Homebrew Cider

Homebrew – Champagne Cider vs. Farmhouse Cider

This past weekend me, my wife and some friends took a trip up to Oak Glen in San Bernardino County to pick up some unfiltered, fresh pressed apples to make some homebrew hard cider. As I’ve mentioned before, my wife has developed a bit of a gluten-sensitivity so beer is out of the question. Luckily, cider has always been her preferred drink anyway, so we’ve been planning to start fermenting cider ourselves and with apple season hitting, its the perfect time to start.

Heather & Cider

Heather proudly posing with her 5 gallons of cider

Due to the almost 2 hour drive to the orchards, and the long conditioning times, we opted to do two 5 gallon batches with two different yeasts. My wife chose champagne yeasts as she loves ultra-dry ciders like Julian Harvest Apple (California), Waupoos Cider ( Ontario, Canada) and Glider Dry (Denver CO). I decided to take a road-less-travelled and bought a vial of White Labs 670 – American Farmhouse Blend to make a cider that’s a bit more funky. This yeast is rumored to have come from Lost Abbey and contains a large percentage of brett, so I’m really excited to see how the yeast plays with the apple flavor.


Champagne Cider:
5 gallons fresh, unfiltered, unpasteurized, unpreserved cider. (make sure there’s no sodium benzoate in it!)
5 campden tablets
3.75 tsp of pectic enzyme
1 packet EC-1118 Lalvin Wine Yeast

Farmhouse Cider:
5 gallons fresh, unfiltered, unpasteurized, unpreserved cider. (make sure there’s no sodium benzoate in it!)
5 campden tablets
3.75 tsp of pectic enzyme
1 vial WLP670 – American Farmhouse Blend (Wyeast 3711 or 3724 are good brett-less substitutes)

Original Gravity of Cider: 1.060

Law’s Cider Mill is the place to go for cider. They are a family run orchard that have been in the same spot for 4 generations and if you manage to swing by while the owner is there, he’ll be happy to share his own experiences making hard cider.  Their current apple blend is upwards of 10-15 different apple varieties which guarantees a very balanced juice – not too tart/acidic with lots of great apple flavor. If you call ahead and bring your own container, they will fill your carboy for a discounted rate of $9.50/gallon – about the same cost as a homebrew batch of beer.

We drove our fermenter buckets up to Oak Glen filled with sanitizer and the kind people at Law’s brought us into the back to dump them into their drain. They filled us up with fresh cider that was pressed earlier that day and I immediately added the 5 campden tablets (crushed) and pectic enzyme directly into the buckets and gave them a good shake. These need to sit for 24 hours (so the campden can kill any wild yeast) before pitching your brewer’s yeast. Make sure your carboy isn’t totally sealed, as the Campden releases sulfur dioxide which should be vented.

cider two waysCider tends to have a longer yeast lagtime than beer, and with this batch I waited over 36 hours to see any bubbling in the airlock on the Champagne yeast, and closer to 60 hours for the Farmhouse Yeast. The farmhouse was slow likely due to the fact it expires in a little less than a month and I stupidly didn’t create a starter – lesson learned. Waiting for yeast to start can be aggravating, but as long as you follow the steps above (and don’t buy juice that has sodium benzoate!) you should be good – just be patient.

I”m heading out of town this week so I’m looking at a two week primary fermentation, at which point I will rack into secondary in glass carboys and let them bulk condition for a few months prior to bottling. The only concerns I have at this point is the champagne yeast working too well, and leaving us with a 10% cider. That wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but its a little higher than we would like.

I’ll check back in with these once they are bulk-conditioning and let you know how things turn out.

(Please note: all links above are to Morebeer.com where I’m an affiliate and get a commission if you decide to buy something. Because MoreBeer! has a showroom in Riverside, you can also swing by there on the way to the cider mill in Oak Glen to pick up supplies, in which case I wouldn’t get a commission. I’m totally cool either way.)