Fermentation and Racking

Cider is fermented pure apple juice. Try to start with a blend of apples that give a balance between sweetness, acidity and bitterness. The level of sugar in the apples determines the potential alcohol. The juice should naturally contain sufficient sugar to give a specific gravity hydrometer reading of between 1040 and 1060, which equates to a final alcohol level between about 5% and 7.7% by volume.

Ferment the juice in fermenters with airlocks, taking care to exclude air and insects.

Fermentation will usually take three to six weeks, depending on temperature and yeast, and once it has ceased, immediately siphon the cider off the sediment into a clean fermenter. Repeat this process after a few weeks or when another sediment has formed. The cider should clear naturally.

Racking not only prevents the development of off-flavours through excessive autolysis, it is also important to obtaining a clear cider.

At the start of fermentation the juice will contain many solids which will gradually come out of solution and drop to the bottom of your fermenter along with any dead yeast (this sediment is often referred to as lees).

Racking is the transferring, (syphoning the clear cider off of the lees) your cider from its original vessel to a clean new container. It is inevitable that some of the solids are stirred up by the process of transfer so each successive racking the cider should become clearer.

Clarity is not just important for the visual appearance but excessive suspended yeast in the cider can impart a yeasty taste which most regard as a fault in ciders.

Cider is ready to drink as soon as it tastes good. This may be immediately after fermentation or there may be need for a period of maturation, for the cider to mellow.

We supply all the equipment required for fermentation in kit form or available to purchase item by item. You will need the following:

  • Fermentation vessels. Always have at least 1 more than the total number of vessels of cider you have (this will allow you to siphon the cider off the lees and sediment into a empty container).
  • Siphon tubing to transfer the cider from one fermenter to another.
  • A large funnel to aid in this process.
  • Hydrometer and hydrometer jar for testing your cider (important for determining starting and final gravity, and therefore the potential alcohol percentage of your cider).
  • Yeast (unpasteurised apple juice has natural yeast in which will allow it to ferment but it can be much easier and the results more predictable if you use a cultured yeast).
  • Campden tablets for the sterilisation of your equipment.