Back to Brewing in Chicago: Hard Cider

This weekend, I decided to get back into homebrewing by patronizing a local Chicagoland brew shop and stock up on all the necessary equipment. Instead of jumping into full five-gallon batches right away, we decided to start with Natalie’s drink of choice – hard cider. This decision was for two reasons: 1) cider is in season, and 2) it’s a good way to get back into the swing of things after a two-year hiatus.

Cider is not as easy to master as you might expect. There is a lot of information out there posted in forums about experimental batches, but everyone has a different approach for their desired tastes (dry vs. sweet) and available ingredients (yeast type, apple juice vs. cider). We decided to go forward with one-gallon batches because of the limited costs and ability to experiment. After reading, we decided to go with the following recipe for a one-gallon batch:

2 L of Trader Joe’s Spiced Cider
2 L of Mott’s Apple Juice
1/3 cup of brown sugar
1/3 cup of simple sugar
Wyeast Cider Yeast (1/4 full package)

In many recipes (especially with apple juice), sugar is added to help increase the alcohol content and hopefully sweeten the drink post-fermentation. We wanted to add some but since this is a new adventure, we chose a moderate level. We hope that after fermentation, the cider isn’t too dry and the flavors are balanced but we are prepared for whatever the end product might be.

According to forums, fermentation might take a while (up to a month although fermentation is vigorous on day one), and it will take more time in secondary fermenter to clarify the cider. Right now we are enjoying improvising, so those decisions will be made on the fly.

– Charlie and Natalie

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