This is potentially messy, but very easy and rewarding.
What is Hard Cider?
Hard Cider is apple cider that has alcohol added, like hard lemonade. It has a kick that kids can't drink, which gives the drinker a feeling of maturity over wide-eyed, under-aged fools who wished they could be just as cool.
The rest of the universe
American "cider" is non-alcoholic - weird, but there it is. This process is intended to turn it into something the rest of the world would recognise.
- 2 quarts apple cider**
- Red Star Champagne yeast
** - Non-alcoholic, store-bought, thick plastic PET 1 container (Publix brand is preferred). If not Publix, just make sure the container is plastic and thick. If it's glass, just drink it as it is and don't even try this as it may break due to less flexibility.
Crack open cider and dump in yeast. Seal the container with the lid and store the cider in a dark area at room temperature (between 70º and 85º for best result) for eight hours, or overnight whilst you sleep. Store someplace where the possibility of leak or explosion can be contained with little or no mess to clean up.
After 8 hours or you wake up, you'll notice it's bloated and possibly unstable. Place it carefully in the sink (just in case) and slowly open to release all the pressure inside. Clean up any spillage that may have run out, re-seal it, and place it into the refrigerator.
Of course if you don't have some kind of death wish, don't fret yourself about whether the container is glass or plastic: instead, pour off some of the juice to give you some head space, and cover with plastic wrapped loosely with a rubber band, so gas will escape but not get in.
When chilled (or wait a full day to wait for most of the yeast to settle at the bottom), serve among your friends and yourself. Be sure to pour carefully so as to not stir the bulk of the yeast at the bottom, which can change the taste. Yeast is full of vitamin B, so choke down even the last bit if you're willing to benefit from nutrients.
Keep the cider refrigerated, or the yeast will start fermenting again. If you let it keep fermenting, it will reach about 7% alcohol and be bone-dry, the yeast having eaten up all the fermentable sugars in the juice.
The yeast converts the sugar from the cider into alcohol, and releases carbon dioxide (CO2) constantly as a by-product, slowly building pressure within the container (called fermentation). This causes natural carbonation due to the carbon dioxide having no outlet except to saturate the cider itself. In other words, it becomes fizzy like a soda. PET 1 plastic bottles can usually withstand up to three to four times as much pressure as glass, meaning if glass were used, it would probably break and make a huge mess.
Keeping the cider refrigerated halts the sugar to alcohol fermenting. If not kept chilled, the yeast will continue, which will turn the whole drink into a highly alcoholic, non-sweet, foul-tasting substance similar to that of vinegar.
If one does not feel interested in carbonated hard cider, it's very easy to keep it flat through a variety of methods. The easiest is to simply loosen the lid every hour or two to release the pressure, preventing CO2 saturation.
Alternative alternative recipe containing actual alcohol
This recipe is stupidly easy and all of the ingredients can be sourced from any large supermarket or your kitchen cupboard (except the yeast). This recipe has the advantage that you can actually get drunk on it.
- 1 x 5 litre bottle of supermarket own brand spring water in a large plastic bottle.
- 4 x 1 litre cartons of supermarket own brand apple juice (the dirt cheap 'value' stuff is as good as any).
- About 1/4 to 1/2 bag of sugar.
- Champagne yeast.
- Pour water out in the garden, or drink it if you're very very thirsty and retain bottle.
- Pour apple juice in to now empty 5 litre bottle.
- Dissolve sugar in 3/4 litre of hot water, cool and add to bottle.
- Prepare yeast and add to bottle.
- Loosely shove a big ball of sterilised cotton wool in top of bottle(pouring boiling water over it is good enough).
- Loosely cover top of bottle with a tinfoil hat.
- Leave until fermentation stops.
- Fall over.
You don't need to faff about with locks or condoms(??) or anything like that. The cotton wool and foil will keep the nasties out long enough for CO2 to form which will keep the beasties out on its own.
The amount of sugar you add will determine whether it's pleasantly drinkable around 5 - 6% or virtually undrinkable 13%+ tramp-juice that tastes like crap but gets you very pissed very quickly.