There is a lot of folklore about cider, from stories of rats in the press, to complicated definitions of scrumpy vs. cider, but the truth is its one of the oldest and more honest drinks - and on my first attempt - could not believe the simplicity involved in making it. Some will tell you the trick is in the right combination of apples - with a good mixture of sweet and sharp, and cider apples have a higher tannin content, giving extra bite etc, and there is some logic to this, but of course, unless you are taking this very seriously, you will be like me, offered a pile of apples and decide to have a go at making cider. My theory is - if the juice in its raw state is quite drinkable, you will probably make an ok cider out of it.
First you need to aquire your apple juice - either from apples - or I have heard of people making acceptable cider from shop apple juice (the kind without preservatives!). Assuming you are not going to cheat!, you need to wash and chop your apples, mash them somehow, then press them. You can hire a crusher and press from brewery shops for a reasonably rate, or you can buy a cheap pulper blade to put on your drill and make your own press . We have found that freezing the apples first does help extract lots of juice - but you have to have plenty of freezer space for this.
Collect the juice into a clean vessel, such as a demijohn, or fermentation bin. Now here is one of those areas where folklore and modern science clash - the folklore people tell you to let the natural yeast present on the apples do its stuff, and the modern science bunch say chuck in some camden tablets to kill off everything and add yeast. I don't like adding chemicals to my homebrew, so compromise between the two camps by not adding the tablets, but I do add some cider yeast - the theory being the yeast overwhelms anything else - and it seems to work for me so far. Some add sugar at this point, either to address over sharp apples, or to make a stronger brew - personally I think this is cheating and not proper.. but that's just me starting to get all folkloreish about it.. so don't mind me
Fit an airlock and let the bubbling begin. It will look pretty muddy to start with, and a sediment will settle out. Rack after a few weeks, then leave to work itself out. When it has completely finished - bottle into plastic fizzy drinks bottles. Often the bottling process can cause a secondary fermination, and really that is a bad idea with glass bottles... if they burst. If you prefer, you can make your cider sparkling by either letting this secondary fermination take place, or add a small amount of sugar to each bottle (about 1/2 tsp per pint) and wait until the bottles feel tight, then move to a cool place.
The result? Clear, slighly acid but drinkable, fairly strong (in a sneak up on you sort of way!). Easy to do, easy to drink.
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