Hard Cider

Wyeast 4184 sweet mead

6 gallons apple cider

5 lbs Tupelo honey get it here


acid blend

The cool thing about making hard cider is that it doesn’t have to be boiled. Just put it all together and add  your yeast.

Scrub your lemons and slice them as thin as you can. Put it with the cider just before you start the ferment.

The honey; you might heat that with a gallon of cider to dissolve it, and let it cool overnight.

The yeast we use has an eleven percent alcohol tolerance. Our ingredients won’t be enough to reach that high content, and it’s not a contest to do so.

We use the lemons to add some citric acid which will help the flavor of the cider. We can also add some acid blend before we are done with it. It will need some or the flavor will be ‘cloying’.

Cider is a joy unbounded if it can be both sweet and carbonated. This only can happen if we keg it. If we bottle it, it will have to be still; or not carbonated.

Taste and add acid blend if necessary at this time.

6 gallons of Louisburg cider

5 lbs of Sue Bee honey

2 lbs piloncillos

3 lemons

2 lbs raisins

Wyeast 4184 Sweet Mead

Can you see the manufacturing date? 1-15-15. It will take a little longer for the pack to expand. This yeast should go to 12% alcohol by volume…maybe a little higher


These are half pound cones of Piloncillo which is pure cane sugar. First press of the sugar cane, I believe.


I decided to keep my rare and expensive Tupelo honey and use this


I poured the yeast into a starter  mixture this morning (9/28). No, it wasn’t expanded; I was impatient. I think I noticed the airlock starting its first bubble this afternoon. There is hope after all. I did buy some back up yeast; some champagne and some wine yeast (cote de blanc). I hoped I wouldn’t have to go that route as it would require addition of much  more sugar to have the yeast die off because of the alcohol content. Roughly, one pound of fermentables for every percentage of ABV. So if a yeast has a tolerance of 12%, then twelve pounds of sugar…in theory…is all it will ferment. It’s probably safe to assume that one could count on at least a point or two higher in the final ABV measure added to the specs of said yeast.

This particular yeast said

YEAST STRAIN: 4184  |  Sweet Mead™

Back to Yeast Strain List

Leaves 2-3% residual sugar in most meads. Rich, fruity profile complements fruit mead fermentations.

Flocculation: Medium
Attenuation: NA
Temperature Range: 65-75°F, 18-24°C
Alcohol Tolerance: 11% ABV

This year I am going to boil 2 gallons of the Louisburg down until there is one gallon. The liquid will be gone, and the sugars will remain. When this is done, I will dissolve the piloncillos in that warm cider, and add the honey to get it a little thinner as well.

One could boil more cider down to have a super strong batch, if one has the time and inclination. One also has to be aware that boiling apple cider can release pectins. Not a good thing for cider. I was lucky last time. Perhaps I am still lucky. I know not how to combat this. An easy low boil was what I did a couple years ago.

Since we have fruits and raisins, we will use the plastic bucket for this batch.

Cider Day Today


I poured two gallons of the cider into a 3 gallon pot and put it to boil. I added 4 cones of the piloncillo (2 lbs). They dissolved easily.


It took two hours to boil from this to this


Removed from heat and cool in ice water bath in sink. Add and dissolve honey too at this time.

Meanwhile, I sliced the three lemons wafer thin and added them to the now sanitized bucket, as well as the raisins.

I also poured three gallons of the Louisburg into the bucket and covered while the other cools.

I also had poured some cider into our starter flask, and that jug was in the fridge. I added that also to our just-off-the-stove cider to help cool it. When it reached 80°, I added it to the rest of the batch and added the yeast.

The OG was….1.100. Pretty impressive. The quick gage on the hydrometer indicated that the ABV would be at 13%, if it fermented out all the way.

As I mentioned earlier, this yeast shouldn’t live through that high of alcohol content, so we may very well have naturally sweet, strong cider.

Now we wait.

Update 10/3/15

On Thursday, the ferment seemed to have stopped…that would be way too early, so I added a package of Lalvin K1-V1116 wine yeast. I did not check the gravity but when I popped the top of the bucket, I could see it was fermenting so I surmised that the blowoff tube in the adaptor to the bucket lid, got wampa-jawed and was not making a seal.

In theory, the wine yeast will finish fermenting the originally pitched yeast. I was hoping the yeast would die off due to too high of an alcohol presence, leaving the wine sweet yet strong.

The wine yeast is much more tolerant of alcohol, so it may very well ferment all the sugar and leave the batch dry. If a sweet batch is still my goal at that time (it is), I will have to add more sugar to the batch to kick up the alcohol so it will eventually kill off the yeast. If I do this, all my specific gravity readings can be flushed down the toilet as they will be worthless to me now.

So what sugars? you may ask. We must be careful about adding refined white sugar. We could used brown sugar and/or honey. Corn sugar would be OK too, but not to excess.

If we go this route, it would be prudent of us to go ahead and add the extra sugars now; at least two pounds.

No harm to cider, and I added the wine yeast anyway. I now have a strong ferment going.

Will update.


I brought to boiling 1 C water and dissolved 8 oz of piloncillo in it. Then I dissolved 1 lb of honey. I cooled and poured that into 6 1/2 gallon carboy, then racked the cider onto it. It was too early as I had lots of CO2 bubbles in the siphon hose which caused me to stop the racking as the bubble buildup stopped the flow of cider.

I removed racking tubes and canes, and poured the rest of the  cider makings into a funnel into the carboy; mostly raisins and lemons but a good quart of cider.

This will take another week to see what it’s gonna do before I take my next step.


I moved the cider to the kitchen, fully intending to rack it today. In the move however, I shook it enough so it started fermenting again. You can see here the CO2 bubbles on the edge, and on the top forming little colonies.

See the sediment

Yeah, that’s me in the reflection. Hopefully, Abby Sciutto won’t be able to reverse render an image from the reflection.

I dissolved 2 piloncillos in a quart of boiling water. When cooled, I added a pound of Tupelo honey and stirred until dissolved. When rack the cider, I will rack it on this. 2 more pounds of fermentables. We should be seeing this batch of yeast die off.

Update: 10/24/15

I racked it this morning to the above mentioned extra sugar. I didn’t see any flurry of yeast activity. I moved it back into the spare bedroom and in doing so, it got sloshed several times. I’ll just have to watch it to see if it starts up.



When done, it left the sediment behind.

update: 10/26/15

Here are a couple of shots showing the tiny colonies of bubbles on top and you can see there is more sediment forming. I had not the patience at this particular observation to watch the airlock.




I racked today to 1 tsp of potassium metabisulphate. This chemical will kill off, or slow down any yeast that are still alive.


I dissolved 1 tsp into about 1/4 C water, poured it into empty carboy, and siphoned the cider onto it. The other package you see there is chitosan, which is a clearing agent made from fish guts. The particles are charged positively and attract free floating particles in the cider and fall to the bottom. I am not using it at this time as I want to be sure the ferment will not start up as we will add some more sugar before we bottle. More on that later.


Siphoning in progress. See the difference in the amount of sediment compared to the last racking?


I pulled a shot for sampling. It’s very clear already.


I can feel some carbonation, and it’s sweet as it is. My guess is that the yeast has died or is dying due to high alcohol content.

I’ll wait a few days and check it for sediment.

At that time, we could add chitosan, which would definitely speed up the clearing process, but it may not need to be cleared that way at all. If the yeast is truly dead, then it will clear. Patience.


Notice the end of the racking can in the above picture. It has a standoff on the end so we won’t siphon trub into our cider. The idea is to leave it behind to clear our cider. It’s a small sacrifice, but necessary for clearing.

Below is a picture of the carpeting by the wine rack. A few years ago, the batch of cider had not fully stopped fermenting, but I corked it anyway. Over a period of maybe two weeks, I lost probably 2 gallons of cider onto the carpeting as the corks popped out. I didn’t even notice and the mess even dried up before I caught it. It was tragic because that stuff was so strong that if you got up to fill your glass a third time, you realized that your legs stopped working.


Will update when the next racking occurs.

Update: 11/14/15

I bottled the cider today. It had stopped fermenting almost as soon as I added the potassium metabisulphate a few weeks ago and could have bottle any time. It had just a wee bit of sediment today. I added one can of frozen apple juice concentrate (Seneca brand) as I racked it and stirred it in well, then bottled. A few glass ones and the rest plastic for shipping. Yes several samples were made and couldn’t figure out why I got such a buzz, then remembered I had no breakfast.

Bottling setup.


A bench corker is a must have if you are going to make a lot of wine bottles with corks. There are hand held ones, but you are required to have three hands and be an acrobat to use them.





This was maybe 5 1/2 gallons. 5 2-liter bottles, 6 1-liter bottles, and 4 1.75 liter glass bottles. Comes out to 20 liters or so. There was enough left for about 6oz sample glass. It tastes better than last year. Tangy and not boring. Plenty of kick too.

Does anyone remember why we don’t take a specific gravity reading this time?

This batch is done.

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2 Responses to Hard Cider

  1. North Texan says:

    Looking forward to seeing how this and the blue moon clone turn out. I’m hoping to start brewing some of my own stuff in the next year or so.


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