West Coast Brewer Home Brewing Blog

Tag: how to guide

Cider, The Gateway Drug To Beer!

Hey, I thought that West Coast Brewer was a home beer brewing site, why are you making cider?

Yes, it is a homebrewing blog; but I figure that cider making is in the same wheelhouse and that I would share what I learned on the topic in case anyone else was interested in making a batch. The idea of making a batch of cider came to me when I was considering what I wanted to fill my next batch of kegs with. My goal was to having something for everybody. That got me thinking. We all know one of those people who is “Not a beer person”. Whenever I hear someone mutter those words I immediately think that they just have not found the right beer or had a bad beer experience where instead of someone easing them in to beer, they pushed a double IPA on them or gave them a poorly made sour.  Although Hard Cider is not beer, many people consider them to be somewhat synonymous with one another and it has to be one of the most approachable alcohols on the planet. It has a low ABV, it is relatively sweet, can be bubbly and has next to no bitterness; it is the gateway drug to beer!

Making cider is easy! Making good cider is a bit more difficult but not too hard if you have the right equipment and a little bit of patience. The good news is that if you are a home beer brewer, you probably have just about everything that you will need in order to make a batch of cider.  If not, do not worry, I will go over all of that with you. So you have a few options.  If you are happy with mediocrity, I highly recommend you purchase a cider making kit! For approximately $45, you can purchase a Mangrove Jack apple cider kit and create a 5 gallon batch of hard cider that will produce somewhere between a bad and mediocre cider. These kits come with all of the ingredients that you will need, include instructions and make the process very simple. It may not be the best cider you have ever tasted, but it you have never made cider before and have no home brewing experience, this may be a great way to go.  You can purchase a Mangrove Jack Apple Cider kit here. You can also find some helpful information on making cider from a kit at HomebrewingDeal.com.

If you have higher aspirations and want to try and create a good to great cider then keep reading and I will do my best to help you reach that goal. The batch of cider that I ended up making was a hard apple cider aged on oak and Oregon Sour Cherries. To make a good cider it is critical to start with the best ingredients possible.  Your base ingredient will be apple cider.  If you have it available to you from a local apple orchard, pick up fresh pressed cider! If like most people you do not, a great alternative is Musselman’s 100% Apple Cider.  It can be purchased at Walmart for approximately  $4.50 a gallon.  It is pasturized, so there are no additives that will negatively impact your cider and is a great compromise between cost and quality. You need minimal equipment to make cider and the most important item is a fermenter that can hold approximately 7 gallons.  If you can swing the price, I highly recommend a Stainless Steel fermenter that will last you a life time.  You can purchase a 7 Gallon Stainless Steel Brew Bucket Fermenter here for $199 with free shipping.  You will also need to bottle or ideally keg your cider when fermentation has completed.  Items for kegging and bottling cider can be found here at MoreBeer for a reasonable price and ship free on orders of $59+. If you need any specific suggestions or help with this, please leave a comment or shoot me an email and I would be happy yo help you.  Okay, so here is the recipe that I used to make my cider:


How to guide to making hard cider

How to guide to making hard cider


Step 1: Prepare for fermentation

Clean and sanitize your fermenter and anything that will come in contact with you cider.  If you need a food grade sanitizer, I highly recommend Star San Sanitizer.

Add 5 Gallons of Musselman’s 100% Apple Cider to your fermenter
Add 1 (12oz) container of 100% frozen apple juice concentrate (make sure that there are no preservatives aside from Ascorbic Acid(Vitamin C))
Add 2 Tablespoons of Pectic Enzyme (for clarity)
Add 1 Tablespoon of Yeast Nutrient (for yeast health and a strong fermentation)
Make sure that your cider is at an ideal fermentation temperature for your yeast strain (typically 68 F)
Add your yeast, I like Wyeast 4766 or Cote Des Blancs dry wine yeast; both are great choices for cider yeast.
If possible, take a specific gravity reading. Make sure that your gravity is above 1.045 or else you may have stability issues with your finished cider. You can add additional apple juice concentrate if needed to boost your gravity.
Next seal your fermenter, place it in a temperature controlled location and let it fermenter for 2-3 weeks until your fermentation has completed.

Step 2: Post Fermentation

Once your fermentation has completed there are just a few more tweaks.
Add 1 Teaspoon of Malic Acid  (gives the cider a little zip) You may want to add a little more or less depending on your taste


Step 3: Back Sweeten Your Cider or Add Fruit (Optional)

At this point your cider will probably be somewhat dry. I suggest that you back sweeten it to help highly some of the apple flavor it in. In order to do so, you will need to render the yeast unable to ferment the new sugars that you will be adding to the cider. To do so conduct the following steps:
Crush 5 campden tablets and mix it with 1 teaspoon of potassium sorbate  and it to your cider.  If possible, drop your fermentation temperature down to 45F.  Wait 24-48 hours.  At this point your fermentation should be completely halted.
A 1 (12oz) container of 100% frozen apple juice concentrate (make sure that there are no preservatives aside from Ascorbic Acid(Vitamin C)) for sweetness and flavor
Add fruit if desired.  I added 2 can of Oregon Sour Cherries
Let the cider age at 45 F for an additional 7 Days

Step 4: Transfer Your Cider To The Keg

I use a keg partially because I am lazy and partially because it is the best choice.  If you want your cider to be carbonated and you chose to back sweeten or add fruit to it, kegging is your only reasonable choice. Otherwise you will need to add yeast to it once again to force carbonate it in the bottle and risk both over carbonating and undoing all of the effort you placed in to back sweetening the cider in the first place. If you keg, you are able to bottle once the carbonation level that you desire is reached and the cider will come out much cleaner!

Clean and sanitize your keg and anything that will come in contact with the cider.
Transfer your cider from the fermenter to the keg, doing your best to avoid drawing in any of the particulates that have settled to the bottom of your fermenter.
Add oak sticks or oak cubes to the keg for additional complexity if desired. I think it adds a nice touch to the cider. Oak takes time to impact the flavor of your cider, so as it ages in the keg its flavor will become more noticeable.
Let the cider carbonate and condition in the keg for approximately 2 weeks. Your first few pours from the tap will be a little cloudy but after that it should begin to clarify rapidly.

That is it. If all goes well, you should now have a delicious glass of cider in front of you!  Please let me know how yours turns out or if you have any comments, questions or suggestion.


Guide on how to make beer at home. A beginners how to on brewing beer with an extract home brewing kit.

Instructions for brewing beer at home.

How to guide on how to brew beer at home.


Over the last several years, both craft beer and homebrewing have become very popular.  Every day new home brewers are born as they attempt to brew their first batch of beer at home.  This guide on how to brew beer at home covers the basic instructions on how to brew beer with a extract home beer brewing kit and goes over the basics beer brewing rule of thumbs so that you can create a great batch of beer your first time out!


Lets start with the what you will need to brew your first batch of beer.  I would recommend staring with an extract home beer brewing ingredient kit and one of these homebrewing equipment starter kits.   Click on the image below to pick out a home beer brewing equipment kit if you have not already purchase one:


Homebrewing Equipement Starter Kit Includes most of the basic equipment you need to brew beer at home

Homebrewing Equipement Starter Kit


Next you will want to pick out the extract home brewing ingredient kit that you will want to brew. These beer brewing ingredient kits include all the ingredients that you will need (except the water) to brew your first batch of beer, including the hops and grain extract.  Make sure that you select an appropriate yeast and priming sugar if your will be bottling your beer.  I choose to brew an American Wheat beer for my first batch and had allot of success with it, but I recommend you choose one of your favorite beer styles for your first batch.  MoreBeer offers a great selection of home brewing beer recipe kits, click the beer image to view their starter kit selection.


Home Beer Brewing Ingredient Starter Kits

Home Beer Brewing Ingredient Starter Kits


Optional equipment that you will want to consider to help your first home beer brewing session go as well as possible are as follows.  I would recommend if you are brewing a 5 gallon batch of beer that you purchase a stainless steel 8 gallon home brewing kettle.  This will provide you with some additional head space in the kettle and help you avoid a boil over during the boiling process.  A great economical brew kettle would be this 8.5 gallon stainless brewing pot. Click the image for additional details and to order one.


8.5 gallon stainless home brewing kettle

8 gallon stainless home brewing kettle


Another item that I would recommend is a stainless steel home brewing wort chiller.  A home brewing wort chiller is important because after your beer has boiled it is concentrated with sugar and very susceptible to infection by bacteria or wild yeast strains.  A wort chiller helps cool your beer down rapidly after the boiling process has completed so that you can move it over to a sterilized fermenter to begin to fermentation process as quickly as possible and diminish to probability of an infection occurring.  Here is a great wort chiller for 5 gallon home beer brewing batches.


Stainless Steel Wort Chiller

Stainless Steel Wort Chiller


The last set of equipment that I would recommend if you can fit it in your budget is a home brew beer kegging system.  Cleaning, sanitizing, priming, filling and capping your beer bottles is a serious pain in the butt and a kegging system helps you avoid just about all of that.  Not to mention it allows you to control your carbonation level and is much safer since an over carbonated bottle can explode! Here is a great home beer brewing keg system that I would recommend. Please click the keg system image for more details and pricing options.


Home Beer Brewing Keg System

Home Beer Brewing Keg System


Alright, now that we have all of that out of the way, we can get down to business!  Here is a basic guide on how to brew beer at home.  If you have any questions on one of the steps you can always feel free to reach out to me and I will do my best to give you good advice.


Step #1:
Review your beer brewing recipe and make sure that you have everything that you will need to brew your batch of beer.  Set your yeast out so that it will acclimate to room temperature. Begin heating the water in your brewing kettle or large pot. Once the water is heated to the desired temperature add your flavoring or steeping grains if included with your home brewing ingredient kit. Place the grains in a mesh bag and allow them to steep for approximately 30 minutes at 160F or the temperature your beer recipe states. Once the grain steeping is completed, press against the grain bag with a spoon to release as much as the flavor as possible and then remove the grain bag and bring the mixture to a boil.


Home Beer Brewing Ingredients

Home Beer Brewing Ingredients


Step #2:
Once your water has reached a boil, reduce the temperature just slightly and add in your liquid malt extract and or dry malt extract. The malt extract is composed of sugars that have been extracted for you from beer brewing malts and grains. Stir the mixture which at this point in the home beer brewing process is known as wort. Stir you wort vigorously, making sure that it does not clump or burn on the bottom of the kettle or home brewing pot. Slowly increase the temperature until the kettle until it reaches a boil. At this time you will want to closely monitor your home brewing kettle closely to avoid a boil over.  A kettle boil over is most likely at the start of your boil than at any other time.  If you notice a large head of foam begging to form, reduce the temperature of the kettle and rapidly stir the wort until it subsides. Once your wort has been boiling for 5 minutes, begin your boil timer for hop additions.


Home Beer Brewing Hops

Home Beer Brewing Hops


Step #3:
Once your wort has achieved a strong rolling boil you will want to add in your first timed hop addition. Hops are what adds the bitterness to your beer and much of the aroma. Typically your bittering hops are added early in the boiling process and much remain in contact with the boiling beer for an extended period of time (usually 60 minutes) to transfer all of their bittering potential to the beer; so keep in mind that the longer that your hops are exposed to the boiling wort, the more bitter the finished beer will be. Once you have added in your first hop addition, you will want to set a timer for your next hop addition.


Step #4:
Once you have finished boiling your wort and making all of your hop additions including any final 0 minute aroma hop additions; turn the heat off and cool the wort as quickly as possible.  This is the time when you would want to utilize your wort chiller if you decided to purchase one.  The wort chiller will allow you to cool your wort rapidly. If you do not have a home beer brewing wort chiller available then I would recommend soaking your beer brewing kettle or pot in an ice bath while stirring the wort to help it cool down more quickly. Make sure that the spoon that you stir your wort with is sanitized, because from this point forward your wort will need to remain as sterile as possible to help avoid a contamination in your beer from bacteria or foreign yeast sources.


Step #5:
Once you have cooled your wort to approximately 70 F (for an ale or 50 F for a lager), you will transfer your home brewing beer wort to a sanitized carboy, stainless steel ferenter or fermentation bucket. It is important to make sure that the fermentation vessel and any tubing the wort comes in contact with has been cleaned and sanitized! Try to splash the wort around while transferring it as that will help to oxygenate the wort. The yeast utilizes the oxygen for its initial reproduction phase of the fermentation process. Once the wort has been transferred to the carboy, add your home brewing yeast into the fermenter and seal the fermenter with an airlock. The home brewing airlock will permit CO2 to escape while not allowing in any outside contaminants or oxygen. Allow the beer to ferment at approximately 68 F for an Ale or 52 F for a lager, until the fermentation process has completed. The fermentation process typically takes between 2 to 3 weeks to complete depending on the potential alcohol level of the beer, the yeast and the fermentation temperature.


Step #6:
Once the yeast has completed fermenting your beer, which typically takes 7-21 days; then either transfer the beer to a keg or add an appropriate amount of priming sugar to the beer and then bottle it. The beer should carbonate condition for about 2 weeks for best results. If you are using a keg and CO2 tank to carbonate your beer, the process can go much quicker. Keep in mind that if you are bottling your beer you will want to let the beer carbonate and condition at approximately 70 F so that the sugars can be fermented into CO2 to properly carbonate the beer.  Once completed, your beer is ready to enjoy!


For home beer brewing equipment and supplies I highly recommend MoreBeer.com.


West Coast Brewer Session Pale Ale

West Coast Brewer Session Pale Ale