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Recipe – Christmas Cider


Making cider is a much simpler task than making beer. Basically you just ferment apple juice with the yeast of your choice with or without some added fermentables. Making a patch takes about 15 minutes and that’s counting sanitation beforehand and cleaning up afterwards. Of course the devil is in the details and there is a lot that affects the outcome: the quality and type of apples, blending different juices, fermentation, back sweetening, spices etc. I’m sure that despite appearances making cider is as nuanced as brewing when you get into it.

With Christmas coming I’m making a small patch of spiced cider for my girlfriend and myself to enjoy over the holidays. The juice is a blend of commercial apple juices bought from the local supermarket. 6 liters of it was what to me tasted like a rather acidic but spicy variety and I blended that with two liters of a sweeter very “appley” tasting juice. I sanitized a better bottle and poured the juice (with a gravity of 1.050 so I didn’t add any sugar) over a bit of yeast nutrient and a teaspoon of pectic enzyme that will break the pectin in the juice to make the cider clear. For yeast I again chose Nottingham dry yeast that several sources state works as well in ciders as in beer. After re-hydrating I poured the yeast in to the juice without aerating. I plan to spice this with cinnamon and a vanilla bean and perhaps add oak as well.

My first cider ended up bone dry and even though that was very enjoyable this time some sweetness would be nice. At this point I’m not sure If I’ll bottle it like the last one (depends on the taste) or kill the yeast, add some fresh juice or sugar, carbonate in a keg and then bottle from the keg.  Another way to back sweeten the cider  is to add some unfermentable sugar like lactose but since we both have lactose intolerance that isn’t such an attractive choice. At this point I’m leaving my options open until I get to taste the cider after fermentation is done.

Target Batch Size (Litres/Gallons):  8 / 1,76
Original gravity: 1.050

8 Litres of Apple juice, no preservatives

1 teaspoon of pectic enzyme
Cinnamon (2 cm of a stick)
1 Vanilla bean

Danstar Nottingham dry yeast

Edit 6/12/13 Tasted and bottled the cider yesterday. Like the last one, this ended up bone dry with a final gravity of 1.0 giving an Abv of about 6,5%. The taste was nice, with the oak and vanilla in evidence and a nice apple taste. However, the Cinnamon didn’t really leave much trace which was surprising since it’s a rather potent spice. I think we’ll end up sweetening this one just before drinking. My girlfriend made an interesting “juice” that she used to flavour some cider after heating it, the same method will likely give a Christmas flavour and some sweetness to this one just as easily.

Next year around I’ll have to make this one earlier to give it some more time to mature in the bottle. Also, I should have an extra keg so that I could try to kill the yeast, add some juice and then force carbonate in a keg. Since I didn’t have any free ones, I didn’t have the option of trying that method.

Hopefully this will carbonate well in time for Christmas . I added some fresh yeast from a starter of wy 1318 to the cider at bottling so as to make sure the 35 grams of bottling sugar will be transformed in to Co2. We’ll see.


From → Recipes

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