How to Make Apple Cider - Heritage English Style

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by The Beverage People

Making Hard Homemade Apple Cider in the Heritage English Style

Learn how to make Apple Cider in the heritage English style from start to finish.  Homemade heritage cider is a great way to enjoy the bounty of the harvest!

Juicing apples for homemade apple cider

Carboys full of heritage cider

Hard heritage cider is made with crab apples or apples with high tannins. Heritage Ciders are further divided into style by country of origin, such as English, French, New England, or Spanish. These are traditional styles of cider making that evolved before modern times. They differ greatly from country to country, and even from region to region within a country. Heritage ciders are traditionally made with one hundred percent crab apples local to the area

English heritage cider is made with crab apples with medium to high tannin content. They are usually dry to medium-sweet and full-bodied.  They tend to have a long mouth finish because of the high astringency due to high tannin levels. English ciders often have no appreciable apple character to them due to the dryness of the cider and the use of malolactic fermentation. Carbonation levels range from still (not carbonated at all) to champagne-like. Common apple varietals include Kingston Black, Stoke Red, Porter’s Perfection, and Nehou. Alcohol content tends to be between 6 and 9%, with starting sugars between 12-18 Brix.

Apple Varieties: Kingston Black, Stoke Red, Dabinett, Porter’s Perfection, Nehou, Yarlington Mill, Major, various Jerseys.

If you don't have these types and are instead using low tannin culinary apples, follow the instruction below with astrisks *.

For a more general discussion about how to make apple cider in the heritage English Style, and comparison to other styles, click here.

For The Beverage People's step-by-step instructions, continue below.

 Sprinkle yeast on top and shake container to disperse. Place an airlock on the top. A!er one or two days, sprinkle in the Yeast Food.

  1. Crush the apples. Use tannic crab apples if you can. Sort out spoiled fruit.
  2. The crushed pulp should be sulfited right away. If your fruit is in good condition, add no more than 1/2 Campden Tablet per gallon of crushed fruit (32 parts per million SO2). Higher sulfite levels will inhibit a successful malolactic fermentation later in the process.
  3. Stir in Pectinase powder. Use 1/2 ounce for every 5 gallons. Wait 2-4 hours before pressing for the pectinase to break down the pulp which increases the amount of juice that can be extracted. It will also aid in clarifying the cider to achieve a clear, bright cider.
  4. Press the pulp to separate the juice from the skins and other solids. Funnel the collected juice into narrow-neck containers that can accept an airlock. Only fill them three-quarters full.
  5. Remove a sample of the juice to test for total acidity (TA). Follow the instructions in your acid testing kit. If the acidity is less than .55%, add enough tartaric acid to bring it to this level. If you cannot do the test right away, refrigerate the juice and run the test later.
  6. Now test the sugar content of the juice with your hydrometer. Correct any deficiencies by adding enough sugar to bring the reading up to 12-18% sugar (12-18° brix).
  7. *If your apples are culinary apples rather than English varietals, add tannin such as StellarTan G Grape tannin to increase the tannin content of the juice.  For instructions, refer to our Key Compenents in Cider discussion.
  8. Wait a total of 8-12 hours after crushing and adding the Campden Tablets for the sulfite to dissipate. Then add your Yeast by sprinkling on the surface. A good choice of yeast would be a English Ale Yeast.  It will result in a softer mouthfeel than a wine yeast.  Our staff has enjoyed the #1968 London Special Yeast from Wyeast, but feel free to experiment with other English ale yeasts.  Attach an airlock or breather bung, and allow fermentation to proceed. After a day or two of fermentation, sprinkle in 1 tsp. of Yeast Food per 5 gallons. Agitate to disperse.  If you can, maintain fermentation temperatures that are on the lower end of the temperature range for the yeast you are using.  For example, if the fermentation temperature range of the yeast is 60° - 75°F, using fermentation temperatures around 60° - 62°F will ensure that less aromatics are driven off with the CO2 production.
  9. When visible signs of fermentation end - the foam flattens and the hazy appearance begins to clarify - the cider must be removed from the sediment. Use a siphon to transfer the cider to a sanitized glass, PET plastic or stainless steel storage containers that accept an airlock. Fill your container all the way into the narrow part of the neck without touching the stopper. Close the top with a stopper and airlock.
  10. Add a malolactic bacteria culture and maintain temperatures at 65-80 degrees F for 3-6 weeks for a successful conversion of malic to lactic acid.  We sell different cultures for different size batches and conditions.  Review our discussion of the "Mysteries of Malolactic" for help in determining whether you have successfully completed the conversion.
  11. When you have determined that MLF (malolactic fermentation) has completed, rack your cider to a new vessel. This is a good time to add some neutral or lightly toasted oak if you desire.  English ciders are also traditionally fermented in wooden barrels. However, English ciders should not have strong wood character because the barrels were traditionally old, neutral wine barrels. WineStix makes small toasted oak staves that comes in either American or French oak and in a variety of darknesses of toast. Since oak shouldn’t be a strong character in the cider, we recommend using the light toast WineStix at a rate of about 1/2 stick per 5 gallons.  Ensure it is topped up and again add 1/2 Campden Tablet per gallon (32 parts per million SO2).
  12. Store for two or three months.
  13. Carefully rack away from the sediment. If your cider is going into extended bottle storage, add another half Campden Tablet per gallon (32 parts per million SO2). Beverages such as this may often be enjoyed within two months of bottling. If you plan to drink some that soon, don't add aditional sulfite to that portion at bottling time.
  14. Siphon into bottles, cork or cap them, and set them aside for whatever bottle aging is needed. You may make a sparkling cider by adding 5-8 oz. of sugar to 5 gallons of cider and bottling in crown-cappable beer or up to 10 oz in strong champagne bottles. Store at room temperature for at least 2 weeks before refrigerating and opening a bottle. This will allow time for the yeast to consume the added sugar and carbonate the cider. If not fully carbonated after 2 weeks, wait a week and test again. Note: Do not use Potassium Sorbate if making sparkling cider or it won't sparkle! If you wish to sweeten, add to taste, a syrup made by boiling two parts sugar with one part water, and add 1/2 tsp. Potassium Sorbate per gallon to prevent re-fermentation in the bottles.  To carbonate sweetened cider, you will need to force carbonate in a keg system.

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