How to Make Hard Cider

How to Make Hard Cider

Is there such a thing as Autumn in a glass? Well if not, then making hard cider at home is about as close as you can get. But why would you bother making hard cider at home when you can just go out and buy it? Maybe because it's unbelievably easy, fun and rewarding, all while using simple equipment like a bucket and carboy, and simple ingredients like fresh apple cider, sugar, and yeast.

The process is remarkably simple. Ferment the cider in a primary fermenter like a bucket or carboy. Let the cider clear in a secondary fermenter like a carboy. Bottle the cider and give it some aging time for maturation. This is not hyperbole: the satisfaction of enjoying a crisp, homemade hard cider that you crafted yourself and shared with others is a truly fantastic, which is hard to understand until you've done it yourself. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you create your own hard cider:


Ingredients and Equipment


  • 5½ gallons of fresh cider (final volume will be 5 gallons)
  • Sugar (to increase alcohol content)
  • Yeast (variety of strains to choose from)
  • Optional: 5 oz priming sugar (for carbonation), K.C. finings (for clearing)


  • Primary Fermenter (6½ gallon food-grade plastic bucket or carboy)
  • Airlock
  • Cleaning and sanitizing solution
  • Rubber Stopper (if using a carboy)
  • Long-handled spoon (for mixing sugar)
  • Funnel (if using a carboy)
  • Hydrometer (optional, for measuring alcohol content)
  • Siphon setup (auto siphon and hose for transferring cider between vessels)
  • 5-gallon carboy (plastic or glass, for secondary fermentation)
  • Bottling Bucket & Spigot (optional. You can use primary fermenter for this step)

Steps to Making Hard Cider

  1. Preparation:

    • Clean and sanitize all of your equipment
    • Let the cider warm to room temperature (65°F - 75°F).
  2. Primary Fermentation:

    • Pour the cider into the fermenter.
    • Add your chosen sugar combination:
      • 6 cups white table sugar
      • Or 3 cups white table sugar + 3 cups brown/raw sugar
      • Or 3 lbs honey (adds a floral bouquet)
    • Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.
    • (Optional) Measure the specific gravity with a hydrometer.
  3. Adding the Yeast:

    • Aerate the cider by swirling the fermenter to mix in air.
    • Add the yeast:
      • For liquid yeast: Pour directly into the cider.
      • For dried yeast: Sprinkle on top of the cider without stirring.
    • Close the fermenter and attach the airlock.
    • Maintain fermentation temperature between 65°F - 75°F until fermentation begins.
  4. Secondary Fermentation:

    • After about 2 weeks, transfer the cider to a 5-gallon carboy, either glass or plastic.
    • If fermentation is still in progress, keep the carboy in the proper temperature range until bubbling stops completely.
  5. Aging and Clearing:

    • Once fermentation is complete, if possible, move the carboy to a cooler location for aging. Cooler temperatures promote faster clearing.
    • Allow the cider to rest for at least a month until it clears.
    • (Optional) Add K.C. finings if the cider is slow to clear.
  6. Bottling:

    • Before bottling, make sure all fermentation activity has ended.
    • For still (non sparkling) cider, do not add priming sugar.
    • For sparkling cider: Dissolve 5 oz of priming sugar in 16 oz of water, boil, and add to the bottling bucket.
    • Siphon the cider into the bottling bucket, avoiding splashing and try to leave behind most of the sediment.
    • Bottle the cider, leaving about 1 inch from the top, and cap the bottles.
  7. Carbonation and Maturation:

    • Store bottles at room temperature for at least 2 weeks for carbonation.
    • Once carbonated, which you can verify by opening a bottle, store in a cool place. The cider flavor will continue to improve with time.
  8. Drinking and Enjoying:
It's very common for first-time cider makers to taste their young cider and think they've done something wrong. This is because they're comparing their cider to commercially produced ciders, which are typically heavily sweetened. These commercial ciders are heavily sweetened to counterbalance the ciders' naturally high acid levels. High acid tastes tart or sour. Our home-made hard cider has no sugar, and thus we taste the full punch of the acid. If you like a dry wine, then you will like dry cider. But if the cider is too tart for your taste, then you can sweeten it at the same time you drink it. Think about adding cream and sugar to coffee. You make the coffee first and then add cream and sugar to your personal taste. Do the same with your dry hard cider. Pour it into a glass and then sweeten it with anything you want. Try unfermented cider, apple juice, raspberry juice, honey or any other type of sweetener that sounds good. Add enough until it tastes how you like. There is no right or wrong here, because taste is completely subjective.

The Final Sip

Well, that's it. Of all the different types of fermentations, like beer, wine and mead, cider making is generally considered to be the easiest. The process couldn't be easier, it's fun, and when you're done, you have cider. What could be better than that?

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