Making hard cider with store bought commercial apple juice is probably one of the easiest ways to make a cider and perhaps alcohol in general. At least a decent tasting one…

Not everyone is lucky enough to live close to apple orchards where the freshest cider can be found. Luckily, a store bought cider such as Musselman’s Cider can be used to achieve decent homemade hard cider results! The commercially available cider is also about half the price of a fresh pressed cider and typically pasteurized which eliminates the need for campden tablets.

A glass carboy, gallon of apple juice and various brewing equipment

The most important part of this recipe is to make sure the juice does not have any preservatives.  Preservatives will not allow the yeast to flourish so you will not get any alcohol production! Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) is commonly added to store bought apple juice and will not harm the cider fermentation process.

These commercial types of apple juice typically lack tannin so if you prefer the mouthfeel of tannin in your cider, consider adding a tannin powder or tannin from tea to enhance the cider. Many other flavors can be imparted to improve the flavor of this cider such as ginger, berries or other fruit juices.

First time making hard cider?

How I Make Hard Cider With Store Bought Juice

I started with 1 gallon of Musselman’s Apple Cider that I purchased at a local grocery store. Using a hydrometer, I measured the original gravity of this juice at 1.044 which I calculated would produce around 5.5% ABV if I fermented it to near dry, or near 1.002 FG. An ABV in this range is perfect for me so I did not make any sugar additions although apple juice concentrate can be added to boost the sugar content and in turn raise the expected final ABV. 

After I took a hydrometer reading I poured the cider into a one gallon carboy along with one teaspoon of yeast nutrient to ensure strong fermentation. 

I then added 1/4 package of Safale S-04 ale yeast, which is one of my favorites for ciders. The flavor of the ale yeast is complementary and it does not ferment as dry as some other yeast.

one gallon carboy filled with apple juice that is fermenting and has a krausen foam layer on top

Fermentation began strongly with a nice layer of krausen forming on top. The krausen settled and the yeast sank within 48 hours as the fermentation vigorously bubbled. Within 72 hours the fermentation slowed from a bubble per second to around a bubble per 30 seconds. At this point, the specific gravity measured 1.004 and within a few more days it stabilized at 1.000.

Once fermentation ended, I racked the cider to a secondary fermenter and allowed it to clear for a couple weeks.  At this point, the cider tasted quite nice and should age well.

Cider Results:

Original Gravity: 1.044
72 hours: 1.004
Final Gravity: 1.000
AVB: 5.74%

For bottling, I used 12-ounce bottles and made some experimental tannin and sweetener combinations that I am looking forward to!

Additional Cider Making Notes:

I do not suggest raising the original gravity too much as the higher alcohol level will require longer aging to mellow out the flavor of the hard cider. If you choose to raise the original gravity of the juice, consider using a frozen apple juice concentrate to add both sugar and flavor.

Once you have a fermented cider that has finished dry you will be ready for flavor and back sweetening if desired. Additional details on back sweetening cider can be found here.