Hard Apple Cider Recipe 5 Gallon


Hear ye’, hear ye’! Today’s blog article is a crash course instructional for our 5 gallon hard apple cider recipe. If homebrewing beer is akin to pulling teeth, homebrewing hard cider is a a cakewalk in comparison, not to mention far less labor intensive.

Did you know hard cider used to be a popular beverage in America? Up until prohibitionists and temperance unions started meddling in harmless human affairs, everybody knew how to make hard cider from scratch and passed it on to their generations of children. The recipe was a family heirloom. This may be hard to believe considering the popularity of beer, but hard cider was, in fact, what beer is today in modern America.

But times are changin’ and craft cider (Blake’s Hard Cider) is slowly regaining store shelf space as people like yourself demand more of what we have to offer and fun quick recipes like this one on how to make natural sweet hard cider from scratch.


Stainless Steel or Enameled Pot

Stainless steel or plastic spoon

One 6.5 gallon plastic fermenter with lid, and airlock

5 gallon glass carboy with stopper and airlock

Half-gallon glass “growler” jugs or other bottles (including caps or corks) to store finished cider

Bottling bucket

5 to 6 feet of 3/8-inch food-grade plastic tubing

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5 gallons of preservative-free, sweet apple cider, preferably unpasteurized

One packet of wine yeast (Lalvin 71B, Red Star Champagne or Red Star Cote des Blancs) or once pack of Ale yeast Nottingham. Wyeast 3766: Cider and Red Star Pasteur Blanc

(optional) For higher alcohol content: 2 lbs of brown sugar or honey

(optional) For creating a starter: one additional 16-ounce bottle of preservative-free, pasteurized apple juice

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Wine barrel

The best quality hard cider is made from sweet apple cider ‘fresh off the presses’ – be it your own, or a local cider mill’s.

If purchasing sweet cider, check the label to ensure it contains ZERO chemical preservatives, because it’ll kill your yeast and your cider will fail to ferment. If it says, “Sodium Benzoate” or “Potassium Sorbate”, it’s no good for your purposes.

Best time to get your hands on preservative-free cider is during autumn season from your local orchard. If you have zero other options (i.e. out-of-season, no orchard farms reasonably near-by, etc.) store apple juice is an ‘okay’ substitute, as long as it doesn’t have preservatives.

Lastly, the best sweet cider to have is “cold pasteurized,” which helps destroy microorganisms with ultraviolet light. The usual method utilizes heat, which affects the flavor of the juice. The difference is heat pasteurizing “alters” the flavor, while cold pasteurizing “maintains” it’s original flavor. You want your sweet cider to be as  close to it’s original state as possible, if at all possible. If not, heat pasteurizing will suffice.

If you’re not sure what process the sweet cider has undergone, ask, and they will tell you.

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Traditional wine and champagne yeast, though less costly, produces a higher alcohol tolerance and finishes dry.

For a sweeter, fruitier variation, use an ale yeast, such as Nottingham. Wyeast 3766: Cider and Red Star Pasteur Blanc. Take your pick.


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The day PRIOR to brewing, make a starter. It’s an optional step, but guarantees that your yeast is proofed (alive) and will start fermenting your cider immediately.

Here’s how you make a starter:

Step #1: Open a bottle of room temperature, preservative-free apple juice. Pour out a few ounces.

Step #1: Pour contents of one yeast pack into the bottle, reseal it and shake for 15 –25 seconds. Within 5 – 6 hours, you should see a little bubbling within the bottle.

Step #1: When you see bubbling, release the pressure within the bottle, reseal it and place in refrigerator. Remove a few hours before you brew.

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On brewing day, if your juice is unpasteurized, pour cider into brewpot; let simmer over medium heat, keeping the temperature roughly 185 degrees for 45 minutes. This kills most wild yeasts and bacteria. Also, add a Campden tablet to stabilize the must. While simmering, you can add 2 pounds of brown sugar or honey to boost the fermentable sugar content and raise the alcohol content.

Do NOT boil! Boiling causes pectins to set, creating a permanently, unsavory hazy beverage.

Feeling lucky?

Skip the heating process above, pour the sweet cider straight into the plastic bucket and “pitch the yeast”. Wild strains will remain and WILL alter the flavor…

…for better or worse.

It’s a roll of the dice, but if you get lucky, you’ll enjoy a hard cider that could never be reproduced and is truly a one-in-a-lifetime experience. If you’re unlucky, you’ll toss out hard cider you would not wish your worst enemy to sip. We recommend that instead of risking your entire batch, dedicate a small portion to letting nature decide it’s fate so it’s not all a complete waste if it fails.

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Within 24 – 48hrs you should begin to see the airlock starting to bubble because gas is releasing its carbon dioxide, a byproduct of the fermentation process. Give yourself a big “HOORAH!” It’s well on it’s way to gracing your tastebuds with an apple delight!

Within 2 weeks the bubbling should subside, showing you that it’s the end of the primary fermentation process. Afterwards, let it sit for another week and allow the yeast to settle.

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To bottle immediately, affix the rinsed food-grade tubing to the spigot on your bottling bucket and pour the cider off into sanitized jugs or bottles. Careful when moving the cider. If it sloshes around it will disturb the yeast sediment at the bottom of the bucket and cloud your cider.

Next, seal jugs/bottles. Let sit for additional two weeks and then it’ll be ready to be consumed. Cider improves with age like fine wine, so if you have the patience of Ghandi you will have a superior quality product, but let’s be honest, waiting several months for maturity is not likely happening anytime soon (smiles).

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Drink Your Cider!

You didn’t go through all those steps above for nothing, did you?! It’s time to kick back, relax, and enjoy the (apple) fruits of your labor!

With time and experience, you’re cider making skills will improve and you’ll begin experimenting with other complex variations. And who know’s, maybe you’ll fall in love with the process and get the itch to start a business from your new found passion – a hard cider business. Most hard cider companies began with a desire to share their unique concoctions with the world.

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This concludes the article on our 5 gallon hard apple cider recipe. Have you had a chance to try this recipe? We sure hope so! Another recipe you may want to consider is hard cider with raisins or rum to give a little variety.

It’s very good and we look forward to hearing from you soon about your personal experiences.

Come by and visit us in our neck of the woods and sample a few of Michigan’s best at 17985 Armada Center Rd. Armada, MI 48005, give us a call at 586-784-9463 or shoot us an email at info@blakefarms.com for questions or inquiries about the sale of our business assets.

Alternatively, visit our website to learn more about our products, story and history.

On behalf of the Blake’s family,

Cheers, my friend!

Drink responsibly.

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