300 years ago, if you asked about the ‘proper’ way to make cider, you would have been astounded to discover that the ‘proper’ technique was probably the easiest method there is. You just take a pile of apples (any old apples will do) and mush them to a pulp. Next you squeeze out the juice and leave it in a bucket for a while and hopefully it will turn into cider.
Seriously, that is it. There is lots of natural yeast in the air and most buckets of apple juice soon start fermenting.
However, the resulting cider was, how shall we put it? Of variable quality!
Sometimes the ‘proper’ method outlined above actually produced amazingly good cider, but half the time, it resulted in a spoiled bucket of undrinkable apple juice.
Through the subsequent centuries cidermaking has all been about refining the method so that the chances of spoiling your brew are kept to an absolute minimum.
Modern Cider Making.
The first step is pretty much the same as it has always been. Get some apples. The varieties you choose will alter the flavour of the cider as well as the alcoholic content. How to Make Cider is a website with a good deal of information on apple varieties and even includes some suggested recipes for mixes of apples that produce different flavour ciders. If you don’t have the luxury of choice, just use whatever is to hand. All apple varieties can be used to make cider.
Crushing your apples
The proper way to do this is with a scratter. This is a pair of metal studded rollers, looking somewhat like a mangle. The apples are forced between the rollers and are crushed to a pulp as they go through. If you don’t have access to a scratter, very acceptable results can be achieved with a pulpmaster (a lidded bucket with a blade). Kitchen juicers can be used for experimentation, but to make the volumes of juice you will want for just a gallon of cider may well burn out a juicers motor.
So if you ignore the domestic juicer route, yo now have a couple of bucketfuls of apple pulp.
Pressing apple juice from pulp
This is your opportunity to be imaginative. We have all seen old fashioned screw presses and they certainly work, but if you haven’t got one, then you can make a press from a couple of chopping boards and a few g- clamps. Lay the pulp on a square of muslin and draw up the sides to make a bag to stop the pulp flying all over the place. Squeeze this between the chopping boards using g clamps for pressure and watch as the juice flows. I know this website is called Do ItProperly so you may wonder why I am suggesting using ‘improper’ tools. the reason is the ‘properly’ part in my opinion refers more to the juice. I don’t believe it really matters which method you use to extract the juice, but what does matter is that you use 100% pure apple juice. If you add water to the pulp after first squeezing, then do a second squeeze, well that in my opinion is a disaster and should really not be considered by anyone as making cider properly. OK, rant over…
Fermenting the juice
Collect the juice in a bucket and pitch a packet of cider yeast in on top. Within hours (quicker in warm weather, slower in colder climates) bubbles should begin to rise as the yeast eats the fruit sugars and multiplies. For a couple of days there will be vigorous fermentation going on but as soon as it begins to subside, (just 2 or 3 days later) you should transfer the juice to a sterile demijohn with an airlock.
In this environment it can continue to bubble away till all the sugar has transformed into alcohol.