This hard cider recipe takes me back to some of the first ciders I made. I used store bought organic juice. I have kept this recipe simple and easy. It just uses juice and yeast. You can even use the glass carboy (or container) in which your apple juice is packaged for your fermenter. I also use tart cherry juice concentrate. You might think sweet cherry juice would be better but trust me, you want to use the tart juice. The yeast will consume all the sugar and the tart cherries seem to provide more cherry aromatics. I recommend SafAle S-04 yeast for this cider. It is a clean fermenting yeast that ferments and clears quickly and forms a relatively compact sediment layer. I think it helps highlight esters found in the fruit and It always scores well when doing yeast trials.
Most store bought juice will have a specific gravity of 1.050-1.055 and pH around 3.4. This cider will ferment quickly with the SafAle yeast. It will usually clear quickly as well. I have actually gone from fermenting to bottling in a week with this yeast. It might take longer but don’t be surprised if it ferments faster than I indicate. I never know all your environmental conditions so I try to error on the side of ensuring each process is complete. Also note that since you are using store bought juice, you need to use yeast as the juice will be sterilized. This is why I recommend organic. If you are using organic juices, they should not have preservatives. Generally, they will have been pasteurized. If you use a juice with preservatives like sulfite or sorbates, it may not ferment or be very slow.
Here are some alternatives you might consider for this cider.
- Force Carbonation: Just because it’s juice doesn’t mean you have to bottle condition it. You could easily process it through a keg system and even filter it if you want to keep your cider clean and clear.
- Oak Aging: If you want to take this cider up a level, add some heavy toasted oak cubes to it when aging it. This will add some vanilla notes, which is a common flavor profile for cherry drinks.
- Yeast Alternatives: Consider using a different yeast. I recommend the SafAle S-04 but if you have had good luck with another yeast, go for it. I find you have to test yeasts to the environment in which you use them. What works well for me, may not work well for you.
- Back Sweeten: If you desire a sweeter hard cider, consider adding 40 grams per gallon (10.5 grams per liter) of organic erythritol to the cider before bottling. Erythritol is a non-fermentable sugar alcohol.
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