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Bob…Here’s your Answer

November 5, 2008

I received an email from a reader who was asking about equipment to make cider. So here is my advice. 

The equipment to make cider or wine is basically the same.

To make cider…..You will need a press, a chipper/grinder for apples, carboy and air lock. Accessories include siphon tubes, air locks, hydrometer and cleaner.

To go thru the bits:

Press: this is the same as a wine press. These are available new, used , or by plans. Look to wine shops, ebay or kajiji. I bought mine quite reasonably from a fellow who made it and it came with a chipper.

Chipper: this is a problem as new they are quite expensive, BUT alternate equipment can be used. If you check out an English site they will suggest a drill with a paint stirrer on it….typical from the country that sent us those great sports cars that never worked. A food grinder will work or make one. Mine is a motor and pulley hooked to a piece of hardwood with stainless screw left about ½” out. Medieval, probably dangerous but it works well.

Carboy: buy used and get 2 cheap since you need 2 for racking.

Air Locks: must buy and cheap. Get at wine shop and is ~ $2

Hydrometer: another must to measure potential alcohol/specific gravity/brix. Too low an alcohol level may cause spoilage.

Now, please use real yeast and not wild. It will help our QC and consistency. Try Champagne or ale(I hear its good). Real cool yeast is available on line.

Cleaner: Cleanliness is next to Godliness, but do not use a chlorine based  or ammonia based cleaner. There are specialty cleaners readily available and cheap.

Sometimes brew here places will help but they are not great choices. Try Borelli’s as they have a good selection or go online as there are numerous brewing sites. Beware that bottles will be our biggest challenge as the best are Grolsch type swing tops and they are available but not cheap. I suggest learning to like Grolsch and save the bottles.

Oooops, apples….get to know an orchard and buy #2’s…save money and they may know a cider blend. Simpson has treated me well. Remember, use baking type apples (tart) as a base then some sweet apples for sugar. If you use all delicious it will have no backbone.

On the English sites they suggest crab apples and varieties available only to the west country and to them, they make better cider if they are stolen….. I do not condone stealing, but the amount of alcohol drank per their pictures may give a hint to their fun.

In the end try some ciders. The licko is rather shy on cider but if you are in Michigan, there are pubs with several types and good local ones. The craft brewing scene has moved into cider, which is cool. In worst case you can get Woodchuck which is great too.

Good luck

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