If you are looking for a fun fall activity to try, consider making your own hard cider. Homebrewing is a popular pastime in Beer City already and making your own hard cider is just as easy.
Ben O’Connor, who owns O’Connor’s Home Brew Supply with his wife Allison, said making hard cider is actually a bit easier than brewing beer. “Both cider and beer making require fermentation, (i.e., yeast turning sugar into alcohol). Beer is produced when yeast consumes malt sugars and hard cider is produced when yeast consumes simple sugars found within apple juice. Beer is unique in the fact that it requires a hot side step (mashing and boiling). Beer is essentially cooked, and cider is generally not, making cider less labor-intensive and less difficult to execute.”
Hard cider can be ready to drink in as little as three weeks, too, though O’Connor recommends three to four months of aging if you want a better-tasting cider.
To get started, O’Connor said you will need the proper equipment and ingredients. He recommends getting cider from a cider mill.
“They provide the proper blend of apples in their cider (the juice has the proper PH, among other specs to create quality hard cider). People do have success with store-bought cider or juice, as long as there are no preservatives in it. Preservatives will hamper the yeast from eating sugar and producing alcohol.”
As for equipment, O’Connor said, “We sell several equipment setups at the shop that would be sufficient to get started and they range from $50 to $139.99. The juice itself is around $5 per gallon depending on which cider mill you go to. We recommend Hill Brothers, Vander Mill or Robinette’s.”
Sanitation also is important in the cider-making process, so you’ll want to purchase quality cleaning products.
To get the flavors you want, O’Connor said you can either back sweeten the fermented cider (add sugar after fermentation) or introduce other additives such as spices, fruit or other flavorings.
“All hard cider will have a dry tart flavor profile when finished fermenting,” he noted.
If you need help, O’Connor invites you to stop by his shop for a handout on cider making. He’s happy to answer questions as well. If hard cider isn’t your fall drink of choice, O’Connor’s also has equipment for homebrewing, winemaking, mead-making, kombucha-making and nitrogen cold brew coffee supplies, as well. Visit oconnorshomebrew.com.