As we get close to Easter and the sun starts shining through the windows in the morning again, we’re inching close and closer to our favourite time of year: picnic season. There’s nothing more exciting than a lazy weekend afternoon in the park with a full spread on, a delicious tipple and friends for company. Over the last few years, we’ve seen a drastic increase in the popularity of fruity ciders as the de-facto drink of choice for the park, replacing such staples as rose and a jug of Pimms. There is also a booming micro-industry of people beginning to brew their own cider at home. Due to it’s relatively easier nature when compared to brewing beer at home, and the fact that you have a much more diverse flavour profile to play with, home made cider is going to be the “it drink” this summer. So if you are brewing some at home, what tips and handy advice do we have for the adventurous cider maker? Here are 5 you need to know!
1 – Yeast can be expensive, so don’t but the dear stuff
To brew anything, you need an active ingredient to cause that much needed active change. In the case of cider, there are a number of specialised yeasts which many magazines and sites recommend. These can be quite expensive though when compared to the types you would use for brewing beer. Unless you’re going to plain old hard apple cider, avoid this dearer product. Instead, but some wine yeast! It does the same job, is much more versatile and (because you’re working with fruit here) can bring out greater flavour to your fruits. If you’re going to be making a cider with any type of dark berry, this type of yeast works perfectly as it’s used to breaking down the sugars when making fruity wine.
2 – Squeeze your own juice
Now this may be quite time consuming, but you’re trying to make the best cider possible, so don’t go ruining that beautiful drink with a cheap juice. Fruit juice you’d buy from the supermarket may quicken the process in terms of time spent assembling all your ingredients BUT it can have a damaging effect on your brew. Many juices we buy in cartons will have added preservatives in there to keep the juice fresh and drinkable for longer. Why this is good for the consumer, it’s bad for the brew. If the juice contains any ingredients like sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate, it will have an adverse effect on the yeast and damage the fermentation as less Co2 will be produced. Now for anyone making citrus and berry based ciders giving a good squeeze is easy enough. If you’re working with apples or pears though, best to try and source out fresh juice made locally as it can help save a lot time and effort.
3 – Keep It Chilled
A big mistake many home brewers make with their cider is leaving their brew to sit on the kitchen shelf or windowsill, without realising the damage it can do. After you add any yeast to your cider, try and get it cold by making some space in the fridge. Because you’ll have already simmered the mixture, most of the bacteria and any “wild yeasts” will have been removed already. While it’s good to add the yeast at a temperature which can cause reactions quicker, there is a danger of having the yeast boil in the cider mixture aggressively. Unless you’re after that cloudy apple cider look, its best to avoid. Big cider names like Kopparberg and Magners use industrial chillers with their solutions during this process to help produce as clean looking a cider as possible.
4 – De-cloud it
Now obviously you won’t have a big chiller, but if you want crystal clear coloured cider, you can de-clarify if you want it. It just involves having some patience. Usually, home made cider is only fermented once and this can leave you with some unwanted (but unharmful) yeast still visible to the naked eye. You can get rid of this by siphoning your cider a second time in to a container and then storing your cider in a cool, dry place for a few weeks, preferably a garage. By keeping it nice and cold and away from light you are causing the yeast to settle down and dissipate. Just make sure you store the cider in an air tight container as any open air will cause the yeast to want to bubble up again.
5- Fizz Your Cider
Everyone loves a refreshing sparkling cider, so how do you get it to be a fizzy as store bought cans? All you need is some sugar and water. Get a pot and fill it with 1 cup or water and 3/4 cup of sugar and boil it. Pour the solution in to its own container. Take your cider and pour it in, giving everything a nice slow stir to get it mixed together. Bottle your cider and leave it to settle. Now with normal still cider which you don’t do this with, it’s fine to drink straight away. With sparkling cider though, the sugar mixture needs time to find the yeast and cause carbonation, so letting it sit for a few days will work wonders.
There you have it! 5 tip for spring cider that will help you make the tastiest spring drink for the park.