How to Make Hard Cider From Whole Apples, Without a Press

We have been busy around here!  There is so much fruit falling on the ground or withering on the branches, and we feel compelled to put as much of it as possible to good use!  Yesterday, we started our third batch of hard cider so far this season.  While we worked, we enjoyed a couple glasses of our first batch– it’s fun to work on a home brewing project that you can drink so soon.IMG_0939Quite a few people have asked me about how to make hard cider from whole apples, without using a press.  We have never had the luxury of using an apple press– maybe someday we will be so lucky, but for now we have a pretty good method just using a juicer.  Hopefully you can go get some apples, pears, or crab apples and make some drinks!IMG_1207Just a note before we get started– I make unpasteurized, wild cider.  This means that I use the wild yeast already present on the fruit skins.  While this produces a very authentic English-style cider, I know that not everyone is comfortable with unpasteurized juice, and some don’t like to gamble with the flavor of wild yeasts.  I’ll include some modifications for these concerns at the end of the post.

How to Make Hard Cider From Whole Apples

What You’ll Need:

  • Apples, pears, or crab apples (to be mixed with sweet apples.)  About 15 lbs. of fruit gets us about a gallon of juice.  Must be fresh and organic.  We just use foraged fruit.  Try to include some crab apples or tart apples with your sweet ones for a better, more balanced flavor.
  • A juicer.  If I could do it all over again, I would probably buy a masticating juicer which would make the process easier.  But any juicer will work!
  • A chopping knife and cutting board.
  • A large sieve and a clean kitchen towel.
  • Demijohn(s), a funnel, a siphon hose, rubber stoppers, and airlocks.  Some people simply stretch a balloon with a pin prick in it over the demijohn instead of using an airlock. This is one of the easiest brewing projects, in terms of equipment needed.
  • Sugar (I like to use organic brown sugar.)
  • Swing-top bottles.

What to Do:

  1. Wash your fruit well with water.  I don’t use any vinegar or veggie wash because I want to keep the yeast on the skins on the apples.
  2. Cut your apples into quarters.  This is mostly just to check for bugs or other issues with the apples.  Discard or cut around any that have an infested core, and cut out major bruises.  It’s nice to have a partner for this part, and it’s the perfect job for a kid with basic knife skills.  But I have done it by myself, too.  Transfer chopped fruit to a clean bowl by your juicer.  You don’t need to worry about coring or taking stems out– the juicer will do that for you.
  3. Start juicing!  As your juicer pitcher gets full, pour it through a funnel into a sterilized demijohn.
  4. When the pulp container starts getting full, take a few minutes to squeeze the juice out of the pulp.  Place your sieve over a clean bowl, and line it with your kitchen towel.  Put a couple heaping handfuls of pulp in the towel, and gather the edges and twist to wring out as much of the juice as possible.  My own juicer is not great, so I actually get 50% of the total juice this way.  Your pulp (now called pommace) should be really dry when you’re done, and you can just compost it.  Pour the juice into the demijohn, and get back to juicing.
  5. Once you have juiced all of your fruit, taste the juice and add sugar.  This is where a little guesswork will come in, because the acidity and tannin content, as well as the sweetness of your fruit will vary.  I usually add about a cup of sugar to a gallon of juice, and I don’t like mine very sweet.  During the fermentation process, the yeast will eat the sugar (both the fructose from the fruit and the added sugar) and turn it into alcohol– so this step is both for flavor and alcohol level.  Those of you in the USA may not really need to add much sugar, as most of the apples there tend to be really sweet.  Don’t get hung up on this step, as you can add more sugar later if the brew is turning out too dry or tart for your taste.
  6. (This step is optional, depending on whether you have a lot of foam/ pulp floating at the top of your demijohn.)  Put your demijohn on a tray or in a bowl, and keep it in a warm spot for about a day or so.  The yeast will start to become active, and things will get bubbly.  Your cider will split into layers, with foam floating on top.  If your demijohn is pretty full, the foam will come out the top.  I think this is great, as it’s a good way to get rid of that funky stuff.
  7. Put a rubber stopper and an airlock on your demijohn, and let it sit for a week.
  8. Rack your cider— siphon it into another sterilized demijohn, leaving the yeasty sediment in the bottom of the first one, so you have a much cleaner cider in the new demijohn.  Taste it and see how it’s doing.  If it’s already tasting pretty dry, you can add some more sugar before you put the airlock back on.
  9. Some people like a pretty sweet cider, and bottle it after a week.  I like mine pretty dry, tart and strong, so I usually give it three weeks or even more.  Fermenting it this long means that it won’t be very fizzy in the end– but you can also add a little sugar just before bottling to regain some carbonation.  This is totally up to you, of course.  You could experiment and bottle half to drink and leave the rest for another week.  Whatever you decide, the next step is to bottle your hard cider.  Use the siphon hose to fill swing-top bottlesThe type of bottle is really important, since it lets out small amounts of the pressure that builds up, so you don’t have a glass explosion later.IMG_1219And you’re done!  Enjoy!
    [Update: My expert cider-maker brother Nathan has done an excellent guest post on 10 Tips for Making Better Homemade Cider that you will definitely want to check out!]
    IMG_0793IMG_0557IMG_0816

Some adaptations…

For pasteurized hard cider— heat your juice up to 185º F in a pot over the stove.  DO NOT let it boil, just keep it there for 45 minutes, stirring.  This will kill all of the natural yeast, and once it is cooled you can add a commercial yeast when you add the sugar, and skip step # 6.

To use commercial yeast in raw cider— buy some campden tablets and crumble one per gallon, and add to cider.  Wait 48 hours before adding commercial yeast and sugar. Skip step #6. (This method is not recommended if you are sensitive to sulphites.)   For what it’s worth, my brother who is a pretty serious home brewer, adds wine yeast to the cider without killing off the wild yeasts first.  The combination of wild and commercial seems to work really well for him– so there’s another option!

Commercial yeasts you can use: I can buy an apple cider yeast at our local home brewing shop, and that may be the case for you, too.  But a lot of people just use an ale yeast (this one is popular) or a champagne yeast.

Note:  You can also use the leftover yeast from another successful cider.  This could be a great option if you have a friend who brews cider, or if you got a wild yeast cider that you liked the flavor of.  You will still need to kill the wild yeast in your fresh cider (either through heat or using campden tablets) and then introduce the dormant yeast from another brew.

To make hard cider with fresh pressed, purchased juice, just skip to step # 7, and modify depending on whether you want to pasteurize, use commercial yeasts, etc.

If you want your hard cider to stay sweet, then you can stop fermentation at any point using campden tablets (one per gallon.)  Or, you can just put it in the fridge to slow down the fermentation process, and start drinking.  Another option is to pasteurize the cider by heating to 160ºF in a water bath for at least 10 minutes, which will kill the yeast (I have never tried this myself.)

If you end up loving your home-brewed hard cider and get tired of juicing, then you can just build your own apple press!

For a whole bunch more variations and ideas on how you can tweak your hard cider, here is a good resource.  And lastly, if you’d like to do it all without any juicing, try making a flavorful cider using just apple scraps.  Most of the flavor is in the peels, so this works pretty nicely, especially if you are making a bunch of apple pies and don’t have plans for the peels.

I hope you will all try your hand at making some hard cider this year with the fruits around you– it’s a lot of fun, totally delicious, and a great way to enjoy fall.  Cheers!Making Hard Cider from Whole Apples, Without a Press And Here We Are...

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48 Responses to How to Make Hard Cider From Whole Apples, Without a Press

  1. Andi September 29, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

    I am trying this right now with our local pears to make pear cider. I think I made vinegar with the first batch but that’s okay- now I have homemade pear cider vinegar! I just brought another 5-gallon bucket of pears home to try again. Love experimenting with fermentation!

    • ariana September 30, 2014 at 10:56 am #

      Andi, love your attitude– it’s great to have homemade pear vinegar, right? That will last you WAAAY longer than the cider would have, anyway. I hope your next batch is more successful. My brother told me that some kinds of pears lend themselves to converting to acetic acid quickly– so you need to watch air exposure (keeping the demijohn topped up) and use some method to stop fermentation when it’s where you want it.

  2. Robyn Peterson September 29, 2014 at 7:36 pm #

    This is fantastic. I just made a batch (4 gallons) of hard cider with cider from the mill and commercial yeast, but I really REALLY want to try the wild yeast method. Alas, I don’t have a juicer or a press. This sounds kinda gross, but what if I bought cider from the mill and got some apples as well (fresh picked, or picked my own… there’s no shortage around here in Upstate NY) and then put the peels from the whole apples in with the cider that’s in the carboy… maaaybe I’d try 1 gallon the first time around to see if it works. LOL! I’m already making a couple batches of Apple Cider Vinegar with peels and cores, sooo this wouldn’t be my first wild apple yeast experiment. 😉

    • ariana September 30, 2014 at 10:58 am #

      I think using some peels is a great idea, Robyn. I made a couple of batches of cider using *only* peels and sugar, and since so much of the flavor is in the peels anyway, it turned out great! But a good idea to see what your local wild yeast tastes like first, in a smaller batch. You can also cultivate a wild yeast strain with crushed local apples first, too. Just google it. :)

  3. Amanda September 30, 2014 at 6:51 pm #

    This sounds so great, I really wish I even had a juicer. Someday when I do, I’ll have to try this.

  4. The Food Hunter September 30, 2014 at 9:13 pm #

    This is wonderful…

  5. Kim October 1, 2014 at 1:37 am #

    Ohh, this looks doable. I think we’ll try this. :)

  6. Lori October 1, 2014 at 6:37 am #

    Any ideas for those of us without a press or juicer,

  7. Karen October 4, 2014 at 3:46 pm #

    I love the idea of making so many delicious drinks, foods, etc. from the different fruits: nothing has to be wasted. Thank you for all the wonderful recipes! Keep up the good work

  8. Miranda Chavez October 4, 2014 at 7:47 pm #

    I’m starting to experiment with fermenting my own alcohol this year, largely thanks to a glut of apples and chokecherries. You use swingtop bottles for the cider, but I don’t think I’ve seen any mention of what you bottle your wine in. Can swingtops be used as well, or am I pretty much required to invest in a case of wine bottles and a corker?

    • ariana October 4, 2014 at 7:50 pm #

      Miranda, you can definitely use those bottles for wine, and I often do. They are just a smaller size than the standard wine bottle. Another idea is to save and sterilize your screw-top wine bottles. I like to use these, and we do also cork our own (re-used) wine bottles.

  9. Kate Sinon October 16, 2014 at 9:42 pm #

    I juiced my apples and have them in a 5 gallon glass carboy (about 2-3 gallons of juice). I put the airlock on but there hasn’t been any action. I do have a lot of foam/pulp on the top but it isn’t bubbling. Should I take the airlock off for a few days (cover with a clean towel?) and see if wild yeast forms and gets things going?

    • ariana October 20, 2014 at 7:08 am #

      Hi Kate,

      It can take a few days for the yeast to become active. I don’t think having an airlock in as hurting you, but covering with a towel or cheesecloth could invite more wild yeast in.

  10. kathleen dillworth October 19, 2014 at 11:16 pm #

    Can I use a vita mix for my apples?

    • ariana October 20, 2014 at 7:09 am #

      Hi Kathleen,

      I don’t have a vitamix, so I am not sure. Would it pulverize a whole apple? I think you could give it a shot with a few apples and see if you can extract juice that way. But if it were me, I’d look for a friend with a juicer.

  11. Sharon November 6, 2014 at 7:48 pm #

    This is great! A cider press is on my wish list, too!

  12. Loriel Adams November 6, 2014 at 8:01 pm #

    mmmm this looks so delicious!

  13. Rachel @ day2dayjoys November 6, 2014 at 8:03 pm #

    How cool, I recently started making kombucha so I think I could do this!

  14. urbanoveralls November 6, 2014 at 8:29 pm #

    Great idea using a juicer as the starting point towards making hard cider. We have wine making supplies and hard cider has been on our list to try.

  15. Emily @ Recipes to Nourish November 6, 2014 at 10:11 pm #

    This sounds delicious! I miss my juicer – it broke, I need to get another one at some point. I loved juicing apples with it. Thanks for sharing this, pinned it.

  16. linda spiker November 6, 2014 at 10:54 pm #

    Fantastic! Love this post!

  17. Anni November 7, 2014 at 3:42 am #

    I have never seen that book before! I added it to my wishlist (it makes my husband’s job of Christmas and birthday shopping easier). :)

  18. Looks like so much fun — and a lot of work — to make!

  19. KrisBordessa November 7, 2014 at 7:10 am #

    My folks made unpasteurized apple juice when I was growing up. Making hard cider was usually accidental – simply leaving the juice unrefrigerated (accidentally) usually resulted in vinegar, but sometimes…

  20. the Wellness Coach March 9, 2015 at 6:25 pm #

    Could you please tell me how to store the hard cider once you’ve made it? can it be left on a shelf in a root cellar or could it be canned?

  21. Torben June 11, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

    Perfectly written! I have been reading many “how to make cider” on the web but this one is top notch :-) Very clear, no chemicals, very simple to make. I also like the recommendation to get a masticating juicer. The only thing that is not up to the standards when it comes to real cider is that in real cider (by French definition) there is never any sugar added. Juice of apple and that’s it. However you do mention that it is optional so its fine :-) If you want it carbonated you can add apple juice when you bottle it, in that way you get some sugar in there to drive the process.
    I am not 100% sure about this but I have read that good cider has some of the peel and pips left in the damejeanne for more tannin flavors.

  22. colleensarantakis September 22, 2015 at 7:47 pm #

    Hi! have your book, and it’s lovely, thank you for all your efforts. I was wondering if you can get “hard” cider by using a Fido jar? I juiced the apples and put them the Fido, closed it up (air-tight with a rubber gasket) and let it sit for a week. Bubbles had started to form on the top, but nothing too aggressive. I then filtered the juice into swing-top bottles, added a vanilla bean, clove, and orange to some as an experiment, and then let them sit for few days. It turned out great – super fizzy! But I was wondering if I can leave the juice in the Fido longer, and what would happen. Would it ferment properly and would it turn hard, if left in the fido jar?
    Thanks for your advice!

  23. colleen indsay November 17, 2015 at 10:44 pm #

    iv just juiced los of apples placed the juice in a demijon with a cup of sugar and put an airlock in how does it get to alcohol?

  24. Gary December 17, 2015 at 12:47 pm #

    Please post how you sterilize your bottles.

  25. T. Schachter February 23, 2016 at 2:32 am #

    How are you getting your cider so clear and still getting proper carbonation with priming? Our has always come out with at least a little sediment and on the cloudy side. Still delicious and has loads of bubbles, but I would love to make something crystal clear.

  26. Richard March 27, 2016 at 1:06 pm #

    I would highly advise against using whole apples without removing the seeds. Apple seeds contain a substance that is converted to cyanide by the digestive system. A fatal dose of cyanide for a 150 lb. person is about 200 apple seeds or 20 apples. The seeds contain a coating that is resistant to digestive juices, but if you are using a juicer, the seeds are likely chopped up and dangerous to use in large quantities. It’s very unlikely anyone would drink enough of the cider to get a fatal dose, but why add toxic stuff to your cider?

  27. Mike August 13, 2016 at 4:38 pm #

    Do you put it in the fridge at any point in this process …. besides when you are finished with the end product

    • ariana August 17, 2016 at 6:45 pm #

      Hi Mike,
      Nope, I keep it at room temperature.

  28. Lee August 18, 2016 at 5:18 pm #

    Good afternoon, I hope you are well.

    My apple tree has come up short this year but I do have a plum and fig tree in my garden. Could I mix all 3?

    Thanks, Lee

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