Commercial yeast production provides a lot of options when it comes to making cider at home. Cider is closely related to wine so typically wine yeast are used although many ale yeasts produce great results. Using different yeast can change the flavors and finish of a cider drastically. Some yeast, such as Cote Des Blancs, a wine yeast will produce esters that complement the apple flavor and finish near 1.000FG. Others, such as EC-1118 champagne yeast, will nearly strip the apple flavor and finish extra dry.
While the yeast itself is the workhorse, yeast needs the right conditions to thrive. Generally, a lower temperature around 60-65F will result in a slower and smoother fermentation. Higher temperatures may stress yeast and result in high SO2 production or off flavors. Some yeasts also require yeast nutrients when used for cider making because cider is relatively low in nutrients. Read the manufacturer’s specifications for the best results.
Suggested Yeast for Making Hard Cider:
Nottingham Ale Yeast: This yeast is one of the favorites that I use often, especially when going for a semi-sweet cider. Nottingham complements the apple flavor nicely with fruity esters and generally finishes around 1.008-1.004 SG in my experience.
Safale S04: Another ale yeast that I highly recommend because it is so flexible. S-04 yeast ferments quickly and has high flocculation, meaning it settles out really well so it produces clearer ciders. It finishes slightly above 1.000 SG so it leaves a nice touch of sweetness as well.
Cider House Select: This high ester producing yeast adds depth and flavor to cider. It makes for a good beginner yeast as it already includes the recommended dose of yeast nutrient in the package. The Cider House yeast ferments quickly and finishes dry.
Cote des Blancs: This yeast produces its own apple and pear esters that enhance the cider flavor. CdB finishes with a final gravity around 0.997-1.000 which is still dry, but not as dry as a champagne yeast. This yeast is best fermented at around 65F and will require a little extra time to fully ferment.