Listen closely.. for the sound of 1000 apples dying…OK, so maybe it didn’t take 1000 apples, but here’s a quick rundown of the hard cider making process at Anarchy Lane East brewery.
1- Gather apples – how many? I have no idea. Well, here’s a guideline – 15 lbs of apples makes about 1 gal of cider depending on the apple type. Hard apples like Granny Smith take more, juicy varieties like Honey Crisp take less. What type is up to your taste. We’ve had good results from a mixture of sweet and tart types. This year we’d gotten access to lots of free Granny Smith so we added in some Honey Crisp, and about a pound of sunflower honey left lying around from a previous mead. If you can get some bitter varieties, try those for balance like you would hops in your beer. Next year we’ll be buying the big bags of 2nds – a mixture of all varieties the orchard has. They are far cheaper. And that would be total Anarchy Cider!
2- Smash’em. At our house we use good old Jack LaLane’s Power Juicer. No, that’s not a product plug. It works and we own one. The only drawback is you gotta clean the thing pretty often. About 10 lbs before it plugs up. I know this isn’t the traditional way of making cider. But honestly, I don’t have the room to store a full size press and scratter. Keep killin’ those apples till you get the volume you want. We ended up with 5.5 gals, and zero apples left – perfect!
3- Send in the troops: I normally add campden tablets ( 1 per gallon ) and let sit for 24 hours before I pitch my known yeast. You could do a lot of different things here like pitch yeast right away and not kill the wild yeast. Or just naturally ferment. But I think you will find better results by pitching yeast you know will be good. I’ve used many kinds in the past, but this year I am using champagne yeast for a drier cider. Also, the champagne yeast will be very neutral in flavor and keep on chugging through all that sweet juice even if conditions are not perfect. There are some dry wine yeasts that are supposed to also be very good for apples. I have a 1 gallon batch of cider going right now with Red Star Cotes Des Blanc and we’ll see how that turns out. I also add yeast nutrients to the cider, its good insurance for a good ferment. Its cheap – why risk getting off flavors from sad yeast. It took a lot of apple blood to get this far.
4- Ferment till done. I like to let sit a week or so in the primary bucket till the airlock calms down, then rack to a carboy until it clears. Then bottle. Sparkling or still is up to you, but we prefer sparkling with a higher amount of carbonation. Wait a while before you crack the first one. Time is on the side of flavor and balance here. If you make in the fall, springtime is perfect but its up to you. Drink when its good!