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August 13, 2018 | by  | in Food |
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DIY Alcohol

For humans, drinking the product of some rotten apples is an original sin. We’ve done it for millennia, and it’s one of the coolest chemistry experiments you can run in your own bedroom.

2L Hard Apple Cider

1.5 kg cored and chopped
Granny Smith apples – $3.00 or 1L apple juice (try to get an unpasteurised 100% juice kind) – $4
Tap Water
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon of yeast
2 x empty 1.5 litre bottles
2 x balloons
1 x jar (optional)
1x string/cloth cover for the jar (optional)

How does cider work?
A basic alcohol brewing recipe really needs three things: water, sugar, and yeast. Yeast is a single cell fungal organism which feeds on the carbon from carbohydrates. It uses enzymes to break down carbohydrates into carbon dioxide and alcohol. Usually the bulk of the alcohol produced is ethanol, which is the substance which makes you feel drunk. Some of the alcohol produced is methanol, which is poisonous, and there are cases of moonshiners who go blind or die when they have consumed too much. The moonshiners distill their alcohol, increasing the concentration of methanol to dangerous levels. Luckily methanol is produced in such small amounts when you are home brewing that you’re extremely unlikely to get methanol poisoning.

 

I would also describe ethanol as a poison; it is metabolised into acetaldehyde which is toxic to humans, and it’s dehydrating effect on the brain is damaging as well. 12,000 years of history says we don’t care.
Over the years, humans have fermented fruit into alcohol in many different ways. In this recipe I’ll describe two techniques, which will lay out the fundamentals of producing alcohol at home. The first is a standard home brew recipe for an apple cider, and the second is a “farmhouse” variation.
With wine, most of the sugar comes from a fruit like grapes, apples, pears, or plums. Technically all ciders are a type of wine, so the recipe today is also for a weaker apple wine. Using a fruit instead of just sugar is the first step to take to make a nicer alcohol. The next steps are about having a sanitary brewing environment.
With both these recipes you are likely brew a cider which is 5-7% alcohol. I would recommend that you taste test a small glass for strength before you start chugging back the bottle.

But First, Sanitizing
Everything that comes into contact with the liquid of the brew must be sanitised. You can buy food grade sanitizer from a brew shop (which is usually iodine based so you could also use Betadine antiseptic and rinse your equipment after sanitising). This is to prevent bacteria from growing in the brew, which will be the biggest effect on the flavor of your cider. You don’t want the yeast to have to compete with other feeders as well.

Standard Home Brew
If you are starting from a fruit base, core your apples and chop them into small chunks. If you have a juicer or a blender, this will come in handy, as we are looking to make a puree of the apples. If you don’t have a blender, stewing apples in a small bit of hot water will help break them down more. When they can be mashed by a fork into a puree, then they are ready.Then add the puree evenly to the two bottles. If you are starting from a fruit juice base, just add your room temperature fruit juice evenly to the two empty bottles.
Add enough water to create a mixture of 2l of cider. I have recommended that you use bottles which are slightly bigger than you’ll need so that you don’t have to worry about pressure as much. Add a 1/2 teaspoon of yeast and 1/4 a cup of sugar to each bottle to get the fermentation started. Place a balloon over the top of the bottle and prick a hole in the top of the balloon. Over time the balloon will inflate with carbon dioxide and this will allow the pressure to escape. It will also prevent any air from entering and contaminating the cider. This is the most important step to this whole process as if you simply cap the bottles, they are likely to explode and make a big mess.
Find a warm and dry place to store your bottles. Yeast works better in warm temperatures so the hot water cupboard is always a safe bet. After 2-3 weeks the yeast should finish feeding on all the sugars and the fermentation will be done. This will mean that the cider stops bubbling. If your cider does not bubble or bubbles very little, this means the yeast isn’t working hard enough. Adding more sugar or keeping it in a warmer place should help the yeast get to work.

If you wish to have a strong brew, this is a good time to add more sugar to the cider and let it ferment for longer. This will also make the cider taste sweeter, if that is your preference. After fermenting, your cider will be alcoholic. Unfortunately it will probably taste like your tongue when you’re hungover. It is ideal to leave it for 1-2 months for the flavor to mature. If the cider has stopped bubbling for a long enough time (1 week or so) you can safely cap the cider without causing an explosion. It’s always a good idea to release the cap once a week, so that the pressure doesn’t build up.

Farmhouse Variation
This recipe has all of the same ingredients as the first, except for the yeast. Rather than add yeast to the cider, the farmhouse brewing technique takes advantage of the natural yeasts which exist in the apple juice and the air around us to brew the alcohol. This means that instead of one specific colony of yeast, there is a diverse range of yeasts feeding on the fructose from the apples. This will give every brew of cider a unique taste. If you’re using a fruit juice base, it’s important to get unpasteurised juice so that the yeast can grow.
The first step is to find a 1L jar with a wide opening where you can store your apple juice when it is collecting yeast. Sanitize the inside of the jar before adding your cider. Pour in the 1L cider. Place a clean cloth over the opening of the jar, and some string or rubber band to secure it tightly. Leave the jar in a warm, dark, and undisturbed environment for about a week. Each day take it out to stir it with a clean spoon and keep track of the yeast growth. When the cider is developing yeast, it will bubble and foam with carbon dioxide. You can tell when the yeast has properly developed when it bubbles steadily rather that having the first several bubbles. When that happens, mix the fermented juice with the 1/2 C sugar and enough water to make up 2L liquid. Evenly separate the liquid between your two 1.5L bottles with the prepared balloon tops. From here it is exactly the same as a regular cider: wait 2-3 weeks for it to ferment and then 1-2 months for it to mature. As long as it’s not rancid smelling or looks too disgusting to even touch, then it’s drinkable.

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