Fall is right around the corner and cidery fermented beverages are on my mind. I absolutely love hard cider. As a homebrewer though, I haven’t had much success making it. The toughest part to nail down is the sweetness. Dry, unsweet cider tastes… not very cidery. It’s tart and really doesn’t taste much like the original fruit you started with. I want my apple cider to taste like apples… that’s not too much to ask! I’ve tried a few batches using real fruit juice, and have been disappointed every single time.
To say I was excited that we now carry cider making kits is an understatement. They’re made by Brewer’s Best, who also makes the beer brewing kits we stock, and I have made some amazing beers with those. I picked one up the day I heard about them and got to work. Here’s how it went…
First, let me just say that if you’re thinking this might require the same kind of work you put into beer making, you’re in for a treat. It’s really easy. I mean really easy! If you’ve ever made wine before, it’s even easier than that. The kit looks like a big Capri Sun juice pouch. The only thing missing was an enormous straw glued to the side. I was confused at first, because the bag doesn’t really tell you what to do. I figured there would be instructions, yeast, stuff like that. I had no idea where to find that stuff. So I did the most logical thing; I just cut the bag open.
Inside the bag is another bag (I heard you like bags). This inner bag contains the actual juice, and of course, I cut right into it. And there, wedged between the inner and outer bags, were the things I was looking for. I took those out and folded the juice pouch bag back up, because knowing me, I was seconds from accidentally knocking it over.
The inside paper instructions were pretty clear, much better than the stick figure instructions on the bag. So let’s walk through this…
Boil 1 gallon of water and add 2 lbs of dextrose (not included). And this is where common-sense-me takes over, and usually gets into trouble. My first thought was, “I don’t have 2 lbs of dextrose just sitting around… but table sugar will do.” And I think I’m correct about this, but I’m sure a chemist with a chip on their shoulder will tell me I’ve ruined everything with this decision. So this was my first change to the instructions. On step 1. Let’s continue.
I got out my pot and sugar, poured a gallon of water into the pot, and then had another thought. Common-sense-me made a second appearance here. “Why am I boiling this?” I asked. I had no idea… so I decided to just heat it up to about 100 degrees, enough to easily dissolve 2 lbs of sugar with a little stirring. And now I’ve made two changes to the instructions, and I’m still on step 1.
Mix sugar water and fruit juice in fermenter, then top off with water. I added enough chilled water to bring it to 6 gallons, which is how much this kit makes. And I made no modifications, this step was perfect as is.
Add sweetener. There is a sweetening packet that tells you to add none for very dry cider, half for moderately sweet cider and all of it for very sweet cider. I like cider to have some sweetness, but not totally sweet. I had no idea how sweet “moderately sweet” was though. Out of my indecision, I added 3/4 of it and stirred it in. The sweetener is SUPER concentrated, and I’m guessing not at all fermentable. Tasting a little bit on my finger made my whole mouth light up with sweetness, it was almost painfully sweet.
I then attached the fermenter lid and airlock, then put it off in the corner. It started bubbling about a day in and is going at a good, steady rate now.
Another weird thing about the kit is that there’s no bottling stuff like you get with the beer making kits. This is probably because they only have so much room in the bag, but this was a little disappointing. No priming sugar or caps are included. They suggest getting carbonation drops to add to each bottle. If you like those that’s great, but I’ll just stick with mixing in a package of priming sugar. And don’t forget to pick up some caps!
All in all, it was incredibly easy to make, taking less than 10 minutes. Now we’ll just have to wait and see how it turns out. For the minimal effort involved, if it comes out good, this will be my new go-to, non-beer fermented beverage.