never just one type.  This year I used 4 bushels of red delicious and one each of Fuji, Yellow Delicious, Gala and Rome.  This meant it was so sweet I did not need to add any sugar at all.  And the flavor is great! The Fuji's and Gala's give it an aromatic flavor! Honeycrisp and Pink Lady are also excellent, sweet, flavorful apples.

Step 4 - How many apples and where to get them

You can pick your own, or buy them at the grocery store.  But for large quantities, you'll find that real* farmer's markets, like the Farmer's Market in Forest Park, Georgia have them at the best prices.  In 2015, they were available from late September at $14 to $24 per bushel at the real farmer's markets, like the Atlanta-Forest park Georgia State Farmer's Market and orchards in the southeast of the U.S.

You'll get about 12 to 20 quarts of apple cider per bushel of apples.  Count on 15 or 16  quarts per bushel.

* - not the cutesy, fake farmer's markets that are just warehouse grocery stores that call themselves farmer's markets.

Canning jars in the dishwasherStep 5 - Wash the jars and lids

Now's a good time to get the jars ready, so you won't be rushed later. The dishwasher is fine for the jars; especially if it has a "sanitize" cycle, the water bath processing will sanitize them as well as the contents! If you don't have a dishwasher with a sanitize cycle, you can wash the containers in hot, soapy water and rinse, then sanitize the jars by boiling them 10 minutes, and keep the jars in hot water until they are used. Leave the jars in the dishwasher on "heated dry" until you are ready to use them. Keeping them hot will prevent the jars from breaking when you fill them with the hot apple cider.

Put the lids into a pan of hot, but not quite boiling water (that's what the manufacturer's recommend) for 10 minutes, and use the magnetic "lid lifter wand" to pull them out.

Apples being chopped upStep 6 -Wash and chop the apples!

I'm sure you can figure out how to wash the apples in plain cold water.

Chopping them is much faster if you use one of those apple corer/segmenters - you just push it down on an apple and it cuts it into segments.  Note:  You do not peel the apples! You will put the entire apple into the pot to cook.

apples, cooking on the stoveStep 7 - Cook the Apples

Pretty simple put about 4 inches of water (I used filtered tap water) on the bottom of a huge, thick-bottomed pot. Put the lid on, and the heat on medium.  Simmer gently until the apples are soft through and through.

Hardware stores sell a fruit steamer.  I haven't used one yet, but I hear they work well.

NOTE: If you have a electric juicer, you can simply juice the chopped apples, then skip to step 7 to heat the juice to boiling.

Step 8 - Sieve the cooked apples

Now you want to separate the liquid from the pulp, skins, seeds, stems, etc.  There are quite a variety of ways to filter the apples. 

Unfiltered juice:

Filtered juice:

Note: One of the easiest ways to extract juice is by using a steam juicer available at many hardware and variety stores. If you plan on making a lot of juice or doing this every year, it may be worth buying one. This unique piece of equipment allows you to conveniently extract juice by steaming the fruit which is held in a retaining basket. The juice drops into a reservoir which has a tube outlet for removal. Follow manufacturer's instructions for using steam juicer.

If your goal is to make apple cider, you will still have a lot of apple pulp left, so I'd recommend you make apple sauce from it (see this page)

Step 9 - Sanitize all equipment

Next, pour the cider into a sanitized fermentation bucket ; an unsanitized bucket may spoil the cider. To sanitize, pour a capful of bleach into your bucket, fill it with water, let it sit for a half an hour, then dump out and rinse with cold water. (You can also buy non-bleach, no-rinse sanitizers at homebrew stores.) /p>

Step 10 - Add the juice and yeast in the fermentation vessel

When the cider is close to room temperature, add your yeast or yeast starter, if you made one. Stir with a sanitized stainless steel or plastic spoon, then seal the lid and attach the airlock. Put the bucket where the temperature is 60 to 75 degrees (better on the low end of that range) and away from light, sun and drafts.  If the temperatures drops below 60, the cider won't ferment, and temperatures above 75 will hasten fermentation, but may cause a less desirable flavor. You can also add cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves or ginger to taste.  I like 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon per gallon.

Step 11 - Wait and watch while it fermentsas they convert sugars in the juice to alcohol. Your soft cider is on its way to becoming hard cider!  How long to let it go?  If you just want the tangy taste of hard cider without the alcohol, just 2 days is enough. then move on to step 12.

If you want a hard cider, let it go until the biubbling subsides, usually within two weeks. After that, let the cider sit another week ast 60 - 70 F to allow the yeast to settle out.

Step 12 - Drink or store the cider

Prett self-explanatoy - keep in a fridge, freeze, or bottle the cider.  To bottle the cider, follow steps 13 on.

Step 13 - Bottling the cider - Heat the cider

Put the apple cider into a large pot. If you want, add cinnamon to taste.  You should not need to add any sugar.  

The apple cider does not need any further cooking; just get it heat it to a low simmering boil and keep it hot until you get enough made to fill the jars you will put into the canner (Canners hold seven jars at once, whether they are quart or pint size)3> jars processing in the water bath cannerStep Step 14 - Fill the jars and process them in the water bath

Fill them to within 1/4-inch of the top, wipe any spilled apple cider of the top, seat the lid and tighten the ring around them.  Put them in the canner and keep them cover with at least 1 or 2 inches of water and boiling. if you are at sea level (up to 1,000 ft) boil pint  or quart jars for 5 minutes and half gallon jars for 10 min.his assumes you kept the juice hit until you filled the jars. If you are at an altitude of 1,000 feet or more, see the chart below

Recommended process time for Apple Cider
 in a boiling-water canner.

  Process Time at Altitudes of
Style of Pack Jar Size 0 - 1,000 ft 1,001 - 6,000 ft Above 6,000 ft
Hot Pints or Quarts 5 min 10 15
Half-Gallons 10 min 15 20

Step Step 15 - Remove and cool the jars - Done

Lift the jars out of the water and let them cool without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight)  You can then remove the rings if you like, but if you leave them on, at least loosen them quite a bit, so they don't rust in place due to trapped moisture. Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed verifying that the lid has been sucked down. Just press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it. Some people replace the lid and reprocess the jar, then that's a bit iffy. If you heat the contents back up, re-jar them (with a new lid) and the full time in the canner, it's usually ok. > 

FAQs and Tips

Comments and feedback

Other Equipment:

From left to right:

  1. Jar lifting tongs to pick up hot jars
  2. Lid lifter - to remove lids from the pot of boiling water (sterilizing )
  3. Lid - disposable - you may only use them once
  4. Ring - holds the lids on the jar until after the jars cool - then you don't need them
  5. Canning jar funnel - to fill the jars
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