Brewing is often reserved for the demi-gods, masters of sterilisation armed with giant, shiny vats and other silver godly equipment.
But those keen to dip their toes into the fermented apple juice game can do so without bulky hardware or expensive ingredients, says Sam Mealing from the Hop and Grain home brew supply store.
“We sell kits to make it easy for people to get started,” Mealing tells SBS. “Then, we encourage people to progress and go a little more from scratch with more traditional methods.”
According to IBISWorld and the ABS, the Australian cider industry is tipped to be worth more than $404 million by 2021. Mealing puts this down to the local market catching up to the rest of the world in the same fashion as the craft beer boom.
“Beer in Australia has traditionally been fairly working class but now it’s catching up and there are more craft offerings. I think the same is happening across the board with cider," says Mealing. "People have been making really interesting champagne-like dry ciders in Europe for years but in Australia, they tend to be sweet and fizzy, bordering on alcopops. But now people are interested in more upmarket stuff that more closely resembles wine and champagne."
Brewing your own home batch is incredibly achievable, says Mealing, so long as you’re rigorous with your sanitising. Here are his tips for a delicious home-brew, novice or not.
- A 5L starter kit, available from The Hop and Grain or other speciality brewing stores, or the following:
- A sanitiser, such as Starsan
- 5L demijohn or other airtight glass containers that taper at the top
- 3.8L preservative-free apple or pear juice (or a combination of both)
- ¼ sachet cider or wine yeast, such as Mad Millie
- 6 x 750ml Longneck bottles (PET or Glass) OR 12 x 375ml Stubby bottles.
- A syphon
- A bung top
- Carbonation or sugar drops (2 per bottle)
- Lactose (for a fuller bodied cider)
- Tea bags
- Spices such as cinnamon, star anise or cardamom (for a
1. Clean everything
Sanitise all your equipment properly – even the tiniest smidge of bacteria can ‘infect’ your cider and turn it funky, Mealing warns. Follow the sanitiser’s quantities and pour it into your container with water, then give it a good shake. Drain it and leave some foam behind – it actually helps feed the yeast.
2. Choose a preservative-free juice
Store-bought juice is the best way to go, Mealing says. You can use apple or a mix of apple and pear, so long as it’s preservative-free, otherwise the fermentation won’t work. “If you buy something with preservatives in it, it won’t ferment properly and you’ll end up with off tastes. I know a lot of people use Nudie juice because it’s literally just juice.” The other option is to use cheaper home-brand stuff off the shelf rather than from the fridge, he says, because it’s actually pasteurised so it’s been heat-treated rather than had preservatives added to it.
3. Time to mix
Add your juices, any tea, spices, herbs, lactose or sugars, and honey. Add your cider or wine yeast and give it a gentle swirl to mix. Fill the airlock with water or leftover sanitiser and push the bung top in (all of which has been pre-sanitised).
4. Forget about it
It’s time to store your cider in a dry, dark place out of any sunlight, like a wardrobe (not near any stoves or ovens). The idea is that it’s somewhere that’s fairly moderate in temperature without being climate controlled. Forget about it for at least 10 days or if you’re in a mad hurry – no less than five as a bare minimum. Don’t leave it for longer than 14 days to ferment.
5. Transporting with care
The hardest part of the process is transferring the cider from one container to another, says Mealing. “You don’t want to pour it, you want to transfer it into your bottles through a syphon, otherwise you could oxidise it and send it brown.” If you prefer your cider on the fizzy side, now’s the time to add some carbonation drops to your bottles. Leave your bottles for another two weeks as a minimum, to really let them develop - the longer, the better, really!