I’ve always been interested in brewing my own beer.
Hell, the wife even bought me one of those starter kits that are supposed to baby step you into the hobby. The problem with this is that the starter kit process makes a pretty big mess and with two small children running about, everything is already about as sticky as it needs to be. Still, I would like to get into it eventually. I drink enough beer that it would be worth my time to learn how to make it in case of apocalypse or errant Constitutional amendments. It’s just that along with being sticky, it also involves equipment, space, time, and, well, know-how. And at the moment, I don’t have any of those things. So I can’t make beer.
But I recently learned that I can make cider.
Now hear me out. I’m wasn’t the biggest fan of cider either, but now I sort of am. It’s growing on me. Because I can make it by the gallon and it’s damn near free. Got your attention back? Good.
One day I was listening to this podcast and the subject was small-batch meads and ciders. The host explained that he made most of his ciders and meads in one-gallon batches before he would dedicate the time and resources to making a five-or-ten-gallon batch. He explained the process, then some ideas for recipes, and encouraged everyone to try it, which I obviously did or this article would be about something entirely different.
The first thing you need for making your free booze is to go on Amazon and buy a couple things.
I realize that’s irony but this is stuff you really need. Once you make a few batches of sweet, sweet hooch though, the costs are spread out to where it really is almost free. Stay with me here.
You need to order some champagne yeast and a handful of airlocks. The whole purchase plus shipping shouldn’t be more than ten dollars. Then you need juice.
There are some people who might not like what I’m about to say and that’s just fine as long as you understand that they are wrong. I’ve tried this and it works. Go to the store and buy a couple one-gallon jugs of any kind of apple juice you can find. Store-brand, Motts, Super-Duper-Hippy-Organic, doesn’t matter. They will all pretty much come out tasting the same. For our purposes, I suggest the cheapest you can get.
So here’s what you do:
- Open the bottle and pour off about a cup to make some headspace
- Drill a hole in the lid large enough to fit your airlock
- Sanitize your lids and airlocks. You can buy sanitizer, or just use really hot water and/or a very light bleach solution
- Pitch your yeast. Those yeast packets are made for 5-gallon batches, so you can spread out one packet among up to five bottles.
- Fit your airlocks into the lids and cap the bottles
- Wait about a month- Catch up on your shows. Call your mom.
You will need some bottles to put the cider into at bottling and now is a good time to think about that. If you’re a beer-drinker like me, you’ll switch to Grolsch to get those swingtop bottles. If you like spending money on glassware with no alcohol inside, you can get all sorts of bottling supplies online. But Grolsch bottles work really well and they already come with beer in them.
- After a month, sanitize your bottles, a funnel, and a teaspoon
- Scoop about a teaspoon of sugar into each Grolsch bottle
- Pour your cider into the swingtop bottle. Fill up to the bottom of the neck.
- Cap your bottles and wait about two weeks. Read a book. Get that landscaping thing your wife’s been on you about done.
- After about two weeks, put your bottles into the fridge to get cold.
- When cold, open and enjoy.
- Suggest making staggered batches during fermentation time so that you don’t run out.
And like that, you’re into so-cheap-it-might-as-well-be-free hard cider. The champagne yeast strips out all of the sugar and sweetness so even using a cheap juice you will be left with a clean and crisp cider that tastes, in my opinion, better than most off-the-shelf products that also cost around $8 for a six-pack. Here we just made a gallon for about $3.50. And if you’re into knowing this sort of thing, our hooch is about 7% alcohol.
Here’s how it works:
Yeast eats sugar and turns it into alcohol and carbon dioxide. At a certain point, the ratio of sugar to alcohol get so that the yeast either die or go to sleep. They all settle on the bottom and your airlock stops burping Co2. When you add sugar in the bottling process, the yeast wakes up and starts to eat it, only this time the Co2 is trapped in the bottle. With nowhere to go, the little yeast farts are forced into solution and that’s what carbonates the beverage.
Now you try.