Cider making, from fresh apples

This post is the third in my series on home brewing, if you are interested in reading from the start please look at “My introduction to home brew“. So up until this point I’ve made some home brew from packs and I’ve made a scratter to pulp my apples – now all that’s left to do is find some apples and turn it in to cider!

Given that there’s an abundance of apple trees around the UK you’d think it’d be easy to find some; after giving up looking for some we decided to ask around and luckily word of mouth is more efficient! Having found that a good friend’s parents have an orchard, the abundance of fruit of which they neither need or want, we shortly popped along and picked some apples.

The best apples for cider making are those that have freshly dropped – if you’d eat it, chuck it in. During our first attempt we just went around picking them off the floor and we managed to get about 7 big bags full:

7 big bags of apples

We’ve later discovered that, whilst this is a decent way of getting freshly fallen apples, there’s also an alternative method once those are all gone. Get some large canvas and place it on the ground around the tree, then give it a shake – we used this method to get 7 more bags the following week.

We left the apples in the garage for a week as we didn’t have time to process straight away, as a result they softened up a bit and some went rotten. It was at this stage we realised the necessity for an area to sort the apples when loading them in to the hopper as otherwise you have to sort them in to something easy to hold and then use that to load:

The Scrat Man in action


We collect the pulp in a bin at the bottom. Using the SDS drill we can get through a bag (around 70 apples) in a minute or so. Here’s The Scrat Man in action on some real apples (with the new sorting tray added):

Once the bin is full we transfer over to the pressing area, put the pulp in to a net bag in the press and squeeze away:

Cider press

Now we have some fresh apple juice (6 gallons in this case) ready for fermenting (or alternatively pasteurise and you have some nice fresh drinking juice!). This part is pretty simple: put in some yeast and yeast nutrient to feed it, store it somewhere around room temperature (20-24 degrees Celsius) and away it goes. You’ll see the yeast form on top:

Yeast formingYeast formed

And it should sound something like this:

It should take a week or so to finish fully – a good indicator is when the bubbles in the air lock are at least a minute between each. At this point it’s a good time to get out the hydrometer and check if the specific gravity is under 1000 – if so then you’re good to go! Just syphon out in to a sterile barrel, add some sugar to taste (if necessary) and leave it for around 3 months to ferment!

About Stephen Pickett

Stephen Pickett is a programmer, IT strategist and architect, project manager and business analyst, Oracle Service Cloud and telephony expert, information security specialist, all-round geek. He is currently Technical Director at Connect Assist, a social business that helps charities and public services improve quality, efficiency and customer engagement through the provision of helpline services and CRM systems.

Stephen is based in south Wales and attended Cardiff University to study Computer Science, in which he achieved a 2:1 grading. He has previously worked for Think Consulting Solutions, a leading voice on not-for-profit fundraising, Fujitsu Services and Sony Manufacturing UK as a software developer.

Stephen is the developer of ThinkTwit, a WordPress plugin that allows you to display multiple Twitter feeds within a blog.

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