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Making Cider and Perry

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Making Cider or Perry from Apples and Pears

It is fairly straightforward to make cider or perry from your own apples or pears and there are many online guides showing you how to do it. Unfortunately, many of them “over simplify” the process or take a “natural” approach, which is absolutely fine if you are prepared to gamble with the results, but not much use if you are hoping to produce consistent, repeatable, drinkable results.

In essence, many guides suggest that all you need to do is:

  • Gather your apples or pears.
  • Crush and press them to extract the juice.
  • Leave them to ferment using the natural yeast.
  • Bottle when fermentation has finished.
  • Leave to clear, or drink cloudy as per your personal preference.

Whilst this is more or less accurate, not all apples or pears are actually suitable for cider and perry making, not all have sufficient levels of sugar or acidity and, depending when you pick/gather the apples or pears, you may or not have any natural yeast present to undertake the fermentation. Using the method above gives you a 50/50 chance of obtaining fermentation and a less than 50% chance of obtaining anything that is either a) drinkable or b) repeatable.

Whilst requiring a bit more effort, you are more likely to obtain better results if you use the following method:

  • Gather your apples or pears.
  • Crush and press them to extract the juice. Depending on how ripe your fruit is and how enthusiastically you press it, you will only get 50-70% of their weight as juice, so you will need around around 10-14lb of fruit per gallon of juice.
  • Check the sugar content with a hydrometer and add extra sugar, if required, to obtain a start gravity of 1050-1055. This will produce about 5.5% alcohol in your finished cider or perry.
  • Check the acidity with a pH strip. You should aim for a pH level of 3.4-3.6, so you may need to add Citric Acid to increase the acidity or Precipitated Chalk to lower it.
  • Add 1 crushed Campden Tablet per gallon of juice and leave for 24 hours to kill off any natural yeast that may be present.
  • Add Cider Yeast and leave to ferment (some people also add yeast nutrient to encourage a more rapid ferment, but this is optional).
  • After 4-7 days, when the initial fermentation has abated, strain the juice into a clean demijohn or bucket and leave to ferment out.
  • Once fermentation has finished, syphon the juice into a clean demijohn or bucket and either add 1 crushed Campden Tablet per gallon and leave to clear (if you want still cider/perry) or bottle in a suitable bottle and add ½ teaspoon of sugar per pint and leave to clear (if you want to have fizzy cider/perry) .

Cider and Perry will normally take 2-6 weeks for the initial fermentation, depending upon the initial sugar content and the temperature in which it is fermented. It should then be stored and matured for 3-6 months to obtain the best results.  A superb guide to all of the intricacies of cider and perry making can be found in the Pooley and Lomax book, "Real Cider Making on a Small Scale"

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