Hard cider

Late season apples are starting to come in, and I have begun pressing.
Here’s a barnyard blend, at least 10 varieties going into the first batch…

Cranking away on my new press, 12 gallons and counting…



That is looking so refreshingly good.


That is looking so good. Soon I will have enough apples for cider or hard cider, but I only have dessert apples. Is that ok? Also I am looking for an inexpensive press.

You can get by with dessert apples, sure, especially the rich, sweet, highly flavored ones. Of course, there are REAL cider apples, like English bittersweets and others from Europe that containment tannins, which enhance the finished product. Or find a good wild crab to add to a mix… What I like about making cider is that a bit of a blemish, bug or scab is no big deal. I cut out any rot and grind away.
Fresh cider from local orchards which is overly reliant on Macs doesn’t yield the best hard cider, I’ve learned that I need to amend that stuff to give it body and interest with additions like hops, honey, fruit,etc.

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Thanks Jesse!

Even Gala, which is pretty bland to my taste, can serve as a base for good cider. This year I was mainly limited to Gala and my Geneva crab, but the tang and slight bitterness of the Geneva should combine for a decent hard cider. I pasteurized a 2:1 mix of Gala and Geneva for sweet cider and it came out really nice. That said, if you have a mix of tangy and sweet apples you can blend some good stuff. The bittersweets used for English style cider can be hard to find, but a buddy of mine uses the small rather bitter crabs to fill that role. He just chops some up and adds them to the primary and is happy with the results.


For my solution for an inexpensive press, there is another cider thread you can look at. I’m pretty cheap, and I wanted a press that would do about a bushel at a time, so the commercial presses didn’t get it for me.

Turns out the 20 ton shop press needed for the cider press is on sale for $154.99 at Harbor Freight.

That is a nice machine! My quisinart is good for small batches, but the amounts I have and in the future I need something like this. I was just juicing different apples and macs alone make a nice sweet cider. I have golden russet, ashmeads kernel, northern spy, gold rush, and Arkansas black so I may be able to make a decent hard cider in the future. The biggest thing is amounts for flavor.

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For folks that don’t have any cider or crab apples to add, you should be able to buy “bitters” at a wine/beer making shop. It is fairly common to add to mead and other fermented drinks.

I always seem to have trouble interpreting the taste profile of apples when it comes to tannin content. I think my Geneva crab adds a fair amount of tannin, but my brewing buddy says it is just tart. His way to show me what he meant by bitter was to have me bite into one of the typical small red crabs that are very common around here. It felt like my teeth were covered with something and he said his wife describes it as something climbing up your teeth. Now, I really like the bitter beers, my favorites being IPAs and the various really hoppy APAs, but I can’t say I really taste the bitterness in higher quality (read expensive) ciders, and I don’t seem to miss it. I do need a good bit of tang in a cider, especially if it is also even slightly sweet. I get that from the Geneva, and also from the Whitney crabs I usually throw into the mix. The sweet can be from just about any decent apple. I do have quite a few Whitneys still hanging on the tree, and if they haven’t gone off by the time I start my cider I may add them like my friend does, chopped up and added to the primary. He insists that the tannins and flavors are extracted from the peels that way, much more than just simply pressing them.

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The first hard freeze of the season has come through with temps dropping down to 20F. Old timers often say that marks the point after which the best cider is made… Apples still on the trees were certainly at least partially frozen last night when I checked them this morning, but thawed out in good condition with no noticeable effect on eating quality.
Could freezing mellow out some acidity or work to convert starches to sugars?

I attended a cider lecture and cider apple tasting at Maine Apple Day which was led by two local commercial cider makers who brought an assortment of fruit. I also brought some seedling fruit that I believe has potential. One in particular caught attention for a ridiculously high brix reading of 24, which I’ve named SugarScab, kind of a joke at the expense of some of the recent naming trends in apples.



My hydrometer reads 1.065 with a batch of SugarScab single varietal juice, so that refractometer reading was mistaken by quite a bit as this is equivalent to 17 brix, still pretty good, but this seedling isn’t going to be patented😁


<img src="/uploads/default/original/2X/0/0fe8186d6b7b290d646e5d487dac21677d6107df.jpg" width=“1000” height=“562”


Still going, 125 gal of empty barrels and carboy…



I was going to buy a shop press, but it looks like Goodnature no longer sells the plastic racks and pressing cloth. When I priced that stuff from another vendor it was over $500. Is there a source for more reasonable material for the racks and cloth?


I am way too cheap to buy those things. I happened to have a sheet of stainless steel left over from a kitchen remodel…it was a backsplash. My SIL is in HVAC and had the tools to turn that into a shallow pan I use for pressing. It is 18x22" and only about an inch deep, but the pan doesn’t need to be deep. Until I found that stainless steel I was considering just using the largest cookie sheet I could find with a lip. Or I might have made something from sheet polyethylene with a lip I would glue on myself. For the pressing racks I bought 15x20" cutting boards from Walmart and grooved them on one side with my table saw. I don’t have a rabbet (sp?) blade so I just turned the boards around for the center groove as I knew the blade would be displaced slightly. Did the same for the other grooves with suitable blade adjustments. I also drilled a 1" hole in the center of all but the bottom rack and the top rack, which was not grooved. The size of the boards does limit my press capacity, as does the size of the press pan, and if I find something else to use for those I may be able to increase the capacity dramatically, however, I can press at least ten gallons of pulp with it as is. I do wish I had a better press cloth. I bought curtain sheer material at Walmart, and it works fine as a press cloth except that it is rather stiff, which makes folding the cheeses more trouble than it would be with a more limp cloth.

I have also considered making a perforated stainless steel cylinder to use with this press. Sheets of perforated stainless steel can be bought at something less than an exorbitant cost, and I have a friend who can weld stainless. I thing press racks would still be needed, and maybe press cloth as well, but that is something I’ll have to look into.


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We used table sawn maple strips held together with stainless screws and hot coated with paraffin wax. A pretty basic woodworking project if you have some tools and skills.

This year I made all new press cloth from 12oz natural cotton canvas, which was not too expensive:


I ordered one piece long enough to make all our cloths, cut them to size and hemmed the edges. Then double washed and dried before first use.

I have bottled up my first two five gal batches of cider, and preliminary testing is favorable.
I am trying something a bit different this year-farmhouse style with wild yeast, careful monitoring, and bottling with enough residual sugar to give some natural sparkle. Last year I used commercial yeasts and fermented to full dryness, then primed my bottles for carbonation. I was lucky to have lots of great fruit this year as well, with 10 or so different pressings/blends I hope to enjoy some good variety. Even got a batch based on English bittersweets Dab and Yarlington Mill, such a different quality to low acidity cider.
Hewe’s Virginia Crab was a sizable component to my first batch, and really adds to the aroma and fullness of the cider. A problem I have with dessert fruit based cider is that they often end up a bit thin in flavor. This one is pretty acidic, I would compare it to cider made in the Asturian or Basque tradition… Six months from now I’ll know how it comes out. Cheers!

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I am trying to make ice cider for the first time this year.
I had some from Eden cidery that was terrific, rich sweet full flavored dessert apple wine-yum!
Not to be confused with applejack, this method freezes the fruit or fresh juice in order to remove some water and thereby starts fermentation with a rich concentrate.
A decent overview-

I started with 50 gal of fresh cider from a local orchard, a blend of Mac, Honeycrisp Cortland, Gala and left it out in my door yard for a month in midwinter. Several freeze thaw cycles later, a warm spell allowed me to drain off the concentrate, yield was about 15 gallons at 1.115 sg or 27 brix, which is not quite up to the Quebec standard of 30 brix but will have to do for now. I under pitched two batches with 1g of K1 yeast (champagne)and gave the other batch a dose of wild yeast from the lees of one of my regular hard cider batches. I hope to be able to stop fermentation leaving a good amount of sweetness, we shall see how that goes…
Regular hard cider batches are now getting bottled, and looking ahead to sharing some of these with other cider makers.
I got to use some real bittersweet cider varieties in a couple batches, these really add another dimension to the finished product, and I’ve decided to top work some of my dessert and cooking apple varieties over to bittersweets this spring.

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I made a “wine” variation on this a few years ago, rather than going that sweet I just did a few freeze/thaws and got to 20 brix or so - standard wine must levels and above your usual cider. It ended up being sort of cloying in spite of fermenting to dryness. I hope to go all the way to a real ice cider next time. I am also adding some sweet apples to my orchard for that purpose, the classic American sweets which have almost no sour. Ice cider can be too sour if you are not careful as you are concentrating the sours along with the sweets. Please let us know how yours turns out!