10 Best Hard Cider Kits: Reviews and Buying Guide

Over the past few years, I’ve been riding the bandwagons of homemade beer and craft brewery, trying out too many styles to tell. My interest in cider, however, is a more recent development. Before visiting England a couple of years ago, I did not even know that alcohol cider was one thing. For me, “cider” was that dark, cinnamon-flavored thing that appeared in the produce section of my supermarket every fall.

There are several reasons for the newly found popularity of cider in the United States. First of all, it is roughly the same strength as beer, so you can drink a decent amount at one time without any ill effects. It is also gluten free, making it an excellent alternative for anyone who avoids products with gluten. It can be cheap, with widely available varieties such as marmot at a price equal to or less than the cost of a pack of six craft beers, although there are certainly more expensive ciders.

If you like cider and want to experience new flavors without becoming the best friend of the local liquor store, consider doing it at home. It is not as difficult or laborious as you might think, and it could become a hobby that you can share with your friends and family. Over time, it could actually cost less too. Although your first batch of five gallons of cider is going to be somewhat expensive (it usually costs around $ 100), subsequent batches should be in the $ 30 range. That’s cheaper than the equivalent volume of cider purchased in the store.

Top 10 Hard Cider Kits

General principles of making hard cider at home

Making cider is more similar to making wine than beer. And, if you use cider or juice without alcohol, the process can be considerably faster and easier than brewing beer. Basically, cider is fermented apple juice. During a period of weeks or months, the yeast eats the sugar in the juice, extrudes the alcohol and finally dies. Once the supply of yeast or sugar is exhausted, the fermentation ceases. However, cider is drinkable before this happens.

As cider does not involve boiling, sanitation is especially important. Potentially noxious strains of wild yeast and non-yeast bacteria can contaminate the cider during the fermentation process, rendering it unpleasant to taste or even turning it into a malodorous soup. In addition to cleaning and disinfecting all your equipment, you must add a sulfur-based treatment called Campden tablets, which costs a few cents each, to kill any wild yeast that may be present in your juice.

Ingredients and cost of cider

Cider is a great option for gluten-free drinkers, and for those who do not like hop flavors or malts in general. Although there is a great variety of cider, in general, it is fresher and more dangerous than beer, closer to the universe of white wine, although in general, it is lower in alcohol.

Historically, hard cider is made from fermented apples, although pears and plums are gaining followers as an alternative. As indicated by a trip to a well-stocked supermarket, there are many varieties of apples: 2,500 in the US alone. UU., Including 100 commercial varieties and 7,500 worldwide. While technically you can make cider from any of these, the best cider actually comes from cider apples rightly named, which are hard and bitter things with which you struggle to drown them raw. Unfortunately, you may not be able to find cider apples at your local supermarket or even at the farmers market. However, other options can still produce excellent results.

The key ingredients of the Cider include the following:

  • Apples or fresh apple juice. Commercial cider houses generally use crushed and pressed fruit in their lots. You can buy a fruit crusher, which looks like a medieval torture device, to extract the juice from raw apples at home. However, it can be more practical and less expensive to buy unpasteurized apple juice and no preservatives (preservatives can kill the yeast) in your local cooperative or organic market. The 365 brands of Whole Foods juices is probably the least expensive option, but a thicker cider can create more complex flavors. If there is an apple farm or a cidery nearby, use your fresh non-alcoholic cider instead. Cost: around $ 20 for five gallons
  • Yeast.  As with beer, there are a handful of yeast strains that can be used to make cider. Some are used to make wine too. You can find cider yeasts at your local beer supply store. Cost: $ 1 to $ 2
  • Yeast nutrients. Unlike homemade brewing, cider requires the addition of yeast nutrients to keep the yeast healthy and productive during fermentation and to ensure that the process is completed properly. Cost: $ 5 to $ 7

Equipment costs to make cider

Cider kits are not as popular as home-made kits, so you may need to purchase your equipment a la carte at a home supply store or on a website. For juice, you may need to make a special trip to the grocery store.

Here is what you need and what you can expect to pay:

  • Fermentation cube: $ 12 to $ 15
  • Cover: $ 2 to $ 3
  • Airlock: the lid and the airlock create a seal to avoid the yeast transported by the air and other harmful microbes. They are usually sold separately from the fermentation tray when they are not included in a preparation kit. $ 1 to $ 2
  • Bottling container: allows the transfer without problems of the partially fermented cider in bottles. $ 12 to $ 15
  • Yeast: $ 1 to $ 2
  • Caps: $ 2 to $ 3
  • Bottling equipment: usually includes a spigot, a siphon, a tube, and a filler. $ 10 to $ 15
  • Bottle Capper: $ 12 to $ 14
  • Priming sugar: This is essential to complete the fermentation process and sufficiently carbonate the beverage. Although it is sweet, there is not enough digestible sugar in the apple juice for the yeast to achieve optimal carbonation without help. $ 1 to $ 2
  • Disinfectant: $ 2.50 to $ 5
  • Campden Tablets: $ 3 to $ 5

Although your costs may vary depending on where you buy and what brands you buy, you should expect your equipment and initial ingredients to cost around $ 100. This is as expensive, or a little more expensive, than buying 9 six-packs, which usually cost between $ 8 and $ 11 each. Remember, however, that subsequent lots should be cheaper.

Process and synchronization of cider

Making cider is not as intense as brewing, but it still requires some investment. You must block the time on the day that the initial fermentation begins and again on the day of bottling. Keep in mind that these very general steps assume that you are using five gallons of juice or unfermented cider to produce five gallons of hard cider. The people in your local home brewery store can offer more specific advice.

Day one

  1. Configuration, preparation, and cleaning of the equipment. Before the start, as with the brewing process, you should make sure that every square inch of your equipment is cleaned with soap and then disinfected. Once this is done, distribute all your equipment in an organized way, fill your fermentation bucket with your juice and start. Time: 25 minutes
  2. Add the Campden tablets. A Campden tablet is a sulfite-based treatment (also used by winemakers) that removes wild yeast and harmful bacteria in unpasteurized fruit juice. Add one crushed tablet for each gallon of juice, stir with a disinfected spoon and let it sit in your sealed fermenter for two days. If you use pasteurized cider or apple juice, this step is not essential. Time: 10 minutes
  3. Prepare and add the yeast. Boil a cup of water, remove it from the heat and add the yeast nutrient in a ratio of two and a half to five gallons of juice. Once it cools below 100 degrees, but before it reaches 80 degrees, add it to the juice in the now unsealed fermenter. Then, add your yeast: the ratio is typically one pack for every five gallons. Time: 20 minutes
  4. Reseal the fermentor . Close and seal the fermenter lid. Store the fermenter in a cool place, ideally below 60 degrees. Time: 5 minutes

From two days to two weeks after

  1. Verification of status. Check again in a couple of days to make sure the air chamber is bubbling: you should see how the bowels move slowly up and down as the gas builds up and escapes inside. Once you confirm this, let it stand in the same cool place for about two weeks. When the air chamber stops bubbling, it is almost ready to prime and bottle. However, you should give it a few more days to be sure, since premature preparation and bottling can cause pressure buildup in the bottle and cause an unpleasant surprise when opened. Time: 5 minutes
  2. Primed. The process of cider preparation, which stimulates the yeast to produce more gas and creates a pleasantly carbonated drink, is similar to that of beer. You must add a specific amount of priming sugar, which should be detailed in the instructions on the sugar packets. Time: 30 to 60 minutes
  3. Bottling After preparing the cider, disinfect the bottling tray and carefully transfer the liquid from the fermenter. Use your bottling equipment, instructions should be included, to fill each bottle, then use the cap to seal each one. Time: from 35 to 55 minutes
  4. Storage and aging after bottling, the cider should age for at least a couple of weeks before it is tasty, carbonated and alcoholic enough to drink. Cider ferments (and tastes) better below 60 degrees, so you should ideally store sealed and prepared bottles in a basement or other cool space with a constant temperature. However, cooler temperatures lengthen the fermentation period. If you want your cider to be drinkable in about two weeks after bottling, store it at room temperature. Keep in mind that cider, like wine, experiences a more noticeable flavor and changes in consistency with age. If you want to experiment with different levels of aging, leave the bottles alone for a few months. But do not leave them too long, Time: from 70 to 120 minutes of active work, more than two weeks to several months of waiting or aging

In total, you can spend between two and three hours approximately, and spend between $ 85 and $ 110, during your first home experience in cider. That’s almost as much, or maybe a few dollars more, than I would spend in the store. However, as a reward, you get five gallons of homemade hard cider to enjoy in your free time.

Retail Cider Costs

Popular cider brands have a price of around $ 8.50 to $ 10 per pack of six. On the contrary, it costs an average of around $ 97 to make your first 53 bottles of cider at home. With that money, you can buy 10 packages of six of Woodchuck or Angry Orchard, 48 bottles, and you have some changes left. If you were buying next to the bottle at the same price, you could buy 52 bottles of cider bought at the store. Subsequent lots of 53 bottles, however, cost around $ 30. That translates to 3 packages of six (plus change) of Woodchuck or Angry Orchard: only 18 bottles.

Therefore, from the point of view of cost, your first batch could be a matter of balance, in addition to the investment of time needed. Even if it’s a bit more expensive on the first try, we’re only talking about a few dollars. Future lots should be significantly cheaper, producing the equivalent of about 9 six-pack cider bought in the store for the cost of three. And regardless of the price, it’s nice to be able to enjoy your own homemade cider as soon as it’s in your hands.

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