Cider Equipment: Aging

I broke down the equipment used to make hard cider into the following three basic process steps.

In this post, I’ll cover the Aging step. You can find PDF files of each step in The Shop. As I did with my other posts, I am taking the view of the home cider maker. Also, I tried to keep the basic kit simple. It is difficult to make one kit because there are so many variable, but the basic kit is focused on what I think are essentials to properly age common ciders that you are likely to make. The upgrades and enhancements are options that you may want to consider as you produce more or want to improve your process. If you are making hundreds or even thousands of liters of hard cider, you will need more of the upgrades and enhancements. If you are fermenting a gallon or two (4-8l), the basic kits should work well.

I broke down the process into the above steps because they are relatively independent and have unique equipment associated with them. The PDF file is available for download and has active links for easy reference. These links should take you to either your country’s Amazon site for purchase or to a manufacturer’s site. This will give you some details about the product and a reference for price. As with all the Amazon links on, using them to purchase these products will result in me getting a small referral commission. What is nice is that it won’t cost you anymore money, but helps me cover the costs of maintaining the site. You will also find the PDF files on The Shop page along with other recommended products and even Cider Yeast that I am offering.

After fermentation completes, the next important step is to age your cider. Aging allows the cider to clarify but also for aromas to develop and acids to evolve. Malolactic fermentation can be a critical part of the aging process because it can reduce the acidity of the cider. Aging on the lees of the yeast is a way to encourage malolactic fermentation, but also develop organoleptic characteristics of the hard cider. You can adjust the cider through blending and adding adjuncts during the aging process. Let’s explore the basic kit and then some of the more advanced equipment you could use depending on how you want to evolve your cider.

The Basic Kit

When fermentation completes, you usually want to siphon the hard cider off the lees (sediment) on the bottom of the fermenter. This is especially true if you didn’t clarify your juice before fermenting. Aging on dead yeast (fine lees) can have a positive influence on your cider, but aging on sediment that contains apple solids (gross lees) will usually result in the development of vegetable, grassy, and sulfur aromas along with higher levels of acetic acid. Siphoning off the cider means you need a second container and the siphon I recommended as part of your fermentation equipment. If possible, you want a smaller container for aging so you can minimize headspace. Glass carboys with airlocks can be a great option. If your fermenter in a gallon carboy and only have more gallon carboys available, you may want to have some spare apple juice on hand to top up the carboys. This will restart fermentation but clear up any oxygen and create a protective layer of CO2. The other basic items you should have at your disposal is some oak and some hops. You may not need them but oak cubes can be stored indefinitely and I keep my hops in the freezer for years. I recommend medium to heavy toasted American or French oak cubes and citra hops. Both of these are excellent adjuncts for aging as they can help bring balance to acidic ciders and in general, bring added dimensions to any cider. For example, a watery cider can get some added zip from some hops. I recommend oak for acidic ciders and hops for cider with off aromas. The oak can add wood sugars and the hops provide protective compounds and masking aromas. It’s usually good to have a mesh brew/hop bag to help with clean up. Also, if you didn’t get a siphon for your fermenting kit, you will need one now and a funnel is always useful if you are adding juice or adjusting cider levels. I assume you still have some of your cleaning and sanitizing compounds as you should continue to use good hygienic practices for anything that comes in contact with your cider. This basic kit should ensure you have a successful aging process, but you may find you want to enhance your process.

Upgrades & Enhancements

After using carboys for a while, there is a good chance you will want something that is easier to clean and use as well as offering new process options. Kegs and a kegging system are often the next step. I recommend skipping min-kegs. The regulators break and the mini-kegs often leak. They also aren’t easy to clean and use. Look at small to medium sized ball-lock kegs and a full-sized regulator attached to a 5-10 pound (2-5kg) CO2 tank. Five gallon (20L) kegs are the common sized used in restaurants globally for dispensing sodas so they are often readily available. I like the slightly smaller sizes because they are easier to clean and sanitize in the kitchen sink. One of the other processes that you might want to perform as part of the aging process is filtering. Time will often be sufficient to clarify cider, but there are times when you may want to filter it. I have used wine plate filters and beer/water canister filters. The problem was that the wine plate filters often plugged quickly and the water canister filters didn’t have filter elements that would produce a sterile results. You usually want a filter below 1 micron. Recently, I found a new filter system that is using the water canister elements and has a built in pump. My research found that they are using a standard 10 inch filter housing but are offering filter elements made for wine and cider. They provide the common coarse and polish elements but are also offering a sterile filter element, which is something I previously couldn’t find without active carbon. The great thing is that you can use them with their system as well as with the standard water filter housing commonly found globally. You can find the filter elements by clicking on the filter system, but I thought the system was a great improvement for home cider makers and wanted to include it in my upgrade list. The last upgrade you might consider is some lactic acid bacteria. This is the organism that performs malolactic fermentation (MLF). You can age on fine lees and wait for MLF, or you can add some lactic acid bacteria and encourage it. This will not only save you time aging and ensure you have a successful MLF process. These upgrades will help you manage your cider and tackle any problem it throws at you.

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