In the simplest sense, alcoholic fermentation is the process in which simple sugars are metabolized by yeast and converted into ethanol (alcohol) and carbon dioxide.
Cider + Yeast = Delicious
In cider making, the sugars in sweet cider are consumed by the yeast. There are three main methods for fermenting cider, two using fresh pressed cider and one using store bought pasteurized cider.
- Fresh Pressed Cider With Wild Yeast
- Fresh Pressed Cider With Campden & Cultured Yeast
- Store Bought Pasteurized Cider with Cultured Yeast
Fresh Pressed Cider With Wild Yeast
This method is the simplest and can result in some outstanding cider although you run the risk of contamination (yuck). The natural wild yeast is present on the peels of apples when they are pressed which are carried on to the juice. To make this style of cider, simply add your sweet cider to a sanitized fermentor, fix on an airlock and wait. The natural apple-philic yeasts will begin their work after a couple of days. While these yeasts are specific to apples and can develop complex apple flavors, there is a chance you will be dumping it down the drain…
Fresh Pressed Cider With Campden & Cultured Yeast
This method is foolproof and what this site focuses on. To ensure clean and replicable fermentation, the wild yeasts are stunned using campden tablets (sulfates). The campden tablets slow down or kill the wild yeast allowing a cultured yeast to be added and flourish.
To use campden tablets, add one crushed tablet per gallon of cider and allow the mixture to sit for 24 -36 hours. Keep the vessel covered with a cloth to allow the sulfates to escape while keeping bugs out.
Once the campden has done its job, the cultured yeast can be pitched and an airlock attached. Fermentation should begin within 24 hours and be identified by bubbling in the airlock.
Store Bought Pasteurized Cider with Cultured Yeast
While some purists may scoff at the thought of using anything but fresh pressed cider, a store bought juice can work and will work if it’s the only thing available! Make sure that the juice has only been pasteurized and NO preservatives have been added. Any preservatives will make fermentation impossible. (Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is OK)
To make cider with store bought juice, simply add the juice to the sanitized fermenter, pitch the yeast and attach the airlock.
Try using a mix of juice and concentrated juice to achieve the desired sugar levels (chaptalization) without having to add other non-apple sugars.