First try at Cider Fermenting


So we have had a banner year on the apple harvest, finally enough to dabble in hard ciders, and I wanted to get some advise from the folks here before I jump in.

I have read quite a bit online, and the instructions seem to go the full range, from sterilize everything and add package yeast and nutrients, to just juice it and let it ferment. I am curious to get folks’ opinions here about where they have found the right balance on this is. [Given that I live in a very dry environment, I probably should add some sort of yeast, just because our native yeast populations are pretty scarce]

Also am open to suggestions on equipment and process. I am planning on starting small (maybe tiny), Just fermenting in a a few glass 1gal bottles. Gives the chance to try a few different ways of doing it, and perhaps means that at least one or two will turn out. I was thinking that we’d drink some at the early stages (just a bit bubbly), and try a few bottled and left to age.

Anyway, I am a real newbie at this, so any thoughts and advise is welcome.


#2 Is a good place to start
Extensive web site on fermenting .


The best hard cider I have ever tasted was made by David Vernon who owns Century Farm Orchards. He offers customers a free but small taste of his cider during his open houses in November

He ferments the pressed juice with the natural yeast from apples he presses, but does not sterilize the juice with potassium metabisulfite and adds no additional yeast.

He explained to me that he changed to natural yeast with no sterilization after several years of cider making using “modern” techniques produced unsatisfactory hard cider.

I’m testing his process this year along with about 5 different yeast. I will post an update when I’m finished.


I do it the same way as David Vernon. Some people have problems with contamination, I’m not the neatest guy in the world but I have never lost a batch. My first batch I made with champagne yeast and I didn’t like it so I switched to natural methods.

My guess is you will still have plenty of yeast on your apples to get a fermentation going. If nothing happens in a month you can always pitch some yeast.


Thanks @blueberrythrill and @scottfsmith.

I would certainly like to try the natural way (less stuff to buy if nothing else), and if I can always add yeast later if needed that would be a great backup.

Just curious Scott and Rick, how fastidious are you about sterilizing all your containers and tools? Just a good wash? Star-San or the like? Operating room protocol?


I’m real careful about sanitation and Star San seems to work pretty well. I normally wash tools and containers with PBW and sanitize with Star San before use.


It’s great to have enough apples for cider! I love those years. Though we don’t let ours go very far towards the “hard” stage now, preferring ‘sparkling sweet’, the start is the same. Apples seem to love to get going and I’ve never had to even consider adding yeast. I wash simply with water, no amendments, start and finish, Apples are stored in baskets until they are more or less the favored hard/soft for our chopper (or more often, when we have time), washed in a bucket of water then into the bin/press. The juice is filtered through a cloth into a container, covered and let set until we like it then canned to stop the ferment. If I wanted hard cider I’d put it into a glass jug/carboy & waterlock. As you suggested you’ll do, when we started making cider (many years ago) we taste tested as it went along and decided what we liked best for future years. Every year is a little different since we don’t usually end up with the same combination of apples. Keeps it interesting! Good luck, and good sipping. Sue


I’m not super good about sterilizing, but I try to make sure any surface that will see cider is clean, and my cider making area is in a clean corner of my basement. Being in a generally clean area is very important. I don’t do the making anywhere near the pressing since bits of apple chunks you missed in clean-up can accumulate nasties.

Sue, I also like that “sparkling sweet” cider, it is very refreshing! I don’t explicitly make it but I make sure to get lots of early samples from my fermenting cider :grinning:


I made two good batches and one bad batch of hard cider last year. The last batch I made, I forgot about and the airlock dried out. It got contaminated by surface mold and went bad.

I personally often do not like naturally fermented ciders. The worst are those that have phenolic or “band aid” flavors. :beer: :nauseated_face: :face_vomiting: I gather this is totally acceptable in some naturally fermented ciders, and I’ve had it in more than one, though not all. Generally those off flavors were considered to come from wild yeast contamination in beer brewing when I did that. Though, in fact, the first thing I ever brewed was hard cider from un-preserved apple juice.

So I tried to pitch in at least two packets of dried yeast per 2 gallon batch after sulfiting to avoid any in-growth of wild yeast.

It depends on your taste. I would assume Jolicoeur of the New Cider Maker’s Handbook would not approve of my method. There is info in that book on how to make a traditional fermented cider.


I love Star-San. Just remember it’s a sanitizer, not a cleaner. Wash/rinse an item, then coat it with star-san solution. 1 minute contact time, no rinse necessary. I use a spray bottle of it to clean beer taps, brewing equipment and to fill airlocks. Makes a decent hand sanitizer as well.


Yet another newbie cider question:

So I juiced a couple of gallons, let them settle, removed the foam (centrifugal juicer makes foam with apples), and put the juice into sterilized gallon jugs with an air lock on the top. Did not add yeast cause I wanted to see what the natural yeasts would do. I’ve been keeping the bottles at 60-70F and out of direct sun.

It’s been 4 days or so since they were put up to ferment, but I am not seeing any signs of fermentation (eg bubbles in the cider or moving thru the air lock). I am pretty sure the air locks are sealed tightly (pushing them in a bit moves the liquid in the vials).

So I am just wondering if this is normal, or if somehow my apples just did not have much in the way of natural yeasts on them. Should I have seen some bubble activity by now? How long is reasonable to wait before putting in some yeast?



Normally active fermentation should start soon , within 24 hrs.
I use a starter yeast culture in mine, active bubbles in 24 hrs and ferment in a large container "with out "air lock for several it will foam up and over flow air lock,
When it calms down , in 3–5 days I transfer to a container with air lock.
Maybe throw some yeast in yours and give it a stir ?


Anyone tried stopping the fermentation by pasteurizing the bottles after letting the cider carbonate? I have been in a discussion with a fella about this. He gets sweet and sparkling by this method. Haven’t looked up the instructiins yet but his desrciption was to to heat water to 180 F remove from heat and put in the bottles for 10 minutes. I assume that is done in the hope the internal temp of the bottles reaches pasteurization temp of about 150 F. Assuming the bottles start at 70, at 150 the internal pressure would increase about 15%, so it sounds possible, though I would think simply heating the canner with the bottles in place to 150 would be more certain.

I’ll be doing about 15 gallons total this year and might give that a try with some, but getting the bottling sugar right might be fun. Even if you add enough sugar to get high carbonation the batch is only very slightly sweet.



Cider fermentation can be a lot less dramatic than beer. I have seen cider ferment where it looks like almost nothing is happening. I would wait another couple days and then take a gravity reading to see where things are. It would be almost impossible not to have fermentation unless you killed the wild yeast.

If somehow there has been no activity after a week or so in the fermenter you can always throw in some yeast.


Yes, if there is no initial yeast added you need to wait a week or two before it gets going. If the juice was not sterilized it will eventually get going.


Thanks all.

So perhaps I am just being impatient. I did not add any yeast to the juice, and did not pasteurize or chemically kill the wild yeasts. So it sounds like a week or more even is not unusual in this case.

I will wait a while longer and see what happens (or doesn’t) and go from there. I do have some “wine yeast” if I need to add some (Lalvin D47)


Thought I would update this thread.

I gave the un-yeasted jugs some more time. Eventually one of them started bubbling. I let it go until it got to that bubbly stage with still a bit of sweetness left in it and then put it into the fridge. This is the stage we prefer cider, certainly not fully fermented or “hard” but WTH, may as well make it the way you like. I guess this will also be a test of how long cider in the state will keep when refrigerated without going bad (or exploding).

The second jug never did start bubbling on its own. I eventually added a bit of dissolved wine yeast, and that did get it going but even with the additional yest added it took 4-5 days. Once it started though, it got quite active, putting a bubble thru the airlock once ever few seconds. Much more active than the first naturally cultured jug. This one I left at room temp sealed for a couple of hours after it reached the “done” stage, in an attempt to carbonate it. Seems to have worked in that when I uncapped it to release pressure it foamed up a lot. It’s now in the fridge too. I am assuming that if I uncap to release pressure a couple of times until it is cold that should handle the CO2 buildup and once fully cold it can be stored safely. (If someone knows otherwise, PLEASE let me know)

One thing that may be coincidence, but both these jugs did not start bubbling until I opened them and scooped out a layer of foam/particles that had floated to the top. Anyone know if this floating layer might have been responsible for the late start to fermentation, or have any other ideas.

I am starting a third experiment. I little better filtered than the previous jugs. This is sort of fun, as I rediscover the wheel in learning how to make cider…


Our first group of hard cider tests are complete and here is an update. We bought 10 gallons of local cider and tested different rates of sugar and different types of yeast. Gallon number 1 just got an airlock with no yeast and no sugar.

It fermented for a week or so at around 72 degrees and we racked it to a clean glass gallon jug with a airlock. Not a single jug was good. Jug number 1 was spoiled and we pored it out.

I believe a big portion of the problem was the cider we used. Not sure about which apple varieties were used in the mix, but I’m sure they were desert apples. The brix tested 12.5 before fermentation but the hard cider tasted like it had been watered down which it had not.

We also pressed some Winesaps and Goldrush apples from our own trees and they are fermenting now.

Had a chance to taste David Vernon’s cider yesterday. It was sweeter than last year with less carbonation. He said it was made from Rox Russet and another apple which I believe was American Golden Russet. It was pressed around labor day and placed in a 5 gal bucket with an airlock and held at around 45 degrees.

Making good cider is more difficult than I expected.


@blueberrythrill How did jug number one taste? Why did you think it was spoiled? Did it taste like vinegar?

Making cider is pretty simple. I made my own for 20 years and all were good, if slightly different. My own organic apples, no drops, quickly swirled in tub of water, no added sugar, no added yeast, no added anything. Scott and David’s method. Wide open violent ferment then airlock when bubbles get small. When bubbles stop siphon into beer bottles and cap.

I disinfected everything each year with 10% chlorox then washed off the chlorox with a flood of water.


recommended apples for cider or wine? Ive got some sweet varieties and haralson but looking for some good classic cider varieties to add to my orchard next spring…