Just uploaded a set of videos on cleaning and sanitizing all of your equipment.
First off – pick fresh cider to use when making hard cider. The first option is fresh-pressed apple cider, which you can get at a local cider mill or farmer’s market. Some smaller grocery stores will also sell fresh-pressed cider. When dealing with fresh-pressed apple cider, most of it is pasteurized in order to help preserve it for a longer period of time. The two types of pasteurization are cold pasteurization, which uses UV light to kill the microorganisms in it, and heat pasteurization, which actually heats up the cider to kill all the microorganisms. Cold pasteurization is better because it doesn’t alter the flavor of the original fresh cider. Heat pasteurization will change the flavor, although it’ll still be good. But it does change the flavor from the original fresh-squeezed apples in apple cider. The second option is store-bought apple juice or apple cider. The thing you need to look into when buying store-bought apple cider is that you need to make sure it has no preservatives. Any preservatives put in the cider in order to give it a longer shelf life will kill the yeast that you’re trying to put into it. If you’re not sure if the cider has preservatives in it, look under the ingredients on the label. If the apple cider has sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate, those are preservatives that will kill the yeast. If it has citric acid in it, that’s okay. It’s just added vitamin C. Also, just as a general rule, the more sediment or the cloudier that the cider, is the more flavor that it has. The more flavor that your fresh apple cider has, the more flavor and the more complex your hard apple cider will be.
Before you put a batch of hard cider down, you want to start collecting your bottles that you will eventually put that hard cider into. There are a couple of different options for this. You could purchase bottles from a home brew store. You have the option of plastic bottles or glass bottles. Generally speaking, the price is about $0.50 for a brand new, clean, no-label glass bottle. The second option is to just collect glass bottles. Ask friends! Ask family! Do some drinking yourself! Just be sure that you collect bottles with a round lip – NO screw-top bottles. The kind of bottle you need a cap remover to open. Just make sure you rinse out any used bottles with hot water and dry it out. Also, you can look for bottles that have a swing top instead of a cap on top. For example, Grolsch-brand beer comes in a bottle with a wire swing top and a ceramic cap with a rubber gasket around the top. Those are extremely convenient for bottling because you don’t have to worry about a capper. As soon as you put the cider in there, you can just close the top down on it. That’s very good if you’re going to carbonate cider because it’s very strong and the cap won’t come off even with highly carbonated cider. So get started and throw a party to empty out some bottles!
Next: Sanitizing Bottles
At this point we’re done with primary fermentation. The gas coming out of the primary fermenter has slowed at this point to about one bubble per minute or less. So it’s still fermenting, but at a much slower rate. After primary fermentation, you can rack the cider off out of the primary fermenter. Basically, you want to take the cider away from all that dead yeast that has settled at the bottom of the primary fermenter. When rackingpouring off your cider and putting the cider into the secondary fermenter you want to use a glass carboy vice a plastic carboy. Plastic is fine for the primary fermenter, but for the secondary fermenter you’re going to leave it in there for an extremely long period of time. This is called the bulk aging process and you don’t want your cider to take on any of the flavor characteristics from plastics so you want to use glass. So you will use a siphon – I would suggest using an auto siphon, because it makes the process much easier – to take all of that cider that has been out of the primary fermenter into the secondary fermenter. You want to use a siphon instead of pouring it straight into the next carboy because what you don’t want to do is expose the cider to more air. You want to expose the cider to as little air as possible because you don’t want any acieration. If you allow a large amount of air to get into that cider when you’re moving it from the primary fermenter into the secondary fermenter it can change the way that the cider tastes. You can also get microorganisms from the air that can change that cider into vinegar. So to reduce the exposure to air as much as possible use a siphon instead of pouring it from the primary fermenter to the secondary fermenter. You may have allowed some air at the top of your carboy during primary fermentation to allow for the foam buildup. You DO NOT want any head space in the secondary fermenter. Fill the cider all the way up to the very neck of your glass carboy or your gallon jug. That way there’s as little air in that secondary fermenter as possible.