Hard cider is fairly straight forward to make but the resulting brew is potent, it can be extremely strong. The starting ingredients are innocent enough, apple juice, sugar and yeast, but when you follow these guidelines, what you end up with a strong alcoholic beverage - hard cider. As with all alcohol, drink sensibly and please do not drive after having had a glass.
First up, this is what you will need to get going
1 gallon of apple juice (I prefer Cox's apple juice but choose any good variety.)
1 gallon glass bottle
a brewing airlock valve (not expensive)
teaspoon of yeast (different yeasts will result in different flavours. You can get cider yeast but any will work.)
Sugar (amount varies on personal taste and the apple juice used, I would add at least a pound of sugar but probably nearer two pounds. The greater the sugar content, the sweeter and more alcoholic the cider. Brown sugar gives a darker coloured cider with a stronger flavour. I find using half brown half white sugar gives a good result).
Start by preparing the glass bottle. Wash it out and allow it to dry. I wash with hot soapy water and rinse out completely. You don't want any soap residue left in the bottle.
Into a heavy based saucepan place the sugar and about a quarter of the apple juice. Heat gently over a low heat until the sugar dissolves. It helps to stir and if the sugar doesn't all dissolve, add a little more apple juice. Once the sugar has dissolved, leave to one side while it cools a bit. Now pour the warm sugared apple juice into the glass bottle and use the cold apple juice to top up until the bottle is nearly full. You should leave some space at the top of the bottle as when the liquid ferments, gas will be given off.
Now comes the important ingredient. Add your teaspoon of yeast to the apple juice. The yeast will ferment, react with the sugar to form alcohol, over a period of time and this is what changes a healthy apple juice into a hard cider. When you've added the yeast, stopper the glass bottle with the brewing airlock valve. As the yeast ferments gas will be given off. The airlock will allow the gas to escape without allowing other nasties to get into your drink. One of the by-products of the fermentation process results in lees, a solid that collects at the bottom of the bottle. This is normal and all you need do is siphon off the cider into its storage bottles without disturbing the lees.
You will have drinkable cider after about three weeks but if you can wait longer what you end up with is a clearer smoother cider. I have found that leaving it for about three months gives you a good result. Also, to improve the clarity and taste, I would siphon the cider into a clean glass jar once a month to separate from the lees. It's not entirely necessary but it does give you a better end result. I raise a glass to you now as I wish you well in producing your own cider.