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How to make hard cider

The next time you make cider from apples, put a little kick in it. Hard cider is a classic American alcoholic beverage, and with the right equipment, you can make it.
Photo courtesy MakingHardCider.com

Radio interview source: Carol Miles, Horticulture Extension Specialist, Washington State University

 
Apple cider is delicious, especially freshly-made from a local orchard. Most people take it home and drink it as is, but making hard cider is becoming a popular hobby. The premise behind hard cider is letting the yeast in the juice change sugar to alcohol. 
 
Carol Miles is a horticulture extension specialist at Washington State University. She says the best apples for hard cider have a low pH, and are considered bittersweet or bittersharp, not sweet. 
 
There are several pieces of equipment you need for the process. Miles says they are commonly available at any brew store. 
 
"You do need the carboy, you do need the top that allows air to escape and not to enter so it keeps out the microbes," she says. "Then you're going to have to do some lab testing, and again this can all be done in a home setting, but you do need the equipment to do it. So you need to have pipettes for titrating, you need to have a way to test your pH, and a way to test some of the other constituents of the juice."
 
The key ingredient besides the juice is yeast, which is also found in brew stores. 
 
Don't plan on making hard cider one day and drinking it the next. Miles says it's a long process.
 
"Once you make your juice, you add it to your carboy, you add your yeast, you get it all balanced," says Miles. "There might be a couple of things you might have to think about, the pH for example. Getting your carboy set up for fermentation, that's a day's worth of work. The fermentation itself can take anywhere from several weeks to perhaps several months. It's really just a matter of your environment, your temperature, and then how long it takes for that juice to convert."
 
Siphon the fermented cider into sterilized bottles, and toss out the sediment on the bottom. Store bottles in a cool area such as a basement, and let them rest for two-to-three-months. 
 

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